Living and investing in Cuba

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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For those seeking a wonderful climate with over 300 days of sunshine per year, pristine Caribbean beaches, a healthcare system that produces highly trained doctors and the ease of a simple lifestyle, Cuba will definitely become a worthy and affordable place to retire.

However, relocatingto Cuba now is not for the faint of heart, but doable. Cuba will not be the ideal place to retire for everybody. If you are a special breed of individual who seeks adventure or a pioneer type, then Cuba may just the place be for you. Due to fact that you are reading the book indicates that you are interested in this subject.This guide will give you the information you need to know to start you on your journey in Cuba based on almost 50 years of living in Latin America and 20 years of involvement in Cuba.

However, do not expect American-style amenities yet, so most people would have a difficult time handling Cuba at this time. Occasional electrical outages and water shortages, limited Internet access which is expensive and slow, newspapers that do not carry much news and International telephone calls that can be expensive. The lack of basic products which can occur at any given time, cultural differences due to the country’s isolation, a different daily way of life and the need to speak Spanish and can all be a challenge for Americans.

Except in the hotels or tourist resorts where the staff is trained to speak English, most Cubans only speak Spanish. In order to have any social life and make friends, you must have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish and know some Cuban slang. The more Spanish you know the better off you will be.

There are few cultural activities and U.S.-style entertainment is lacking but there are DVDS with TV programs from the US available on the black market. The author has a retired American friend living in Havana who says that he is not starved for TV shows from the States in English. 

At this time unless you marry a Cuba or have a Cuban relative, you cannot own property or buy a vehicle. Residency is a prerequisite for both and it is extremely difficult obtain for non-Cubans. Individuals must be married to a Cuban national before even applying for residency. Also, presently do not expect to set up a small business, unless you have Cuban residency through marriage. Work or a job in Cuba is not easy to get and pays only $20 dollars per month. So, you have to rely on financial resources from abroad like a pension, annuity, investment income or savings. However, all of this should change dramatically in the future as the rules are relaxed to encourage investment.

Anyone considering retiring in Cuba should test the waters first.  Living full or part time in Cuba is very different from that in Europe or the United States.  Cuban attitudes on punctuality and time are virtually non-existant, and tipping and in some cases bribery are necessary at times to ensure things get done.  Also driving habits and traffic laws are very different.

There are some major lifestyle differences. The average Cuban citizen, for example, has a very way of life from the average American. Cubans are extremely lucky if they can earn the equivalent of $30 per month. A foreigner can spend that on a meal in a good restaurant or other entertainment. The cost of renting a decent apartment or stay at a casa particular can range between $600-$1000 a month. To rent a home you will have to spend around $1000-$1500 monthly.

You should expect to lose money when you change dollars, from 5 to 13 percent. Most tourists pay the send rate. However, once you have connections you can end of getting 95 cucs per dollar. The author has friends living in Havana who get the latter exchange rate through their contacts.

          There is a serious lack of good shopping and foods which foreigners are used to. Meat and dairy products are a luxury, expensive, scarce and not good quality.  Availability of goods and services for a foreigner with money, this is much easier than for the average Cuban. However, it can still be difficult to get some items at certain times.

Imported items and brand products can be purchased at shopping malls in the Vedado or Miramar districts. The majority of the Cubans cannot afford to shop in these places.  Cuban food daily consists of of beans, rice and chicken or pork and fruit and vegetables.

So, at this point in time you cannot live by western standards.

Nevertheless, it's entirely possible to find an area you like, rent and stay long-term in a casa particular or apartment and live like an upper class Cuban for around $1500 or less monthly. The author interviewed foreigners who do it.

If you are considering Cuba for retirement, you must look at current political relationship with the US. Travel bans have been relaxed and you can now renew a visa for up to three months at a time. So, Cuba as a retirement destination is slowly becoming a reality.

For those who are citizens of other nations, retirement in Cuba is much easier than for Americans.  Snowbirds from Canada have been coming to Cuba for many years. Supposedly they can stay for up to six months with a snowbird visa which can easily be extended. These are particularly useful for retirees.

According to the Havana Times in 2014, “ there is now a temporary residence visa for non-American foreigners who buy or lease real estate on the island. The new visa — good for one year and renewable — was designed for foreigners “who are owners or lessees of real estate, as well as their foreign relatives who might require it.” During their stay in Cuba, these foreigners “may carry out activities related to tourism and business duly authorized by the existing legislation.” To carry out “activities that are different from those authorized,” they must obtain a special permit. The visa will be lost if the foreigners cease to be owners or lessees because of “behavior that violates the Constitution” or the laws, or if they remain outside of Cuba for one year.

The winds of change are blowing since Obama made his historic visit. Despite a growing American presence Cuba and with the majority of the economy remaining in the hands and control of the state, the country still has a long way to go, but little by little it is opening up to the world. With the imminent improvement of Internet access, more contact between the two countries and increased exposure to new ideas and information, change will occur. The question remains, how much? and how long will it take?

The embargo failed to reform and bring democracy to the country, but the increased dose of capitalism and contact just might occasion change. The door to change is slowly opening and there appears no way to stop it.


Official Guide to
Cuban Spanish

Official Guide to Cuban Spanish

For those who want to communicate with the locals and to develop basic Spanish survival skills, purchase our one-of-a-kind eBook which includes Cuban slang in English


"I always keep this book on my tablet so that I can maneuver through Cuba’s linguistic maze."

Max Gómez, Cuba Scout, Travel Expert

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Information herein is authorized through the courtesy of Christopher Howard, author of the best selling Cuba information source, Living and Investing in the New Cuba. Please be aware that all information herein is protected by COPYRIGHT © and misuse of it will carry a penalty by law.