Volunteer Abroad in Cuba

Back to Programs

A Guide to Volunteering Abroad in Cuba

Cuba has been off limits for over half a century. The U.S. trade embargo resulted in nothing from the States going in or out – including its citizens. Now, some organizations (humanitarian and educational) have programs offering volunteering in Cuba, and diplomatic relations, although still strained, are improving. Opportunities for people from the U.S. to volunteer in Cuba may be a bit more limited, but that doesn’t hinder the richness of volunteer work in Cuba for individuals from all over the world.


Cuba offers a glimpse into another time, it’s as if everything stopped several decades ago. The isolation resulted in a preserved culture where the streets are full of music, delicious food, and decaying yet colorful colonial architecture. Volunteering in Cuba is the best way to see inside the hidden culture, which is somehow Caribbean and Spanish and both evolving and at a standstill all at once.

Havana. The capital is the most popular location to volunteer in Cuba. Habana Vieja, the old district of Havana, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Volunteer placements in Havana run the spectrum of community development, and will usually include several organized cultural immersion activities, such as Spanish lessons or dance classes. 

Matanzas. This small city on the northern coast of Cuba is intersected by three rivers and is often called “The City of Bridges,” because there are at least 17 throughout the city. It has a population of around 150,000 and has a very artistic reputation. Volunteer work in Matanzas usually entails working at vocational art schools or museums and tutoring music students.

Varadero. This peninsula in northern Cuba is the most touristy area and is a popular location for nature and animal conservation projects. Cuba has an intricate and extensive cave system (over 30,000 caves) as well as a wealth of marine life to explore and help protect. Although Varadero is filled with all-inclusive resorts, it is also a good hub for volunteering in Cuba.    

Projects & Placements

Education. Creating cultural awareness is the driving force that allows programs to operate in Cuba. Volunteer placements in education include a variety of activities that together help participants and Cubans meet and learn from each other. Cuba has well established and easy access to healthcare and medicine so volunteer programs focus more on providing insight rather than providing services.

Agriculture. There are agricultural volunteer placements in Cuba in both urban and rural settings. Urban volunteer opportunities focus on research and developing sustainable projects within urban areas. Rural placements include these factors as well, but are more focused on helping small local farmers, who grow a variety of fruits, tobacco, beans, and vegetables, and volunteering on Cuban farms. Cuba’s ability to sustain itself is made even more important by its isolation both geographically and politically.

Animal Conservation. As more and more tourists are able to enter Cuba, more development follows, which results in the loss of natural habitat. The time is now in terms of learning about how to properly balance the animal populations with the tourist population. Animal volunteer projects in Cuba include field work alongside knowledgeable leaders and hands-on experience learning identification and research techniques.

Costs & Affordability

The exchange rate in Cuba is about to 1:1 with the U.S. Dollar so it is not particularly cheap, but it is very affordable when compared to other Caribbean islands. Nights in a mid-level hotel will cost around $30 and meals in mid range restaurants will cost around $5.

Currency. Exchanging USD for Cuban currency can be hit and miss within the country and you cannot get the local currency outside of Cuba. Cadecas, or exchange houses, are in most major cities. Credit or Debit cards that are issued by an American bank are not widely accepted and if they are, there will be an additional percentage added to the price. A Visa card issued by a bank outside of the U.S. is your best bet to be able to use an ATM or purchase goods. There are two currencies in Cuba, the Peso Convertible and the Peso Cubano, which makes a complex system even harder to keep straight. Since currency can be complicated in Cuba, most volunteer organizations will have items like excursions and transportation pre-arranged for you or have a leader which you can pay directly.

Accommodation & Visas

Individuals who volunteer in Cuba will usually stay in apartments near volunteer sites or mid-range hotels that are arranged by their volunteer organizations. Volunteers can expect running water and Western style toilets, but electricity may be slightly limited in some areas even within Havana. Accommodations are typically serviced, which means you will have someone clean and dress your room, just as you would expect staying in a hotel in the States.

Entry into Cuba is only granted to U.S. citizens under special circumstances and their trip must follow certain guidelines. Volunteer organizations in Cuba must have a U.S. Government OFAC License and volunteers will be issued a letter authorizing them to travel to Cuba for an educational/service exchange program. You may arrange your own travel, but it will be more complicated and you will need copies of specific documents, so it is recommended to use the services of your volunteer organization. Organizations that have been issued these licenses must ensure special criteria is met, therefore volunteers should expect volunteering in Cuba to be a fairly structured schedule of education and service.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Bringing Items. Since the recent embargo has created a shortage of some items, organizations that arrange volunteer programs in Cuba will typically have an approved list of items that you may bring to donate. The process of transporting and physically donating goods in Cuba is quite structured and regulated. 

Non-U.S. Medical Insurance. individuals who volunteer abroad in Cuba will need a temporary insurance policy that is issued by a company outside of the U.S.

Black Market. Black markets flourish in Cuba! Shelves of pirated DVDs and “name brand” items are pretty common throughout developing countries, but these items seem even more prevalent in Cuba. Be careful trying to bring them back home though!

Multiple Currencies. Have multiple methods of using money at your disposal. The currency situation, especially in terms of USD, could change by the end of this sentence and then change back by the end of the day. Be sure to discuss the best payment methods with your volunteer organization in Cuba prior to departure. 

Extremely Safe. You don’t want to rely on this and allow yourself to make bad decisions, but Cuba is referred to as the safest island in the Caribbean. The strict laws and extra friendly people have created a very secure atmosphere.

Read More
Banner Report 2018

A Guide To
Volunteering Abroad in Cuba


 Find Volunteer Programs in Cuba Now


This listing has been saved 10 times

Volunteer in Cuba and Build a Bridge of Friendship

Cuba is well-known for a lot of things - from sugar-white beaches to Spanish-colonial architecture. If you’re interested in experiencing everything the beautiful Caribbean nation has to offer, the best method is volunteering! Travel to Cuba for one to two weeks and serve the local people while immersing in their lifestyle and culture. Plus, you get plenty of opportunities to explore numerous...


This listing has been saved 4 times

Give Back by protecting the environment in Cuba

Explore and support the natural wonders of Cuba! Our volunteer positions offer the incredibly rare, and impactful opportunity to protect the environment in a country that is in an exceptional state of transition. Our coral reef protection program is based in the remote community of Cocodrilo, on the Isle of Youth, where support is greatly needed to keep up with the impacts of the country’s sudd...


This listing has been saved 2 times


Some people say that traveling in Cuba is like traveling back in time. Others marvel at how Cuban music has made the entire world dance. Still others are fascinated by what communism has meant for the Cuban people or what we can learn from Cuba’s sustainable agriculture and forward thinking conservation practices. Don’t take their word for it. Solve your curiosity and look for answers to you...


This listing has been saved 48 times

Volunteer World: Best Volunteer Abroad Programs Worldwide

Looking to apply your talent and expertise to a good cause? Find a program that matches your interests and skills through Volunteer World! We are the largest volunteer abroad comparison platform around the globe, enabling you to seek and compare offers from major travel agencies as well as smaller grassroots NGOs and local specialists in more than 80 countries. All these with just one click! ...


This listing has been saved 5 times

Volunteer Vacations with Globe Aware

Partake in an exciting and meaningful volunteer travel program through Globe Aware. Travel and live in Havana for a maximum of two weeks. International volunteers can experience the unique and vibrant Cuban culture. The volunteering program offers a wide array of volunteer selections such as Culture, Eco-tourism, and Adult Education.


This listing has been saved 2 times

Innovation in Action: Cuba

After decades of isolation and strict government regulation, Cuba is opening its borders to foreign tourism and investment. Through the process of design thinking, you will learn how to adopt an innovative problem-solving approach to development. The skills you’ll acquire as an entrepreneur, innovator, and collaborator are key for any change-maker. On this Critical Issues program tailored fo...


Cuba: Authentic Cuba

On this trip, we find ourselves in a strikingly independent, beautifully unique Caribbean paradise. Be among the first Americans to open the door to Cuba in almost 60 years. Cuba offers endless opportunities to expand our cultural horizons and challenge our assumptions. Meet face to face with famous Cuban performers to learn about the distinct culture and heritage they carry, snorkel to a shipw...


This listing has been saved 4 times

BEST Programs

Immerse with the locals of Havana, Cuba by becoming a volunteer. BEST Programs offers volunteer projects that focus on Health Education, Computer Training, and English Teaching, among others and volunteers may take Spanish lessons during their stay. Programs run for 5 to 8 weeks and are open to participants aged 18 and up.


This listing has been saved 14 times

Cuba Unlocked

Bright Light Volunteers offers volunteering opportunities in Cuba. The organization works in the very calm and laid back town of Trinidad, where groups of volunteers can come and create an experience of a lifetime while working on educational and conservation projects that will improve the lives of the community while increasing their knowledge of Cuba. All projects are coordinated with and san...


This listing has been saved 2 times

Cuba: Building Bridges

Muraleando, which means "mural making" in Spanish, developed into a thriving arts and culture center out of an abandoned water tank in Lawton. Today, the center brings together children from the community, many of whom are low income, to work on projects that help to revitalize the neighborhood. These include art projects, sports programs and dance classes. Over the course of the trip, you w...