Last week I got an email alllll the way from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was from a reader of this blog – a military contractor – who wanted to chat a little about taxes and saving money on IRAs and 401(k)s and other retirement-y type stuff. So naturally we hit it off instantly ;)
After a while, I started asking him about what it’s like to live in Cuba (he’s an American living over there for the next 2-3 years) and he hit me back with a ton of AWESOME perks over there. As well as a handful of not-so-fun things as well.
We’ll start with the awesomeness :) Mostly relating to money, of course:
- I get hardship pay. Even when my weekend consisted of a dawn hike, 3 scuba dives, paddle boarding, a dinner party, and 2 movies.
- I do not pay any taxes!!!
- Limited entertainment options, but they are free or cheap.
a. Movies – free (one a night, it is an outdoor theater)
b. Golf – free (including clubs, but a cart is $15.)
c. Gyms, pools, etc. – free, free, free
d. Renting a boat cost $35 – $75 a day (hourly also available)
e. Car wash – free!
- The Navy Exchange takes coupons within 6 months of expiration date
- The status symbol for cars is how junky they are and if they’re still running
- You can bike a lot (though it is hilly and hot)
- It is ridiculously safe. (We are guarded by the marines, you must pass a security clearance to get here, and unless you are on duty you cannot possess a gun)
- There is actually a community. With limited entertainment options, people are always having dinner parties and game nights.
- Most people get their housing/utilities paid for as part of their contract. (My company is giving me a supplement in a separate line up on my paycheck. However, it gets lumped in as total salary when they calculate 401(k).)
- Most people (including me) are renting out their houses back in the states. I am breaking even on that, but am building equity. If you do not have a house, you just eliminated your rent.
- It is a great place for families. Many come here so one of the parents can stay home with the kids, but day care is pretty cheap here. (If you have school age kids, you need to be a govt employee to go to the school for free. Govt employees must pay taxes though) I do not have kids so none of this applies to me.
- Did I mention it is a Caribbean island and I get hardship pay?!
But there are also some (big) cons:
- Incredibly slow internet. (Think 1995 without the sound effects. It takes 30 minutes to download 1 song from iTunes. You really have to want it.)
- There are no cell phones.
- The flight off island are on Saturdays and every other Tuesday only.
- There is no “off base.” (You cannot go to Cuba)
- There are only 5,000 people ever.
- The speed limit is 25 mph (15 in neighborhoods)
- It is really hard to shop. There is one store – the Navy Exchange. It is the size of a grocery store (before they got supersized). It has clothes, toys, garden, automotive, electronics and groceries. As a result, there is not much selection of anything. (This does make decision making easy. There is one choice.)
- If you want to get something shipped here, it will take 2 -4 weeks. If you’re lucky.
Pretty interesting stuff, right? You live in Cuba, but can’t GO to Cuba. There are no cell phones, but you can play a round of golf for free. And you get tons of hardship pay (and avoid taxes!) for living on a Caribbean island! Where do I sign up?? :)
Of course there’s a lot more to living there than just those selected bullet points, but it was quite the interesting email to read on a quiet and dreary morning over here. We’re always so stuck in our own heads and what’s going around US that it’s sometimes hard to imagine that people live so completely differently all across the world. Both for the good, and for the bad.
So hopefully you’ve enjoyed this break from reality for a bit and can appreciate (or want to move from??) your current place of residence :) I could tell you there’s NO amount of hardship pay I’d accept to live in some countries of this world of ours!!
I’ll leave you with one more nugget about working in Guantanamo Bay before I go. Probably something most of you were wondering the second you read today’s title – just like I did:
“Also, I have been here for over a year and have never seen a detainee. It is a separate secure part of the base that requires a separate clearance. Most people never go near it. I learn about what is going on with the detainees from CNN.”
If you’re reading this new friend, thanks SO MUCH for allowing me to share this with everyone today!!
[Photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery]
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Number two on the con list – it should be up on the pro list. Take my cell phone please!!
The contractor I used to work for bid on a job at Gitmo. We were all worried about who was going to get sent there if they got it. Luckily they didn’t win the bid! I’m glad this reader is enjoying it though!
I’ve seen a travel show about Cuba and apparently it’s beautiful, rich with culture, and has amazing food. It’s a pity that we, as free Americans, can’t enjoy such a place.
I hear the same thing about Cuba. Maybe one day all will be peaceful in the world and we can travel as free as the wind :)
I was there a few years ago, as a GI we got hazard pay but had to pay taxes, gtmo itself is ugly, nothing but cacti and turkey vultures. If your national guard or non-combat arms then the hours are nice but for active duty infantry, well it was basically just another deployment. Long hours, hot humid weather, ugly terrain, if your a foreigner contractor you’ll be making right around $.50-$1.50 an hour. My personal experience there was full of good and bad. Had a lot of messed up stuff happen that shouldn’t have, but all in all, one of the nicest places to deploy. Not sure about hdp after the lift on the embargo, but for army it’s an oef support mission. No combat patch for it but you do receive hdp/hfp? Also it does count toward stripes on your right sleeve (weird and unfortunate for the previously undeployed joes who return to a bare shoulder. In my opinion I think they need to pick a side. Give all “combat zone” benefits because it’s a support mission directly related to combat zones, or nothing at all because it’s Cuba. But we must leave that up to the guys behind the desks. Anyway have a good one
Interesting, Anon. Thanks for chiming in!
That’s some food for thought… As I was reading the perks I thought it was a fantastic gig, but by the end it kind of starts to sound like a prison in paradise… for the people who work there. Freedom… but not freedom…
And yes, I was totally wondering about the detainee situation! ;)
My father was stationed at gitmo right after the bay of pigs (62/63) on the USS Enterprise, and he took a lot of pictures while there. Even then, there was a golf course, some pools, and the exchange. His pictures are amazing, but I don’t think I’d want to live where there’s slow Internet!
Wow, that’s pretty cool. I’d love to at least just visit one day and check it out. Though I’d like to visit about 1,008 other countries as well :)
No cell phones. That’s awesome! Imagine going for a coffee and not being ignored by someone taking a call or checking their Facebook status!
I’d prefer that over no coffee but yes to cell phones :)
That’s just nutty that he can live there but not go there! I’ve seen shows about how much there is to see in Cuba and how gorgeous it is, which makes it a real shame that he can be right there and not really get to experience much of any of it.
I have friends working with State and other govt agencies in various rough locations around the world, and the perks are undeniable. But it’s definitely a transient lifestyle, moving around every few years, and several are eager to move back to the states and get some more permanent roots established as well.
Yeah, for sure. As a military brat myself we were always moving every 1 1/2 years or so. Though I tend to enjoy that more than the stationary life… which now affects me as an adult – I can’t commit to a place! :)
Having served in places where I got hardship pay, it always seemed like contractors were the ones who’d made the smart money decision. They got all the benefits and much more pay — at the extreme, a contractor might make 10 times what a junior enlisted person got.
What was even more interesting was that they often were doing almost exactly the same jobs as some service member :)
Oh man, that is interesting. I’m sure there are some cons their way and pros your way though if you compared side-to-side. Awesome you were able to explore a lot and came home safely!
Very interested! I just don’t know if I can get rid of my cell phone haha
Love learning about stuff like this! How interesting! What I want to know is why Beyonce got to go to Cuba and no one else did. That’s the real question here.
I wondered that too!!!
I bet if you tried you’d be able to too ;) “I’m Budget Blonde – let me in or I’ll blog about you!”
Ever watch Lost?
You can have my work cell phone and the 900 e-mails a day. For a short period with some financial gains it might not be to bad.
Wow, that’s super interesting. I probably could do it for a few years to build up my finances, but not forever. It’s a jail…
Haha I spent many trips in Cuba and let me tell you — the Internet sucks! This forced me to spend more time at the bar and less online. It was traumatizing.
How were you able to?? ‘Cuz you’re Canadian? Smoke any nice cigars? :)
I grew up in a military area and knew lots of families who’s dad were on military contracts overseas. You couldn’t really say no to the perks.
Don’t forget that sweet, sweet military pension!
Well, if you’re IN the military that is – not as a contractor I don’t think. My father’s been long retired and gets like 40% of his pay ON TOP of his normal 9-5 right now. Pretty slick deal for sure.
I would consider this just for the free golf!
It sounds like a permanent vacation for an indefinite amount of time! Sounds pretty good to me right now. It would be pretty interesting to be stuck in a small area with only vacation like things to do. I could go without my cell phone actually.
That’s crazy you guys can’t go to Cuba. I imagine if you can rent a boat you can still feel like you get out a bit but otherwise I’d feel like a really nice jail. And freak out a bit if something bad happens and you have to go NOW, you have to wait a week for the next flight because you can’t hop on a commercial one.
Yeah, that would be high up there on the cons for sure. When things get bad overseas (or, at least in *some* places overseas) it gets downright scary. Guess you have to play the odds and see how comfortable it all is before accepting a position in places like those.
I would work a few years, save like crazy and then move back Only problem is being deprived means I might blow some of that tax free money. I love tax free money.
I would do it too if it was a short and definitive time like 2 years. But only if my safety was 100% guaranteed. If it’s shaky, I wouldn’t even risk it… though I guess our safety even in our home towns can’t ever be guaranteed, eh?
You are aware that you just posted about a prison known for torture like it’s a vacation spot? I get that this guys has a good job, but this is a little insensitive.
I’m aware, and I certainly don’t mean any disrespect. Just trying to show different perspectives on places one would ordinarily not consider (or hear about). There’s also more there than a prison, from what I believe. But my sincere apologies if you were offended :(
I don’t see how this is insensitive. Gitmo is a naval base and the author clearly stated he doesn’t work at the prison there.
How do you get a contract or sign up to work in Cuba!? I’m ready NOW!
This piece was not insensitive at all! No need to apologize to her. Either she didn’t read the article in its entirety or she lacks the knowledge around Gitmo. It’s funny how people automatically assume things when they hear the name not realizing it was a Navy Base before any of the negative prison incidents and it’s going to remain a base thereafter …. Great article!!!!!
Thank you!!!!! Loved it
You’re allowed to leave a comment here any day, my new friend :)
Hellooo!? Cuba contract anyone!? Any Info on how to work on contract in Gnmo bay Cuba??
What do you specialize in? I may have an opportunity for you, but it depends on what type of work or industry you are in. Reply here and I can give you more information if your type of work aligns with the opportunities I have.
I am an IT guy that recently received an email about a possible job there. Haven’t back from the recruiter but it got my attention as I was born down there and have always wanted to see it..;)
Any info you have would be appreciated.
I am excited to work in GTMO. I already send my application /CV to the recruiter in the Philippines. He said to me he will send my CV to the employer in GTMO. I told him I am here in Qatar but I will be leaving on April 28 back home to Philippines.
Joy can you share me some info about Lifes and works inside the Base.
Thanks You …
Ive lived in gtmo for a few years and there are cell phones. But work as bad as the internet. I loved it there!
Sounds like an adventure :)
Possibly getting a IT position but I don’t know any contractors in Guantanamo Bay what would you say the average salary is for the medium IT folk?
I can relate to this post, minus the scuba diving, golfing, and any entertainment. I am currently working in the Middle East, 12 hr/7days shift it really gets old and in a danger/hazardous area. I have been here almost 3 years already, only good thing is the pay. Maybe I can write a post about my experience when I have more time.
Oh wow, that’s incredible! Yeah, would totally be up for reading that and possibly posting it up here on the site – just shout if you end up running with it :)
Any idea on who has the security, OSS or TOC contract?
I was at GTMO from Apr11-May 12. I had a local cell phone that worked on the base (barely). my contract didn’t get hazard pay and I worked on the side that had the prisoners but I NEVER saw them or interacted with them. My company shipped my car and up to 4000lbs of my household goods. Not every contract does that.
I heard that another company took over my old contract and was offering way less salary and most of my former co-workers are leaving.
Mosquitos are quite annoying at the outdoor theater!! hated not having more options for flights back to the states!
the rest of the world is able to go to Cuba to vacation, I worked with the Canadian military in Afghanistan and many of them go to Cuba for their holidays!
Overall I loved my time there!
Thanks for dropping by and sharing! Love hearing about all these interesting experiences – makes you realize how different peoples’ jobs are all across the world :)
I lived and worked in GTMO for several years, that was before the detainee’s arrived. I worked as a Gov. Employee, I was the base communication manger working for NICTAMS-LANT. I’m now retired with 35 years experience in the IT field, worked everything from communication cable splice, to DCO manager/technician, to network Engineer. IT supervisor, plans and services branch chief. business operations, Project Manager. I loved it in GTMO, enjoyed the golf, water skiing, scuba diving, boating, fishing, warm nights and outdoor lyceum’s. Would love to go back as a contractor working IT, PM or manager.
Fascinating!! Sounds like a fun and rewarding career – thanks for stopping by, man :)
how much you pay for the rented house at GTMO? did you pay any taxes at all?
Please give us a link so we can search for opportunities there!
I was station and I enjoy every second of my deployment. Hospital Cay, Guantanamo River, Diving, Boat Rental, BBQ every other day, working the Block and Tons of other goodies!
I am from jamaica am interested in getting a job there a store clerk
They are hiring now like your post Store Clerk … But I don’t know in your Country who is recruiting applicant for GTMO.
In the Philippines there is a Recruitment Agency hiring workers to work at US NAVAL Base in Guatamano.
i would like to live there and work there if i can if any body knows how i can get a job there please let me know
I am a former Marine, that use to be stationed there . I would like to find contractors that is interested in hiring a dislocated worker, who went back college to obtain a degree.
I worked at GTMO for close to 5 years in the 1970s as a young “foreign national” civilian from Jamaica, just barely out of my teen years at the time. My engagement was a clerical assignment in personnel management–precursor to human resources/talent management in the Consolidated Civilian Personnel Office (CCPO). I also got the opportunity of an induction into the mass electronic media field, working as a volunteer on-air radio talent hosting a Sunday morning show on American Forces Radio and Television Services (AFRTS) affiliate radio/television station in GTMO. I taught as well, in an evening education programme for adults, on weekdays.
I owe a debt of gratitude to GTMO for the launch of my lifelong career as a professional in industrial relations, human resource management and intercultural communications, as well as a news anchor/broadcaster on national radio and television in Jamaica for nearly four decades.
In GTMO, I met some of finest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and working with. They were mostly Americans who were very kind and often went out of their way to help me cope and chart my future as a young man living on my own away from home. For me, they became family.
I have very fond memories of the unique experiences of life in the constraints of GTMO. I would welcome the opportunity to visit to see what it’s like these days and to take any of my 3 adult children who might be interested in seeing where their dad spent some of the formative years that helped to shape who he is today.
That’s beautiful, man. Such a fun journey to read about – thank you for sharing with us today :)
Wow, Thank you for the information at least I know before I reach this place Guantamano Base. But I am not sure if selected by the employer then I can come there to work in GTMO if not, I will comeback from Philippines to continue working here in Qatar. One thing I worried is that No Celphones !!! OMG … If there is musical instruments like organ or keyboard its pretty good.
How to send money to our family any info pls.?
I was stationed there for 13 months. In Gtmo you had to make your mind small in other words involve yourself in reading go to movies do sports fish just keep your mind busy. I was in the Navy and worked on bay hill compartment cleaning . On my off time i developed a boxing team and trained some good fighters. We fought the marines at camp Buckly and kicked there ass big time. I trained my boys to pick them apart and it worked and I have the pictures to prove it. The officer that headed the navy team that never came to a training session was Lut. Trojen. But he was there to except the trophys that I was supposed to get. lololo He called himself the coach. His new name was trophy Trojen. In Gtmo you just had to keep yourself busy.
I was trained at gtmo on ground combat in defence of the bass. It was e company. We would be called to the hills for a defence exercise and set up in bunkers for a day just looking at the cubans across the minefields. Gtmo is the biggest minefield in the world. I manned a M60 machine gun some times I was just a rifle man. We had ww2 M1 grands no M 16s . The thing that I didnt like was the spiders in the hills. And the heat. I loved the fishing. What I miss to this day was the stubby beer and those wonderful grilled Polish meat with cheese on grilled bread.One thing that I didnt miss was standing in line at the mess hall staring down at the ousters the guys would spit coming out after breakfist. You had to have a strong gut in those days.
Thanks for sharing your experiences there – pretty interesting to read!
How do I go about getting a job down there, or move down there? Am I allowed to just go or do I need some kind of permission?
I am currently deployed here to GTMO. It is my 3rd deployment here since 2014. My first 2 deployments there was no cell phone and the internet was horrible at best, but the government has finally installed the long awaited for fiber optic line and we have great internet. T Mobile is also here so I have a T Mobile phone and it works as if I were in the states. Same issue with the shopping and flights are still bad but they fly every Tuesday and Friday. I am retiring from the Army soon so I am looking at contract work here and will bring my family back with me the next time.
Very interesting! Thanks for the update!