Is Cuba safe? According to the last report of the World Health Organization, Cuba is one of the safest destinations in America. Crime is nearly unheard of, and it is very unlikely to be victim of an armed robbery.
However, there are areas and behaviors beyond the control of any authority for which it is necessary to be prepared. Cuba is safe for a tourist able to deal with the flaws of a developing country, a reality often not mentioned by the media.
(TIP: If what worries you is how to stay healthy on your Cuba vacation, check out the rules of thumb to eat safely in Cuba)
Is Cuba safe to visit?
Many travelers overlook these peculiarities of the island and, because of that, sometimes their vacation turn out to be an unpleasant experience. So, is Cuba safe to visit? Yes, it is, but it is always wise to take some precautions:
Keep original documents safe
Police force is the entity that guarantees tourist security in Cuba. Harassing tourists or stealing from them are considered serious crimes. and offenders may receive long sentences for such crimes. Foreigners are untouchable! Thus, it is unlikely that authorities ask for your documents without something serious happening.
However, you should be ready to show a photocopy of your passport or of any other important document, in case the police or other service providers ask you for them. Keep the originals in a safe place and carry the copies all the time with you. Remember that you must use the original papers in certain cases, e.g. going to a bank or renting a car.
(TIP: In case you are wondering, check out our list of things to bring to Cuba for vacation)
Don’t carry too much money
Is Cuba safe to hang around with your pockets full of money? Probably no one will attack you, stick a knife in your belly or wield a gun, but you might find pickpockets and locals trying to wheedle some money out of you.
Fortunately, pick-pocketing is a crime 100% preventable. Don’t take a lot of cash with you in the streets, hold on to your purse in crowded areas, and you will be safe. Also, some travelers advise to put the money in two envelopes, so in case you lose one you keep the other. Remember: although Cuba is very safe to travel to, incidents may happen.
Cash, always cash
Before traveling to Cuba, many people wonder whether is Cuba safe for carrying cash, since the use of credit cards is very limited. Some hotels and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard, as long as they were not issued by American banks.
In Cuba there is a dual currency system. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP) circulate officially in the island. The CUC is the most valued currency will open all doors to you. So, change your money to this currency, but remember not carry too much cash. $ 60 CUC will be enough to eat and drink in any city of the island, but just to feel more comfortable, you may take $ 100 CUC with you.
CUCs are also very useful when paying for taxis and going to fancy places in the main cities. By the way, in such places is very unlikely to witness a quarrel or fight. They tend to be safer in cities than in the outskirts.
If you do not have CUCs you are at risk of getting ripped off and paying more expensive checks. Also, the exchange rate can be altered.
(TIP: Traveling to Cuba soon? Review the 5 must-know facts about the Cuban currency)
Don’t change money on the street
Maybe in your country you are a know-it-all in business, but in Cuba the context is different. As safe as it can be, the island is unknown to you. Don’t change money anywhere other than at CADECA exchange offices, hotels or banks, due to the existence of forged currency. Someone may propose you a much better exchange rate than the applied a the official places, but it could be just an argument to steal from you.
Never exchange money in the black market, unless a trusted Cuban friend goes with you. Otherwise, if something bad happens, whom will you complain to? What will be your excuse for doing something illegally?
Many visitors ask whether is Cuba safe to walk around poor and marginal neighborhoods. Like in any country, there are some areas more dangerous than others. Some places are even outside the law where a tourist may be an easy prey for muggers and robbers.
Be cautious if you visit the capital! Havana is more dangerous compared to other cities. Your safety might be threatened if you visit some neighborhoods in Centro Habana, Marianao and Guanabacoa. You should go there only with a local friend, someone you really trust.
Walking alone at night?
Is Cuba safe for walking alone at night? Most of the streets in Cuba are poorly lighted, a favorable situation to be victim of a robbery or mugging.
For this reason, try to avoid wandering late at night in dark areas. Even if nothing happens (because police is usually in every corner), you might live the fright of your life. Don’t be afraid if you walk in a group, nobody will dare to attack you in a group.
If you’re a woman you should be aware of the character of Cuban men: they seem to be programmed to whistle and shout compliments at a pretty woman walking down the street. However, there’s no need to worry since you will only receive words.
Don’t get drunk alone
When traveling alone you must keep your wits about yourself, since you won’t have anyone looking after your money.
Also, avoid getting drunk with unknown people. There’s always a sober person in the room that can seize the opportunity and take what belongs to others. Hold on to your purse and don’t leave cameras or other belongings unattended.
If you go to a nightclub, never take a drink a stranger hands you in a bar, unless it is prepared in front of you. Also, don’t finish that beer you left on the table to go to the restroom.
In Cuba there are strict laws on the use, possession and trafficking of illegal drugs, though you may still be offered marijuana or cocaine in the most popular nightclubs. Even some people have passed out after mixing up pills and alcohol.
Keep personal effects closer
When visiting a cafeteria or a park, don’t leave your personal belongings out of sight. Someone can take them and you won’t even notice it. This is more likely to happen on the beach, so don’t leave your stuff unattended in the sand.
Do tour guides always “guide” you?
Nowadays, you can find a lot of people who claim to be tour guides in Cuba. Unfortunately, just a few are reliable guides prepared to show you the authentic Cuba.
You may reach out a professional guide at any travel agency and some hotels in Cuba. Also, do your research in popular travel forums like TripAdvisor. Choosing the wrong tour guide can cost you more money and put in you at risk.
(TIP: If you plan to solo travel to Cuba, you better check these 7 questions about backpacking Cuba first)
Most Cubans are humble and don’t count on resources to live as they wish. So, when in Rome… it is better not to be ostentatious. Using valuable jewels and showing off a lot of money can lead to dangerous situations. Remember that you will be in a country where getting easy money is always a temptation.
Beware of your guests!
In Cuba you won’t miss company, if that’s what you want. Usually, hotels and casas particulares (private rooms) allow you to receive guests, provided that the owner or manager is informed.
If you get someone into your room, make sure you to register him/her. Most Cubans only expect from you to pay for drinks and food, but be always cautious. You never know what could happen in a foreign country with unknown people. That’s why is very important to register any person you get into your room. Otherwise, how would you make a report if something bad happens?
Use your common sense
Again, is Cuba safe? Generally speaking, this country is very safe compared to the world’s standards. But, like in any other country, you might have to deal with safety problems, especially if you don’t even try to prevent them. You are already an adult who knows what kind of people you should keep away. Usually, Cubans only cross the line if you let them do it. They will stop at any negative signal from you, especially because they know you are a tourist.
So, use your common sense and be wise when selecting your companions. Most of the time, bad intentions seem very obvious.
Your safety in Cuba will be assured if you keep in mind these basic safety precautions. Plan quiet trip in advance, where your joy is the only thing that matters. Just walk the streets of this beautiful island with the certainty that you will have an unforgettable experience, marked only by good times.
Still wondering whether is Cuba safe to travel to? What are your concerns? Leave your comments below!