Why You Need to Stop Wondering "Is Cuba Safe?"
Updated January 3, 2018
Is Cuba safe? The short answer: Yes!
Cuba is one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean.
Keep reading to find out about all kinds of safety-related topics like weather, theft, and the recent sonic attacks on diplomats.
Before your trip, make sure to check out:
- Cuba FAQ
- Cuban Tourist Cards and Visas
- Cuba Info for Americans
- Can I Still Travel to Cuba: Update 2018
- 6 Airbnb's in Cuba You Need to See
- Our homepage on Cuba
PICKPOCKETS AND SCAMS ARE THE MOST COMMON SAFETY ISSUE
Remember this: tourists are targets for pickpockets all over the world, including in Cuba. But you can protect yourself by not keeping all your money in one place. You’re in no more danger of being pick-pocketed in Havana than you would be of being pick-pocketed standing under the Eiffel Tower or taking selfies at the Colosseum.
Top tips to avoid pickpockets:
- Keep some of your money in your wallet, some in a hidden pocket, and some in your bags in the hotel (in a variety of pockets). This prevents someone from stealing all of your money in one shot.
- Never put your wallet in your back pocket.
- Wear a purse with a zipper and/or clasp and carry it in front of you.
A few other things to keep in mind about theft and scams:
Muggings are rare, but it’s still best not to wear obviously valuable jewelry as it makes you a target.
Sometimes, as part of a scam, you’ll be asked directly for money. Someone will come to you with a sad story that is most likely not true. Firmly say no when asked for money and walk away. The person will likely move on to another, easier, target.
It can be tempting to leave your bag unattended while dancing or while taking a quick dip in the ocean, but don’t do it. Whether in Cuba or anywhere else in the world, leaving your valuables unattended is just asking for them to be stolen.
Beggars are common. Many tourists hand out things like soap, money, pens, and snacks to them so they just keep begging. Your donations will go farther if you bring them to schools or hospitals, or give them to your casa owner.
The most common scam has to do with Cuba’s two currencies. When you pay in CUC you might get change back in CUP. CUC is the tourist currency and 1CUC is worth 1USD. In contrast, 1CUP is worth about 3-4 cents in USD. So you can easily lose a lot of money in one transaction. The way to avoid it: always check your change.
VIOLENT CRIME IS RARE
Violent attacks like shootings and murders are rare in Cuba. You are unlikely to encounter violence unless you are robbed and resist, muggers often carry knives and work in groups. If you are robbed, give up your valuables and you’re far less likely to experience violence. But again, muggings and robberies are not very common.
There’s a significant police presence in cities, which effectively helps prevent both violent and non-violent crime.
CUBA IS RECOVERING WELL AFTER HURRICANE IRMA
Cuba was hit hard by Hurricane Irma, but most areas are getting back to normal quickly. It’s safe to travel to places like Havana, Viñales, Baracoa, Santiago de Cuba, and Trinidad now. It will take a bit longer to clean up the Northern Kays (Cayos), but things are expected to be business as usual by mid-December 2017.
Get the latest Cuba travel after Irma updates on our Hurricane Irma recovery page.
SONIC ATTACKS ON DIPLOMATS HAVE NOT AFFECTED TRAVELERS
American and Canadian diplomats and government officials on assignment in Cuba have been experiencing hearing loss, fatigue, headache, dizziness, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, brain swelling, and other symptoms since December 2016.
American officials are saying that these symptoms are the result of targeted sonic attacks. But it is still unclear what the precise cause of symptoms is and who is behind the attacks.
The State Department has issued a Cuba travel warning and the staff at the U.S. embassy has been reduced so that it is only providing emergency services.
However, there are no reports of U.S. travelers experiencing these symptoms.
We still encourage travelers to visit Cuba as there is no evidence of sonic attacks against civilian visitors.
ViaHero travel planners can help put your mind at ease and plan your trip.
HEALTHCARE FOR TRAVELERS IS GOOD IN CUBA
If you’re worried about getting sick or injured in Cuba, don’t worry about it any more than you would if you were staying home. Everyone visiting Cuba is required to have health insurance that is valid in Cuba. You’ll need to purchase it at the airport upon arrival before passing through customs. It costs about $4 per day.
Cuban health insurance for foreigners varies depending on the policy you choose, but most policies cover:
- Medical treatment for accidents and sudden illnesses
- Repatriation (return of your body to the U.S. in case of death)
- Personal civil liability
Your Cuban health insurance likely will not cover flare-ups of pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or Crohn’s disease.
If you need to use your health insurance, take comfort in the fact that Cuba has one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
The World Health Organization continually praises the expertise of Cuban medical teams and the emphasis on research in the Cuban healthcare system. For example, the infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the world (and lower than in the US). Cuban doctors and medical staff are also one of Cuba’s greatest exports; medical personnel trained in Cuba provide care throughout Latin America and Africa. The medical staff you’ll meet in Cuba will take good care of you if you need them.
IS CUBA SAFE FOR FAMILIES? YES!
Cuba is a wonderful destination for a memorable (and educational) family trip. If you want to teach your children about other cultures, history, and conflict/peace between nations, an international trip is a great idea. Cuba is a safe destination for families and chock full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Cubans love children and activities as simple as playing with your kids at the park or going for ice cream can spark conversations with local families. For more ideas on what to do with your kids in Cuba, check out our guide on how to plan a family trip to Cuba.
SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS HAVE GREAT TRIPS
Cuba is a safe destination for solo female travelers, but you will stand out. You’ll get catcalled. People will ask why you’re alone. But generally, people are just being friendly and if you ignore them or answer questions with a firm “no,” they will leave you alone.
A few things you can do for added security:
- Book casa particulares ahead on Airbnb. You can read the reviews and get a sense of the home and the neighborhood so you’ll feel safe. Plus, you pay at the time of booking so you won’t need to carry around as much cash.
- Stick to your usual common sense rules when going out alone at night. Be aware of your surroundings, know where you're going, stick to safe neighborhoods, and let someone know where you're going to be.
- Consider bringing along a personal safety alarm like the Vigilant 130dB Personal Alarm. (It’s something that’s smart to have at home as well as in any country you visit.) These make a continuous loud noise when triggered, which scares attackers and attracts attention from potential helpers.
Want some help planning your solo trip to Cuba? Karlita is a wonderful travel planner who can make some fun recommendations!
THE CUBAN PEOPLE GENERALLY LOVE MEETING AMERICAN VISITORS
In general, locals are excited to meet the American people. They understand all too well the disconnect between the opinions and attitudes of the general population and the actions of the government. They tend not to judge visitors by the actions of the federal government in the U.S. Instead, they are curious about American culture.
THE WEATHER IS FANTASTIC, EXCEPT WHEN A HURRICANE HITS
The only common natural disaster you need to watch for in Cuba is hurricanes. The good news is, hurricanes generally occur only during hurricane season that runs from June to November. The rest of the year, you shouldn’t have to worry about them, which means you can easily plan a trip outside of hurricane season.
Cuba is also in an active area for earthquakes, but most are so small they go unnoticed by locals and travelers alike.
TRAVELER’S TUMMY CAN BE AVOIDED
When in Cuba, avoid the tap water. Even locals boil water before drinking it, whether it comes from the tap or it’s stored in a nearby cistern because some still lack running water. Some tap water is safe and well-treated, but some isn’t. Better safe than sorry, don’t risk just drinking it without treatment.
Purchase bottled water and make sure it is sealed properly. Or, bring your own water purifying water bottle.
When it comes to food in Cuba, use the same common sense you would anywhere else. Make sure items are hot, the place is clean, and there are other local customers eating there.
BE AWARE OF ROAD CONDITIONS AND DRIVING SAFETY TIPS
Roads are poorly maintained, poorly lit at night, and train tracks are poorly marked and often look overgrown but are still in use. There are inconsistent road signs as well. This all means that driving in Cuba is something you need to undertake with caution. Follow the tips in this detailed guide from a recent traveler to Cuba and you should be fine. Just don’t expect it to be like driving in the U.S.
Important: If you’re traveling with kids, bring your own car seat.
ZIKA VIRUS IS UNCOMMON IN CUBA
The CDC posts the Zika risk in Cuba at alert level 2 “Practice Enhanced Precautions,” but it is unlikely that you will contract Zika in Cuba. Very few cases of Zika were ever reported in Cuba and the virus was well-contained. Do what you can to prevent mosquito bites and if you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before traveling to Cuba.
A FEW MORE GOOD SAFETY TIPS
Bottom line: Use the same precautions here that you would when traveling to another foreign country or major city.
- Don’t walk alone late at night.
- Know a few basic Spanish phrases pertaining to money, asking directions, and asking for help.
- Bring plenty of cash, but don’t keep it all in one place.
- Don’t leave your purse unattended anywhere. Don’t leave it on the table at a dance club.
- Pay attention and walk like you know where you’re going, even if you’re lost.
- The rum is delicious, but watch how much you drink. If you’re intoxicated, then you’re a far easier target and less likely to make good choices than if you’re sober.
EMERGENCY NUMBERS EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW
If you are the victim of a crime or you get sick, these are the phone numbers to call for help.
- Police: 106
- Fire Department: 105
- U.S. Embassy in Cuba: +53 7839-4100