Retire in Cuba

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To retire on the island can be a tempting project. Cuba is a beautiful country and the largest island on the Caribbean, often called " The Pearl of the Caribbean". The island is known for its spectacular landscape, beautiful beaches with cristal clear waters, a kind population and an abundance of colonial and historic buildings. 

At 90 miles from the coast of Florida, US, Cuba would be an ideal holiday resort for US Americans...BUT the US trade embargo is still valid and it's forbidden for US citizens to travel to Cuba unless they have a special OFAC license.(see

Residence in Cuba

You need a visa to retire in the country. There are several types of visa for a stay on the island.

- Tourist visa also called tourist card or 'tarjeta tourista' gives you the permission to stay for 30 days in the country, one extension of 30 days is possible (a total of 60 days)

- Family visa allows foreigners married to a Cuban citizen or close relatives to stay for 60 days in the house of the Cuban family. (named A2 visa)

- Temporary Residendence for one year, granted to foreigners with a Cuban work permit.

- Permanent Residence for foreigners married to a Cuban citizen, the foreigner has to proof his solvency by making a security deposit of 5,000 Cuc in a Cuban bank account.

Advantages for Canadian citizens to retire in Cuba

Cuba and Canada have a long tradition of friendly relations. The island is one of the top vacation destinations for Canadians with more than 1 million Canadian travelers per year to the country. 

Therefore Candians have a special treatment, they get a tourist visa for 90 days extendable to 180 days.

House in Cuba

Foreigners can not buy property in Cuba! By law local citizens are not allowed to sell their house they can only swap their house with another family. 

Other solutions are a long term lease of a casa particular(a legal private room) or the rent of a condo or hotelsuite in the tourist center Marina Hemingway. Yacht owners can dock in the marina and stay on their boat.

Daily life in Cuba

The foreigner who want to retire on the island will need an adaption period to the local life, which is very different from the situation in the tourist resorts or abroad. 

Significant differences are :

1) The dual currency system. The Peso Convertible (CUC) for the foreigners and the Peso National currency (CUP) for the Cubans and internal use in the country. 1 Peso Convertible equals 24 Peso National. Foreigners have to pay in peso convertible.

2) There are no abundant food supplies, and lots of modern shopping malls. In general fruit and vegetables are of excellent quality, but meat and dairy products are a luxury, expensive and of poor quality. The basic meals consist off beans, rice and chicken or pork.

Some luxury products like French cheese, branded products etc. can be bought in the shopping malls in the residential Havana Miramar district. The majority of the Cubans can not afford to shop in these venues. 

3) Most of the people only speak Spanish, except in the hotels or tourist resorts where the staff is trained to speak English and sometimes a bit German or Russian. 

To have a social life, you must have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish and some Cuban dialect can be an advantage. There is a wide range of cultural activities, but do not expect the latest DVD releases or 50 TV channels, and Satelite TV dishes are prohibited in Cuba.

Spanish language courses for foreigners are teached at the Havana University. 

4) Finally don't underestimate the financial issues when you retire. The island is very beautiful, but not a cheap place for a long stay. A common Cuban citizen has a complete different life style than a foreigner, he or she will drink tap water, while a foreigner is used to drink a beer, a soft drink, a Cuban will eat black beans and rice, but a foreigner may wish to eat a steak, fish or lobster.

To own a car you need a permit and license from the Cuban government, so a lot of travel is done by taxis (cost 0.8 -1 cuc/km)

Conclusion - to live a life based on Western standards of living, besides the cost of renting a house a minimum of 1,000 - 1500 USD per month has to be provided. 

Do not expect to setup a small business, a bar, a shop, a restaurant etc. all small businesses are prohibited. Work or a job in Cuba is not easy to get and paid only 20 USD per month. 

So you have to rely on financial resources from abroad, a pension, rental income, savings etc.

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