When you’re in a foreign country you want to do your best to not look like a tourist. While you might not be able to look like a true local, you want to at least look like you know where you’re going. In some much-visited cities you see people staring at street signs while they hold a large map.
They might as well have a sign stamped to their foreheads: “I am a tourist.” Tourists are easy targets for opportunistic crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching.
Having said that, these crimes are more common in some parts of the world than in others. Is Cuba safe for tourists?
You will hear many opposing opinions on the matter, so it’s time to take a detailed look at whether the country is safe for visitors, and which precautions you need to take.
Cuba does have a small amount of opportunistic crimes in popular spots such as Havana’s Old Town (particularly pickpocketing), but it’s minimal when compared to other destinations. Let’s not forget that security guards at the famed Louvre in Paris once went on strike to protest the sheer number of pickpockets who were buying tickets for the museum and then robbing other visitors.
The protests were to demand additional staffing for the museum to prevent these crimes, and it was a successful strike. There is a high police presence in Cuba which greatly reduces the number of these annoyances. The volume of police is one of the reasons why Cuba is safe for tourists.
Since ATMs are rather thin on the ground on Cuba, you will need to carry enough cash with you for the day. This means it’s wise to invest in a money belt that is discreetly worn under your clothes. These are less obvious than money pouches worn on a string around your neck, so nobody will know it’s there. It’s debateable as to whether or not you even need to carry a credit card since they’re not widely accepted.
Perhaps take a card if you feel you will use it, otherwise leave it in your hotel’s safe. Sometimes it can be smart to take a guided tour where transport and meals are included, or where you will at least have an experienced tour guide who knows how much cash you will need for the day (and where an ATM might be located!).
Technically you should be able to present photo ID to police or other authorised persons should they ask to see it. But will this actually happen? It’s not likely and random ID checks simply don’t happen (not to foreigners anyway).
So when asking is Cuba safe for tourists, you don’t need to be concerned about being stopped by the police for some imagined infraction. You would only be asked to show your ID if you were involved in an accident, or sometimes to gain entry to a club (if you look younger than 18).
Try not to carry your passport with you, as this could potentially be lost or stolen. Take your driver’s license as proof of your identity, or even a photocopy of your passport. Leave the original in a secure place.
Is Cuba Safe for Tourists? Other Things You Should Know
- Be wary about advertising your wealth, so be mindful about how much jewellery you wear. Ostentatious displays of wealth clearly identify you as a foreigner, meaning a pickpocket might follow you while looking for a chance to strike.
- Do not purchase illegal drugs under any circumstances. Recreational drugs are highly illegal and the person selling them to you might in fact be an undercover police officer.
- Beware of Hustlers. Hustlers are the most common aspect of crime in Cuba that you will encounter. So is Cuba safe for tourists? Yes, but it’s less safe if you go to an unknown destination with a prostitute. There are also hustlers who offer great deals on rum and cigars. In some instances they will take your money and run, but in other instances they will present you with a product worth far less than what you paid.
- Thefts from hotel rooms are rare, but not unheard of. Ask if your hotel has a safe.
- Do not take photos of police or any type of military personnel. This includes police/military buildings and vehicles. This is not permitted in Cuba and you might have your camera (or the memory card) confiscated. It’s not worth the risk, even if you try to take the photo discreetly.
So is Cuba safe for tourists? Certainly, if you’re smart. And If you’re smart, the only “crime” you’ll encounter in Cuba is a hustler who stops to tell you about his “friend’s” amazing restaurant and offers to take you there (he or she is being paid for this). Trust us, it’s not going to be that great.
Take the time to wander and find somewhere better (but remember to watch your valuables).
Do you have questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us anytime!