Hi - can anyone tell me if it's possible to get a holiday visa for Cuba at the airline desk in Mexico as we fly out? And how much is it? I know that I can by one here in NZ but it's NZ30 plus an extra NZD50 if we don't turn up in person at the embassy in Wellington. or is it possible to get one on arrival at Havana airport? Cheers
Do NOT apply for the Tourist Card at the Embassy in Wellington, it's a rip-off. (That goes double for any Ozzies who are considering sending their passports off so they can purchase the Tourist Card from the Cuban Embassy in O'Malley - don't do it!)
Simply purchase it right at your departure airport in Mexico. Hopefully you're flying out of Mexico City... it's a waaaaay better gateway (offering Aeromexico, Interjet and Cubana) than Cancun (with only crappy last choice Cubana.)
In any case the Tourist Card will be available at either airport for about $20 USD. Don't sweat this, everyone on your flight will be doing the very same thing, you can't board the aircraft without it.
And for anyone else considering this route your nationality is immaterial when purchasing the Tourist Card. Same rules for everyone.
Thanks Terry - wonderful advice as always!
By the way, you know your NZ Dollar is useless in Cuba so you have to plan for that, right?...
Yep - CUCs and CUPs. There are supposed to be plenty of ATMs in Havana and we always carry some USD around with us. We're not going until December!
Not "plenty" of ATMs, but enough to get by. Also you can go inside any Bank or Cadeca and use your cards to withdraw funds directly from a teller.
For travellers arriving with cash to spend USDs are the worst currency to bring, they suffer a unique 10% surcharge that no other foreign currency gets hit with. Canadian Dollars or Euros are much better. That said, if the USDs are simply for emergency back-up (which would be the case for you) then no big deal.
(Also, do not bring Mexican Pesos, for some reason the Cuban Banks hate MXN and give them a horrible exchange rate - almost as bad as USD.)
Be absolutely certain that your NZ Credit/Debit Cards have zero US affiliation otherwise they'll be useless in Cuba. I've met a few travellers who (stupidly) arrived with no cash and only one Card and it wasn't accepted in Cuba and they were of course in deep trouble trying to get funds.
Anything else feel free to ask, as the date gets closer I can give you lots of insider info on Cuba in general and Havana in particular.
Have fun with your research.
I just returned from Cuba.
Air Canada from Toronto & they hand out the travel card on the plane, no charge.
There is a 25 CUC airport tax leaving Havana. I made the mistake of joining that line before getting my boarding card.
It should not be, but I found it quite expensive there & rattled through some cash.
Here's the story of my trip...
the cruise & back to Havana
Not backpacking but quite the adventure.
"... It should not be, but I found it quite expensive..."
Actually Steve, it makes perfect sense that Cuba is one of the most expensive developing countries on the planet that receives a lot of tourists.
Not only is it an island partially crippled from an immoral embargo by the US for half a century, but for a desperately poor nation with a screwed up government and horrible economic policies it supplies a social/medical safety net for its citizens that is arguably unmatched by any other poor developing country in the world.
Steve, the ship you sailed on looks pretty cool. Nice way to travel.
One small inconsequential tidbit about Cuban Currency... The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) isn't referred to as a "cook" (as in someone who works in a kitchen) but rather it's pronounced "kook" (as in someone who is crazy.) I think I was the first person to call it that (at least publicly) in an article I wrote for Lonely Planet back in late 2004.
Also, the CUC isn't just used by tourists, both peso currencies are freely used by absolutely everyone.
Lastly, the exchange rate between CUC and CUP (Cuban National Pesos) isn't 10:1, it's about 24:1. That means the 1 CUP coffee and the 1 CUP sugar cane drink you bought cost about 4 cents each.
Hope you enjoyed your trip.
Thanks both of you - plenty of time to go yet but all these tips will be added to the memory-bank.