On your arrival at Havana - Cuba, 3 things will be requested at the Immigration Control: Your Passport, return ticket, and Visa.
By showing your Visa, Arrival/Departure Card, you will be asked for the name and address of the place where you are staying at, regardless of what it is stated in your card. You should let the Immigration officer know the name of the owner of the place where you are planning to stay and the correct address.
Providing fake names, which is a common practice for the travel agencies that handle the Visa application process, can cause you a lot of trouble as you could be asked to show proof of your reservation (a voucher will not be enough). This is not requested when you are planning to stay at the authorized houses, like Martha Roche’s.
Be very careful when picking up your luggage as there are 2 conveyor belts working at the same time. Once you have your luggage, you can exchange money to the current Cuban currency; CUC or convertible Cuban pesos. There are some exchange places, called CADECA in the luggage claim area. You can also find the International Finance Bank (BFI for its Spanish name).
When leaving the airport, ask the person in charge of the cabs at the gate (you will recognize him by the uniform and walkie-talkie) for an official cab. These cabs belong to the Cuba Taxi Co. Don’t pay attention to the people who are out there offering you a private cab as they are illegal, unsafe and they will overcharge you.
Tell the cab driver the address so that he can take you directly there. Be firm if the driver or other people offer to take you to a different hostel as all you will get is false promises. What they do is to take foreigners to illegal places just to get a commission. These places are not safe and in the event of a robbery or other type of problems you will be totally unprotected and you will also be breaking the law. Not to mention that the owner of the place where you were supposed to stay at will be concerned about your whereabouts.
Our lodge offers all the safety and legal conditions that you need while in Cuba. Any official lodging for tourists is marked with a blue triangle at the entrance. The ones marked with a red triangle are only for local people. They all have an official registry book.
The fact that a tourist stays in a place different than a Hotel is considered illegal in Cuba. The same happens if you stay in houses that don’t have the governmental authorization to receive foreigners.
Even in the event you wanted to stay at a friend’s house, the owner of the house would have to go to Immigrations with you, with all the official documentation of the house and would have to explain the immigrations officer the type of relationship/friendship that you have. Only if considered a true friend, and the house being properly cleared, you will receive authorization to stay at your friend’s house. This will have a cost, as you will be asked to pay taxes for your security and also to stay for long periods of time. Some Cuban people don’t know these regulations and are highly surprised when they are reported by their neighbors to the authorities.