First Mission: The Airport
I went on vacation in Cuba the last weekend of July 2018 to discover that I might have ancestral roots in Cubana. Hm, maybe that last part isn’t true but I feel it’s okay, and that’s enough. Wait, I’m doing that white people thing of inserting myself into cultures that didn’t ask for me. Well, anyway, on with the show. Let me tell you all about my experiences in the beautiful country of Cuba.
I am writing this on day one, fresh off the plane, and killing 3 hours before my friends arrive from their flights. Planning for Cuba is, I assume, no easy task. My homegirl did mostly all the work, I just paid my part. However, I think there are a few things you need to know about and understand before you go to Cuba. And well, the first and MOST IMPORTANT part is that your pre-Cuban experience will be overrun with paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.
Before you arrive you will need your passport (obviously, amirite?), a Cuban visa, a solidified place of stay, and a detailed itinerary. Then once you have all that in order, oh I almost forgot, shop around for cheap flights to Cuba but Jet Blue has the best rates on Cuban visas. Save dat money y’all! So anyways, once all of that is had, when you arrive at the airport for your flight to Cuba you will have to get your boarding pass stamped. Then when you get on the plane you will have to fill out three more forms. Remember all the stuff you collected BEFORE your trip, well you need all that too. I recommend one folder to store all your important documents so things can move along smoothly. Be aware of the legalities as well, Americans do not tour in Cuba, but we DO support Cubans and “are here in the lovely country of Cuba working to support the Cuban people :)”. Read that as need be.
Now that you have all that paperwork squared away, yo will enter a non-stop abyss where all that paperwork is the only thing that stops you from falling. First, Immigration checkpoint: deliver the gatekeeper your passport and visa. Second, security check. Thirdly, medical forms checkpoint, handover 3rd gatekeeper your med forms you filled out on the plane if your flight doesn’t include medical. Fourthly, yes I said fourthly, wait an eternity for your checked bag. Fifthly, get checked bag and head for exit which will require another form of paperwork the airline gave you. Sixthly, leave. You have now left Dante’s inferno and entered the 7th stage called, Jose Marti Airport. Full of taxi drivers, anxious relatives, scary bathrooms, no WIFI, and cafes. But hey, you’re in CUBA!
As I sit on my luggage (personal choice cause i’m too lazy to walk to a chair), I can’t help but smile because the small bit of the country I’ve seen thus far is gorgeous.
Wait a minute…I’m supposed to be in a different terminal to meet my friends. And I have to take a taxi to get to it. Fuck!
The Essentials…hard to find.
HOLA, Buenos dias! My group decided to pick up CUCs, Wifi Cards, and snacks around our Air B&B after we left the airport becasue it would be the most time efficient. Little did we know that searching for these items on a Cuban holiday (Fidel Castro’s Something?) would prove to be more difficult than you can imagine.
Now, please understand that I do not speak Spanish. Maybe in my dreams, but the teeny weeny bit of basic Spanish I do know is of NO HELP to me in Cuba. It’s only day one and I can’t even figure out how to ask for water.
We first asked our Air B&B hostess for guidance and she was more than willing to offer up her boyfriend’s travel services. You’re doing it right, sis. Why walk the American’s around the block when your man got two abled bodied legs.
Going to find groceries was easy enough, but those WIFI cards were the DEVIL. First, we went to a hotel selling them for $1.50 CUC. No such luck buying them though see as we are Americans. Even though you aren’t in Cuba to tour how don’t people understand that you still need to bonnect with your family.