Airplane / Flights, Holguín
Frank Pais Airport serves the city of Holguin and the beach resorts around Guardalavaca, some 65km north east of Holguin.
The airport is located around 12km south of Holguin city centre. Our coach transfer to the Sirenis Playa Turquesa hotel (15km west of Guardalavaca) took approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Frank Pais Airport is fairly modern and consists of an international terminal and a smaller domestic terminal.
Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient the immigration process was. I have often found myself standing in a long queue in a stuffy airport while a solitary staff member deals with hundreds of newly arrived passengers. I expected a repeat of this at Holguin. How wrong I was! Around 8 immigration desks were manned and the airport was air conditioned. We queued for just a few minutes before being called forward and stamped into the country.
I had read prior to our visit that comprehensive medical insurance is a pre-requisite for entering Cuba and that the authorities would demand to see proof of it and anybody failing to provide adequate proof would have to purchase medical insurance there and then. I took my policy documents along with me, but nobody asked to see them, so the warnings proved to be exaggerated.
The luggage began to arrive on the designated conveyor belt fairly quickly. It then became apparent that some of the luggage was arriving on a different conveyor belt (no announcement was made to this effect!), so we had to simultaneously watch both belts for our suitcases. This wasn't a problem given the relatively small size of the terminal and we soon located both of our cases.
Compared to other airports that I've been through, I would say that security levels are somewhat more laid back. On arrival, all passengers pass through a scanner and put their luggage through another scanner. I asked the security personnel if I should remove my belt, but they said not to. I subsequently caused the scanner to beep as I passed through (as did most other passengers!), but nobody bothered to search me (or anybody else!). On the return journey we were fine to carry bottles of rum and other liquids in our hand luggage.
On our return to the UK we noticed that the passengers in front of us at check-in were charged around 20 CUC (12 GBP) for excess luggage. Our suitcases were weighed and we were slightly over our allowance (40.6kg vs 40kg). We were forced to pay a 10 CUC (6 GBP) charge. I don't know if this is standard policy at Frank Pais Airport, or whether it is enforced by the airline, but I have never encountered such inflexibility at any other airport. Expect a charge of around 20 CUC for each kg of excess luggage that you check in.
After checking in for your return flight, you must proceed to a nearby booth to pay a 25 CUC departure tax. This was a quick and straightforward process; we handed over the cash (it must be in Convertible Pesos) and stickers were affixed to our boarding passes as proof of payment. We could then proceed to security.
The facilities in the departure lounge of the international terminal are reasonable and there is adequate seating. You will find a couple of cafes downstairs and upstairs, a selection of souvenir kiosks, a cigar shop and a reasonably well stocked duty free shop (where the rum is slightly cheaper than in the hotel shops and the shops in Holguin and Guardalavaca...but only very slightly). There is also an exchange desk where you can get rid of any unspent Convertible Pesos.
On the afternoon that we departed back to Manchester, there were flights to Milan-Malpensa (via Montego Bay in Jamaica), Montreal and Havana. The airport also offers flights to London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich, various Canadian cities and a handful of domestic routes.
Only Monarch airlines fly to Holguin via Varadero from the UK (London Gatwick only). Once at Varadero you have to disembark taking your hand luggage, wait for roughly 1 hour then re-board the plane to continue onto Holguin airport. The flight is a weekly one leaving on a Wednesday.