Getting There, Moving There and Staying There

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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Once Cuba opens up doors to the U.S., one of the most important decisions you will have to make is, what to take and what to leave behind.  What you need really depends on your lifestyle.  If you absolutely cannot do without your modern conveniences from home, then you will end up spending a lot of money on shipping costs and duties. 

As in most Latin American countries you will also have to get used to the many delays as you wait for your things to clear Cuban customs.  For some people, having their own furniture, appliances and other possessions, will help them feel more at home while living abroad.  It will also ease adjustment to living in a new country by having familiar objects in their home so they won’t be so apt to get homesick.

When the embargo is finally lifted and relations resume with the U.S, the most inexpensive place to ship your goods will be from Miami since it is the nearest port.  You will probably be able to send some items by air cargo but will have to pay more.  If you are on a tight budget shipping by boat will save you money.  All you will have to do is check the Miami phone book to find shipping companies.  From Canada or the west coast of the U.S., you will have to ship overland to Miami to reduce the cost. Once ferry service is resumed, it may be even easier to transport a vehicle to Cuba.

Some people feel comfortable without many objects from home, so they will not have to ship all of their belongings.   By renting a furnished house or apartment you will eliminate the need of importing your furniture.   In the event you will want to stay permanently, you will be able to purchase local furniture or appliances.   In any case, you should make an effort to get rid of clutter and don’t take what can be easily or cheaply replaced. Talk with other foreign residents to see what they recommend bringing.  If you do have to move or return home, you will be glad you didn’t bring a lot of things with you.


Red Tape

A word about Cuban bureaucracy or should we say "bureaucracy." Cuba is a quagmire of bureaucracy. Just as in the rest of Latin America, Cuba is plagued by a more inefficient bureaucratic system than the United States, Canada or Europe. This situation is compounded by the fact that Cuba has an over-centralized system, the Latin American temperament, the seemingly indifference of most bureaucrats, and the slower pace of life.  The concept of time is much different from that in the North America. When someone says they’ll do something “ahorita” (which literally means “right now”), it will take from a few minutes to a week, or maybe forever. It is government offices and experience unnecessary delays.

This situation is very frustrating for foreigners who are used to fast, efficient service. It can be especially irritating if you don’t speak Spanish well.  Since very few people working in offices speak English, and most North Americans speak little else, it is advisable to study basic Spanish or find some bilingual person to help you.

The best thing you can do to combat this bureaucratic nightmare is to have a sense of humor, keep your cool and arm yourself with more patience than normal. You will get much better results this way and avoid problems. Whatever you do  do not act like the "Ugly American."


Who should not move to Cuba?

After personally helping thousands of Americans and Canadians relocate to Latin America over the last  37 years through my books  and relocation tours, I have observed who are the best candidates for living successfully abroad.

Don’t move to Cuba if…..

  1. you expect everything to be like the U.S.
  2. you don’t like warm weather or rain
  3. you think the locals should change and do everything like we do.
  4. you expect to find all of the products from the U.S.
  5. you are insensitve to the local culture.
  6. you are a smartass, self-righteous and know it all “Ugly American.”
  7. you are going to refuse to speak any Spanish adn think that the locals should speak English.
  8. you expect to eventually go into business and get rich overnight.
  9. you are into exploiting Latina women.
  10. you want to scam
  11. you have serious drug or alcohol problems.
  12. you expect all of your problems to go away just beacuse you moreabroad.
  13. you think you are more intelligent than the locals and can beat the system.
  14. you think you can become an expert overnight as many expats do.
  15. you think it is easy to go into business.
  16. you think you are the savior of the locals and will civilize them. You should leave the “Second Coming of Christopher Columbus Syndrome” at home.
  17. you are the type of person who gives Americans a bad name.
  18. you think younger women will be attracted to you because your good looks and not your money.
  19. you feel that just because you are an American you should be entitled to something.
  20. you have no tolerance of other cultures.
  21. you have no sense of adventure
  22. you have no interest in experiencing the country’s culture and people.
  23. you don’t realice that you are a guest in the country.
  24. you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye about relocating to anther country.
  25. you really don’t have enough money to live abroad.
  26. you have no sense of humor
  27. you have no goals
  28. you refuse to affiliate with groups like clubs, chruch groups or volunteer.
  29. you suffer from the ‘hammock syrdrome’ with nothing to do.
  30. you are a negtive person who likes to complain about everything and everyone.
  31. you have never traveled or lived abroad.

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

Medal Award

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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.