What you should know about safety in Cuba

Cuba is a safe country to visit. In fact, it is one of the safest destinations in all of the Americas, crime rate is very low. Tourism is extremely crucial to Cuba’s economy, so strict and prominent policing and guarding make streets and hotels safe places for tourist.

Safe does not mean 100% crime free so you should still use common sense and pay attention to your belongings like you would do in any other countries.

Most crimes are non-confrontational (i.e. pickpocketing, purse-snatching, schemes, and prostitution).

Violent crime against tourists is almost inexistent. Many Cubans are entrepreneurs and may try to sell you something of offer their assistance, but hustling is benign and not intended at all to be threatening.

Cuban people are friendly, open and helpful. Most hotels and resorts have fire alarms, fire extinguishers and various security programs and procedures are in place. But security may lack in some « adventure » tours or activities, so it is essential for travelers to use proper judgement.

It is important to realize that traveling represent a certain amount of risk. If you are not comfortable after reading these lines, it may be preferable not to travel and avoid wasting money in an adventure that you may not appreciate. About safety, ask yourself this question ... is it so different in your own city?

The Canadian government has a website to inform its citizen about safety and regulations in all foreign countries. http://travel.gc.ca/destinations/cuba

The Cuban President Raul Castro announced on October 22nd, 2013 the beginning of the process that will put an end to the two currencies circulating for 19 years on the island. Click HERE about currencies.

Here are some the most reported dangers or annoyances in Cuba:

- Hustling (mostly for: cigars, rum, lobster meal or assistance). If you are not interested just say no with a smile, hustlers (called Jineteros) are usually not pushy nor aggressive.

- Pickpockets and snatch & grab. Occur mostly in the downtown area and specifically in crowded areas, or during a festival or celebration.

- Theft of unguarded belongings along the beach.

- Red flags on the beach. Swimming can sometimes be more dangerous due to higher surf, strong currents or undertow, especially during severe weather (strong winds, tropical storm or hurricane). Green Flag: Low risk calm condition, Yellow Flag: medium risk moderate surf and/or current, Red Flag: High risk high surf and/or strong currents or undertow.

- Solicitation for prostitution. Occur mostly around the downtown area, in nightclubs, and around cheaper hotels.

- Overweight baggage charges. Some check-in agents may try to tell you that your checked baggage is overweight on your return flight, and then save the money for themselves. If you are almost certain (do not underestimate the weight of humidity in your clothing!) that your luggage is within the weight limit, ask to speak to a supervisor, chances are he/she will apologize saying that it was a mistake.

-Luggage theft at airport. Theft of items from checked baggage is becoming more frequent in Cuban airports. Use tie-wraps to discourage these people.

- Counterfeit cigars. Cigars sold on the street, beach, bartender, taxi driver, etc. are counterfeit, even if they have the correct label and seal of a well-known brand. They will tell you that the cigars were taken from someone they know who work in the cigar factory, it is never true.

That does not mean though they are bad cigars, or they were not a great deal, but simply that they are fake. Some counterfeit cigars are made of banana leaves!

- Electric socket confusion. Hotels have either 110V or 220V sockets or sometimes both and they are not always labelled. Check with the Reception if you’re not sure before damaging your equipment.

-Blue jellyfish. They are most common during the summer months when they can sometimes be washed up on the beach. Coming in contact with its tentacles can cause a painful reaction.

-Sea Lice (Sea-Bathers Eruption) is a form of dermatitis that appears on covered areas of the skin (under bathing suits, shirts, and long hair), rather than on exposed areas as with swimmers itch, and is associated with bathing in coastal waters.

It is caused by the larval form of the thimble jellyfish (linuche unquiculata), locally referred to as sea-lice. In either case, the dermatitis results when the little larval forms (the size of a pin head) are trapped underneath bathing suits or in the hair of the bather.

Each larvae is equipped with a number of nematocysts (stinging cells), that can be triggered by simple mechanical force or by osmotic changes that occur with evaporation or when rinsing off with freshwater.

The dermatitis that results from the nematocyst irritation appears within a matter of hours, and can be intensely pruritic (itchy). As with swimmers itch, the rash usually subsides within a week, depending on its severity and the individuals sensitivity. Treatment of sea-bather rash is the same as with swimmers itch. If itching is severe, contact your health care provider who may prescribe cream or creams to reduce your symptoms.

-Mosquitoes. Especially during summer, mosquitoes may be present. They usually appear only at dusk, not during the day. It depends on the climatic conditions (rain, humidity), direction of the wind, time of the year, etc... As a preventive measure, they fog the hotels surroundings every night.

However, it is still recommended to bring a good insect spray repellent (DEET Based), just in case. We always bring with us a very good insect repellent in cream called Bizzz Bizzz (or Watkins). These creams are allowed aboard the aircraft.

Since 2009, we have a website exclusively about what you should know before going to Cuba. It contains useful information on Cuba and its people, language, capital, currency, electricity in hotels, visa tourist card, departure tax, cooking, shopping, etc.. and a section of « things to know ». We visited the « Isla Grande » more than fifty times. It is a destination that we know well.

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