Visas on arrival, while they were extremely popular in the past, they are slowly being replaced with electronic visas. You can still get a Cuba visa on arrival but only if you land on the airport in Havana. Other airports cannot grant you a visa, and as a result, you will be put on a plane back to where you came from. At the same time, a lot of airlines will not allow you to board a flight without a visa for Cuba, so finding one will prove to be quite tricky.
How does a Cuba visa on arrival work?
The principle is pretty simple. You get on a plane and land in Havana. That is if you find a plane that will take you without a visa. Once you get there, you need to go to the Immigration office and fill in a form. The one thing that you need to do at this point is arm yourself with patience. Sometimes, there is no one at the service counter, and other times, there is a long line in which you will spend several hours. This is why we recommend you not to go for a Cuba visa on arrival unless you really have to (i.e., the Tourist Card you get before departure is not filled in correctly). As for the cost, a Cuba visa on arrival is somewhere around 25 CUC, which is the equivalent of $25. You also need travel insurance, which can also be purchased in Havana from a company called ASISTUR SA.
What is the better alternative?
Since there are all kinds of issues with the Cuba visa on arrival, we recommend that you apply for a Tourist Card in advance. For one, you do not need to stand in line for hours and secondly, you can do it over the internet. It is the most popular option, after all. The requirements are just the same. You need a passport that remains valid for at least another 6 months from the date of arrival in Cuba, and travel insurance. Once you cross the border, you will also be asked to show a flight itinerary.
The online Tourist Card is a bit more expensive. For example, you need to pay for the visa itself if you are employing the services of iVisa, as well as their service fee. Even so, it is worth it since your efforts are minimal. Furthermore, the cost of the Cuba Tourist Card depends on the processing time you select when you fill in the application form. iVisa provides you with three options:
- Standard processing – your application will be processed and your Tourist card delivered in 3 to 5 business days. This option costs $110
- Rush processing – your Tourist card will arrive within 1 to 3 business days, and the fee is $130
- Super Rush processing – you will have your Cuba Tourist card in 1 business day, and you will be charged $150.
While you can get a Cuba visa on arrival, it is not advisable. That is because you are going to make yourself miserable standing in line at the airport in Havana. It is best if you apply online. After all, both documents offer the same thing. You can stay in Cuba for maximum 30 days (90 days for Canadians), and you are granted a single entry. If you wish, you can extend the visa with the same period it was first issued (30 for 30, 90 for 90).