Cuba Medical Electives

Costs – general

Cuba offers the student on a medical elective an experience unobtainable anywhere else in the world, though compared to Africa and India, for example, it is a more expensive destination because Cuba charges tuition fees. Once you get there, living in Cuba is relatively cheap.

Most of the costs quoted here which you pay in Cuba are quoted in Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs) with a conversion into £ sterling. The exchange rate is pegged to the US$ and is generally around £ 1.00 = 1.55 CUCs and 1.00 CUC =  £ 0.64. Check the current exchange rate.

See the BMA's list of sources of funding for electives.

Cost of tuition

The current (2015) cost of tuition in Cuba in 2015 is 180 CUCs (around £120) per week. If an increase for 2016 is announced it will be posted here.

The faculties require that students pay for tuition in advance by bank transfer. The transfer cannot be made in US$. Elective stays of less than two weeks in Santiago (costing less than 500 CUCs) can still be paid for in cash on arrival.

Cost of board and lodging

The cost of accommodation in a casa particular starts at around 125 CUC (£80) per week for a single room. Costs can be reduced by sharing. Self-catering may be an option in some casas. A single room with all meals and laundry may cost 175 CUC per week. A generous evening meal costs around 7 CUCs (£5.00).

Lunches in the street or at the hospital, generally paid for in pesos nacionales (the peso used by Cubans for everyday purchases), cost very little.

You will also need to budget for additional meals, drinks, local travel, entertainment and general spending money.


You will need your own travel insurance policy.

Travel and transport

Getting thereVirgin Airlines has direct flights from UK to Havana, and many airlines offer indirect flights. Charter companies run direct flights to Holguín, the international airport closest to Santiago de Cuba. You can also fly direct to Cuba from Canada, from Mexico and other destinations around the Caribbean and from some South American countries. Direct flights from the USA are now starting up.

Flights from UK to Cuba cost £600-£1200 depending on the season and the route. Transfer to your destination may be costly e.g. Havana to Santiago de Cuba by air costs around £80, or a long bus journey for about 50 CUCs (£32). If you fly into Holguín International Airport, depending on the time of arrival of your flight, you may need to stay overnight in Holguín and take the bus next day. The alternative is a private car from the airport to Santiago, which costs around £100. Finally, there is a departure tax of 25 CUCS (£16).

Most travel agents can quote you prices. We are happy to recommend Caledonia Worldwide, a tour operator in Edinburgh which specialises in trips to Cuba. Cuba Medical Link has no commercial arrangement with Caledonia. We recommend them because we use them ourselves. They can arrange flights from the UK and also from most other parts of the world. Caledonia can arrange transfers from the airport to your destination as well as accommodation, Spanish language courses in Havana and Santiago, dance and music classes and trekking trips.

If you need transport from your accommodation to your placement it is generally paid for in pesos nacionales and so is very cheap. However, in Havana if you are staying some way from your placement you may need a taxi which charges in CUCs.

Cost of visa

You enter Cuba on a tourist card (=visa) which can be obtained through a travel agent or the Cuban Embassy. If your total stay in Cuba will not exceed four weeks (28 days) this is all you need. The tourist card costs £15 + £20 delivery through the Embassy.

However if your total stay, including any vacation time, will exceed four weeks, when you arrive at your destination the Faculty will change your tourist card to a student visa. The conversion to a student visa costs 40 CUCs (£25) for four weeks. An extension for a longer period costs 25 CUCs (£16).