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Cuba Welcome
Living and Working in Cuba
A guide of information and advice to help you prepare your stay

Cuba Welcome

Political status
Geographical situation
Other sectors
Weights, measure & voltage
Main towns
Time differences
ar rental
Hotels & restaurants
Your suitcase

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City Ville Guide

1 - Political Status

Political regime

Cuba is a one-party people's democratic republic.
The President of the State Council is Mr Fidel Castro Ruz, he has been in office since the 3rd December 1976. Before that he was Prime Minister since 1st January 1959.
The President is in charge of a 30 member State Council and a Council of Ministers.
There are 589 members in the National Assembly who are elected by the Municipal Assemblies for a five year term of office.
There is only one political party, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), with Mr Castro as its first secretary.
The government is communist. the capital is situated in Havana.
The constitution dates from 24th February 1976 and was modified in 1992.
There are 14 provinces and a special municipality.
The voting age is 16, and voting is done by general election.
The judicial power is held by the Tribunal Supremo Popular
The capital is situated in Havana.

Historical outline :

Cuba was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
It was colonized by Spain from 1511.
1517 : statute authorizing the importation of black slaves
1762 : British occupation (one year)
1868 : first war of independence, called the 'Ten Year War'
1869 : the first Republic of Cuba
1878 : re-establishment of Spanish colonization
1886 : abolition of slavery
1895 : second war of independence
1898 : intervention of the United States against Spain. Cuban independence.
Cuba became an independent republic on 20th May 1902 after the defeat of Spain. It remained closely dependent on the Americans both diplomatically and economically. Its judicial system is based on both Spanish and American law with elements of communist theory.
From 1925 to 1933 parity was established between the peso and the dollar.
At this time the country was ruled by the dictator Gerardo Machado
1934 : coup led by Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar
1953 : first offensive by partisans of Fidel Castro, who overthrew Batista on 1st January 1959.

13th February 1960 : first trade agreement with the Soviet Union
19th October 1960 : American embargo on trade with Cuba
17th April 1961 : the Bay of Pigs, the American landing was a failure
October 1962 : the island is blockaded by the USA to deny entry to Soviet rockets

1965 : the official creation of the Cuban Communist Party
1972 : Cuba joins the CAEM, a group of Marxist countries and becomes a member of Comecon, a communist trade block
12th October 1991 : the 4th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party was held in Santiago. Fidel Castro established Marxist orthodoxy on the island.

15th March 1993 : Fidel Castro is re-elected for a five year term of office as President

26th July 1993 : the dollar is legalized in Cuba

20th February 1993 : the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs makes an official visit to Cuba to discuss continuing the supply of petrol to the island
4th March 1994 : Canada (André Ouellet) agrees to give aid to Cuba
5th September 1995 : Cuba concludes a trade agreement with Russia to exchange 1.7 million tons of sugar against 3 million tons of petrol

24th February 1996 : 2 civil aviation Cessnas belonging to America are shot down by 2 Cuban Migs.

November 1996 : Fidel Castro meets Pope Jean Paul II in Rome
November 1999 : the Ibero-American summit was held in Havana.

2 - Geographical situation

Cuba is the biggest island in the West Indies, encircled by the Mexican Gulf, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean at about 180 kms from the south of Florida.
It is surrounded by over 1500 small islands, e.g. the archipelegos of Camarguey and Cannaeros, Sabana and the Jardines de la Reina.

The biggest river is the Rio Canto which is 240 kms long.
There are several mountains in the east and the Sierra Maestra range stretches over the south east of the island. The highest peak is the Pico Turquino at 1,994 m.

The total surface of the country is 110,920 square kilometers. There are 3,735 kms of coastline.

The Guantanamo naval base was conceded for perpetuity to the United States in 1903.
It is situated on the south eastern part of the island, covers 1,116 sq. kms. and holds 2,500 Americans.
The lease can only be ended by mutual agreement or if the Americans leave the base.

3 - Economy

Cuba is the biggest country in the Caribbean, but it is classified as a poor country.
It is a developing agricultural and industrial nation, which suddenly lost its economic aid from the ancient Soviet bloc. In 1989 Cuba was doing 72% of its external trade with the Soviet Union and 90% with the Comecon.
Its relations with the Comecon concerned exchanges of merchandise but also means of financing and long term projects.
These agreements disappeared with the dissolution of the Eastern bloc.

Excluded from the World Bank, the IMF and the IBD by the United States, Cuba is obliged to borrow at extremely high short term rates (nearly 19%).
This situation has been made even more detrimentary by the fact that the market value of the main sources of export revenue, sugar and nickel, are lower than that of petrol which is the main item imported.
The tripling of the price of petrol and the fall in the international market value of sugar (in spite of a good harvest, +20%), which is still the main Cuban product exported, have created a gulf in the deficit of the balance of current operations by over 100% compared to 1999.
This deficit is equal to the amount of foodstuffs imported into the island.
(The lack of petrol in the country means people have to use bicycles; 50% of the buses can't run because of lack of fuel and spare parts.)

The fact that the value of nickel has held up and the rise in the exports of tobacco have partly compensated in the loss in the sugar harvest.

The country is counting heavily on the developement and the expansion of tourism, its revenues rose by 30% in 1999 (in 1998 the income was 1.8 billion dollars for 1.4 million tourists).
Tourism is the principal source of foreign currency together with the money sent in by emigrants to their families.

A campaign to economize energy and the growing use of natural gas have helped in limiting petrol importation.
This will to increase national production is aimed at all the sectors to try and restrict imports.
It is a strategy which necessitates the renewal of existing installations and factories and the creation of new ones.

The exportation of non-traditional products has increased (e.g. pharmaceuticals), particularly towards the Caribbean where relations with the Caricom (a grouping of 15 Caribbean countries in a common market with a common custom tariff) have been consolidated.

Relations with Washington remain a deciding factor for the economic future of Cuba, still under American embargo.
The re-opening at the end of 1999 of some flights from New York and Los Angeles (for the moment it only involves some charter flights), then the decision taken in June 2000 to authorize some limited sales of American food and medicines to Havana, seem to forecast a progressive lifting of the embargo.

This relative improvement in relations should encourage the flow of foreign investments which the country needs to loosen external constraints.
A liberal regime to repatriate profits and dividends makes investment attractive, particularly since it can be done in all the sectors, except for health, education and national defense.
But the slowness of the structural reforms, which are indispensable in domains like price fixing or exchange rates, will hold back Cuba's economic developement in the middle term.

The banking sector has been modernized and an effort has been made to improve the management and the efficiency of public enterprises.

In 1993 the Cuban regime authorized people to work for themselves.
A few months later it gave Cubans the right to own dollars.
In October 1994 it was made legal to sell agricultural products on free markets.
Nowadays, the peasants have to give 80% of their production to the official market and they can sell the other 20% for their own benefit.

The developement of individual enterprise, which concerned particularly the creation of restaurants, has slowed down.
The dollarization of a part of the Cuban economy has worsened the inequality between those who have access to dollars and the rest of the population who survive with difficulty on Cuban pesos.

It is forbidden for foreign companies to employ Cubans directly.
The company has to pay the employee's salary, in dollars, to Acorec, a State organism, which pays the employee in pesos.

In Cuba, people are often obliged to have two sources of income or two jobs.

Economic Statistics


economic growth (%)


inflation (%)


public balance/GDP (%)


rate of unemployment


exports (billions $)


imports (billions $)


balance of trade (billions $)


current balance/GDP (%)


external debt (billions $)


General information

global GNP 1999

9.02 billion $

GDP per capita

1,250 dollars

Purchasing power parity (PPP)

3,250 dollars

Growth of GNP per capita

+1.0% per annum

Households with PPP +$30000pa

90,000 = 3%

Households with PPP +$15000pa

245,000 = 8%

Households with PPP -$5000 pa

1,060,000 = 34%

Aid 1998

0.183 billion $

Tourist revenue 1998

1.626 billion $

Exports :

Products exported are sugar, nickel, shells, tobacco, medical products, citrus fruits and coffee.
Trade partners are : Russia 15%, Canada 9%, China 8%, Egypt 6%, Spain 5%, Japan 4%, Morocco 4%.

To try and increase exportation, the Cuban government has been developing Free Trade Zones since 1996. These zones have attracted companies specialized in commercial activities and services.
The aim is now to create industrial zones.
Three zones already exist, Berroa, Wajay and Mariel and a fourth one, Cienfuegos is envisaged. For the moment there are 317 foreign companies installed in these free zones which have generated a turnover of 50 million dollars in exports.

Imports :

$5.7 billion's worth of goods are imported, these are mainly petrol, foodstuff, machines and chemical products.
The main part of the imports come from Europe 51,28% (Spain 22%, France 11%), Latin America 17.2%, Japan 0.9% and Canada 10%.

Customs duties are among the lower average of those practised in Latin America, but the system of price fixing by the state (by mutiplying with a coefficient of 2.4) makes the imported products very expensive.

4 - Agriculture

The 1994 agricultural reform dismantled 300 big State farms.
Some 4,000 co-operatives and 100,000 small private properties which have a usufructuary right to the land provide 67% of the production (tobacco, rice, coffee ...).
While the food crops, mostly rice, potatoes and maize, remain stable and are still not sufficient to feed the population, the sugar crop, which is the country's main export product, increased by 20% in 1999.
But this result must be put into context : the sugar production had dropped in 1997 and 1998 due to bad climatic conditions.
The 1999 sugar production remains 10% lower than the 1996 one.

In the early 1990s the lack of petrol, fertilizer and tyres made the labouring of the land very difficult. Normally 20% of the surface should be replanted every year, but there has not been sufficient means.
The plants have grown old and need a good dose of fertilizer.
The present harvest is approximately 30 tons per hectare, while in Peru for instance, the harvest is 100 tons per hectare.

The agricultural sector employs 23% of the working population and contributes 62% of the GNP.
28% of Cuban territory is farmland.

Coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and tobacco are the main crops. In all 8,960 square kilometers are irrigated.
33% of the farmed land, 1,100,000 hectares, are devoted to sugar cane.

Sugar :
The sugar sector (the Minza, Dept of Sugar) is in reality an economy within the economy :
- there are over 156 sugar factories, 113 in working order, but all urgently need to be modernized
- the sector has tens of thousands of train wagons and more than 7000 kms of railway line
- 500,000 people are employed in the sector and at least 1.5 million Cubans depend on it.
Today the goverment is encouraging research in productivity and diversification rather than just pushing production.

Tobacco :
Solutions have to be found concerning the inadequacies of the production system, over the last years there has been both overproduction (particularly in 1998) while certain parts of the market were out of stock.
The Altadis group, which is a merger between the Seita and Taacalera (French and Spanish tobacco companies) have taken over 50% of the Cuban cigar distribution of the Corporacion Habanos SA, creating a new company Habanos SA, which will consolidate the commercialization of the famous brands.

Rum :
Havana Club (50% belonging to the group Pernod Ricard and 50% to Cubaron the Cuban producer) have sold 15 million bottles in 1999 making the brand the highest selling brand of spirits in the world for the last three years.

Potatoes and beans are grown as well as several fruit : pineapple, avocados, bananas, watermelon and citrus fruit. Rum and honey are also produced.

(in millions of tons, head, m³ for timber)









sugar cane


















Fishing : essential for the country, an average of 100,000 tons fished which includes lobster, crayfish and shrimps which have an international reputation.
There is a real potential in aquaculture.

Forests : there are forests of mahogany, oak, pine, palm trees and ebony.
Forest covers 17% of the country, but not much of it is exploited.

5 - Industry

Cuban industrial activities are : petrol refining, textile manufacturing, chemical products, paper and wood products, fertilizers and agricultural machinery.

In the energy sector petrol extraction is a State priority, as is the developement of other natural resources,such as gas and nickel.

Thanks to new foreign investment in the form of joint-ventures, petrol production has increased by 25%, reaching 3 million tons.
Cuban crude oil is heavy and sulphurous and is used in the electricity power stations, covering more than half the island's electricity needs.
The oilfields in the Mexican Gulf, in spite of their depth, should be producing 80% of their potential by 2005.
In 1999 local petrol also covered 100% of the needs in cement production which reached 2 million tons.

The government also wants to modernize its thermal power stations and build new sections.
They are also modernizing eight Soviet units of 100 megawatt electrical production and three Czech units of 125 megawatts.

Cuban is the sixth biggest producer of nickel in the world. It has the biggest open deposits in the world. The production of nickel was 70,000 tons in 1999.
Cuba also covers 12% of the world's market needs in cobalt.

According to the Cuban committee 'estadal de estadisticas' the industrial sector represents 40% of the global social production.

The major exception to the setbacks in Cuban industry, such as the nickel factory in Moa which is not used, the nuclear power station in Jaragua which was abandonned after it was built, the Cienfuegos refinery which is nearly completed and which will not be exploited, is the pharmaceutical industry which is of a high quality.

6 - Other sectors

Since its revival in the early 90s, the tourist sector has created over 250,000 jobs directly and indirectly. It would appear today to be the motivating force of change on the island.
In 1999 Cuba recorded a 13% growth in tourism, the WTO elected Cuba the "country of the year 1999" for the Caribbean due to the increase in the number of visitors.
The Cuban authorities have made a lot of effort in their promotion to attract a more diversified clientele, particularly European.
Tourism revenue represents 53% of the country's foreign currency.
Tourism generates infrastructural needs in transport, telecommunications and water distribution.
The number of airline companies flying to Cuba is constantly on the increase, there were 48 in 1997, 52 in 98 and 57 in 99.
Tourism also stimulates national production in industry and agriculture.
Local production now covers 51% of the needs, compared to only 18% in 1990.
In 2000 Cuba should go over the 2 million tourist mark, 1.6 million visited the country in 1999 - a result which placed Cuba at the forefront of the Caribbean destinations.
Canadians make up the biggest number (276,300) followed by Germans (182,200).
Cuba is hoping to receive as many as 7 million tourists by 2010, this idea is creating a frenzy of hotel building. At the moment there are 34,000 rooms, managed by 21 hotel chains, 17 of which are foreign, these foreign chains are more and more numerous on the Cuban market (Sol Melia, Tryp, Riu and Iberostar (Spanish), Accor, Club Med, Pasea (French), Golden Tulip (Dutch), LTI (German), Sandals, Superclubs (Jamaican), Leisure (Canadian).
All these operators agree that Cuba is the destination of the future.

Other sectors are also developing.
The State is trying hard to modernize telecommunications and a 500 - 800 million dollar investment programme is underway, with 500,000 replacements and new lines.

The real estate sector is progressively opening up to foreigners.

The number and breakdown of foreign companies installed in Cuba (on 2nd March 2000) :
Spain 191, Panama 112, Canada 48, Italy 41, Mexico 38, France 32, Germany 20, Holland 17, Venezuela 15, Virgin Islands 15, Japan 13, Britain 10, Switzerland 10.

French companies installed in Cuba:
Telecommunications : Alcatel
Airline companies: Air France, AOM
Foodstuffs : Pernod Ricard, Bourgoin, Souflet
Agriculture : Seita/Altadis
Pharmacy, Agrochemicals : Aventis
Tourism : Accor, Pansea, Club Med
Energy : Total, Elf, Babcock, Devexport
Trading : Sucres & Drenrées, Dreyfus
Construction : Bouygues
Banks : BNP, Société Générale
Automobile : Peugeot, Citroën

7 - Population

There are 11,200,000 inhabitants in Cuba.
The population density is 99 inhabitants per sq. km.
78% of the population is urban.
Havana, the capital has a population of 2,300,000.
The population is originally Spanish but over half of the population has black origins :
51% halfcasts, 37% whites, 11% black, 1% Chinese.

- 0 - 14 year olds : 21.65%,
-15 - 64 year olds : 69.12%,
- 65 years and over : 9.23%.
life expectancy : 76.19 years

demographic growth 1997-2015 (%) : +0.4
infant mortality (%) : 0.7
energy consumption per capita TOE : 1.45
population without drinking water (% pop) : 7
population without sanitary installations (% pop) : 34
n° of doctors for 1000 inhabitants : 3.6
telephone lines per 1000 inhabitants : 34
mobile telephones per 1000 inhabitants : 0
private cars per 1000 inhabitants : 16
n° of computers per 1000 inhabitants : 54.1
adult illiteracy (%) : 4
secondary schooling/age sector (%) : 81
graduates/age sector (%) : 12
The number of people of working age (15 to 65 years) is 8.1 million, of which 5.5 million are active (84% of them in industries and services).

8 - Language
Spanish is the official language, but English and French is also spoken in most of the hotels and on tourist sites.

9 - Religion
Most of the population is Roman Catholic (85%), there are a few other minorities.

10 - Weights, measures & .voltages
The electricity is 110 volts single-phase with American plugs which have flat prongs.
Take an adaptor with you.
The metric system is used.

11 - Money
The Cuban currancy is the peso. 10FF = 1.3 Cuban pesos (PC)
1 Peso = 1 $US approxi.
You don't need to have pesos as everything can be paid in American dollars, and the prices are marked in dollars. The peso is only used in places reserved for locals.
Take small dollar notes with you, for transport etc.
You can change your French francs into dollars in most of the hotels.
Not many banks are open to tourists.
Credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere so long as they are not from an American bank, travellers cheques or a credit card from American Express will be refused.
It is forbidden to take pesos out of Cuba.
Don't change your money in the street.

12 - Main towns
Havana : a population of 2,600,000.
San Cristobal de La Habana, was named capital of Cuba during a mass on 25th July 1519.
In spite of all Cuba's difficulties, Havana remains an enchanting town, with the beauty of its baroque palaces and its colonial houses, and the kindness of the local people.
You have to look at it from Morro point when the sun is setting and the pastel coloured façades on the Malecon, which is a perfect curve running 8 kms round the seafront, glow with the reflection of the bright red sky.
The square around the Cathedral is surrounded with 18th century buildings, it is the centre of Havana life. Unesco has declared the old town a World Heritage site, the ex-managing director of Unesco, M'Bow described Havana in this way : "churches and convents, palaces and stately houses make up an ensemble in which the harmony of forms, the bright colours and the boldness of the architecture combine to create an exceptional charm.
Here the Sevillian arcades open up to palm trees, the bars at the Castilian windows are entwined and curved, the ironmongery on the balconies and the doorways with their columns jostle with elaborate arcades made of exotic woods."
On the Prado, the wide street running through the town where the most magnificent houses of Havana are situated, the Capitol, an exact copy of the one in Washington, and the American cars from the 1950s are a constant reminder that one of this last strongholds of communism is only a bit more than 150 kms off the coast of Florida.
Museo de la Revolucion : built in 1922, this old palace of the dictator Batista is now the biggest history museum in Cuba.

In Cienfuegos the Palacio de Valle, residence of a supremely rich Spaniard, offers a surprising mixture of baroque, kitsch and Moorish styles.

Santiago de Cuba :
Nestled between the legendary Sierra Maestra and the Atlantic, Santiago has an oriental feel to it.
The historical centre of the town which sits in a magnificent bay surrounded by mountains, contains the superb Casa de Diego Velasquez, dating from 1522, the Bacardi museum and numerous palaces, museums, churches and picturesque narrow streets.
The heart of Santiago is the Cespedes Parque, under the eye of the angel on the cathedral. Santiago was where the conquistadors started out from and also the cradle of the Revolucion.

Varadero : a peninsula at only about three hours bus ride away from Havana, the Varadero beach stretches over 20 kms and the temperature of its transparent sea varies between 23° and 28°.
A third of Cuba's hotels are built on this strip of sand.
Nothing much remains from the old town, only some coloured wooden houses hidden among the hibiscus and the icaqiers.
On the sea front the neo-classical palace of Dupont de Nemours bears witness to the craziness of the American billionaire and the extravagance of the epoch.

Matanzas : the old sugar capital, 42 kms from Varadero, has an interesting historical centre as well as the Cuevas de Blamar : caves 2 kms deep with an underground river running through them.
Jammed in between two bridges, the Plaza de la Vigia proudly displays its Sauto theatre where great personalities, amongst which Sarah Bernhard, have performed. Next to it the Palaccio Del Junco, in neo-colonial style, is painted bright blue.

Trinidad : a quiet sleepy little town, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Latin America.
Do a cultural and historical walking tour : the plaza Mayor, all shades of sorbet, with its palm garden, the convents (San Francisco...), the churches (Santa Ana, Santissima Trinidad...), the museums (palacio Cantero, palacio Brunet and the Guamuhaya archeological museum).

Cayo Largo : a 22 km long island situated 177 kms south of Havana. Its corals and shipwrecks have made it a popular diving spot.

Other towns are : Holguin, Marianao, Camagüey, Santa Clara, Nueva Gerona, Moa, Baracoa, Bayamo,
La Caloma, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas, Guantanamo.

13 - Climate

The climate is sub-tropical with temperatures from 18° to 35°C.
The sea temperature goes from 24 to 28°C.
The dry season is from November to May and the rainy season from June to October.
Light winds keep the climate cool.
The best season to visit Cuba is from the end of November to mid-April to avoid the rains.
On average once every two year there are hurricanes on the east coast in September or October.


Temperature averages (max/min) :

................................J ...........F ..........M .......A ........M ..........J ..........J .........A ...........S .........O .........N .........D

Santiago........... 28/18 ...28/18 ...29/19 ...29/20 ...29/21 ...31/22 ...32/23 ...32/23 ...32/23 ...31/22 ...29/21 ...29/20

Havana .............26/18 ...26/18 ...27/19 ...29/21 ...30/22 ....31/23 ...32/24 ...32/24 ...31/24 ...29/23 ...27/21 ...28/19

Sea temperatures : Monthly average :

 ................................J ...........F ..........M .......A ........M ..........J ..........J .........A ...........S .........O .........N .........D

Havana ................25 .........25 ..........26 .......26 .......26 .........27 ........28 .......28 ..........29........ 28 .......27 .........26

Santiago .............25 .........25 ..........26 .......26 ........27 ........27 ........28 .......29 ..........29 .........28 ......27 .........26


14 - Fauna and flora

There are mosquitoes on the coast in the summer.
Coconut crabs are very noisy and can keep you awake if you are sleeping near the beach, but they are not dangerous.
Other animals on the island include boars, deer, crocodiles which have been bred there, iguanas (which are not dangerous).
There are no poisonous snakes.
Birds include pelicans, parrots, the Tocororo (the national bird which has the same colours as the flag) and frigate birds.
Sea life include crayfish, tuna, barracuda, urchins, turtles and sponges.

Flora : Cuba has one of the richest island flora in the world.
Over half is endemic : royal palm trees, coconut trees, eucalyptus, pine trees, cedars, mahogany trees, baobabs, mango trees, orange trees, sisal, sugar cane.
There are rare flowers : orchids and mariposa, Cuba's national flower, white and heavily perfumed, which was a symbol of rebellion and purity during the wars of independence.

15 - Working in the country

Before going :

The language :
It is advisable to take Spanish lessons or improve your level.
The possibility of finding a good job will depend on how well you speak the language.
There are several language institutes in France which can quickly bring you up to a decent level.

Formalities to be completed if you are working for a French company :
If your employer is a French or international company you don't have to worry about formalities.
Usually the administrative services deal with all the formalities concerning the expatriate staff.
Unless you are the only representative of your company in the country (sales representative, or in charge of a liaising office ...), in this case you will have to deal with the formalities yourself.

Preparing for your departure and looking for a job :
You can start searching for information by writing to French associations established in the country, economic expansion services, commercial services of foreign banks in France and French banks abroad.

The French consulate usually has a service dealing with jobs and training, student grants and reinsertion in France, and they can put you in touch with local enterprises who are willing to accept French personnel.

 (See also in the Practical Guide for the Expatriate).

The French Chamber of Commerce also offers information about the job market, the most dynamic sectors of the economy, and edits a bulletin for French companies and local members.
You could publish a job application in this bulletin.

The Trade Commission in Cuba, or the CFCE in Paris can furnish you with a list of French companies established in Cuba.

Documents about the country are usually available in the cultural service of the Cuban Embassy in Paris.

You can however prepare your trip in a more precise manner by making a personal appointment with the Franco-Cuban Chamber of Commerce in order to complete your information and get professional advice.

While you are hunting for information you could contact companies directly by sending a spontaneous candidacy proposing your services.

The international departments of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry often have information about the country available.
Directories and useful dossiers from the country can be helpful in getting information on sectors of activity and the local economic life.

Where to find job offers :
In the French press (Le Monde, Le France Soir, Figaro, Moniteur du Bâtiment, expat magazine ...)
for French companies sending people abroad.

In the international press, in nearly all the bigger dailies there exists a page or a selection of job offers
(The European, The Guardian, Vacature, Coriere della Sera, The Geneva Tribunal ..)

Leading recruitment bureaus in Europe, and interim companies sometimes offer international jobs.

There are several data banks specializing in job offers abroad on Internet which are easily accessible.

Writing your CV and covering letter :

Your dossier is a determining element towards being recruited, it is the first step towards obtaining an interview.

The CV should be very clear, typewritten, detailled, preferably written in the language of the country and it should be accompanied by a handwritten covering letter.
Certain countries do not accord much importance to handwriting, but it is advisable to write the letter by hand whichever country it is addressed to.

If the company is French or the subsidiary of a French company, the CV and the covering letter should still be written in the language of the country.

Don't forget to attach a recent photo, preferably one where you are smiling.

Your CV should be detailled, and have the addresses and phone numbers of ex-employers on it so that the company can easily verify the main points of your candidacy.
This can save you from sending a pile of photocopies and documents with it.
You can always present these documents later during an interview if necessary.

If you are thinking of sending a false CV, you should know that a study from the Florian Mantione Institute shows that 45% of the employers check up on CVs, that 34% of the candidates are eliminated during this verification and that 60% of the verifications are made with the previous employer.
Whatever your reasons for 'adapting' your CV to suit the ad, be warned that it won't help you during the interview and could even cause you prejudice.

The questions to ask yourself before an expatriation :
What exactly is the job ?
What is the length of the contract ?
Is it for the whole family or with bachelor conditions ?
What kind of life will you have locally ?
Have you thought about when you get back, how you will manage financially to fit in again ?
Do you have the necessaries qualities to be an expatriate ?

Qualities you need to succeed :
emotional stability (so you can react quickly in any situation)
autonomy (you can make decisions on your own in any circumstance)
being mobile and being available for your job, being able to relocate quickly
being good at meeting people (don't forget that the expatriate is also an ambassador for his country whether in his professional or his social life.
being adaptable (you can easily adapt to different cultures, climates and life styles. )
being able to accept and understand different cultures and cultural differences
tolerance and respect of other people's way of life and way of living should be a natural part of your character.

Your family and recruiting :
Your partner should have the same ambitions as you.
It is often an important factor in choosing an expatriate.
In fact some recruitment bureaus or big firms when they are recruiting, specially for long term projects, insist on having an interview with the wife to check that there are no problems in the couple which could get worse abroad and maybe disturb the mission.
Companies often propose that the whole family goes together so that a good family balance is kept.

During the recruiting :
Punctuality and precision are appreciated everywhere.
Be on time for your appointments.

Be well dressed for your interview, whatever kind of job you are trying for.
Your appearance will weigh with the interviewer.

First interviews are often very short but can last several hours if your candidacy is interesting, depending on the post offered, and if you have to do any psychotechnical (graphological analysis) or aptitude tests.

Be careful not to appear pretentious about your know-how and don't exaggerate your professional competence.

Don't forget that nowadays the job market is a chronic problem nearly all over the world, so take an interview appointment seriously, jobs are not easy to come by.

Emphasize your real competence, your ease of adaption, your mobility, your ability to work in a team, your readiness to pool your experience.

The company and the expatriate :
A lot of countries abroad like to have, and to show that they have, expatriates on their staff.
International personnel often bring in experience and knowledge which can be very advantageous for a company.

Salaries - Salary requirements :
If the candidate doesn't know the prospective country, it isn't always easy to negotiate a salary, especially if the amount has already been mentionned on the ad.
However, there is nothing to stop you from showing your previous salary and from discussing the salary offered. The recruiting agent or the employer may appreciate knowing what for you is the minimum.
It is often difficult to compare salaries with European ones.
The standard of living that you find abroad is not always similar to the one you know in Europe and sometimes if the salary is much higher you will find that the cost of living is also.
This is one of the reasons, and there are several, including social security conditions, why it is better to go abroad with a European company.
French companies sending people overseas budget for differences in the cost of living.
They can reassure the expatriate that his purchasing power will at least be the same as in France.
The 'basic French salary' can be paid either in France or abroad, it is usually a choice, and an allowance is paid for living expenses (accomodation, food,...)
This compensation is based on the cost of living in the country.

(see the page in the expatriate guide)
If you are employed locally you will have to pay taxes in the country.
If you have an international contract your salary can be negotiated free of taxes.
In some countries income tax is deducted at source by the company.

Accomodation - company car - other fringe benefits :
It is nearly impossible to negotiate for a company house if you are employed locally.
Getting a car depends on your job and your level in the company.
In a local company it will be very difficult to negotiate a paid return ticket to France every year.
There again, if you are an expatriate working for a French company you will get fringe benefits, a house, car, travel allowance, return flights to France ...
Usually international contracts give 15 days leave in France every 3 months.

Working conditions :
These are the local ones with all the attenuating advantages and disadvantages if you are working for a local company.
The expatriate is often considered as an immigrant and has to deal himself with the local formalities.

On the administrative side the expatriate does not have to worry about the formalities concerning the police, customs, immigration, income tax, visa or consular declaration.
French or European companies abroad always have an administrative department which completes all the formalities for its personnel and deals with any problems which could arise.

Foreign companies remain subject to the laws of the country in which they are working.

Investing in the country :
In Law 77, the conditions for setting up a company are clearly defined and the "foreign investor must bring in know-how, financing or new markets" and if the investment project does not correspond to this definition, it has no chance of being accepted.
To open a branch of your company in Cuba you have to justify your commercial relations with Cuba for at least the last three years and your company must have already existed for at least five years.
If these conditions are fulfilled, you have to apply to the Cuban Chamber of Commerce who have the National Register of branches and commercial agencies in Cuba.
Your dossier will be analysed by the Mincex (the Dept of External Trade) which will deliver a licence by decree. This licence is valid for 5 years and has to be renewed every three years.

16 - Formalities to be completed

For French nationals it is obligatory to get a tourist card.

You can get this document from the consulate or from the Office Soleil de Cuba,
41 bd Montparnasse, 75006 Paris, tel 01 53 63 39 39.
You will have to show your passport which has to be valid for at least six months after your return date.
The card costs about 150 FF.

You can also apply for one by writing and by sending a copy of the first four pages of your passport, a stamped addressed envelope and a covering letter indicating your travel dates to Cuba, plus a cheque for the sum of 17 euros.

Business visitors or people staying with Cubans have to apply for a visa (which cost 300euros environ).
The Cuban immigration makes you book and pay for two nights in a hotel.
You also have to pay an airport tax of $15 when leaving Cuba.

17 - Health

Hygiene in the country :
The health system is totally state controlled.
Some hospitals have ultra-modern equipment and good quality staff.
However it is difficult to find medicine on the island and it is better to take along with you a basic first aid box with any medicines that you generally need (aspirin, etc).
There is a service reserved for foreigners at the hospital Cira Garcia in Havana.

Vaccinations :

None is obligatory or even necessary.
Just make sure you are up to date on your usual vaccines : tetanos, polio etc.

18 - Transport

There are 7,636 kms between Havana and Paris.
The flight time is approximately 9 hours and 40 minutes.
International flights arrive and take off from both Havana and Varadero.

Companies which have regular flights to Cuba :

- Cubana de Aviacion, four direct flights a week between Paris and Havana, Holguin and Santiago
(tel 01 53 63 23 23)
- AOM : 4 direct flights a week between Paris and Havana and Varadero
(tel 0803 00 12 34)
(Paris-Havana return flights from 3912 FF in economy class).
- Iberia : 2 flights a day via Madrid (cost approx. 4000 FF return).
- VIASA : Tuesdays and Saturdays via Caracas.
- Air France : 5 direct flights a week between Paris and Havana

Internal transport :

The company Cubana de Aviacion proposes internal flights for an average cost of 400 FF per trip.

Transport is a problem in Cuba because of the lack of petrol and spare parts.
The roads are in good condition and the system of roadsigns are the same as in America.
There are a total of 26,477 kms of roads, 14,477 of which are tarmac and 12,000 are gravel or dirt roads.

The company Viazul has an air-conditionned bus service between the larger towns.

There are 12,623 kms of railway line.

There are 240 kms of waterways.
The ports are Cienfuegos, Havana, Manzanillo, Mariel, Matanzas, Nuevitas, Santiago de Cuba.
The merchant navy has 48 ships in all plus 24 which are under Panama, Cypriot, Maltese and Mauritian flags.

Scooters and bicycles are used in town - there is hardly any public transport.

19 -Time differences

Time differences with France are - 5 hours in winter and -6 hours in summer.

20 - Telecommunications

Telephone :

- To phone Cuba from France dial 00 53 + the town code + n°
Havana : 7, Santiago : 2, Vinales : 8, Varadero : 5

- To phone France from Cuba dial 00 119 33

You can acquire a pre-paid Etecsa card for $10 which gives you four minutes (or $20)
which you can use in the Etecsa cabins.

Otherwise you can phone or fax from the hotels.
Letters take approx. 3 weeks.

There are 229,000 phones in the country, that is only 2 per 100 people, it is one of the least developed networks in the world.

Radio/Television :

There are two national television channels :
Lunes and Cuba Vision.

Radio stations : AM 150, FM 5.
There are 2.14 million radios in the country.

Press/Newspapers :

The local newspapers are the Trabajadores and the Granna
(which exists in a French version on subscription, information/
01 at the Cuban Embassy in Paris).

21 - Airports

There are 9 airports: Havana, Varadero, Holguin, Santiago, Cayo Largo, Isla de Pinos, Rio Oriente,
Ciego de Avila, Vertientes and a 10th is being built in Cayo Coco.
The José-Marti airport is half an hour out of the centre of Havana.

Remember to keep 150 F to pay the airport tax when you leave.

22 - Car rental

The best way to get around is to rent a car.
It is better to rent it before you leave France as locally the demand is usually greater than the supply.
There is no problem with petrol for a tourist, the CUPET-CIMEX stations, which are reserved for tourists, are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week throughout the island.
Petrol costs about 7 F a liter.
Rental costs between 500 and 600 dollars a week.

The best known rental agent is Havanauto, which is at the airport, but there are other agencies in the bigger towns like Havana. You can contact them from the tourist offices which are situated in most of the hotels.

Another possibility is to use a particular, a private car which you can rent for about $70 a day. You can identify a particular by its number plates : a normal short trip in one costs $8 against $12 in an official black taxi. The relics of pre-Castro, these private vehicles are now part of the national heritage.

Attention : take out a comprehensive insurance, otherwise the guarantee deposit is very high.

23 - Hotels & restaurants

All the Cuban hotel structures are expanding rapidly.
Some hotels are far from perfect, but their shortcomings are easily overlooked in view of the beauty of the island and the hospitality of the Cubans.
Some hotels in smaller towns, like Triniday or Camaguay cannot be compared with international hotels,
they are extremely simple.
Bed and breakfast :
a good cheap formula which helps you meet the locals.
To reserve a room from Paris, go to the agency Roots Travel, tel 01 42 74 07 07,, e-mail

Some hotels worth recommending:

In Havana, choose a hotel which is part of the Habagnuanex chain (tel 7 33 95 85) which specializes in restoring palaces and historical residences in the centre of the old town.
- Florida , in the heart of Habana Vieja, this ancient building has just been renovated. 25 comfortable rooms around a colonial patio.
Calle Obispo, esq.
Acoba, Habana Vieja tel. 7 62 41 27
- Hotel Melia Cohiba, the most luxurious and the most expensive, modern with lots of white marble, pool, sauna, boutiques, 462 rooms
tel 537 33 36 36
- Hotel Sevilla, on the Prado, colonial style with a Moorish influence, superb restaurant on the roof, 192 rooms
tel 537 33 85 60
- Hotel Nacional, in the Vedado district, 10 minutes from the centre,opulent colonial style, big tropical garden, view on the port, 2 pools, tennis, 490 rooms.
Calle O, esq.21 tel 537 33 35 64
- Convento de Santa Clara, an old convent from the colonial period reconverted into a charming hotel.
Calle Cuba 610 between Luz and Sol, in Habana Vieja,

In Santiago :
- la Casa Granda tel 53 2 268 66 00, overlooks the Cespedes park in the centre of town, 55 rooms
- Hotel Santiage de Cuba tel 53 226 86 666, a modern tower, pool, 302 rooms

In Trinidad the best is a bed and breakfast, otherwise there are :
Las Cuevas, bungalows
Ancon, bungalows

Vinales : Los Jazmines tel. 8 29 32 65
Rancho San Vicente tel 8 29 32 00/01

Zapata Peninsula : the Villa Guama tel 2 59 71 25

Baracoa : El Castillo tel 2 14 21 03

Varadero : Melia Varadero tel 535 66 70 13
Melia Las Americas tel 535 66 76 00
Hotel Bella Costa tel 535 66 72 10

Restaurants :
The tourist office will reserve a table for you ; you can eat excellent crayfish, sea food, tuna, turtle, pork and beef and Creole cuisine.
There are also restaurants set up in private houses (paladares), the only place where you can eat cheaply (from $6), but they can only seat 12 people at the most.

- Bedeguita del Medio, a small typical restaurant which was the favorite meeting place of several famous people like Hemingway or Ava Gardner.
Calle Empedrado 207, Habana Vieja, tel 61 84 42
- El Patio, the gourmet restaurant in the hotel Novotel Miramar, which has the reputation of being the best in Havana
- El Ajjibe,in the Miramar district, this restaurant is renowned for its large variety of different chicken dishes, avenida 7 between 24 y 26, Miramar, tel 24 15 84
- The Floridita, considered one of the seven best bars in the world, sea food specialities.
Calle Obispo 557, esq. Monserrate, Habana Vieja tel 63 10 63.
- El Tocororo, one of the best restaurants in the country

- Las Americas, in the old villa of the Dupont de Nemours family
- Marina Gaviota,the crayfish specialist

24 - Your suitcase

It is advisable to pack light clothing in cotton or linen as it's very hot, but take along a sweater or jacket for the evenings and the air-conditioning.
It will also come in useful if you take a tour in the mountains.
Pack a good sun cream and an anti-mosquito cream.
If you are planning on walking trips take good walking shoes.
Business men will be expected to wear a suit and tie for meetings.
25 - Information

Public holidays :

- 1st January : New Year's Day, but also National Day
- 1st May : Labour Day
- the carnival of Cuba, which usually takes place in Santiago or Havana during the week of 20th July
- 25th, 26th, 27th July : Day of the National Rebellion
- 10th October : beginning of the War of Independence
- 25th December : Christmas Day

All the larger towns have CUPET-CIMEX petrol stations which are reserved for tourists.
You can pay by credit card or dollars. I liter of petrol costs approx. 1$US.

If you should have an accident contact immediately the French Embassy and the organism Assistur
(tel : 33 88 59/33 80 87)
which is the only local representative of the different foreign insurance companies.

26 - Banks

The Cuban banking system
Previously the Banco Nacional was nearly the only banking participant in the Cuban economy.
With the opening up of the Cuban economy and the economic transformations which accompanied it the authorities were obliged to reform the existing banking system and create new banks.
The constitution of a more sophisticated banking system forced the separation of the functions of the central bank and the commercial bank (both which had been covered before by the Banco Nacional).
The Banco Central de Cuba was created with the double role of regulating and supervising the existing financial institutions.
The present Cuban banking system comprises the following banks :
- the Banco Metropolitano : specializing in private accounts, it works with the diplomatic corps and foreign residents, and with Cubans having foreign currency
- the Banco Popular de Ahorro and the Banco de Credito y Comercio BANDEC : specializes both in a private clientele and companies
- the BFI : specializes in the sectors of tourism, industry and distribution
- the BICSA : specializes in the sectors of agriculture and energy
- the Banco de Inversiones : acts as a council to Cuban enterprises which generate foreign currency
- the Banco Exterior de Cuba : specializes in the financing of Cuban exports
- the Banco Nacional de Cuba : specializes in the priority sectors of the Cuban economy : petrol, foodstuffs, chemical products.

Foreign banks :
Cuban law does not allow foreign banks to open branches or to create banks in joint ventures.
At present foreign banks are only in Cuba in the form of a representative office :
TRhe two French banks represented in the country are the BNP and the Société Générale.

27 - Schooling
There is a French school in Havana:
Ecole française de la Havane
Calle 184, no. 1510
Siboney, La Habana, Cuba.
: (53) 33 62 64. Fax (53) 33 14 39
Pre-schooling, from 3 years old ; primary, secondary 1st cycle.

28 - Guides
Some guides on the country :
- Cuba : Guides Gallimard
- Le Grand Guide de Cuba : Bibliothèque du voyageur, Gallimard
- Cuba Tierra Caliente : published by Florent Massot
- Fin de siècle à La Havane : by J F Fogel and B Rosenthal, Seuil
- Che Guevara, compagnon de la Révolution, by J Cormier, Découvertes Gallimard
- Caribbean by James Michener
- Travels in equinoctial America by Alexander von Humbolt
- Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
- The Old Man and the Sea, The Garden of Eden, by Ernest Hemmingway
-"Exporter à Cuba" collection L'essentiel d'un marché, published by the CFCE, 1999, 150 FF

29 - Observations
The amount of alcohol and tobacco that you can export is controlled by the customs.
It is forbidden to take out more than 50 cigarettes and 1.5 liters of alcohol per person.
You are not allowed to bring into Cuba fresh or natural foodstuffs.
Animals are not accepted on the island.
Attention : you cannot take photos in museums or military zones.
There is a shortage of water : residents of Havana get supplied by water tankers.
Electrical cuts are quite frequent.

Tourism :
There is the sun, the palm trees and the long sandy beaches.
But Cuba has also got a very rich cultural background and a large variety of landscapes.
Rice paddies, sugar cane and tobacco plantations lie side by side in the valley of Vinales, while Old Havana and Trinidad are classified as World Heritage by Unesco.
More than any other island the "pearl of the West Indies" is proud and pleased to show off its music, its dancing, its cigars and its cocktails.
Visit the colonial towns of Trinidad and Havana, but don't miss the region of Vinales at the heart of the Cuban tobacco golden triangle. See the "mogotes", these strange limestone mountains called "elephant backs".
And the sea : take a cruise, go diving and deep-sea fishing.

Shopping :
Cigars are half the price compared to Europe, but don't buy your "puros" in the street - the good addresses are the Palacio del Tabaco at the Corona factory and Casa del Habano at the Partagas factory.
Cuban rum is delicious. Handicraft specialities are leather, wood, marble objects and jewelry.
Keep your invoices, specially for cigars.
You need an export permit if you buy a painting, you can get or buy one ($10) from the art gallery.
Beware : You are not allowed to bring coral, tortoiseshell or crocodile skin into France.

Shows :
Cubans enjoy musical and dancing shows (the Tropicana in Havana)

Music :
From Havana to Santiago and from Trinidad to Varadero, the Salsa tells the story of a people and gives rythme to their life.
The best address if you want to listen to good music is the Palacio de la Salsa in Havana.
On the Malecon, in the basement of the Hotel Riviera, it is beyond double the temple of Cuban music.
Other good places are the Casa de la Musica in Miramar and the Casa de la Trova in Santiago.

Museums : There is an admission charge, it is forbidden to take photos.

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