Probably the first things that spring to your mind at the mention of Cuba are Fidel Castro and Che Guevara smoking big Havanas, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Russian Missile crisis. But Ernest Hemingway may have been right, living in Cuba is so much more. With its 2,000 miles of coastline, crystal clear Caribbean waters, spectacular scenery, deep sea fishing and Samba lifestyle, Cuba is a fantastic place to visit, but what about retiring in Cuba?
With 300 days of sunshine and a gorgeous Caribbean climate, a first rate healthcare system with well trained doctors and a longevity rate comparable to most developed countries, retiring in Cuba may be to a lot of peoples tastes and don’t forget, with Florida only 90 miles away if you’re unsure of using local medicine, the expensive U.S. version is very close.
The Cuban government is becoming more open to the idea of retirement in Cuba and has started to initiate “snowbird” visas. These visas are for retirees who wish to live in Cuba and allows them a six month stay with extensions easy to acquire with a quick hop out of the country. Visa applications for people wishing to retire in Cuba are handled by Cuban consulates offshore. Currently there are large numbers of expats living in Cuba, but one of the problems is their inability to buy property in Cuba.
While there are now a number of country club style developments being constructed with government backing in Cuba, apartments listed for sale may be leasehold not freehold, generally with lease terms around 50-75 years. It’s currently impossible for foreign nationals to own freehold residential property in Cuba outside of international owned complexes. The majority of expats and retirees living in Cuba rent “casa particulares” or home stay accommodation. Prices range from £10.00 to £30.00 per night, although significant discounts can be negotiated if you plan to live in Cuba for more than 2 or 3 weeks.
Anyone considering retiring in Cuba should test the waters first. The lifestyle on offer in Cuba is very different from that in Europe or the United States. Cuban attitudes to punctuality and time keeping are very hit and miss, and tipping and even bribery to ensure smooth service and getting things done is the norm. Also be aware that driving habits are very different and traffic rules aren’t mandatory!
Learning Spanish will also enhance living in Cuba greatly. But if you’re prepared to relax and enter life in Cuba as a Cuban then the rewards can be great. We would recommend you take a holiday in Cuba first and speak to expatriates who have already made the move. They can tell you what to expect from a relocation and what day-to-day life is really like.