Cuba Travel Guide, Gap Year Volunteering and Tours
Whether compelled to submerge yourself in a constantly changing country steeped in historical and political history or if you just enjoy sun, sea and cheap rum - Cuba is the place to be! Expect European style buildings, 1950s cars and a distinctly chilled Caribbean vibe. Everywhere you turn Che’s iconic image stares back at you.
Cuba Holidays, Gap Year, Travel Ideas & Experiences
Find inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to book a holiday, travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in Cuba.
Cuba Travel Guide
Get information, tips, itineraries and inspiration for visiting Cuba.
- Capital: Havana (population 2,100,000 approx)
- Population: 11,500,000 approx
- Money: Cuban Peso (CUP) + Cuban Convertable Peso (CUC)
- Area: 115,000 km2
- International Calling Code +53
Top Reasons to Visit Cuba
There are so many great reasons why you should choose to travel to Cuba, here are some of them:
- Warm climate
- Untouched by globalisation
- Authentic experience
- Great value for money
- Friendly locals
- Incredible locations, from historic cities to spectacular islands
Top Places to Visit in Cuba
Here are some of the best places to add to your Cuba itinerary:
- Varadero (if you are looking for a resort break)
- Santiago de Cuba
- Jardines del Rey
- Maria la Gorda
- Cayo Largo del Sur
Travelling in Cuba
Visiting Cuba feels like entering in on a moment in history because with the slightest provocation it could change irrevocably. You might not know but when Christopher Columbus first landed in Cuba in 1492 he thought it was China! One of the first things you notice about Cuba is the complete lack of brands and commercial shops that overwhelm western countries. Since the ban on trade with the states, Cuba has developed distinctly differently to its neighbouring islands. As a communist country the way of life is very different and it is a real eye opener to visitors.
On an authentic Cuba holiday highlights can include exploring Havana, visiting the tourist town of Varadero which has beautiful beaches, seeing wildlife in Ciénaga de Zapata and going diving Punta Francés - one of the Caribbean's best diving spots. You could visit Castro's childhood home - Birán, which is now a museum, check in at the colonial city of Camagüey full of history or go hiking and see waterfalls in Topes de Collantes. Another recommendation for something different to do and what is sometimes included in itineraries is to go fishing in Cayo Coco & Cayo Guillermo or head to Santa Clara and check out Che Guevara memorabilia.
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is one of the greatest attractions of the island. It is the first port of call for many visitors on holiday here and contains several unmissable sights and things to do like getting lost and walk around the old streets, this is a special place which will probably be unlike anywhere you have been before and getting off the beaten track is a great way to see more of this city. Another option is to ride around the city in an old car, you can book this experience in advance or with local travel agents and in large hotels. You could also do a day trip to visit a beach, some are only 20 minutes away and have beautiful sandy white beaches.
Salsa is very popular and every visitor should experience the Cuban salsa scene. Do not worry if you are not a good dancer, the atmosphere is very friendly and encouraging and there are many places to visit to indulge in salsa dancing both in central Havana and on the outskirts. Most venues play a mixture of live music and DJ sets. Salsa is not the only night time entertainment available, cabaret is also very popular in Cuba. Try to enjoy the nightlife and dance the night away with locals showing off their dancing skills. Many of the bars in Havana attract customers by professing that Hemmingway use to be a regular visitor there.
If you want to know more about the history of the country visit the Museum of Revolution which has a moving collection of revolution memorabilia and a fascinating insight into why Cubans revere the Argentinian born Ernesto Che Guevara. This museum is very informative and gives an interesting albeit slightly biased portrayal of Cuban history and the revolution. Anyone interested in literature may find Havana appealing because it was the home of Ernest Hemmingway from in the 1930s-40s. You could also head to the cigar museum.
Our travel experiences ae perfect for solo travelers, groups and families who want to immerse yourself in the local culture and escape the tourist resorts.
"I initially didn't have Cuba on my round the world trip but I managed to get a cheap flight from the US so I jumped at the chance. This country is so real, no fast food joints and things like that. Just go and get there soon before it gets ruined." - Jon, UK
Gap Year in Cuba
Find gap year programs in Cuba for students and graduates where you will be able to experience the unique culture and heritage whilst enjoy the sights and sounds of the country. If you have ever dreamed about visiting icon destinations like Havana, or visiting some of the best beaches in the Caribbean then Cuba will appeal to you.
If you are researching ideas for the best things to do on your gap year in Cuba our directory will help you plan the dream experience. Expect colonial architecture, Che Guevera murals, lively nightlife, white sandy beaches, salsa and 1950s cars - not many countries compare to this. Highlights include:
- Exploring Havana seeing incredible old buildings and cars
- Going island hopping
- Joining a structured program
- Practising your Spanish
Cuba Travel Tips
- Try to pick up some basic words and phrases this will make the whole experience easier
- If you are worried about travelling solo or the language barrier book a structured experience
- Cuba isn't the cheapest destinations in the world so if you are looking to backpack on a budget you might want to search other destinations in this region
- Book flights in advance to secure the best deals
Book a Tour to Cuba
The local Cuban government have been working to improve the tourism industry and currently around 2,500,000 people visit every year. Arrange a package tour through our website and visit famous destinations like Havana and Santiago de Cuba which are two vibrant cities full of culture and nightlife. We highly recommend trying to see more of the island which is one of the most remarkable and unusual places to visit in the Americas - different operators offer various itineries and routes, you will need to research to see which one most appeals to you. You’ll find that there are endless things to see and do in this destination and by staying a little longer you will be able to experience everything this country has to offer.
Top Reasons to Book
- Get an experienced guide
- See the best places
- Go off the beaten track to see locations difficult to reach
- Eat at the best local restaurants
- Enjoy a stress free journey
- Get an authentic local experience
Cuba Tours for Solo Travellers
Our tours are perfect if you are travelling solo and would like to meet other people and travel in a group. You will get to meet other international travellers and get taken to the best locations in the country with an experienced guide. Most of our tours specifically cater for the 18-35 age group and are a really popular option due to meeting other people, getting day-to-day activities, hotel check-ins, selected meals, accommodation and also transport/guides included in the price. Don't worry if you are slightly older, most tours accept all ages.
Cuba Budget Tours
We have a selection of tours for all budgets, so whether you are looking to explore on the cheap or you have a bit more money to spend you will be able to find a trip to match your interests. Our website features lots of cheap tours allowing you to discover the highlights of the country and not break the bank.
Cuba Family Tours
Looking to explore with your family? Our website features specialist tours specifically for families. You will get a safe and structured authentic experience and also get lots of free time to enjoy the experience with your family.
Cuba Cycling Tours
Feeling like an active adventure? Explore Cuba on two wheels. You don't need to be an experienced rider to join these trips and you will have a guide to be able to help you throughout the duration.
Cuba Sailing Tours
Looking to see more than your average visitor? Book a sailing tour to see the spectacular coast and islands. Not many people get to see this side to Cuba.
- Accommodation: Usually travellers of the same sex will share a twin room, but there is also the option to pay a little extra and get a private room. Accommodation can vary depending on the tour and location. Some tours also include homestays which allow for a facsinating cultural exchange.
- Group Sizes: Typical group sizes are around 10-18 travellers with an average of 12 but this can vary between the tour and operator.
- Transport: On most tours you will travel overland in a private small tour van.
Cost & How to Book
Search our featured trips above or contact us for specific advice. The price you pay really depends on which tour you join. Cost can depend on the operator, trip, duration and level of comfort you require. Please note not all tours include all meals and excursions, you will need to budget extra for this.
Cuba Tour Reviews
If you have ever joined a tour and would like to review or share your experience please contact us.
A Guide to Volunteering in Cuba
Cuba is one of the largest islands in the world and has a population of around 11 million people but around 40% of the population live in inadequate conditions. Cuba is a very unique destination to volunteer abroad, this country has had a turbulent political past with a Revolution taking place in 1959. Due to an economic embargo by the USA, the country suffers from a lack of investment and infrastructure resulting in high unemployment and widespread poverty. You will also get a very authentic experience as Cuba isn't as developed or touristy as other countries in the region, another benefit of choosing this destination is the warm tropical climate with sun almost all year round!
There are lots of good reasons why you should apply to volunteer in Cuba - you will get to see the rustic charm of the country and encounter the friendly nature of local people like no other method of travel allows. This is a less visited destination than others and it can be quite difficult to find volunteer opportunities but with our website you can find international and local organisations who offer placements. Working in Cuba allows you to do more than just sit on a beach. Usually you will work around 6 hours per day and 5 days per week but this depends on the project. If you are short on time and would like to volunteer in Cuba for a day some local operators offer these types of experiences.
In your spare time you will get to relax or join an excursion visiting places like the Bay of Pigs, Trinidad, Bayamo and Veradero. A shared guesthouse is usually provided for participants but homestays are also available. You can stay legally with Cubans at private houses which is a unique experience. Local food is very tasty, expect healthy things like rice, vegetables and meat.
Location of Projects
Most people volunteer in Havana but there are also more remote regions of the country, sometimes you will get to work in outreach teams going direct to communities in need in rural areas. Other places outside of Havana where you might get to help include:
- Santiago de Cuba
- Santa Clara
- Arroyo Naranjo
- Las Tunas
- Pinar del Río
Where you are based though really depends on the project/organisation.
How You Can Help
There are government run local programs and also independent organisations who you can apply to, most people participate during summer but there are also year round placements in locations like Havana and more rural areas. Local volunteer brigades are based in Cuba who work with the government bringing foreign helpers into the country every year, these are structured trips with cultural excursions included. On the majority of placements you will work alongside local staff and experienced international volunteers.
Community Volunteer Programs in Cuba
Most opportunities in Cuba have a focus on social work which has a lasting benefit to the communities, this can involve helping elderly, disabled and young people. Applying to join a building and construction program in Cuba can be very rewarding, you will get to work in groups helping build infrastructure for communities.
Medical Volunteer Placements in Cuba
There is free healthcare and social programs available to Cuban citizens and also education is free to all children in Cuba but a lot of local people need assistance. You might be surprised that Cuba has one of the most advanced healthcare systems on the planet but finding medical projects can be difficult.
Childcare & Orphanage Volunteer Projects in Cuba
There are special trips available where you can work with children at orphanges, help education initiatives and also contribute to construction efforts. Tasks can include teaching sports, music or general activities and also improve the facilities refurbishing schools and equipment.
Wildlife & Conservation Projects in Cuba
Cuba is located in a spectacular region of the world and has lots of Nationals Parks and beauty spots, there are lots of local organisations who work to protect nature and animal species. Due to increased numbers of tourists visiting every year this has a negative effect on local biodiversity and nature and you can join sustainable projects which aim to keep a healthy balance preserving the beautiful scenery around the island.
You will need to check to see if you are applicable for a tourist visa - this is the most important thing to consider before applying. Some organisations will require you know Spanish, you might want to book a Spanish language course in Cuba. People from all over the world travel to Cuba with the aim of volunteering, no previous experience is needed to apply for most positions but you will need a positive, flexible and adaptable attitude. You might also need to pay for flights and a joining fee to participate - this usually includes food, accommodation and a donation to worthwhile local causes.
Please note Cuba is a very undeveloped country and living conditions might be a little rustic compared to what you are used to. If you learn Spanish this will be of great benefit, most of the population do not speak English so communication can be difficult. If you have specific skills like teaching experience this can help too, summer volunteer programs in Cuba are very popular so get your application in early for these positions.
Volunteer in Cuba for Americans
Are you a U.S. citizen wonderng if you can volunteer in Cuba and how to do it? The US and Cuba has a fractious relationship in recent decades and tourism has been restrictied but you might not realise that volunteering is one way you can legally enter Cuba as an American. It can be difficult though and if you are an American seeking a volunteer vacation in Cuba you might want to consider a different destination, gaining a visa can be really difficult (view our South America volunteer programs for alternatives).
How to Apply
You can search our featured opportunities above. There is the option to apply solo and then join a program which are usually arranged in groups with participants from all over the world. You might also want to check out all of our volunteer programs in Central America.
Cuba Volunteer Reviews
Have you ever been to participate on a volunteer program in Cuba? Woud you like to share a persona experience or review an organisation or project? Get in touch with us with your testimonial.