A unique blend of volunteering, learning Spanish, and enjoying the music and dance of Cuba.
Amazing things are happening in Cuba right now, making this an even more exciting destination than ever before. Cuba is rightly famed for being the most musical nation on the planet. The decaying neo classical buildings and vintage American cars make Havana a constant joy to explore on foot. The fact is – Havana is the safest city in the Caribbean and South America. What’s not to like? And the best way to visit Cuba right now is on the People-To-People Exchange visa with GeoVisions.
Cuba has experienced major upheavals and challenges in its recent history. As a consequence of heavy hitting sanctions and a changing global political landscape, Cuba now finds itself alone as never before. In response, the government has recently started relaxing constraints on its people. For the first time Cubans can now own their own property, engage in private enterprise and talk to visitors.
No one knows where this will take Cuba in the longer term but for now it means there are new, but limited ways to travel to Cuba from the US to interact with the locals. GeoVisions has limited placements in Cuba to do volunteer work, participate in classes with local community centers, take dance lessons from Cuban dance instructors, and sitting in on language classes to learn more of the Caribbean Spanish you will hear all over the island.
Are you up to an adventure of a lifetime? Are you ready for some cutting edge travel? Doing things a little different than you normally would? If you also want to improve your Spanish and experience some of the best hospitality, music and dance in the Caribbean … you’re going to love this program.
Right now it is legal to participate on this program in Cuba with GeoVisions as part of a people-to-people exchange visa between the US and Cuba. The Cuban government has still made it illegal for traditional homestays at this time, and so we use Casa Particulares, which are larger homes turned into bed and breakfasts … only we also include lunch as well as breakfast. So there will be other travelers staying with you and it’s as close to a Cuban homestay as we can officially offer. If this is OK with you, this is a great program to experience Cuba and meet the locals before full-fledged tourism takes hold.
For starters, just add the country Cuba to your resume and that’s going to turn a lot of heads. Add Personal Language Tutor to that same resume, supported by an official Certificate of Completion and a formal letter of goals met or exceeded along with the number of hours completed to meet those goals, and you’re going to be light years ahead of anyone else.
- This is a fantastic opportunity to travel with friends. You can live at the same Casa in fact and if you like, share a room. It might be fun to learn Cuban Salsa, Tango, and Conga with your friends.
- 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks and 8 weeks.
- $1,269 two-weeks ($1,329 Havana), $1,499 three-weeks ($1,569 Havana), $1,919 four-weeks ($2,199 Havana), $2,179 six-weeks ($2,309 Havana) and $2,799 eight-weeks ($2,999 Havana). If you are traveling as a couple and sharing one room, you may reduce the fee by $45 per week, per person.
You will be staying in a Casa Particulares. Casa Particulares are a government licenced ‘private homestay’ accommodation whereby Cubans are permitted to provide one or two bedrooms in their home to guests. Meals are taken in the family kitchen, and you have full use of the house living areas. Your fee includes accommodation, breakfast and lunch daily.
Clothing. The following list is not exhaustive but please bear in mind that most items can be purchased locally so try to travel light and leave room for goodies to bring home with you!
Shorts / T’shirt / lightweight long trousers / long sleeved shirts / fleece / rain jacket / good walking shoes / cap or hat / swimwear / towel / shades / flashlight / dry bag
Sandals/comfortable shoes. For evenings and time off.
Long sleeve trousers and shirt. As in all subtropical areas, insects can be a nuisance, especially in the evenings. Long sleeved shirts and trousers are recommended to offer the best form of protection in the evenings.
Sun Glasses. A GOOD quality pair of sunglasses is essential. Make sure they offer 100% UV protection.
Camera. If bringing a digital camera bring a number of memory cards.
Stationery. Bring pens, pencils, notepads and notebooks.
Flashlight. Please bring a flashlight.
Spare batteries for any electrical devices.
Photocopy of passport. Please bring a copy of your passport. Travel tip – email yourself a copy of your passport and other important documentation.
Sun Cream / Aftersun. You will be spending a lot of time in the sun so please bring adequate sun protection. We recommend a higher block than usual.
Medical Kit. It is always useful to carry a small personal medical kit. This should include items such as: Band aids, wound dressings and bandages, personal medication to last the duration of the expedition, anti-histamine cream/ tablets, fungicidal foot power/cream, antiseptic cream/solution, Immodium tablets (x30) and rehydration (e.g. dioralyte) sachets, mild pain killers (eg. Paracetamol), tweezers, scissors etc).
Emergency travel kits can be purchased at most pharmacies and outdoor pursuit shops. They contain sterile and sealed equipment, such as syringes, needles and suture materials. Make sure you have sufficient identification papers to accompany these kits to ensure compliance with Customs. The Kit should not be opened unless required and it is inadvisable to carry loose needles or syringes.
Insect Repellent and Afterbite. Insect repellant is recommended. If you are allergic to repellents seek advice before leaving your home country.
Arts and Crafts
Pens, pencils, paints & brushes and other drawing materials. Crafts – adhesive shapes, glitter & jewels, glue, felt and other materials. Paper – plain, colored, coloring books, labels.
Boardgames – traditional (chess, chequers), new (Connect 4, Kerplunk). School supplies – calculators, stationery, school bags. Books – picture and number books (Spanish & English), Spanish language reading (all ages).
Football – balls, boots, clothes. Baseball – balls, bats, gloves, clothes. Boxing – gumshields, gloves, headgear, clothes.
Girls – dolls, accessories, dressing up. Balls, Lego, construction games & toys. Bicycle accessories and parts.
Hygiene – soap, toothpaste & brushes, shampoo, feminine products. Home – cooking utensils, pots and pans. Clothing – assorted in good condition please, towels, bed linen, footwear. Musical instruments – parts and supplies, e.g. reeds, valve oil, pads, guitar and bass strings, cables etc.
Actually, Cuba has the lowest crime rate in the Western Hemisphere! You will be surprised by the visible police presence in Cuba. They are there specifically to protect and help tourists. Foreign currency and/or convertible pesos (CUC) are vital to their economy, they bend over backwards to make sure everyone has a safe and pleasant stay. Although, be aware of your belongings in cities like Havana and Santiago de Cuba just like in every capital city.
Q. Do they have Internet & E-mail access in Cuba?
It is rare for ordinary Cubans to have internet access. Almost all hotels have at least 1 or 2 computers to go on the internet for foreigners. In the touristic areas there also are internet “cafés” from Etecsa the Cuban telephone/internet provider. Forget about uploading pictures because the Cuban internet is very slow, about 56 Kbs if you are lucky. Also using USB sticks is 99% not possible.
Q. What is the best time to go to Cuba, and what is the cheapest period?
March, April, October and November are the months with the nicest weather and less rain. The high season in Cuba is July and August . Peak Season is December, January and February . Hurricane season is from June 1 till November 30.
Q. Do I need a Visa and a passport?
￼Yes and yes! Cuba will give you a visa / tourist card, however, you must acquire the visa before you arrive if you live outside the United States. Ensure that your passport has at least 6 months left till it expires, calculated from your departure date.
Q. Yikes!! I don’t speak Spanish … !!!
Very high basic Spanish is required. Intermediate Spanish is preferred. Cubans are very patient, don’t worry, they will wait for you to find the right word. But to get around and to communicate with your students, you will need a good understanding of Spanish.
Q. What about electricity?
Cuba has 110 volt, some more luxury hotels also 220.
Q. What about money? And can I use my credit card?
This is slowly changing. For now, cash only for Americans.
Q. I hear many prescription drugs are not available in Cuba … what if I get sick?
Cuban doctors are known throughout Latin America as the best trained doctors in the region. However, they do lack many of the bare necessities that we expect. “Tourist Pharmacies” DO stock many prescription drugs. Nevertheless, we suggest bringing with you antibiotics, aspirin, band-aids, anything you may need for personal hygiene, etc. just in case. Besides, they make great gifts for the Cubans when you leave.
Q. I’m a woman traveling alone. Is Cuba a safe place to travel for me?
Yes! No problem … but don’t fall in love 🙂 And don’t go down dark streets at night, the same streets you wouldn’t go in in your own hometown. Take a taxi when you go out at night – they are safe and reliable but remember to ask for the fare before you set off! Smaller towns like Trinidad or Vinales are safe at night time for female travelers, you can just walk home. Use you female instinct!
- The program is designed to provide plenty of time to experience the Cuban culture.
- Do you want to learn Spanish or brush up on your language skills? If available near your placement, GeoVisions will provide assistance in identifying suitable language lessons. Language classes are optional and at an additional expense. Around $6 per hour.
- Exclusive teaching materials written by GeoVisions that you can print out and take with you. Plus your free subscription to the ESL Lounge provides many items to help you with your conversations such as worksheets, flash cards and games.
- Personalized help with lesson plans through our Help Me Teach desk. Having lesson plans is important and the most frequently requested assistance we receive. Some tutors just don’t know where to start and need help identifying what to teach according to the ages of the family members. We are here to provide that assistance FREE. Email Betsy as often as you like.
- Tip the advantage to you by enhancing your resume. Job: “Private Language Tutor.” References: Global. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
- Due to Cuban law, you cannot stay in a traditional host family at this time. We will place you with a screened Cuban host family in a Government licensed Casa Particulares. There may be other guests there. Each owner of the Casa Particulares is interviewed and screened by full time staff in Cuba.
Your Duties and Responsibilities
- Share your language with your students up to 15 hours each week. Your primary reason for being there is to provide conversation in your language. The staff in Cuba will help you to set the teaching schedule based on your students and their level of English and their occupation. This is your responsibility.
- You may teach traditional students. You might also find yourself teaching lawyers, dance instructors, business owners, hostel staff and others who really want to learn English and practice it with you. Some of these settings are traditional with a small classroom and other times very informal. You will need to be very flexible!
- Using GeoVisions’ teaching materials that you download and bring with you, and your free Internet subscription to the online ESL Lounge along with your creativity, provide creative, fun and informative language sessions. If you get stumped and need specific help, our personalized Help Me Teach desk is always there for you to use. Here are plenty of examples from the Help Me Teach desk in our GeoVisions Blog.
- Keep your room tidy and clean and respect your host’s rules and habits. Sleeping late everyday, spending your days in your room and not being accessible to your students is not respectful.
- Manage your own personal expenses (telephone bills, clothing, entertainment and spending money).
What You Receive For Your Program Fee
- Personalized volunteer placement through our partner in Cuba with a pre-screened Casa Particulares and students who want to be tutored in English.
- A comfortable room at a licensed Casa Particulares. In other words, a place to call “home” in Cuba.
- Two meals per day (breakfast and lunch).
- An experienced U.S. based GeoVisions Program Manager who will serve as your coordinator and liaison with our in-country staff in Cuba.
- In-country basic language assistance.
- Professional, locally-based staff to provide orientation, supervision and guidance throughout your stay.
- Pre-departure materials, orientation information, and access to former and current tutors.
- A toll-free 24-hour emergency hotline in the U.S. Call collect from Cuba. Our emergency line is manned by real people.
- Our own manual, A Tutor’s Guide–Teaching English To Families and Children, which you download and take with you to Cuba if you want.
- Premium online membership at the ESL-Lounge for access to game, flash-cards, worksheets.
- Unlimited access to GeoVisions’ exclusive Help Me Teach desk, to assist you with ideas that relate to your situation.
- You will receive full information about your Casa Particulares before you even accept the position.
GeoVisions can send tutors and teachers to Cuba any month with the exception of December and January.
Plan to arrive on the 2nd or 4th Saturday of each month. Your orientation will be the following Monday after your arrival.
You will tutor your students approximately 15-hours each week, five days per week.
Included. Held the following Monday after your arrival on the Saturday. This includes your welcome briefing and ensuring that you know how to buy and spend local peso’s, take local transport and generally feel at home and comfortable with your new surroundings.
Native English speakers.
You will need to have an above level Basic Spanish. Ideally you will need Intermediate Spanish to get around and to communicate with your students.
Minimum age of 20.
There are four locations! You can choose one and stay there for your entire time.
Multiple Locations Are OK Too!
You can also choose multiple locations as long as you are in one location at least two weeks for continuity of your teaching assignment. Our office in Cuba will help coordinate your travel between locations, but the transportation costs must be paid by you. This is normally around $40 to $60 per additional location based on distance.
So, go ahead and choose:
Havana – Casa Leonel, Old Havana
In the heart of the historic old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is a myriad of gorgeous neo classical buildings packed with local people living cheek by jowl. At street level there is a constant buzz with musicians plying their trade in the many fantastic bars to be found in this popular neighborhood. The area is VERY safe, and you will quickly feel comfortably at home. There are lots of interesting shops and quirky art galleries here and most of Cuba’s cultural heritage including national museums also.
Playa Girón – Casa Chirrino
200km directly southeast from Havana – Playa Girón is world renowned because of the ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion in April 1961 that led to the first US military defeat in Latin America. It is in the heart of the Zapata Swamp, the largest wetlands of the Caribbean islands and one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Cuba. There is an abundance of plant, bird and other wildlife, many of them endemic to the area.
During your time here you will have the opportunity to explore and find out more about this unique habitat and its history, including; Laguna del Tesoro (‘Treasure Lake’), Hatiguanico River basin, Montemar Great National Park, Playa Giron Museum, a crocodile farm and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean!
There is possibility of enjoying some recreational dives if you are certified … if you are there long enough you can get certified. The area is only starting to open up to tourism and so local business owners are keen to improve their level of conversational English.
Trinidad – Casa Alex Reyez
335km southeast from Havana – together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, Trinidad is another UNESCO World Heritage site. The main industry is tobacco processing but owing to it’s picturesque location on the Caribbean coast it is also a popular destination for tourists. There are several casas de musica, including one next to the cathedral in Plaza Major. There are also discothèques, including one in some church ruins, and another in a large cave formerly used as a war time hospital.
Become immersed in the Afro-Cuban rhythms of Trinidad’s music scene. Colorful houses, cobblestone streets, wonderful people, great food and breathtaking vistas over cerulean seas make Trinidad a firm favorite among visitors.
The owner of the Casa is a well respected musician with strong links to local and national cultural organizations.
Viñales – Casa Feliz
185km southwest of Havana – the outstanding karst landscape and traditional agriculture as well as vernacular architecture, crafts and music have earned Viñales Valley UNESCO World Heritage status. It is famous for tobacco farms/plantations and atmospheric caves. Crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee and especially tobacco are grown by traditional methods.
Attractions in Viñales include the Museo Municipal, Casa de Caridad Botanical Gardens, Museo Paleontológico, Palenque (a Maroon village) and the nearby caves (Cueva del Indio, Cueva de José Miguel, Cueva de Santo Tomás) in Valle de Viñales National Park, which were refuges for runaway slaves. There is also a cave that doubles as a nightclub.
Vinales is a peaceful, charming town with some of Cuba’s most welcoming people.
At this time, GeoVisions recommends checking with cheapair.com to book your flight to Cuba. You can book your flight and take care of your official travel affidavit to Cuba at the same time. If you do not see a flight from your city, you can call Cheap Air and they will book your flight from your city over the telephone. Check online first, and if you don’t find your departure city, call 1-800-243-2724.
Fly direct from Miami daily (JFK some Tuesdays, Tampa Sunday and Thursday.)
Not included. US citizens need a “travel card,” sometimes called a Visa.
You may travel from the U.S. if you meet one of 12 approved reasons.
Check with your airline about where you will collect your “travel card.” Sometimes they are provided at the gate before you board and sometimes they are handed out before you land in Havana. Call your airline in advance and find out their particular way of doing things.
Your continued good health and your safety are paramount to GeoVisions. Access to medical treatment keeps you safe, healthy and participating on the program.
Extensive medical and accident insurance along with emergency evacuation, baggage loss and delay, trip delay and LiveTravel™ emergency assistance is included for US citizens as long as you are on the program.
Under the current insurance laws in the United States, we are unable to insure participants outside the US on our policy, which we have obtained from Travel Guard. However, if you live outside the US we hope you will still participate with us. You will need to scan your proof of insurance and send it to us.
Yeah. We know. These laws make no sense to us either.
Roundtrip airport transfers are included.
Transport from Havana to your final destination and back to Havana after you have finished tutoring your family is included.
By law, currently it is only licensed Casa Particulares and hotels that are permitted to have overnight guests. Therefore, we are using our network of Casa Particulares which are listed in the Program Location section above. Our on-the-ground partners in Cuba have personally inspected these and know the standards are high.
Casa Particulares are a government licensed ‘private home stay’ accommodation whereby Cubans are permitted to rent out one or two bedrooms in their home to paying guests. Meals are taken in the family kitchen, and you have full use of the house living areas. Your program fee includes your accommodation, breakfast and lunch.
You will receive breakfast and lunch each day. Dinner will be on your own or with friends or other guests. Dinner out can cost between $2 and $4. A really nice evening out runs around $8 to $10.