Is Cuba safe?
One of the most common reasons travelers might forgo a trip to Cuba is due to false perceptions and misinformation. Cuba’s political history with the United States, confusing U.S. travel rules and some outright inaccuracies have deterred travelers from experiencing this once unreachable destination.
TOURISTS IN CUBA FEEL SAFE
A March 2018 study showed that of nearly 500 U.S. travelers who visited Cuba in 2017 and 2018, 99% felt safe or very safe while in Cuba. Less than 1% felt unsafe and zero respondents felt very unsafe.
Let’s look at why that is:
Cuban laws and culture designed to protect tourists
Cuba’s strict enforcement of laws that protect tourists, with severe penalties for violations, including jail time for petty theft, protects tourists from crime. The Cuban economy and people rely on tourism and the country has developed a culture of safeguarding tourists and tourism. Panhandling in Cuba is illegal and is strictly enforced to protect the tourist experience from minor annoyances and petty scams.
Stable environment with crimes against tourists very low
The U.S. Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) reports a stable environment in Cuba. What little crime occurs largely falls into “petty crime areas” such as pickpocketing and theft of unattended belongings, issues shared by other destinations from Paris to Rome. Like with any other destination, it is important to always remain aware and keep an eye on purses and personal belongings when in public.
Zero tolerance for illegal substances (drugs) and related crimes
The OSAC reports a very low level of drug-related crime. Illegal substances (drugs) in Cuba are very scarce. Laws against drug use and distribution carry very strong punishments and are enforced strictly by the police, for both locals and tourists.
Statistically negligible homeless population, minimal at risk youth, no gangs
Despite economic challenges for the Cuban people, the society is one in which the vast majority of the population has access to subsidized rent, community centers and extended family support networks. A culture of multigenerational households minimizes societal problems for at risk populations.
Cuba has one of the lowest civilian firearm-ownership rates in the world. The purchase of firearms is extremely prohibitive and gun policies are highly restrictive.
Low threat of political violence
The OSAC rates Cuba as a “LOW-threat location for political violence”. It characterizes protests in Cuba as “sporadic” and “short-lived” with the government quick to respond and “restore order”. Cuba’s single-party system has historically been very stable.
Low threat of terrorism
The U.S. Department of State “has assessed Havana as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism.” By the U.S. Department of State’s definition, “a low threat exhibits little or no threat as a result of the absence of credible evidence of capability, intent, or history of actual or planned attacks against U.S. assets.”
Lower homicide rate than the U.S.
The Human Development Reports conducted by the United Nations Development Program reveal that Cuba has a lower homicide rate of 5.0 per 100,000 people compared to the United States (5.3) and exponentially lower than popular Latin American / Caribbean tourist destinations such as Mexico (24.8) and the Bahamas (30.9).
Cuba is truly one of the safest destinations in the world to visit. There is no evidence of any threat to tourists. Rest assured that we actively monitor safety conditions in Cuba and would not hesitate to cancel travel arrangements upon any indication of a threat to your safety.
You should also know that the Cuban people are diverse, happy and welcoming. We promote a culture of inclusively and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind whatsoever—whether based on race, sexual orientation, gender, country of origin or any other basis. Should you ever be caused to feel disrespected or treated unproperly at any time on your trip, please immediately inform one of our team members so that we can report the incident promptly.
“I have never felt so safe, welcomed and happy in a foreign place (and I have traveled all over the world!).”
Insure your trip
Buying full coverage travel insurance is the best way to prepare for unexpected occurrences and give you peace of mind with your booking. Look for a policy that includes additional health insurance and emergency evacuation insurance, as the Cuban health system is not well equipped for the most serious accidents. We recommend Allianz Travel Insurance.
Take copies of your travel documents; printing in Cuba may be difficult
Print a copy of your passport or keep a picture of it on your phone. Bring printed versions of any other important documents such as proof of travel medical insurance.
Save your visa and boarding pass
It is important to save your visa and boarding pass even after you arrive in Cuba. You will need your visa to exit the country, and your boarding pass serves as proof of medical insurance. Keep your boarding pass with you at all times in the unlikely case that you require medical assistance during your trip.
Pack medications and first-aid essentials
Cuba’s healthcare system is known for its high-quality doctors and preventative care; however, it is important to pack all medications and first aid essentials so you are prepared for minor injuries. The CDC’s “Cuba Healthy Travel Packing List” is a comprehensive resource you can use to prepare for your journey.
Bring plenty of cash
Cuba is cash only. You will not be able to use an ATM, withdraw cash or use a debit or credit card in Cuba. Most Cuba Candela travelers should bring $100-200 of spending money per day. It is better to plan to take more money than to get caught short of funds. You can always bring back excess cash. Learn more about Cuban Currency by reading our guide, “Money in Cuba: Everything You Need to Know“
All travelers should be up to date on routine vaccines before visiting Cuba. There are no Cuba-specific vaccines required for your trip, however, the CDC recommends Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Rabies and Hepatitis B for travelers visiting rural areas, staying for long periods of time and for those who may come in contact with contaminated water or food. These do not apply to the majority of our travelers but for extra caution, we recommend contacting your doctor for his or her recommendation before your departure.
Wear your seatbelt
Our drivers are trained to keep you safe and will enforce our strict seat belt policy that all of our guests must adhere to. We want you to be safe as you take in the sights and sounds of this country from one of our private cars.
Don’t drink the tap water
Your body will not be accustomed to drinking the local water. We recommend only drinking bottled water or bringing a water bottle with a filter like LifeStraw. This will decrease your chances of getting sick during your trip.
Avoid food vendors
While street food in Cuba is a part of the culture and may smell tempting, it is safer to eat at the approved restaurants on your itinerary to avoid food hygiene issues that could cause stomach illness.
Don’t pet street animals
You will see cats and dogs roaming peacefully throughout Havana and other provinces. It is important not to hold or pet these animals, as they are generally not clean and may carry bacteria on their fur.
Pay attention to street and sidewalk conditions
Remain very alert when crossing the street. Always look both ways, as Cuba’s old cars may not be able to quickly avoid a poorly timed jaywalk. Cuba has few electronic walk signs. You should also look out for potholes in streets and sidewalks, particularly at night. Please mind your step.
Carry a list of emergency contacts
We recommend that guests keep a list of emergency contacts in Cuba. In the unlikely case that you do need emergency assistance on your trip, your Cuba Candela guide host will assist you.
Use common sense judgment
Just as with travel to any destination in the world, we encourage guests to use common sense judgment when traveling to Cuba. This includes keeping an eye on your belongings, not carrying all of your cash with you and not walking alone at night. Follow our list of “Do’s and Don’ts of Cuba Travel” to ensure a smooth trip.
Read our Guidebook
Become familiar and comfortable with Cuba before you go. We have created the ultimate Guidebook with everything you need to prepare and dream about your trip to Cuba.
U.S. Embassy in Cuba: +53 7839-4100, Address: 55 Calzada, La Habana, Cuba
Cuban hospital for travelers, “Clinica Central Cira Garcia”: +53 7204-2811, Address: Calle 20 #4101 corner of Avenida 41, Miramar, Playa
Fire Department: 105
Cuba Candela Contacts: We will provide you with the contact information of our local team in your pre-departure materials.
If you lose your wallet
We will help you find it. One of our travelers lost her wallet on the way to the airport. Her Cuba Candela host remained calm, took the group of travelers back to the hotel and used her local connections to form an impromptu search party. Going door to door, they found the wallet. It was picked up off the street by a good Samaritan who took it to a neighboring house. The wallet had fallen as our guest was getting in the car
If you don’t bring enough money
We will loan you what you need. Not having access to credit and debit cards in Cuba is a foreign feeling for many of us. If you run out of cash during your trip, we have a system in place to give you the money you need in Cuba and allow you to pay us back once you are back home.
If you get sick
We will get you the care you need.
“Our host was so knowledgeable and also very sweet. She was a HUGE help when my father’s Rheumatoid Arthritis acted up and he needed to see a doctor for a prescription of Prednisone. She knew just what to do.” – Lyndsay H.
If you lose your passport
We will continue to take care of you while you wait for your replacement passport to be printed in Havana at the U.S. Embassy. Until you are on your flight headed home, we will care for you like family.
If you need to leave for any reason
We will get you on the earliest flight. We have a strong communication system on the island to coordinate drivers and guide hosts to get you to the airport to catch the earliest flight available.
If U.S. travel licensing restrictions change and you are unable to travel to Cuba
You will receive a full refund. We have a Guaranteed Departure Policy that provides a full refund in the event future U.S. travel license restrictions, such as changes in the twelve permitted categories of travel of Cuba, prohibit legal travel with Cuba Candela.
We have warning systems in place to detect unexpected events that may affect your travel such as inclement weather or travel restrictions. This section is updated daily with new information as it becomes available.
COVID-19 in Cuba
Cuba is open to international travelers. Visit our Coronavirus Updates page to learn about the latest protocols.
Weather and hurricane updates
Like many tropical destinations and coastal communities, Cuba has seasonal rain and is prone to hurricanes from June 1st to November 30th. We recommend travelers visiting during these months purchase travel insurance in the unlikely event that their trip is disrupted due to inclement weather.