The Airport Tax

Jorge Milanes

Control tower at Havanas International Airport.  Photo: Caridad
Control tower at Havana's International Airport. Photo: Caridad

I have some friends who came from Hungary and spent some of their vacation in Havana.  Since today was their last day, they dropped by to bid farewell, and I decided to go with them to see them off the airport.

When we got there, we went directly to the baggage check-in area and then to customs.  I was back behind them and heard when the customs agent requested their voucher for their airport tax.

They were surprised and shrugged their shoulders because they had no idea what the agent was talking about.

“I didn’t know we had to pay taxes.  This is the first time we’ve ever left our country.  How much does it cost?” asked my friend.

“It’s 25 convertible pesos per person, and you can exchange hard currency for this at window number 12,” responded the agent.

“My God! Fifty convertible pesos! (about $65 USD), we don’t have any money left,” wailed my friend.

I had figured they knew everything concerning customs, which was why it hadn’t occurred to me to bring money.

I moved away from the group and said to myself, “I wish I knew what I could do to help.  What a shame.”  But while I said this, I was looking around hopelessly trying to spot anybody I knew among the crowd.

I walked closer to the telephone booths and saw a vaguely familiar face.  It was a man with whom I’d never spoken, but who I had seen in my neighborhood.  He greeted me with a nod, so I thought, “This is my chance.”

“Look compadre, I know you from somewhere. I don’t remember from where, but I’m in a big jam,” I explained.  “My friends need fifty pesos to pay the airport tax.  They didn’t know they had to pay it, but if they don’t, they’ll miss their flight.”

Practically begging, I added, “Do you think you can lend it to them.  When I get home I’ll get it back to you?  Look, I’ll give you my ID, and I’ll pick it back up when I bring you the cash.”

The man put his hand in his pocket, paused, and said to me, “I see the sincerity in your eyes and yeah, I do know you from the neighborhood.  Don’t worry; I’ll lend it to them.

After he gave me the fifty CUCs, I thanked him from my soul and went running to catch up with my friends.

Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.

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