Bright sunshine, a bright blue sky and colorfully painted vintage cars that drive along in front of equally colorful house facades. In addition, musicians playing in the streets and men puffing cigars – these are probably the most common images that come to mind about Cuba. At first glance, time seems to stand still on the Caribbean island – like no other place in the world exudes the charm of bygone times.
The fact that time is advancing here is demonstrated by the crumbling facades and collapsing walls in many places. They remind us that in Fidel Castro’s republic there is a socialist economy of scarcity. But ultimately it is precisely this fragile beauty that makes up a large part of the authenticity and character of Cuba, which you can experience up close while studying in Cuba.
Geography of the island state
According to 800zipcodes, the Cuban island is located on the Gulf of Mexico in the middle of the Atlantic. It has around 6,000 kilometers of coastline with white sandy beaches as well as cliffs and mangroves. The turquoise colored Caribbean Sea is a paradise for swimmers, surfers and divers. Average temperatures around 25 degrees are ideal for water sports and other outdoor activities all year round. The interior of the country with its lowlands and a few mountain ranges is ideal for round trips. Cuba is also worth discovering for hikers with its numerous nature reserves. Studying in Cuba makes it possible to experience the multifaceted nature of the Caribbean island up close.
The Cuban capital Havana
Cuba’s heart is the capital Havana in the northwest. Most of the Cubans live here. Havana had become very wealthy in past centuries through tobacco, rum, sugar and, unfortunately, the slave trade. Today the old town of La Habana Vieja is under UNESCO protection. It impresses with magnificent colonial buildings, baroque cathedrals and wide squares.
The picturesque inner courtyards of many of the initially rather inconspicuous residential buildings are also a discovery. The melodies of salsa, mambo, rumba and reggaeton can be heard in many places. Whether in a bar or on a street corner: For the Cubans, music and dance are essential expressions of their lifestyle. With their hospitable and open-minded manner, they quickly entice visitors to participate in this lifestyle. The best way to develop a feeling for the Caribbean flair is to study in Cuba.
Language courses in Havana
If you not only want to enjoy the beauty of Cuba, but also want to improve your Spanish, a language holiday on the Caribbean island is ideal. After all, Cuba guarantees the best possible compensation for “drumming”.
The courses offered by the numerous providers on the market naturally differ greatly. They are aimed primarily at schoolchildren, students or professionals. It is very important to find out about the quality and reliability of a provider in advance.
One criterion is, for example, membership in a higher-level organization such as the Association of German Language Travel Organizers or the Association of Language Travel Organizations. They control the transparency and quality of the offers by checking the advice, processing of bookings, the quality of the teachers and course content as well as the equipment of the classrooms. You should also pay attention to the official accreditation of the courses. Employees can often have their language leave counted as educational leave in consultation with their company.
Groups with up to ten participants are particularly recommended. This means that the lessons are intensive and the focus can be tailored to the individual interests and previous knowledge of the group members. The usual level ranges from beginner courses to intensive programs for advanced learners. The intensive programs usually include special conversation training. Most courses last 20 to 30 hours per week. This leaves enough time to relax after class and get to know Cuba.
Most of the language courses in Cuba take place in the capital, Havana. It is an ideal starting point for individual or joint leisure activities. With some providers, therefore, not only grammar and vocabulary are on the schedule, but also joint excursions or dance and diving courses.
Incidentally, the Cubans are considered to be the best educated people in Latin America. After the revolution, Fidel’s government was particularly committed to promoting education. Education should be available to all citizens free of charge. The state continues to subsidize educational institutions heavily to this day. This program has paid off: Cuba’s illiteracy rate is just under two percent, which is extremely low not only in comparison to other Latin American countries.
Costs for language course and accommodation in Cuba
There are two currencies in Cuba: One is the Peso Cubano (CUP). It is the common currency for the locals and is therefore also called Moneda Nacional (MN). On the other hand, there is the Peso Cubano Convertible (CUC). It serves only the tourists and the acquisition of “luxury goods”.
For this purpose, there are supermarkets specially tailored to foreigners with goods that are hardly affordable for locals. Their price level corresponds roughly to the German one. In general, tourists can also buy the usual, state-subsidized goods against CUP. Both currencies can be exchanged in CADECA’s exchange offices.
For a two-week standard course in Cuba with 20 hours per week you should calculate around EUR 260. With an intensive course of the same duration around EUR 390. One-to-one tuition is of course more expensive with around EUR 480 per week.
Most language travel providers recommend or arrange accommodation directly. The students are usually accommodated either in pensions or in hotels. You should plan around EUR 170 per week for a double room in a guest house. For a single room around EUR 80 per week and more. In a hotel, the weekly costs for a double room are around EUR 200 and for a single room around EUR 310.
Another cost factor is of course the flight. It makes a lot of sense to book well in advance. In any case, you should plan at least EUR 600 for a one-way flight. There is also an airport tax of currently EUR 20.
Visa and entry requirements in Cuba
A visa is required to study in Cuba. Students and language course participants must therefore apply for a visa for Cuba in good time. It runs through the Cuban embassy in Berlin. The best thing to do is to clarify in the same train whether you need an exit permit for later departure from Cuba. As a rule, this application goes through the Cuban immigration authorities.
Upon entry, the passport must be valid for at least six months. A return ticket must then already be available. In addition, the Cuban government requires every foreigner to have valid foreign health insurance. Otherwise, he must take out a corresponding policy on site.
For a stay in Cuba you only need a tourist card for up to 60 days. It is valid instead of a stamp in the passport and is available from the Cuban embassy in Berlin, from travel agencies or from tour operators. The card is initially valid for 30 days and can be extended once.
It makes sense to bring enough cash with you when you enter the country. You can exchange euros in the bank or in one of the state exchange offices CADECA at the current rate. However, the import and export of pesos is not allowed. Check cards and American credit cards are also not accepted in Cuba.