10 Things to Know Before You Volunteer in Cuba
Cuba, just the name counjures up exotic images of Havana, Che Guevara, salsa, rum and coffee. But what is it really like to actually visit? Check out our list of things you will learn when going to help in Cuba...
1. There Are Less Projects Here Compared to Other Countries
When looking to volunteer abroad, if you have put Cuba high on your list of destinations then you might have noticed there are limited volunteer opportunities available here. It is more difficult than other destinations due to restrictions and political issues. If you are applying from the United States you will also need to check if you will be eligible for a tourist visa. You might want to view our other Central America volunteer programs for more options in this region including countries like Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Caribbean.
2. Not Many People Speak English
Don't expect to turn up and expect locals to be able to converse with you in English. We highly recommend you get a phrase book or actually combine experiences and learn Spanish in Cuba. You can also download language apps. Being able to speak Spanish will really help your experience here and make it easier and more enjoyable. It will also be more fun and useful if you are going to be working alongside or helping people.
3. There Are Lots of Ways to Help
You can join a range of community and conservation based projects with local charities and NGO's. Some international agencies also offer combo Cuba tours which include volunteer opportunities as a way for you to give back. These are perfect if you are short on time.
4. Low Cost of Living
5. The Weather is Very Hot
Cuba is hot. Like really hot. Almost all year round! Suncreen and light clothing is a must so pack accordingly.
6. The Culture is Vibrant
The people and whole atmosphere with the sounds and smells will be a shock to your senses. We highly recommend you try to visit local bars and go salsa dancing. Don't be shy to speak to locals to even if you have basic Spanish.
7. Cuba is More Developed Than You Might Think
You might have seen images on tv of Cuba with falling down buildings and old paintwork but there is a whole different side to the country. There are now hugh tourist resorts located on coastal areas, some of which charge hundreds of dollars per night for accommodation. Cuba is developing fast.
8. The Beaches Are Incredible
Volunteering is not all about working, one of the benefits is you will get to see more of this beautiful island. We highly recommend you try to go in search of the best beach in the country, there are so many to choose from including: Playa Ancon in Trinidad, Playa Pilar in Cayo Guillermo, Playa Paraiso in Cayo Largo del Sur and Bahia de Baracoa in Baracoa.
9. You'll Meet People From All Over the World
You will also likely encounter other internationals who are either travelling, volunteering or even teaching English in Cuba giving private lessons. Finding paid jobs in Cuba for foreigners is tough and wages are low but there is a growning demand to learn English here and a lot of travellers are making cash in hand giving lessons.
10. You Will Love the Experience!
Going to volunteer in Cuba is an incredible experience and the most important thing is to apply in the first place. Try to enjoy every moment, you won't regret this decision.