With Cuba becoming such a popular travel destination why not combine your visit with improving your Spanish? The short-term Spanish courses at the University of Havana is a perfect choice for you to experience Cuba from within.
I studied for more than four months at the University of Havana, and can truly approve of the classes and the teachers! Even though it is more than 4 years ago now, I still have contact with some of the other students and teachers. I have wanted to write this post for a long time to spread the word about this excellent opportunity to experience seeing a Cuba at most will not know about.
Update: As of October 2022, the University of Havana no longer offers short Spanish courses. The University only offers a 6-month Spanish course for foreigners.
In this post, you will find my personal experience and some practical information to help you plan your stay at the University of Havana.
Looking for a place to stay during your studies at the University of Havana? Check out these accommodations near the University of Havana!
Remember also to check out my FAQ for studying at the University of Havana!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, Becci Abroad will earn a commission if you make a purchase via one of those links. This helps to pay the bills and the maintenance of the site.
The classes and extra-course activities
It is the Linguistic Faculty at the University of Havana which offers short-term Spanish courses for non-Spanish speakers, and you can choose the amount of time that fits best for you; everything from 2 weeks to 6 or 9 months are available.
I have taken my fair share of Spanish classes over the years. Even though, I have had excellent Spanish teachers in Spain (and some not quite so good), at the University of Havana I met teachers that were highly prepared professionals while also being amazing personalities!
Start learning Spanish before you embark on your Cuba adventure, and take some private Spanish classes on italki:
The classes were always well-prepared. While focusing on standard Spanish grammar and formalities, the teachers also included information about Cuba, Cuban history, and customs.
Many of the things that I learned about Cuba like the best slang words or these interesting facts about Cuban society. I got from these knowledgeable teachers. They were always happy to share and answer all our questions about Cuba. Read more about things you might have to get used to while studying and living in Havana here.
Apart from the Spanish classes, there were also offered different tours for us students. Both organized formally by the university and on the initiative from both teachers and students. Everything from nights out to city walks and visiting the International Book Fair.
Remember to also check out the FAQ about studying Spanish at the University of Havana!
The location of the University of Havana
The Linguistic Faculty of the University of Havana is located at the main campus of the university in the neighborhood, Vedado. Vedado is closing up to Centro Habana, and only around half an hour’s walk from the historic center of Habana Vieja.
Vedado is a beautiful neighborhood and it is easy to find accommodation there. There are also a lot of new things going on in the neighborhood (remember to check out this post about Vedado). While it is still within walking distance of all the classic touristic things to do in Havana.
Want to experience Havana like a local? Check out this alternative guide to Havana!
The Spanish courses at the University of Havana and visa requirements
If you want to stay longer than the one month that your tourist visa is valid then the university will provide you with an academic student visa. What are you waiting for let’s head to Havana and improve that Spanish!?
I studied at the University of Havana for more than four months and just paid month by month. However, I told the administration that I wanted to stay for that long, and they helped me get a student visa for 5 months. This included getting my own Cuba ID card with temporary residency. However, they do check up on you that you enroll for the next month. If you don’t enroll again the next month, they will cancel your residency – and then you will be in big trouble!
It is not necessary to enter Cuba with a special student visa beforehand. You can just enter with a normal tourist visa, and then change to a student visa when you arrive.
Read more about how to get your tourist visas for Cuba here.
How do you enroll in the Spanish courses at the University of Havana?
Before leaving for Cuba, I tried hard to get in contact with the university to get an approval of whether the classes were happening or not… Without much luck! So, I had to just get myself together, cross my fingers, and head to Cuba. The possibilities that you will have to do something similar are pretty big. Even though the internet connection has improved in Cuba, it is still not common.
The enrollment for the Spanish courses takes place every first Monday of the month (except August) at 9 o’clock in the morning. Head to the university, and ask for the department of Spanish for non-Spanish speakers.
If you want to improve your Spanish, learn Spanish on italki!
At the enrollment, representatives of the faculty will first do a quick introduction (both in Spanish and in English, I’m pretty sure). Then they will give you a small written test. That is followed by a small oral test where you will be chatting with one of the teachers.
The test is only to assess that you will be placed on the right level. So don’t worry about your Spanish! You are there to learn, right?
Classes take place Monday through Friday from 9 am in the morning to either 12.30 pm or 13.30 pm. You will get precise information when you arrive.
Check out the FAQ about studying Spanish at the University of Havana!
Levels of Spanish offered at the University of Havana
The courses are divided into five levels;
- Principiante – Beginners
- Elemental – Elemental
- Intermedio – Intermediate
- Avanzado – Advanced
- Superior – Superior
The idea with the enrollment test is to assure you end at the right level. If you feel that you have ended up at the wrong level (either too hard or too easy), don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to change class.
Prices for Spanish courses at the University of Havana
Current prices for the Spanish courses at the University of Havana:
- 2 weeks course – 200 CUC
- 3 weeks course – 240 CUC
- 4 weeks course – 300 CUC
Or you can go for a package of:
- 4 months – 960 CUC
- 6 months – 1,392 CUC
Remember that the prices can always be a subject of change. Check for any updates here at the university’s website or here at the linguistic faculty’s website. Thus, be prepared that this might not even be completely up-to-date either.
Apart from these short-term courses, there are some longer-term courses which extend over 4, 6, or 9 months. Check out this official website for the university for more information.
Bottom line, if you get a chance or are already planning a longer stay in Cuba and want to improve your Spanish at the same time. Do NOT hesitate on studying Spanish at the University of Havana.
Remember to check out current price lists, updated information etc. at the linguistic faculty’s website here and at the University of Havana’s website here.
Have you ever studied a language abroad? Where? Or would you be up for trying out the courses at the University of Havana? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Spændende læsning, Rebecca selvom jeg nu nok ikke kommer til at læse spank på Cuba syntes jeg det var god underholdning. Tak for det 🙂
Tak for at kigge forbi, Annette 🙂 Jeg er glad for, at du fandt læsningen underholdende selvom du ikke lige ser dig selv lære spansk i Cuba 😉
Sounds like you had a fantastic experience. 🙂 I studied Spanish for 4 years in high school and now can barely say more than “where is the bathroom?” I would love to be able to re-study it. You’re making it so tempting!!
Thank you so much for dropping by, Mona! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the reading. Haha, I know! That’s usually what happens to high school languages, right? I have it like you with German which I studied in school. You should definitely consider Cuba as an option for re-studying Spanish!
I like your post. How about accommodation? Where did you stay and what is the monthly accommodation cost?
Thank you for dropping by my blog! I’m happy to hear that you found the post useful!
You can read more about accommodation near the University for Havana here 🙂 Please let me know if you have any further questions or doubts.
Hi! I’m looking into doing this program and know someone who did it in 2018 but none of the links seem to be working. Do you know if this is still a program offered? Thank you!
In my last communication with people from the university in Havana, the message was that the short courses aren’t happening at the moment. They only offer 6-month courses now. I hope this helped you a bit 🙂
Best of luck!
This sounds like such a great experience! I studied Spanish in Mexico when I was in college and it was the best thing I ever did. Clearly the cultural immersion left an impression, because now I live there! I think everyone should study abroad, especially if they wish to learn another language!
Thanks for dropping by, Janine! Wow, Mexico really also sounds like a great place for studying Spanish! How cool that you ended up moving there! All the best luck with Mexican life 🙂
You’re making me want to hop on a plane and get back into school, Rebecca! The University of Havana sounds amazing!
Hi Lindsey! Thanks for looking by! I’m so happy to hear that I could tempt! You should talk with your husband’s company about sending you guys to Cuba next 😉
What a brave woman you are, I’ve searching info on courses en la Habana and I am very grateful for this article. Can I trouble you with some more questions? Where did you live or what do you think is the cheapest way to stay there? Ive been to Cuba once, this March and I had a wonderful time. I wouldn’t wanna stay in casa particular probably or a family because it’s expensive. Thanks!’
Thank you so much for dropping by! It was exactly to help out people like you who want to go that I wrote this post, so I’m so so happy to hear that you found it helpful!
No, worries, ask all you want. I stayed in a Casa Particular for the first two months, and then I got a contact for renting a place through my salsa teacher. THUS, mind that it is illegal for foreigners to rent a place like this (so, just keep it’s as our little secret 😉 ). So, my best advice for you would be to find a casa particular for the first time, and then start asking around for people how might know somebody. I agree that casa particulares can be expensive but try to look for some around the university as you might be able to find small rooms in casa particulares cheaper than usual as it is away from the touristic area. If you want to read more about how it was to live in Havana as a foreigner, I’ll recommend you to read this piece which I wrote for Travellettes; http://www.travelettes.net/havana-blues-what-its-like-to-live-in-havana-as-a-foreigner/
Thank you again! And enjoy your time in Cuba! 🙂
Thank you so much for your reply and dont worry, I have now read all your articles on Cuba haha 🙂 Another thing that I wanna ask is how much it cost you for those 4 months (food, accomodation, transport, extra activities) Excluding price of the course. If you don’t want to discuss here, I can send you an email 🙂
No worries 😉 I’m happy to hear that you could find inspiration in my other Cuba-posts 😉 Uh, that was a hard one! Since it is actually some years ago that I studied in Havana, it is a bit hard to remember. However, as I remember it than I spent 150-250 USD on accommodation (150 USD being a not authorized place, 250 USD being a casa particular for a month). And I believe that I might have used around 200-250 USD on food, transport, salsa class and nights out pr. month. You can properly good it cheaper. At the casa particular where I stayed food was included morning and evenings. When I stayed “privately” it was not. Thus, I preferred the flexibility of being able to cook myself.
I hope that helped you to plan a bit better 🙂
I admire what you have done and have been planning on doing the same thing (4 months in Cuba). I have been trying to reach the university of Habana by the phone using a call card but nobody seems to pick and the website for the university isn’t opening. Are there any other steps I should take to begin the process of studying Spanish in Cuba. Also, how did you find a host family?
I’m planning a similar trip as you but for a shorter time, I stumbled upon this article and it got me interested in studying Spanish at the university. Did you already manage to get more information on the course?
Hi Teuntje! Thanks for dropping by! You can find more information about the courses here: http://web.flex.uh.cu/en/node/191! Good luck with your Cuba trip!
Hi Sam! Thanks for your visit! I’m so happy to hear that you find this post useful! I know that it can be very complicated to reach the university. Actually, they don’t start the process of registration before you have arrived at the university. You enter Cuba on a normal tourist visa, and then change it to a student visa while you have registered at the university.
Regarding host family, I lived in a casa particular (private Cuban home opt for rental to foreigners). I found that please online before arriving. Alternatively, you can book a couple of nights in a hostel, hotel or casa particular available online (check AirBnB there are a couple nowadays), and then wander out the area of the university or ask around at the university when you arrive. Plenty of Cubans know somebody renting out.
I hope this helped you a bit more in your planning. I wish you all the best with your Cuba trip! 🙂
If there is no pre- register/ booking, then ,am I guaranteed a spot at school? If there is a large number of people show up on Monday to apply for the course, will they be able to accept all? Thanks
Did you already get more information on this? I’m looking to do the same thing!
Please check out my answer to Neal and Sam, and let me know if you have any other questions!
Thanks for dropping by! As far as I’m concerned there is no pre-register or booking for the Spanish courses. Without being sure, I think that they adjust the number of teachers to the number of students to fit in all the students showing up. Generally, Cuba is a lot more relaxed with all these things than other countries. It is more take things as they come-attitude 😉
Though, remember that it is only every first Monday of the month (except August) that there is enrollment.
Good luck with your Cuba trip – please feel free to write me again if you have any other questions!
You are very kind, helping every one like this. Very grateful for your generosity.
I have a question, please.
As you said: “You enter Cuba on a normal tourist visa, and then change it to a student visa while you have registered at the university.” And we all know that we need a flight ticket out of Cuba before we even get our visa. Would you recommend to spend extra and get an open ticket or do you have a different suggestion? Thank you in advance.
Thank you for dropping by my blog! I’m happy to hear that you found the information useful.
Depending on your level of Spanish and where you are from, it would be recommendable to book a return ticket (there are websites which will “rent” you one cheaply), to be on the safe side regarding your entrance to Cuba. I didn’t have a return ticket when I entered, and as far as I reminder I just told them that I wasn’t sure about when I would be leaving and wanted to buy my ticket while in Cuba but assured the migration officer that I would leave before the visa expired. Of course, it demands a certain level of discussional Spanish to have this kind of conversation at the border if the migration officer proposes your story. And they might be treating you differently depending on what passport you travel on. So, to be on the safe side buy or rent a return ticket. Or speak with the Cuban embassy in your country about how to get a student visa from the begin. However, it might be very complicated and take a long time. I hope this helped you a bit on your way. All the best of luck!
Hi Irina & Rebecca, I am here researching the same issue about legality of buying an open plane ticket, to avoid losing the cost of the return ticket when my dates are unknown. Rebecca, can I ask where you flew from? I have been to Cuba twice from US, and wonder if it is stricter from here than from other places (I had no issues either time but stayed less than 30 days and had a return ticket). I have some conversational Spanish but not 100% confident to navigate sensitive immigration issues while trying to speak formally and remember conjugations. ? Thanks for all this helpful information.
Thanks for joining the conversation! 🙂 I certainly believe that they differ between where you fly in from (and what passport you are entering on!). I flew in from Germany on a Danish passport when I didn’t have a return ticket. The second time I flew in from Colombia (still on a Danish passport), but this time with a return ticket. I think the best option is to search for those “rent a flight ticket” websites if you want to be on the safe side!
I’m so happy to hear that you found this post a source of helpful information! Please let me know if there is anything else 🙂 All the best of luck with planning your trip!
This is great information, thanks very much for posting. I stayed in Vedado last winter, a couple of blocks from the university. I wondered if it would be a good place to improve my Spanish. Your article answered just about every question I had, and then some! Gracias from Canada.
Thanks for dropping by my blog! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the post and got encouraged to study Spanish in Havana! I hope you had an amazing time in Cuba last winter! All the best of luck!
Rebecca – thanks for posting this useful information, especially with respect to enrollment taking place on the first Monday of each month. Is this this a hard rule, even for the principiante students?
Hi there Allan,
Thanks for dropping by and sorry for the late reply! I’m pretty sure that the first Monday of the month (except August) is a pretty strict rule as the introduction to the courses at all levels start out in the week. However, it is Cuba and might be subject for negotiation… The best thing you can do is to contact the University through some of the links I have place in the post.
All the best of luck!
You have mentioned a couple of times that you have taken danse classes.
Could you recommend a good place to take Salsa Bachata Regatton classes? Or maybe you know someone giving good private lessons.
Also good safe places to go out and practice in a safe environment and without a partner.
Thank you so much for your comment! I hope you found the information useful. For dance class of different kinds try to ask Casa del Tango (https://casadeltango-lahabana.jimdo.com) which offers all kinds of different styles and also Salsa, Bachata and Regatton. I took classes there and it was just great. I recommend that you ask them at Casa del Tango for recommendations on where it is good to go out (alone or in group) for dancing as they will be more up to date then me 🙂
All the best of luck!
Thank you for all the information that is very useful to many people.
I live in Martinique and I arrive in Cuba in February. I will go through the United States so I will be required to have a US visa. Do you know if it is possible to take Spanish courses at the University of Havana with an American visa? And if it is possible to change this US visa into a student visa? Or if there is another alternative? Will there be a problem then back to the United States?
Thank you for your reading, I look forward to your return 🙂
Hi there Indra,
Thank you for dropping by my blog. I’m happy to hear that you found the information useful.
Even though I’m not an expert on visa issues, I don’t see why a visa for the US should affect your possibilities of taking classes at the university. I recommend that you contact the Cuban embassy in your home country to request details.
Secondly, it will not be your US visa that you should change into a student visa once in Cuba, but your Cuban tourist visa which should be changed into a student visa. Since Cuba is a separated and sovereign country from the US, your US visa will never have anything to do with changes in visa categories when within Cuba.
Regarding whether there will be any issues returning to the US, it will be the best to contact the US embassy in your home country on that matter.
Wishing your all the best of luck! A happy new year to you!
This blog post is sensational! Thank you so much.
Quick questions, how long did it take you to be able to contact the university?
I tried emailing them a couple of times in the past couple of weeks and no reply yet. I also tried calling, but the number didnt seem to work. Im planning on going for a short duration course in June and wanted to start getting things aligned, but Im stressing about being able to contact them. Any additional tips? Pretty pleaseee!
Hi there Susana,
Thank you so much for dropping by my blog and I’m so happy to hear that you found the information here useful! 🙂
Internet connection in Cuba is an issue for it own, and might be one of the reasons why the university isn’t getting back to you. As far as I’m concerned the classes should be up running. I can just double check with an old teacher of mine, and get back to you.
Try not to stress too much – Cuba is like that 🙂
If you could verify with your old teacher or maybe get a WhatsApp number I can contact that would be great. My goal is to take two week of lesson starting the first Monday of May. However, I don’t to buy tickets for the exact dates without knowin for sure that I can show up to the University and enroll in classes.
Thank you so much!!!
I’m sorry for this very late reply! I hope that you got everything figured out for visiting Cuba in May. Unfortunately, it can be hard to be 100% about things in Cuba – also enrollment in Spanish classes!
As you have properly read elsewhere online, internet isn’t that common in Cuba, and hence WhatsApp is also rare. Especially among the older generations. I’m not sure my teacher has a WhatsApp.
All the best of luck!
How are they about missing days.
Thanks for dropping by my blog. I know there is a limited amount of days/classes that you can miss. But I can´t remember what the limit is.
Great article! Does the university offer credit for these courses?
Thank you for dropping by! I’m really not sure whether the university offers credits for the courses. I don’t think so as they are not exactly on an academic level but rather a normal language school level.
I’m going to be heading out to Cuba early next year hopefully and your article has helped calm me down about organising everything, especially since I haven’t had a response yet from the University ?
I’d just like to know a little about what the course itself was like, is there equal weighting between reading, writing and speaking? And do you study any Cuban literature as part of it? Also at the end of the course did you receive some kind of certificate or diploma/endorsement? I’m not doing the course to further my academic career but I’d something to be able to put on my curriculum ?
Thanks for dropping by! I’m happy to hear that you found the information here useful and it could help you organize a bit more. Yes, it is very hard to get in contact with the University.
Regarding the course content; as I remember it, the weighting of the content depends on your level. If you are at a beginner/intermediate level, they will usefully focus more on the speaking and grammar part. On the advanced levels it is more 50-50. As I remember, there is a special separated course on Cuban literature. In the language courses themselves it is more Cuban history and society that you’ll discuss.
Yes, that the end of every course completed course (a month) you’ll receive a certificate for the achieved level. At some levels they even give you a little test.
I hope this could help you out a bit! And then ENJOY Havana 🙂
Hi, i’m planning to do the four months spanish couse in Uniersity of La Habana this year, 2020. Your post helped and encouraged me a lot! To help me even more, could you estimate the cost of living for foreign students? How much money will i need for a month/day in Habana?
Thank you so much for dropping by my blog, Clarissa! I’m so happy to hear that my post helped and encouraged you to go to Cuba to study! I recently posted an additional blog post with detailed information about all kind of commonly asked questions regarding studying in Havana – including the cost of living and tips on how to find a place to live. You can find it here: https://becci.dk/faq-studying-spanish-havana/
I hope that helps you out! If you still have any questions, you are welcome to ask!
Enjoy your time in Cuba!
Do you receive any certificate or anything after the course? Great post 🙂
Thank you for dropping by my blog! I’m happy to hear that you found the information about studying in Havana useful. Yes, you will get a certificate after each course that you complete. You can read more FAQ for studying a the University of Havana here: https://becci.dk/faq-studying-spanish-havana/
This article has been really helpful! Thank you so much! I was looking for contact information of the University but couldn’t find any. Do you know why the website you mentioned doesn’t work anymore?
Do you also know what other kinds of course the University offers? Thank you for your help!
Thank you for dropping by! I’m happy to hear that you found the information useful! That the moment the Unversity of Havana’s website seems to be down. As you might have read online, internet in Cuba is still an issue and not also that reliable.
The university offers other types of courses for foreign students such as Cuban Literature, however, they require a certain level of Spanish and also depend on demand among students for these courses.
I hope it helped a little bit 🙂
I truly enjoyed reading your article! Very informative. I work as a personal assistant and my boss wants to go to Cuba to learn the Spanish language. He would like to go in January 2021 for 4 months. It seems quiet difficult getting in contact with the University. Do you know of other Universities that offer Spanish programs and help issue a student visa for a U.S. citizen.
Thank you so much for dropping by my blog and taking the time to read my post! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the read and found it informative!
Yes, it is kind of difficult to get in contact with the University in Havana, and as far as I’m concerned they are the only language school where you can get a long-term student visa for Cuba. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the situation for U.S. citizens regarding travel to Cuba. However, I can recommend a fellow blogger, Dominican Abroad, who knows a lot about travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens (and btw. she also has some great content on Cuba). I like you her link here: https://www.dominicanabroad.com/
All the best of luck,
I’m hoping to learn Spanish in Cuba next year, so thank you for this highly informative article. Quick question, when applying for the university’s long-term Spanish course (6-9 months), will I need to bring proof of my academic credentials (such as my high school diploma) in order to get a student visa?
Thank you so much for dropping by my blog! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the read and could use it for your planning.
As far as I’m concerned there is no need to bring any academic credentials. The language courses themselves are not directly connected to the rest of the university. It is just like a normal language school where your academic background doesn’t matter 🙂
All the best of luck with your plans on going to Cuba!
Thank you for your amazing blog. I studied the same course in UH in 2015 for 2 month and really enjoyed it – despite some of the challenges in getting registered, paying etc. It truly is one of the most beautiful campuses of any language school that I have been to anywhere in the world.
I returned to Cuba recently to do a bit more study and thought that I would try a different “Private” School, so I enrolled in Barclay Languages (www.barclaylanguages.com) It was definitely a different experience – very professional, well run, easy to enrol, nice historic building etc. Though I have to admit there was some part of me that missed the broken toilets and non-functioning whiteboard markers at UH and everything that it represents about country more generally – beautiful and historic in broken down way.
Thank you so much for dropping by my blog and for your sweet comment! I’m so happy to hear that you had a great experience at UH and thank you for sharing the recommendation for the private language school in Havana 🙂
You can fly to Havana from Tijuana or Mexico City. You get your visa for Cuba at the Mexico City airport. All flights from Tijuana stop over in Mexico City. I used my US passport.
Thanks for dropping by! Yes, that’s true 🙂 Thanks for sharing!