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Moving to Cuba

Many prospective expats considering a move to Cuba are deterred by its communist heritage and its uncertain international relations. The difficulty in meeting the requirements for settling in Cuba means the country’s expat population is nowhere near as large as those of other Caribbean destinations such as Costa Rica. That said, this should not dissuade an adventurous expat from moving to Cuba. Cuba is nothing if not an exciting, new experience.

Living in Cuba as an expat

Those who do decide to take the plunge will encounter a political system that’s quite different from the one they may be used to. This is something that expats will need to be aware of before moving to the country. Decades of American embargos on Cuba coupled with policies that have historically inhibited foreign investment have also stunted economic growth in the country.

That said, over the last decade, the country has been slowly implementing reforms to the economy. There have been efforts to decrease the number of people in the state’s employ and increase involvement in private enterprise. Free-trade zones have opened up, and import-export laws have been relaxed. Greater numbers of Cubans in the workforce are self-employed and pay tax to the government. These changes suggest a bright future with many investment opportunities for expats.

The biggest industries in Cuba are the manufacturing, construction, tourism and agriculture sectors as well as the exporting of goods such as sugar, tobacco and coffee. Expats looking to move to Cuba will need a job offer before they can apply for a work permit, and they generally find work for international businesses involved in tourism or industries such as mining and energy. 

On the whole, Cuba is a relatively safe country. The biggest dangers are from natural disasters and poor infrastructure. Expats should take note that the hurricane season runs from June to November, and extreme weather can be a safety issue. Crime, especially opportunistic theft, can also be an issue, so expats should avoid walking around Havana alone at night and make sure to use only legitimate taxis and tour operators.

Cost of living in Cuba

Cuba has a fairly low cost of living, with Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023 ranking Havana as 225th most expensive out of 227 cities worldwide. Only Karachi and Islamabad in Pakistan, at 226th and 227th respectively, attained a lower ranking in the survey. This is good news, as it confirms Cuba's relative affordability when compared to other expat destinations.

Rent and everyday costs are affordable in Cuba, but expats should be aware that local salaries are low and it may be difficult to live a comfortable life if working for a local company. Many expats who relocate to Cuba therefore work remotely for a company back home. The higher income allows expats to enjoy the low cost of living and island lifestyle. 

Expat families and children

Cuba has built reputable education and healthcare systems, and the medical tourism industry has played a key role in the country’s economy for a number of years. That said, the poor infrastructure leaves much to be desired. There are few international schools in Cuba – all of which are in the country’s capital, Havana. That said, these schools offer a good standard of education, although fees are high. 

Cuba is a family-friendly destination. With its miles of coastline, expat families will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors by spending a day on the beach, or doing activities such as kayaking and skiing. Town squares also often have fun things for kids to do, like enjoying a carousel ride or playing an impromptu game of baseball with other local children. 

Climate in Cuba 

Cuba has a semitropical climate with two distinct seasons: a rainy season from May to October, and a dry season from November to April. Generally, the weather in Cuba is sunny, hot and humid. In summer, the heat can get uncomfortable, with high humidity and temperatures reaching 100°F (38°C). That said, those living on the coast will find the sea breeze tends to make conditions more pleasant during this time of the year. Throughout the year, the average temperatures range between 70°F (21°C) and 81°F (27°C). 

There are both pros and cons to choosing Cuba as a destination for an expat experience. While the country boasts a rich culture and interesting history, living in Cuba long term will certainly require a degree of adjustment. 

Fast facts

Population: About 11.3 million

Capital city: Havana

Geography: Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean. Most of the main island is relatively flat, with some hilled areas. The southwest of the island is home to the Sierra Maestra mountain range. 

Political system: Socialist state

Major religions: Catholicism 

Main language: Spanish

Money: Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), both of which can be divided into 100 centavos. Expats will be able to find ATMs in most urban centres.

Tipping: Tips are generally expected and appreciated in Cuba. A tip of 10 percent is considered the standard, with more being offered for excellent service.

Time: GMT -4

Electricity: 110V/220V, 60Hz. Plugs with two flat blades or two round pins can be used throughout the country.

Internet TLD: .cu

International dialling code: +53

Emergency number: 106 

Transport and driving: Cars in Cuba drive on the right-hand side of the road. The public transport system is good in urban areas, and taxis are abundant and reasonably priced.

Embassy Contacts for Cuba

Cuban embassies

Cuban Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 797 8518

Cuban Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7240 2488

Cuban Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 563 0141

Cuban Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6286 8770

Cuban Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 346 2215

Cuban Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 671 8300

Cuban Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 464 2210

Foreign embassies in Cuba

US Embassy, Havana: +53 7 839 4100

British Embassy, Havana: +53 7 214 2200

Canadian Embassy, Havana: +53 7 204 2516

South African Embassy, Havana: +53 7 204 9671

Weather in Cuba

Cuba has a semitropical climate with two distinct seasons: a rainy season from May to October, and a dry season from November to April.

Generally the weather in Cuba is sunny, hot and humid. The average minimum temperature is 70°F (21°C), and the average maximum temperature is 81°F (27°C). In summer (June to August) the heat can get uncomfortable, with high humidity and temperatures reaching 100°F (38°C). The sea breezes tend to make conditions more pleasant on the coast.

The rainy season is also hurricane season in Cuba and runs from July to November, with September and October being the months most likely to experience serious tropical storms. Thankfully, Cuba has a very good public safety record when it comes to handling adverse weather conditions.


Brief History of Cuba

  • Cuba was originally inhabited by various indigenous groups, including the Taíno people, until the arrival of Spanish explorers in the late 15th century.
  • The Spanish colonization of Cuba began in 1511 and lasted until the Spanish-American War in 1898.
  • Cuba became a major producer of sugar, tobacco, and other crops, relying heavily on African slave labor to work the plantations.
  • In the late 19th century, Cuban rebels fought for independence from Spain, leading to the Spanish-American War in 1898.
  • Following the war, Cuba became a US protectorate and remained under US control until 1902, when it became an independent republic.
  • Over the next several decades, Cuba experienced political instability, with several coups and dictatorships.
  • In 1959, Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries overthrew the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista and established a socialist government in Cuba.
  • The new government nationalized many industries and landholdings, leading to tensions with the US and other Western countries.
  • In 1961, the US sponsored a failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, further straining relations between the two countries.
  • In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union.
  • Cuba remained a close ally of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, leading to economic hardship in Cuba.
  • In the 1990s, Cuba began to open up its economy, allowing for limited private enterprise and foreign investment.
  • In 2008, Fidel Castro resigned as president due to health reasons, and his brother Raúl Castro took over as leader of the country.
  • In 2015, the US and Cuba announced that they would re-establish diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostilities.
  • In 2016, former US President Barack Obama visited Cuba, becoming the first sitting US president to do so in almost 90 years.
  • In 2018, Raúl Castro stepped down as president, and Miguel Díaz-Canel became the new president, marking the first time in almost 60 years that a member of the Castro family was not in charge of the country.
  • In recent years, Cuba has faced economic challenges, including shortages of basic goods and a decline in tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic.