Question: When I get in to the Havana airport what’s the ground transportation scene? Could you give me some taxi cab prices?
Answer: If you are arriving in Cuba at Havana’s José Martí International Airport at the modern Terminal Three where flights from Canada, Europe, Mexico and other Latin America countries arrive, once you go through immigration, get your baggage and clear customs, you go through a sliding door into Havana’s large, open, and often smoky and crowded arrivals lounge.
Most likely, you will immediately be approached by someone saying s/he’s a taxi driver and can take you into the city for CUC 30 or even 35. Don’t accept this! Even if the person appears to be, and likely is, a legitimate taxi driver, you are most likely being approached by someone with few scruples who wants to take advantage of your inexperience with Cuba’s taxi system, and perhaps your tiredness and anxiousness to get to your destination and rest.
For some years, taxi rates from Havana’s airport into the city have been standardized based on what part of the city you’re going to, and has nothing to do with the particular taxi company. Nor does the meter come on.
Upon exiting the arrivals building, you will most likely see a long line of taxis of all shapes and sizes and colors, plus an individual at the head of the line with a clip board. This individual can answer your transport questions, often with very basic English, inform you of the rates, plus call the next taxi in line for transport into the city. You should also consider tipping the taxi driver; a general guide is 10-15% of the fare, depending on the service you’ve been offered.
In general, the one way trip from the airport to Vedado, for example, is CUC 20 up to a maximum of CUC 25 – per taxi, NOT per person. To Habana Vieja it’s between CUC 25 and CUC 30, and the same for the western part of the city. Clarify this BEFORE getting into the taxi to avoid any misunderstanding.
When you return to the airport, the system is a bit different. These rides are metered rides. However, some taxi drivers will say that you have to pay the same to return to the airport as you did to come into the city. But this isn’t the case. In general, depending on the kind of taxi you get, the cost – for example – from Vedado to the airport will range between CUC 12-15. From Habana Vieja, it may be slightly more; it depends from which part of the city you’re departing.
If you’re in a hotel, you can ask reception to make sure there’s a taxi ready for you. If you’re in a homestay, you might want to call and reserve your taxi a couple of hours before you need to go to the airport. The main company is CubaTaxi and the phone number is 855-5555. Don’t be confused if the taxi company identifies itself as Panataxi, because these used to be separate companies but have now fused under the CubaTaxi name. The least expensive taxi (in the range of CUC 12+) is the Lada, as it has no air conditioning – but you have to request one well beforehand.
It is against regulations for a self-employed taxi driver to take you to the airport, or to pick you up for that matter. So it’s best to stick with the state-operated taxi companies for transport to and from the airport.
If you arrive in Havana from another part of the country, you will land at Terminal One. Flights from the United States land at Terminal Two. Taxis are almost always available and should cost the same as from Terminal Three.
Traveling by public bus to and from the airport is possible but usually means taking two to three buses depending on where you are going and is not advisable unless you know your way around, have Cuban pesos (not always readily available upon arrival at the airport), have at least an extra hour to spare, and don’t have much luggage. As well, there are fewer buses during the evening and night, so if you have a late arrival or very early departure, you should allow yourself a couple of extra hours in either direction.