Contributor: Sarah Arizaga
Visiting Cuba during the pandemic is a very worthy adventure, albeit one that requires special considerations. What follows is practical information from my trip to Havana in late January 2022. Be sure to check the ever-evolving COVID requirements before you come.
Booking a Flight
As of this writing on Superbowl Sunday 2022, the US to Cuba flights prices are still ridiculous. A pre-pandemic flight would have cost me $475 to $550, the one I bought on American Airlines in January was $1045. My itinerary was SMF-CLT-MIA-HAV there and HAV-MIA-DFW-SMF back.
It’s because during the pandemic all of travel to Cuba ceased, and United Airlines, and Delta Airlines have thus far dropped out of the Cuba market, leaving only Southwest, Jet Blue, and American slowly adding flights to their schedule. American has 4 flights daily, but they are adding 2 more in March, so look at prices to go down in March or April. I always search the airlines website directly.
Prepping for the Trip
After Purchasing Flight
April 2022 Happy News Update: As of April 6th, there is no more PCR requirement, nor do they require a vaccine certificate.
Since the PCR can’t be more than 72 hours in advance of travel (not necessarily arrival in Havana), I had to do some math to make sure it met the timing requirements. If your window falls on a weekend that can complicate things further. I have heard good things about the testing in the Miami airport, they return the result in 40 minutes. My home airport also does testing but by appointment only and they were all booked up (this was during the Omicron surge).
I used www.insuremytrip.com to find insurance that covered Covid. For my week-long trip, I paid $41.27 for a policy with Trawick International. Please, don’t sleep on this one. These are crazy times, and crazy times require insurance. Medical Insurance is included in your flight to Cuba, and yes, it will cover you for COVID if you get it while in the country, but what it won’t do is cover you if you get a positive PCR result and need to delay your trip and the airlines suck you dry with the change in airfare. I was also glad to have it when American Airlines lost my luggage on the way back, though they eventually returned it to me.
The currency situation in Cuba is wack right now, Euros cash is the way to go. I bought mine from Bank of America, which is kind of a rip-off but better than those Forex kiosks in the airport. It cost me $606.50 for €500, so the fees were about 7%. I didn’t get any small bills, don’t make that same mistake. And give yourself time to get the euros considering banking hours and holidays. I budgeted about $100/day, which worked out just right.
For tips on dealing with the money situation in Cuba, check out this article.
Although Cuba only requires a passport to be valid for the duration of the trip, there are several countries' websites which say it must be valid for 6 months, so some airlines may not let you board unless it meets that requirement.
I got the electronic vax card and took a picture of the paper version, and I brought the hard copy just in case.
Visa (Tourist Card)
American Airlines sent me two emails about entry requirements after I booked, and I believe both of them have links to where to purchase the visa on the Cuba Travel Services website. It costs $85 sent to my home, $100 if purchased at the gate in Miami. All US airlines will sell this visa at the gate, some will also sell it in advance. Prices range from $50-100. On US to Cuba flights the visa is pink colored, for flights from other countries its green, same info on both. Our visa page has info if you aren’t flying from US.
Optional: Video Antigen Test
US requires an antigen test up to a day before your return to the US (not limited to 24 hours). To avoid the hassles of having to get the antigen test in Cuba, I bought the Qured Video Antigen test for $36 shipped to my home. They sent me a link to book the appointment, which I scheduled the day before my flight to US. The way it works is a proctor watches you do the nasal swab to ensure you do it correctly, then they email you the result. Otherwise, a home test kit will not work for US entry. During my testing appointment, I could enter the waiting room for the appointment but then it wouldn’t connect. I think this was a problem with the embargo and the way it blocks some website access in Cuba, so if you’re going to try this method, download a VPN first so that it looks like you are connecting from the US. Not to worry if you don’t want to do it this way, the antigen test is being done in the Havana airport.
Three Days Prior to Departure
D’Viajeros E-Entry Documents
American Airlines emailed the link to the D’Viajeros website about a week before the flight. I went to this site and filled out all the documents needed for entry to Cuba, including customs forms, vaccine certification, and health declaration. It must be done at least 48 hours in advance. I then received a QR code via email to show during the entry process in Havana. If you don’t do this, they will give you the paper forms, but it is much easier to do electronically.
I have a lot of meetings when I’m in Havana so I need to be connected at all times. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother with this. I’d just take a break from my unhealthy relationship with my smart phone and use regular SMS text messaging to let my family know I was fine (major US carriers work in Cuba), and get a wifi card to use WhatsApp or social media. The $30 tourist sim card includes 2.5GB data, 20 SMS, 20 min talk time, and expires in 30 days. I used just over 2GB in my weeklong trip, being fully connected all the time, so this should be enough for a couple weeks in Cuba. You can re-up the data but not the SMS or talk time. I was told to pick up the sim in the CubaTur desk before departing the Arrivals area but I never saw it, so I went across the street to the Etecsa office. Alas, I bought the sim online in Miami only a few hours before arrival and it wasn’t ready, so make sure you do it at least 2 days in advance.
General License Affidavit
Look, there are plenty who will scoff and tell you that bringing a general license affidavit is unnecessary, but the two times I didn’t bring one are the two times I was asked to show one; once at check in on United Airlines, and once from a prickly CBP agent in Miami. So, do as you will but don’t say I didn’t warn you. My affidavit is a signed statement saying that I am traveling under Support for the Cuban People (515.574). That’s it, no itinerary necessary although it doesn’t hurt to include it.