Work and Travel in Cuba
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN CUBA FOR TRAVELLERS
Cuba is many things. Home to cigars, sugar cane, and revolution this is one place that has always enchanted travellers. So what better way to experience the true face of Cuba than to look at the volunteer opportunities in Cuba? There are plenty to go around and you’ll be surprised at how many are available.
Rather than your typical travel guide for Cuba, this guide is going to show you how you can go about finding places to work in Cuba.
1. Making Cigars in Vinales
Cuba is famous for its cigars. You can contribute to that fame through work and travel in Cuba by joining tobacco farmers in Vinales. You will be taught how to roll cigars correctly and what goes into the making of the ingredients. It’s a unique skill to learn and you’ll be helping out with the massive demand as you travel in Cuba.
Take note these positions are mainly found in the more rural areas of the country.
2. Homestay in Santiago
One of the things that backpackers in Cuba want to see is the real side of Cuba away from the tourism of Havana. That’s perfectly possible with a homestay in Santiago. You’ll get the chance to live with a real Cuban family and practice your Spanish. In exchange you’ll be helping out with the household to keep it running.
This is a laidback volunteering opportunity in Cuba. But it’s most certainly one of the most rewarding ones because you’ll be introduced to how Cuban people really live.
3. Teach English in Havana
If you want to teach English in Cuba, there are an abundance of opportunities in the capital of Havana. What most people forget is that Cuba has only recently gained access to the Internet. Young Cubans are being exposed to the outside world for the first time, and they want to take in Western culture.
There are so many schools opening up for English teaching. If you want to work and travel in Cuba this is one of the best ways for you to extend your stay.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR CUBA
Cuba requires a visa for practically every nationality. In practice this is no more difficult than paying the relevant people $25 at the airport for a tourist card before you leave. Checks on the border are not strict and most of the requirements, including medical insurance, are rarely checked.
For most nationalities, your tourist card entitles you to 30 days in the country. When you’re in the country you can renew this tourist card for a further 30 days. You can also consider upgrading to other types of long-term visa in Havana after you arrive.
The exceptions to the rule are Russians, who can enter without the need for a tourist card for 30 days. Canadians also have an advantage, where their tourist card entitles them to a 90-day stay, with the chance to renew it in Cuba for a further 90 days.
Other seemingly random countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, can enter the country for 90 days without a visa. But all Westerners require the tourist card.
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN CUBA
The springtime, until the end of April, is the hottest time of the year, and is when the majority of tourists visit the country. This is the time to find volunteer jobs in popular organisations dedicated to putting foreigners in volunteering positions. Rural construction projects and cigar making are perfect for work and travel in Cuba at this time of year.
Take note that this period only lasts until May when the wet season starts.
Summertime in Cuba is the beginning of the rainy season. Due to its position close to the mainland, the rainy season is rarely as severe as in other parts of the Caribbean. At this time of year there are still significant amounts of tourism due to the number of Europeans choosing to go to Cuba during the holidays.
Working in hostels and guesthouses is the best possible work in Cuba at this time of year. However, be aware that many guesthouses in the country are unofficial and more like homestays.
The autumn months bring the most severe weather as this is also when Cuba is at risk of cyclones. Head to the western part of the country for the less severe weather. Deciding to teach English in Cuba is best started in autumn as this is when many projects start.
Havana is the best place for this because it’s the capital and it’s largely out of the way of the worst of the rainy and cyclone seasons.
The wintertime is when the bulk of the tourists from North America choose to escape the bad weather. You may be able to find work as a volunteer in some diving camps and even some of the smaller surf camps. Bear in mind there’s usually little information about this online as it’s a reasonably new industry in Cuba. Also most of these businesses have little to no web presence due to government restrictions.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN CUBA
The first point you have to understand about work and travel in Cuba is that despite its friendly face this is still a dictatorship and any outward statements against communism, the government, or even the inefficiencies of the country could land you in big trouble.
The Cuban people, however, don’t let this dampen their spirits. Although they don’t just see foreigners as walking ATMs, there’s a strong culture of making foreigners pay more for practically everything. They’re not trying to rob you this is just part of the culture. That’s why there’s the Convertible Peso reserved exclusively for foreigners.
Outside of the capital you’ll find local Cubans to be curious about the outside world as it’s often difficult for them to get the permits to leave their country.
This is a true adventure into the unknown. Are you ready to work and travel in Cuba?