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 generally around £ 1.00 = 1.55 CUCs and 1.00 CUC =  £ 0.64. Check the current exchange rate.

In October 2013 it was announced that Cuba's dual currency system is to be abolished. No timetable has been set. It is unlikely that this will make much difference to visiting elective students.

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.

As from May 2015 the faculties require that students pay for tuition in advance by bank transfer. The transfer cannot be made in US$. Because of the US trade embargo, it has been illegal for any bank with US connections to deal with Cuba, but most students have managed to find a bank willing to arrange a transfer though an intermediary bank. We have a list of the banks they have used and are working on finding alternative ways of paying for those who have trouble making the transfer.

Santiago has confirmed that elective stays of two weeks (costing less than 500 CUCs) can still be paid for in cash on arrival. I am awaiting similar confirmation from Havana (6th June 2015).

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

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 £125. Finally, there is a departure tax of 25 CUCS (£16).

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).