Monday, June 5, 2017

Cuban Visa Application for Filipino Passports: To Cuba or Not to Cuba

UPDATE May 2018

I had so much fun in my trip that I totally forgot about my update on Cuba!  I've had 2 random people who found me on facebook asking me if I was let through Cuba haha.  For me it was like people trying to coerce Game of Thrones cast to find out who dies on the next episode haha

So here it is:  In August 21, 2017 I was in Miami Airport flying to Havana.  I paid USD 50 for the Tourist Card at the check-in (not boarding) counter of Delta.  I've read almost every blog about entering Cuba and found that it was much easier and cheaper to buy the Tourist Card with Delta.

Although Cuba Travel Card/Visa may be purchased in advance through American Airlines https://cubavisaservices.com/product/aa-visa-card/ for USD85.00, or for USD100.00 or on the day of departure at the departing hub airport from the Cuba Travel Services booths. Note that only cash (USD) and credit card are the only accepted forms of payment at the Cuba Ready booth.

In my opinion, there is no need to buy the Tourist Card in advance.  Why?  It is literally a piece of card where you fill in your information before you fly.  It does not need any sort of approval other than to check if the information you filled out is correct.  (You cannot make a mistake!  If you do, you need to buy another one)  Unless you are one of those OC people who needs to have all the documents ready beforehand, there is really no point to paying extra USD25 for it.

my actual tourist card, ticket and boarding pass

Entering Cuba

Entering Cuba emotionally ready to be deported, my sister and I were very nervous.  We put on make up, fixed our clothes, making sure that we looked presentable to the immigration officer.  Practicing Spanish in my head if I had to pretend that I didn't know I had to have a tourst VISA not a tourist CARD.  (Perdon, pero no se que necesito otra visa para visitar su pais...) haha

We fell in line for about 15minutes, greeted by the extremely friendly Cuban officer, "Hola! Buenos Dias!" She stamped our passports and said "Welcome to Cuba!"

Havana, Cuba


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Getting into Cuba

I have researched thoroughly about going to Cuba as Filipino Citizens; so Cuba has 2 kinds of entry requirements for tourists, 1 is the Tourist Card and other one is the Tourist Visa.

The Tourist Card is quite easy to get, you just need to pay USD50 when you buy the ticket and you pick up the tourist card at the boarding area before you fly to Cuba.

Image result for tourist card cuba
photo from www.howtotraveltocuba.com
Getting into Cuba as a Filipino

Now, Tourist Visa is a whole different story.  We are one of the 19 countries that is required by Cuba to secure a visa before entering their country.  We are: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka.  Honestly, I have no idea why we are part of this list, I didn't realize we do not have friendly relation with Cuba.

We do not have a Cuban Embassy in the Philippines.  We used to have one in Makati but during the Aquino administration, we closed down our Philippine Embassy in Havana, so they reciprocated.  So now, the Cuban Embassy in Malaysia has diplomatic jurisdiction over the Philippines; which means, visa applications must be sent to Malaysia.

sample Cuban Visa - thank you Ivan Man Dy
I emailed the Cuban Embassy in Malaysia and below are the list of requirements for A-1 Tourist Visa:

  1. Valid Passport with no less than 9 months remaining validity
  2. Photocopy in color of the passport
  3. Confirmed returned e-ticket with proof of purchase attached with e-payment/ invoice/ receipt from the tour agency
  4. Signed and completed application form
  5. 1 passport size photo 
  6. Confirmed hotel reservation in Cuba
  7. Letter from the bank of Financial Statement that proves the financial solvency of the applicant for the trip.

I'm attaching the file that I got from the embassy for more thorough instructions and requirements.

So I plan to stay in Cuba for about 5 days or so.  So to file for a visa, it will cost me RM262 and a non-personal application fee of RM119.  The exchange rate of Malaysian Ringgit to Philippine Peso is 11.57, which totals to PHP 4,572.

Not only that, we need to deposit it to their bank account so bank charge for transfer is about USD10, or PHP500.

Shipping of our passport, which is classified as non-document in FedEx costs PHP1,340 one way.  Then I will have to prepay the FedEx cost coming back from KL to Manila, which I am assuming around the same price, let's say PHP 1,500.

Not only do I have to book and PAY for ALL my hotel reservations, I have to show them proof of receipt and invoice for the plane ticket! Which means I cannot make a phony booking of my ticket.  This also does not guarantee that I get an approved visa (although I highly doubt my application will be rejected).

So in total, I would need to spend about PHP 7,912 just to get a Cuban visa to visit for 5 days.

To Cuba or Not To Cuba, that is the question.

I have a Filipino passport and have long accepted the fact that I would need to apply for visas whenever I travel.  I paid USD150 for my 10 year US Visa; paid EUR150 for my Schengen Visa (that lets me into 26 EU countries); paid nothing for my 1 year Korean visa, and PHP2000 for my 3-year Japan Visa.  So spending almost PHP8,000 for 5 days in Cuba is really too much for me.  I don't really know if it's worth it.

I have spoken to 2 different people personally that have been to Cuba using only a tourist card, also read the blog of Kach Medina of Two Monkeys who did the same.  But I also spoke with Ivan Man Dy and Ivan Henares who have been to Cuba and applied for a tourist visa!  Funnily enough though, they were stopped at the immigration because they have never seen a tourist visa before haha, I guess they don't have enough Filipino tourists to realize that we actually need a visa.

So, I'm gonna risk it!  I'm going to get a ticket from Miami and see if they let me in Cuba, if not then I'll just fly directly to Colombia!  Fingers crossed!

15 comments:

  1. Hi Candie! I was just wondering if you were able to push through with the trip? I'm planning to go to Cuba, but I can't really find any info online for Filipinos! So far, your blog has been the most helpful. :) Read somewhere that a tourist card IS a tourist visa, that got me more confused, haha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pls share if u were able to use a tourist card.

      Delete
  2. Hello Candie! My name is Erwin and I’m planning a trip to Cuba via Miami too. Were you able to get through immigration with just a tourist card? I look forward to your response. Thank you in advance! =)

    ReplyDelete

  3. good, this articles are excellent and helpful. Thanks

    best immigration lawyer

    ReplyDelete
  4. Candie, were u able.to go in using just the tourist card? Am planning to try flying from Cancun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi everyone, any one had their luck with tourist card for Filipino via Cancun? couldn't find any info on recent terms!

      Delete
  5. Excellent.. Thanks for sharing all the related information and each details.

    deportation lawyer in michigan

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent and really very helpful post …if want to travel srilanka then apply eta visa Sri Lanka online…. Again thank you

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is such an informative post. You have a lot of really great points. I wish I had this post as a resource when I started blogging.
    emirates id.

    ReplyDelete
  8. After reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-mark and checking back often!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Candie, did you make it to Cuba?
    We are in the same situation, we have Philippine passport but with valid B1/B2 visa from the USA, flying from MIA through American Airlines.
    I just want to know a first hand experience that just happens this year, 2018. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

  10. Thank you for sharing such valuable information.

    immigration lawyer

    ReplyDelete