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The Just Student Jobs Country guide for gap year travel in Central America - Cuba

Where to Go - Central America

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Population : 11,141,997

Literacy rate : 95.7%

Life expectancy at birth : male – 73.84 yrs, female – 78.73 yrs

Infant Mortality Rate : 7.51 deaths/1,000 live births

GDP growth rate : 6.2%

GDP per capita : £1,100

Unemployment : 6%

Inflation : 0.3%

Climate : tropical; moderated by trade winds; dry season (November to April); rainy season (May to October)

Time : GMT - 5 (GMT - 4 from first Sunday in April to Saturday before second Sunday in October).

Electricity : 110/120 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style flat 2-pin plugs are generally used, except in certain large hotels where the European round 2-pin plug is standard.

Websites : A privately maintained page with information on culture and politics is at

Beware of political bias from information sites. There are several groups in the USA viscerally opposed to communism in Cuba which, having lots of money, try to give false impressions. Make up your own mind.

The US trade embargo has led to much suffering. However, tourism is on the increase, bringing in the Yankee dollar and other useful currencies. It has recently become chic for media stars to visit Cuba and even package holidays are now available. The USA would seem to be shifting towards a softer attitude, perhaps preparing for the aftermath of Fidel’s death. On the whole, things are improving, but not much.

This is a beautiful country, with wonderful scenery. The capital still has some of the old stately houses, but everything is now falling down due to the poor condition of the economy. Car enthusiasts may find it interesting to see 50s American cars still running around, albeit patched up with (apparently) glue and string.

You may find it expedient to make your nationality known, there are mixed feelings towards Americans. Most Cubans will be hospitable and friendly. Food and drink are cheap and very good. There is a parallel economy using US dollars, but take a great deal of care.

The island is 1,250km long and varies in width from 31km in the West to 191km in the East. The north coast is rocky and has some of the best harbours in the world. Apart from the 25% of Cuba that is mountainous (highest point: Pico Turquino – 2,005m) the rest of the island is flat or gently rolling with many wide fertile valleys and plains.

The capital (more properly called Habana) was founded in 1519. The focal point is the Plaza Revolucionaria with its statue of Jos é Marti – the national hero. The principal suburb is Marianoa, 16km to the West. Ernest Hemingway owned an estate on the outskirts of the capital. Try to see (or be in) the Carnival in July. The city has many architectural sites worth seeing.

Entry requirements

This can be complicated but tourist visas are now available much more easily as the tour operators start to cash in complicated. Best to see your local Cuban embassy for details.


All the usual tropical ones, e.g. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio etc. See your doctor for details.

Tax and Insurance

No tax. Health care/insurance would be prudent, even though it is free and good.

Gap Year Programmes

Click here to find gap year programmes and placements in Cuba

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