The flight from Miami to Santa Clara Airport Cuba is short, only 45 minutes. As a Cuban American, I am allowed to fly direct instead of having to go through Havana or through one of the Caribbean Islands. Today, unlike when I first started visiting, there are flights from Miami not just to Havana but to other airports such as Santa Clara. I flew on an American Airlines charter flight.
The flight is quick, up and down. The flight attendants only had enough time to pass out cookies and a soft drink to passengers before we ready to land. Some of the people saved their cookies to give them out to friends and families members that were waiting to greet them.
Arriving at the Santa Clara Airport, I noticed how small it is, just one or two runways and they’re not huge and super smooth like the ones in the States. Once they open the plane door, I gathered my belongings and walked down the staircase onto the tarmac. We boarded a bus which looked like the seats and floor were from 50 years ago, vintage and unrestored. The bus took us to the terminal.
At the terminal, I went inside and got in line for passport control. Like elsewhere, each person goes through one at a time handing the officer my passport, a white form which I filled out with basic identity info, and a copy of my itinerary for flying in and out of Cuba. The officer asked some people a series of questions but not me. He did take my picture. Then he said “Bienvenidos a Cuba,” he stamped my passport and buzzed me in. By the way, I was traveling on my Cuban passport, they don’t stamp American ones.
Immediately after walking through the door at passport control, there was a woman stopping everyone to collect their travel insurance documents. I got a luggage cart and waited for my bags to come through the bag carousel. Luggage was coming out of two of the bag carousels and airport employees were taking the suitcases off the carousels and lining them up along the sides. I wasn’t sure where to look for my bags. They were airport employees walking around assisting passengers with retrieving your luggage. They asked me for my luggage tags and left with the tags in hand walking around to see if they could spot any of my suitcases. Since my bags weighed a ton, I had the young man assist me with placing my bags in the luggage cart.
The majority of the people that travel to Cuba have their bags covered in plastic to keep them dry and to keep curious fingers out. It’s called shrink wrapping. In the Miami airport, they charge $15 a bag to shrink-wrap a suitcase. Is it worth it? I think it is. From looking around, it appeared that almost everyone agreed with me since all the baggage was wrapped, they looked like big larvae. I wrapped it even though I wasn’t carrying any valuables like my camera or ipod in my suitcase. It just seems safer and I didn’t want to risk losing any items of clothing or anything that I brought in. So I had all my suitcases shrink-wrapped. Some people worry that shrink-wrapping might draw more attention to your luggage, but I disagree. If anything, it makes it much easier to spot my bag with my last name in huge letters written across the bags.
Once I had retrieved all my bags, I got in line with my customs form in hand and my passport. Since it was obvious that I had more luggage than what was allowed, they directed me to another line. The employee asked me if I had any medicines in my bags and I said “Yes”, my little suitcase was filled with medicines. He had me take the bag off the luggage rack and they weight all the bags. He told me that I had gone over my allowed weight by 120 pounds, and handed me a slip of paper to go to the cashier and pay the fee. The cashier accepts all types of money and exchanged it for Cuba CUC. I had to pay close to $600 dollars for my overage fee. I know that’s a lot of money, but I knew how much my family needed some of the items I brought that they couldn’t find in Cuba.
After I paid the fee, they give me a receipt and I handed it to the employee as I was walking out who once again keyed it in the amount into his computer and send it through.
I could see a lot of family members and friends all waiting outside through the windows. They are not allowed to walk into the airport terminal. Once I got outside, I was greeted my by cousin and his wife with a Cola-Cola.
Stay tuned for my next post, heading to Placetas to see the family. In the meantime, read about my previous visit to Placetas.
Santa Clara Airport to Santa Clara City: 13.5 km (8,4 mi)
Santa Clara Airport to Cayo Santa Maria: 116 km (72 mi)
Santa Clara Airport to Cayo Ensenachos: 110 km (68 mi)
Santa Clara Airport to Cienfuegos City: 84 km (52 mi)
Santa Clara Airport to Trinidad City: 106 km (66 mi)
Santa Clara Airport to Varadero: 207 km (129 mi)
Santa Clara Airport to Havana: 289 (179 mi)