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marsillow

[Sat 7 Jul, 17:12]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
FOR FIRST-TIME TRAVELLERS-HOW TO GET THRU CUSTOMS - (12 replies)

When you arrive at Jose Marti Airport, Immigration is composed of several short enclosed halls with a high bank teller-style window. Most agents and airport employees speak some English. If you don't, buddy up with a Spanish Speaking traveller on the flight. Always speak English slowly and clearly to officials.

Authorities will check your passport and your visa. You should have a visa from your travel agent already. If somehow not, the immigration officials should be able to provide you with one for around $20. My advice to travelers is to staple or affix this visa to your passport. If you lose it, it costs $15 and a considerable delay to replace.

AS YOU CLEAR CUSTOMS, KEEP IN MIND...

-All tourists may be required to demonstrate an exit ticket and adequate finances for their proposed stay upon arrival. This is normally requested of travelers planning on staying 30 days or more.

-Cuban officials are sensitive to CIA agents, right-wing Cuban exiles, and other "antisocial" characters. They may scrutinize your appearance. Try to be neat and conservatively dressed.

-Cuban immigration authorities do not require travelers to show proof of immunizations or an international vaccination card.

-Don't lose your baggage claim tag issued at your originating airport. You'll need to show this upon exiting the airport in Cuba.

-THE INFAMOUS STAMP. As you slide your tourist card and passport across the counter, immediately but politely request that the agent stamp only your tourist card, and not your passport.

Immigration agents are used to this request from American travelers, aware of the legal problems that could arise from a Cuban stamp on a U.S. passport. Officials sometimes oblige and sometimes donít, thereís no rhyme or reason here. Or, they may stamp a small P16 stamp inside your passport.

HOW TO BEHAVE AROUND MIGRACION OFFICIALS

-HELP MAKE THEIR JOB AS EASY AS POSSIBLE- Be alert to their call. Have all documents ready. Have an extra pen to fill out any documents-one black ink, one blue ink. Do any little courtesies you can think of.

-BE HUMBLE: Many United States citizens come across to others as arrogant. Living in a materially wealthy superpower often creates in its citizens an aggressive tone of voice, body language, and general demeaner. Some of it may even be unconscious!

Tone your image down. Modulate your voice in smooth, even tones. Donít raise it ever, even if angry! Smile a lot. Practice gestures of submission: hands on oneís chest, fingers over oneís lips. Try to be disarming and if possible, even a little naive.

-IF TROUBLE RESULTS, STAY CALM! At the first sign of conflict, donít get angry or bitter. Show childlike innocence ďBut Mr. Official sir, what did I do wrong?Ē. Itís better to come across as as a simpleton and give officials the chance to feel superior.

-LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS -There are always options available, even if it is paying a fine or getting goods confiscated. Bureaucrats may not be willing to tell you right away, preferring to see you squirm for a few minutes. Put the ball back in their court: Ask them simply ďWhat do I need to do?Ē

-SPEAK SPANISH AS MUCH AS YOU CAN- On one hand, itís a sign of respect. It shows you care enough and respect their language enough to try to communicate in it. On the other hand, it can even be disarming. When an official hears his own language, however badly pronounced or grammatically mangled, it gives them a sense of security. An official can laugh to themselves ďHe (or she) may be rich, but they talk like a child!Ē Anything that puts them at ease is good!

YOU AND YOUR LUGGAGE

Once your visa and passport are checked, the agent will then press a button unlocking the door for your entry to customs. Cuban customs X-rays your carry-on baggage, just like in any other airport. Collect your luggage at baggage claim, but keep your passport and tourist card handy. You'll have to show them to one more agent before you leave baggage area.

There are two lines-TO DECLARE and NOTHING TO DECLARE. If you are carrying only one or two bags, you can try to pass through the Nothing To Declare Line. If stopped, you can always claim you got confused.

If you have to declare things, the trick is to try to pay as low a tax as possible. You may want to write down a list of all gifts youíre bringing and their value-and leave off one or two things. Customs is not going to go through your luggage item by item, pricing things. Have a reasonable figure in mind, say $40-50. Try to claim as many things as possible as your own and not gifts.

Some visitors to Cuba have reported getting through with more. This depends on how much risk you want to take or how much luck you want to trust.

AS YOU LEAVE THE AIRPORT...

The exit customs official will make sure you have your tourist card and glance at your passport photo. They may casually ask if this is your first time visiting Cuba and how many days you will be staying. They will also ask the name of your hotel or rent a room address.

It is generally against one law or another to stay with private Cuban families or private guest houses. In reality, many visitors still choose to do so. Customs may curtly tell you this is against the law. You probably wonít be sent back on the next plane out, but you may be ordered to make a hotel reservation from lists they have available. Donít fight this-you canít win.

Suggestion-Have your travel Agency give you a 3 Day Hotel Voucher. Or surf the internet, print out the pages of a plausible hotel, tell the official you are staying there.

IMPORTANT!!! Remember to keep $20 in cash on hand to pay the Cuban departure tax at the airport when leaving the country.Also, at your departure, it is imperative that you present the tourist card together with your passport and ticket.



Wild Bill

[Sat 7 Jul, 22:59]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
1. Advice

Thanks for the time you put into this.

This post stresses the facts - but I think maybe if you repost you might set up the tone a little softer. I crossed Check Point Charlie from West to East Berlin and later came into Stettin (?) in East Germany by boat in 1969. Dogs on the roof of the train, in the train , under the train etc, etc etc,

Thats what you make Cuba sound like. Your facts are good - soften the tone or put it in perspective.

Anonymous

[Sat 7 Jul, 23:47]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
2. come on off of the high horse

Perhaps poster #1 could put it into perspective.

OP : thanks for the info...much of what you have written has been written at one time or another on this branch by none other than poster #1. I'm not intentially trying to be negative here but I do get a little ticked when someone asks for perspective when they themselves have written the same material. If you really had anything to offer #1 then do so rather than critique OP.

Belindaoz

[Sun 8 Jul, 00:18]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
3. Upon leaving-----

Have the address of your final licensed casa written down. I couldn't find it, and fumbled for a few minutes, describing the street location in general terms. I was then let through. A small lesson learned.

Anonymous

[Sun 8 Jul, 09:26]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
4. Wild Bill

You know what Wild Bill? Give people a break. We are "ALL" getting tired of your comments. Keep your crap for yourself. Who do you think you are?

Thanks a lot Marsillow. This is one of the most interesting post we had so far. Thanks again.

And you Wild Bill......get a life!

asifue/

[Sun 8 Jul, 10:02]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
5. la verdad

Is it the case that its not legal to stay in a casa particular? I understood that there are 'legal'casas and that there would be no problem with one of these.

frat

[Sun 8 Jul, 10:45]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
6. tired of your arrogance

Hey Wild Bill- stick you head up your flabby ass and take a deep breath- that's what all your advice smells like.

Anonymous

[Sun 8 Jul, 10:58]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
7. you can put a legal casa

on your visa. I just did it and had no problem whatsoever with Cuba Customs.

p0gue

[Sun 8 Jul, 16:14]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
8. customs..

I agree with #1...the whole customs thing takes about two minutes and is really easy...easier than a lot of Latin American border crossings, and a hell of a lot more relaxed than crossing into the US, in my experience anyway. And while its better to fib a bit and write a hotel name on your tourist card for customs purposes, Casas paticulares arent at all illegal in Cuba, and are in fact taxed and regulated by the government....far and away the cheapest, easiest, friendliest and most comfortable option for a place to stay.

Dom. E

[Mon 9 Jul, 12:11]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
9. Casa Legal

Hey Wild Bill,
Can I put down the name and address of the Casa legal
and not have any problems.
Dom. E

greslogo

[Mon 9 Jul, 17:52]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
10. customs

I would like to add that ALL baggage is x-rayed on arrival, even checked baggage. When you exit, the official looks for a mark on the baggage tags notifying them that the bag should be checked.

If there is no "mark", you will not be detained when exiting.

Anonymous

[Thu 13 Sep, 11:05]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
11. Greslogo - more on the markings

I see WildBill's point, and agree that for almost everyone Cuban Customs is a cinch. I'm more worried at US Customs - cop assholes.

Greslogo what are the identifying marks, if you know? I have read that white chalk is 'Pass,' red (or yellow) is 'Examine'

barb

[Mon 3 Dec, 02:00]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
12. I'm glad

that tis post post is still in the tree, very usefull and safes you a lot of reading and questioning!

And after all the travelling, she knew that it doesn't matter where you are, it's who you are.


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