Is Cuba Safe?
Is Cuba Safe? It’s a simple question but not an easy answer. We want to be careful in issuing a blanket statement of “yes” or “no” but instead offer you our experience spending three days there and let you draw your own conclusions.
Usually when you’re walking around a major city in the daytime, you’re more likely to be attacked by people selling tours and begging for spare change than in any real danger. Neither of those is an issue in Cuba, as we didn’t see anyone selling tours of any kind, and we definitely did not see any beggars on the streets, at all. As a matter of fact, I mentioned to someone and they responded that it wasn’t really a problem because most people had the support of the government if they found themselves in a situation where they needed help.
Lost? Need directions? Just stop on any street corner or ask any taxi driver and they’ll help you out. We’ve found that the Cuban people in general were happy to help and glad that tourists were exploring their city.
The streets are not very well lit, so just like in major cities, you’ll want to stick to the main areas at night or take taxis everywhere. We did walk around for hours at night and the streets were largely empty and devoid of people. The major people centers had police on the corners to deter any sort of criminal activity, so I’d say that just follow the same type of precautions that you would do in any major city anywhere in the world. You wouldn’t stroll idly around the streets of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, or London alone at night, would you? So don’t do the same in Cuba.
We did go to some very crowded areas and I noticed myself checking my pockets constantly. The markets are full of people, and it’s easy to get pickpocketed. Our shorts had zippered pockets, so we had the phone and wallet inside of those zippered pockets, which would make it very difficult to have anyone grab our stuff. If you’ve got your wallet and phone in easy reach, you might be vulnerable. Take simple precautions. Also, we hired a car for the day with a reputable company (Old Cars Havana) so we left our things in the car for the majority of the walking tours.
Most hotels and casa particulares have individual safes for you to store your valuables, but we left everything except our money in the room with no concern whatsoever. Would you leave $100 bills lying on your room desk? Probably not, so don’t do the same in Cuba. We left a chocolate bar every day for our housekeeper with a note “Muchas Gracias por su atención, un regalo para Ud.” (thanks for your attention, here’s a gift for you) and that seemed to do the trick. When we came back to the room there was another note in return from her with a fun towel animal.
See, here’s the thing. From what I’ve understood by talking to a lot of people here in the US, they seem to think that Cuba is some lawless crime filled beach paradise and they need to be afraid and extra careful. I’d counter that with saying that you, as a tourist, should be careful no matter where you are in the world. At no point in our trip did we feel in danger or out of sorts, nor did we feel like anyone was out to get us. The worst thing that I would imagine you’d encounter is being ripped off for tourist prices at local markets which happens everywhere in the world.