Safety in Cuba

Essential safety tips for a secure and enjoyable Cuba trip

Colorful animated street scene with characters and vintage cars.

One of the country’s strengths is security, but let’s get real—every destination has its quirks and potential hazards. Cuba is no exception.

Rest assured, Cuba remains a very safe country. Issues are primarily localized to Havana and Santiago de Cuba, and the vigilant police force maintains close surveillance. Simply be wary of Jineteros, who will undoubtedly try to scam you. However, now that you’re informed, your stay is likely to proceed smoothly!


The crime rate in Cuba is quite low, but the scam is very common: you are approached and introduced as your friend. This “friend” who will show you the best plans for parties and entertainment will make you pay for his drinks and advice. So be vigilant and don’t hesitate to say no, firmly but nicely if this happens to you.

Preparing for Your Trip to Cuba

Familiarizing Yourself With Local Laws and Customs

Every country has its do’s and don’ts, and in Cuba, the line between them can be as fine as the tobacco in a hand-rolled cigar. Brush up on local customs and laws to avoid any faux pas or worse, a brush with local law enforcement.

Getting the Right Travel Insurance

Think of travel insurance as your invisible cape—there in case things go sideways. Make sure your policy covers your adventures, especially if you’re planning to salsa your way across the island.

Vaccinations and Health Precautions

Nobody likes a travel bug, literally. Consult your doctor to get the necessary jabs, and pack a health kit because let’s be honest, Montezuma’s revenge doesn’t add to holiday memories.


The danger of the country is more in the small scams than in violent acts or robberies.

In Cuba’s complex economic climate, Cubans often resort to unlicensed work, such as providing services to tourists, to make ends meet. Known as “jineteros,” these individuals offer accommodations, dining, and tours, which can be helpful but also problematic due to their lack of transparency and pushy tactics for commissions.

Independent travelers often feel deceived when newfound Cuban friends turn out to be more interested in their wallets than a genuine relationship.

Many tourists complain about these encounters, feeling manipulated by their so-called friends who later concoct sad stories to seek extra money. However, most Cubans are honest and generous, embarrassed by the actions of jineteros.

Unfortunately, these upstanding locals are seldom the ones travelers meet on their own.

Advice to avoid Jineteros

  • Don’t trust anyone who is overly friendly on the street.
  • Never pay attention to the first person who tells you “go to this restaurant, palate, rental house (or any other service) that is the best”, the truth is that in most cases the person who recommends you is charging a commission for it and usually are not even the best places.
  • Even though a meeting may seem fortuitous, you may end up making conversation with someone super nice who will gain your trust, take you to a bar to try a typical drink (you will invite him and pay for the expensive one) or give you a little tour showing you things of the city and then ask you for money or buy something in such and such a place.
  • To avoid such interactions, my advice is: refrain from justifying your refusal. Elaborate explanations merely provide an opening for persuasion. Instead, a terse but polite “thank you,” “perhaps another time,” or a thumbs-up will suffice.

Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

Currency Exchange Scams

Brush up on your Monopoly skills because handling Cuban currency is a game of its own. Double-check the notes you’re given and know the exchange rates like the back of your hand.

Taxi Overcharging and Fake Taxis

Ever felt like you’ve taken a ride on your wallet? Avoid that by agreeing on a fare before getting in and ensure the taxi is legit—look for the official markings.

Paladar (Private Restaurant) Scams

Some paladares might offer a ‘special’ menu with ‘tourist’ prices. Always check the prices before you dine; after all, you wouldn’t want to pay caviar prices for street food.

Fake Cigar and Rum Sales

Avoid turning your souvenir hunt into a treasure of fakes. Buy cigars and rum from official stores, unless you fancy a tale of ‘That time I smoked a banana leaf.’

If you travel to Viñales you will be able to buy excellent tobacco. In some plantations you can buy tobacco with less additives than those from government factories (they keep less time).

Transportation Safety Tips

Hiring Legitimate Taxis

Stick to official taxis, my friends. They’re like your trusty steed, ready to whisk you away without the risk of a shakedown.

Public buses

Exercise heightened vigilance on congested public buses; I have personally been pickpocketed on one en route to the airport. Secure your wallet in a concealed pocket when in crowded areas.

Using State-Run Buses

For longer jaunts, state-run buses are your go-to. They’re reliable, and you won’t have to sell a kidney to afford the ticket.

Renting Cars and Scooter Safety

Freedom on four wheels or two can be exhilarating but remember, Cuban roads can be capricious, and potholes may be plotting your downfall.

Accommodation Safety

Choosing Between Casas Particulares and Hotels

Casas particulares offer a homey touch, while hotels promise uniformity. Whichever you choose, chose them properly for peace of mind. As for Guest house get only to official one that are marked with a blue official logo

Safety Features to Look Out for

Does your accommodation have a safe, surveillance, or a 24-hour front desk? These features aren’t just perks; they’re your safety net.

Cyclone season

During the cyclone season, which lasts from august to November, there is a risk of cyclones, especially in September and October. If you have a fear of flying, steer clear of these times. In case of Cyclone alert, It is crucial to meticulously follow the instructions issued by the Urban Civil Protection. You will be informed by hotels and tourism centers about the precautions to take. If you encounter any difficulties, please directly contact the French Embassy in Havana.

Food and Drink

Avoiding Tap Water and Ensuring Ice is Safe

The only thing you should be catching on holiday is a tan, not a stomach bug. Stick to bottled water, and be ice-picky—ensure it’s made from purified water.

Identifying Safe Street Food Vendors

Use your spidey senses to pick vendors. If the locals are flocking, it’s likely safe and scrumptious.

Consuming Alcohol Responsibly

Rum is the spirit of Cuba, but too much spirit can lead you astray. Enjoy responsibly, or you might end up with more than just a hangover.

Health and Medical Emergencies

Locating Hospitals and Pharmacies

Know where to find help faster than you can say “¡Ayuda!” Have a list of nearby medical facilities just in case.

Emergency Contact Numbers

Store emergency numbers in your phone like they’re VIP contacts because, in a pinch, they are.

Dealing with Tropical Diseases

Prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to tropical diseases. Mosquito repellent should be your constant companion—think of it as that friend who’s always got your back.

Safety tips

Avoind Flashing Your Bling

Avoid displaying signs of wealth when you’re out on the street. You could be asking for trouble.

Separate your money in multiple wallets

Take only what you need for the day and leave the rest safely at your hotel

Keeping Valuables Secure

It is advisable to leave one’s documents (ID card, passport, return ticket…) and a portion of one’s money at the hotel (in a safe). Make a photocopy of your passport, in case you are checked.

Always double check before leaving a place

Do not forget your cameras or video cameras and other objects in public places.

Navigating the Streets at Night

The night is full of wonders, but also potential pitfalls. Stay in well-lit areas and travel in groups because there’s safety in numbers.

Dressing Appropriately to Avoid Unwanted Attention

Dress like you’re blending into a local painting—appropriate and respectful. It’ll earn you nods of approval rather than stares.

Digital Safety

Protecting Your Devices From Theft

Our devices are like our lifelines—keep them safe. Use lockable bags and never leave them unattended, unless you fancy a digital detox.

Using Secure Internet Connections

Public Wi-Fi can be as dodgy as a three-wheeled car. Stick to secure connections to keep your digital life safe from prying eyes.

A VPN will significantly enhance the security of your data on public Wi-Fi and may also allow you to access websites restricted in Cuba.

Avoiding Online Scams

The internet is a jungle with digital predators. Keep your personal info close to the chest and be wary of too-good-to-be-true offers.

Building Positive Interactions with Locals

Learning Basic Spanish Phrases

A “por favor” and “gracias” can open doors and hearts. Learn a few phrases to break the ice and show respect.

Cultural Sensitivity and Respect

When in Rome, or rather, Havana, do as the Habaneros do. Show respect for local culture, and it’ll show respect back in spades.

Handling Legal Issues

What to Do If You’re Detained

Stay calm, and remember, getting flustered is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Request to speak with your embassy and know your rights. Your embassy is your in-country guardian angel. Have their contact details handy for those “just in case” moments.

Embassy Addresses

Here are some useful addresses and contacts for embassies in Cuba:

Swiss Embassy in Cuba

  • Address: Calle 34 No. 714, Entre 7ma y 71, Miramar, Havana
  • Phone: +53 7204 2516
  • Email:
  • Website:

French Embassy in Cuba

Belgium Embassy in Cuba

US Embassy in Cuba

  • Address: Calzada between L & M Streets, Vedado, Havana
  • Phone: +53 7839 4100
  • Email:
  • Website:

Canadian Embassy in Cuba

UK Embassy in Cuba

Other Useful Numbers

  • Firemen : 105
  • Police : 106

Conclusion: Enjoying Cuba Responsibly

Embracing the Culture With Safety in Mind

Cuba is like a painting in motion, and to truly experience its hues, you must navigate it with awareness and respect.

Final Thoughts on Traveling Safely in Cuba

Travel is the ultimate adventure, and doing it safely in Cuba is the cherry on top of the mojito. With common sense, a bit of preparation, and an appetite for the authentic, you’re set for a voyage that’s as safe as it is sensational. Hasta la Victoria Siempre !