Living in Cuba

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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The Cuban government is justifiably proud of its nearly 100 percent literacy rate and free health care for all. But many drugs are scarce. "Castro-care," as one Cuban joked, officially provides one doctor for roughly 200 Cubans, but some Cubans doubt this ratio.

Cuban doctors are considered experts in some areas of research and experimentation. Cuba has around 60,000 which is one of the highest ratios in the world and about three times as many per capita as in the U.S. The country also boasts one hospital bed for every 190 people.

 Cuba is a healthy country and is famous for having one of the best heath care systems in Latin America. Even before the Revolution Cuba had a tradition of good health care. In 1958 Cuba's medical care was ranked third in Latin America, behind only Argentina and Uruguay. The country's infant mortality rate was the lowest in Latin America. In fact, there are developed countries that lag behind Cuba in medical care.  

Cuba spends about 12 percent of its budget on health care. All medical care is free. Birth is a natural event, taken for granted in most developed nations. But, for millions elsewhere, it can be a fearful and dangerous experience. Cuba has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world of 6.45 per 1000 live births—almost as low as the U.S. and Canada.  In Latin America only Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica have the same low levels of infant mortality as Cuba.  

 Cuba has the highest life expectancy in Latin America at 77.23 years also ranks with the U.S. and other developed countries. Health care personnel are found in both urban and rural areas. Hospitals are well equipped. There are about 283 hospitals, 440 polyclinics (half hospital/half clinic) all over the country. Every village has a medical facility.

 Cuban medicine has made significant strides in dealing with AIDS control and prevention.

Medical Insurance Abroad

U.S. Medicare will not provide coverage outside the United States. It is therefore advisable to have some type of health insurance that covers emergency medical care, hospitalization and all eventualities abroad. Check with your insurance company to see what type of coverage they provide for policy holders who reside abroad. Some American companies provide traveller's insurance, but it is not cheap. So far as we know, presently there is no health insurance available for foreign residents of Cuba.

Since May 2010, Cuba has made it obligatory for all foreign visitors to have medical insurance. Random checks are made at the airport, so ensure you bring a printed copy of your policy. Howver, as one foreign Cuban expert and frequent visitor states, “The need to buy insurance is merely theoretical." "I've made eight visits to Cuba within the past 11 months, and never have I been asked to show proof of insurance.”

Should you end up in hospital, call Asistur (http://www.asistur.cu ) insurance for help with insurance and medical assistance. The company has regional offices in Havana, Varadero, Cayo Coco, Guardalavaca and Santiago de Cuba.

Outpatient treatment at international clinics is reasonably priced, but emergency and prolonged hospitalization gets expensive (the free medical system for Cubans should only be used when there is no other option). Should you have to purchase medical insurance on arrival, you will pay between CUC$2.50 and CUC$3 per day for coverage of up to CUC$25,000 in medical expenses (for illness) and CUC$10,000 for repatriation of a sick person.

BUPA is the world's largest provider of international expatriate health insurance, supplying quality individual and group medical cover to people who are in their home country or living and working abroad. They have been caring for the medical needs of individuals, families and company employees around the world for over 35 years. Whether you're looking for a medical health insurance plan for yourself, your family or your employees, BUPA can offer you exceptional levels of protection and support. As a member of BUPA International you will have access to a network of over 5,500 participating hospitals and clinics worldwide. For personal enquiries contact: BUPA 7001 Southwest 97th Avenue, Miami Florida 33173 Tel: 1 (305) 398-7400, Fax: 1 (305) 275-8484, www.bupalatinamerica.com, E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 Medical Service Available to Foreigners

President Raul Castro seeking to revive the island's economy, has turned to medical tourism as a revenue generator. All the hotels have medical services, often during 24 hours a day. There're also specialized medical centers: surgicaltreatments, marrow transplants, programs for the aged and the infants and cosmetic surgery.

First-rate medical services are available to foreigners, however unlike Cubans they must pay. Visitors and expats must pay most of their own health care costs. Some hospitals may ask for proof of ability to pay for treatment prior to receiving sufficient medical attention. However, some emergency treatment may be available to visitors at no cost. The cost of medical treatment for foreigners is very reasonable, around $25 per visit.

The Cira García Clinic (Ave. 20 between Ave. 41 and 19-A, Tel: 7/204-4300) http://www.cirag.cu/en/about-us/ in Havana's Miramar area, is a specialized medical center that cares for foreigners and provides clinical, surgical and dental services as well as physical medicine and rehabilitation and fills prescriptions. It is considered the best medical facility in Cuba. The service is fast, affordable and of high quality. Elsewhere, foreigners are limited to clinics.

Cubanacan (Avenida 43, # 1418, Calle 18, Miramar Tel: (204-4811, 204-4812, Fax: 204-1630 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.cubancan.cu/tourismo/salud) specializes in the growing field of health tourism. Besides regualr medicine they offer special programs as anti-drug addiction treatment, oncology, cardiovascular surgery, orthopedics, stress reduction, anti-aging program and much more.

Servimed (Tel: 77-24-01-41) www.servimedcuba.com , is a government-owned for-profit medical services company that caters to foreigners, has website pages in Spanish, French and English, aimed mostly at Canadians. Servimed operates more tha 40 health care centers across the island and special clinics and pharmacies for foreigners with fluent English-speaking doctors that provide more than 100 types of health services on the island, ranging from cancer treatment and drug addiction programmes, to dentistry and cosmetic surgery. This system is completely separate from the free, non-profit system that takes care of Cuban citizens. The do accept walk-ins.

Hospital Nacional Hermanos Ameijeiras International Clinic Tel: (537) 57-6043, Fax: (537 33-3167 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is considered Cuba's best hospital and is locted just off the Malecón in Central Havana. It offers a wide range of services in 38 specialties including diagnosis and treatment of all specialties for adults, tissue and organ transplants, plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures for foreigners.

If you speak Spanish you may go to any of the local health care centers called polyclinics, that also provide care for foreigners. In general, the cost of medical care is much lower than in the U.S

Most tourist hotels and resorts have doctors on call and a pharmacy. These pharmacies tend to be better stocked than local ones. However, if you need medicine you can also go to a local pharmacy. Every city and town has an all-night pharmacy or farmacia.

There are many medicines that, due to the commercial blockade of the island, are very hard to find, so it's better that the travelers following a medical treatment bring their own medicines in the necessary amounts.. If you forget you did not bring something, do not assume that you just pop into a pharmacy to pick up an extra toothbrush or a roll of antacids. Cuba operates on a rations system, and that also limits what is available to tourists.

Farmacia Internacional Clínica Central Cira García

Address: Calle 20, No. 4101 esq. a 13, Miramar, Playa, La Habana

Tel: 7204-2880

 Farmacia Internacional C.I.R.P. “Camilo Cienfuegos”

Address: Calle L No. 151 esq. a 13, Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana

Tel: 7832-5555

Farmacia Internacional Casa Bella

Address: Calle 7ma. No. 2603 esq. a 26, Miramar, Playa, La Habana

Tel: 72047980

Farmacia Internacional Hospital Clínico Quirúrgico “Manuel Fajardo”

Address: Calle Zapata esq. a D, Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana

Tel: 7838 2466 or +53 7838 6497

Other pharmacies are:

  • Farmacia Comodoro Hotel Comodoro...................Tel: 2045551
  • Farmacia Havana Libre Hotel Havana Libre...........Tel: 334011
  • Farmacia Internacional ......................................Tel: 204-2051
  • Farmacia Mirmar Miramar, Playa...........................Tel: 2042052
  • Farmacia Plaza Hotel Plaza...............................Tel: 860-8583
  • Farmacia Marina Hemingway................................Tel: 2045132
  • Farmacia Ameijeiras...................................................Tel: 776043

If you lose your eyeglasses or have another related problem try one of these establishments: Optica Miramar in Miramar (tel: 204-2269).

Dental care is inexpensive and good but lags behind the U.S., Canada and Europe. The country also has about 10,000 dentists. There is a dentist for about every 1,200 inhabitants.

 If you do feel more comfortable having American doctors or dentists treat you, then you will have to go to Miami for treatment.  This will be one of the advantages to living so near the United States. Obviously if you seek emergency care you have no other choice but to be treated in Cuba.

 If you are not used to living in a tropical climate, give yourself time to adjust. The most common health problem is taking too much sun. You should really limit your time in the sun until you become acclimated. Between May and October, the risk of sunburn is high. Use sun screen, avoid prolonged exposure between 10 am and 4 pm. Because of Cuba's hot tropical climate be sure to drink lots of water so as to not become dehydrated. Dehydration can pose a problem for those people who are not acclimated to living in a tropical climate. It is also a good idea to have all of your vaccinations up-to date.

 It is advisable not to drink tap water in Cuba. So, always try to drink bottled water. Whenever you are offered water, even in a restaurant or hotel ask if it has been bottled or boiled. Be very careful with water in the countryside.

 Whatever you do, you should try to evaluate your future health care needs to see if they will be taken care of abroad. If you become infirm, it is comforting to know you can hire a servant to do all of your daily tasks for far less than in the U.S. or Canada. So, elderly persons need not worry about finding someone to take care of them.

 

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Official Guide to Cuban Spanish

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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.