Take the 2-minute tour ×
Travel Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for road warriors and seasoned travelers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

How/what is the crime rate in Cuba? Is walking around in Havana and travel by car through the country reasonably safe for travellers?

Any tips?

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted
  • Nationmaster

    has a collection of crime statistics for Cuba, and how it ranks with the rest of the world.

  • Wikipedia

    has a page about corruption in Cuba and the effects.

  • Cuba Junky

    has a discussion about crime, scams and what to watch out for there. I personally love the picture they chose to use at the top of the page!

share|improve this answer
2  
+1 for your research, but please be aware that Cuba is a very closed country, so statics about it are usually biased. If they come from the goverment, they will try very hard to hide the "bad things", if they come from the mass media (kind of everyone else) they will try very hard to highlight those "bad things". It is always difficult for outsiders to get a fair picture. –  yms Nov 17 '11 at 0:50
2  
Of course, which is why I checked - nationmaster for example takes its stats from groups like Amnesty International, which does its utmost not to present biased information. But I do accept there will always be some error and bias from any country, and especially closed ones like that. –  Mark Mayo Nov 17 '11 at 1:08

This one is tricky... From what I have heard from latino-american friends, criminality rate in the rest of Latino-America is in general higher than in Cuba, probably because firearms are strictly and effectively forbiden by the government.

HOWEVER! I would not recommend a foreigner to drive a car in Cuba. If you run into an accident and someone gets hurt, the justice system will destroy you. In Cuba, you are guilty until you prove otherwise.

http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/07/22/canadian-teen-detained-in-cuba-after-car-crash/

http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20100629/ontario-teen-cuba-100629/

More recent case (in Spanish):
http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2011/11/16/baleares/1321464577.html

Walking in Havana during the day is in general safe. During the night you can still walk around but it might be safer to do it in groups, not very far from the tourist center (which is protected by a special police group specially trained to protect tourists) and always trying to avoid talking to "dangerous looking" fellows (if you know what I mean).

share|improve this answer

I visited Cuba in July 2011 together with a friend. We traveled from Havana to Santa Clara and down to Trinidad and back. And by personal experience can tell you this:

As Jonik wrote as well, there are very high penalties in crimes related to tourists. In fact there are laws which forbid Cuban citizens to hang out with tourists. Meaning walking around on the streets with you and talking to you. In Havana especially this law is enforced by many police checkpoints. We found this out because we were running around town with our Cuban friend, and we got stopped at least 5 times by the police. In every control they only asked our Cuban friend for his ID and papers, and payed no attention to us at all. In the first control we told the police officer that we were friends and it was okay, upon which he called the police headquarters and made our friend officially responsible for us. So he made sure that no harm was done to us ;)

Other than that, you have to be prepared that everyone tries to get money from you. Although every Cuban has a job, their wage only covers around 70% of their expenses. The other 30% must be covered in a more creative manner. Many people sell art on the streets, but many more will ask you for money in exchange for a picture with them, 'original' cigars etc. so beware and think. All the people we met in Cuba were very friendly and good fun to hang out with. The 'casa particular's are an amazing way to experience Cuba btw. look it up!

Travelling by car in Cuba as far as i know is safe. BUT you should be aware of the following. Your rental car will be a modern (!) car and clearly marked as a tourist rental car by a red numberplate. They stick out of traffic quite a lot since most cars are very old and beaten up.

Alternatives are: tourist bus system. There are tourist buses going nearly everywhere. Of course they are overpriced, but you'll have a seat and a roof over your head while driving. Then you have hitchhiking, which is enforced by the state. And the local buses which are either small trucks or their lovely metrobuses which can transport between 250 and 300 people and are dirt cheap.

The wikitravel page on Cuba is very good: http://wikitravel.org/en/Cuba#Get_around

I recommend hitchhiking in Cuba! ;) Definitely a great experience!

share|improve this answer
    
This is a bit muddy: "there are laws which forbid Cuban citizens to hang out with tourists". I mean, depending on who you ask, you get a very different view of what the law is! I heard something like that too from some people, but then I hung out with lots of other Cubans in public places (in Havana, Trinidad, Camagüey) with no problems at all. There was just one occasion on Malecón when a police officer checked my friend's id. But that was 2008, maybe it's changed. Other than that, great advice! Casas particulares are definitely the way to go. –  Jonik Dec 5 '11 at 12:57
    
@Jonik You really have a problem with the way you express your opinions. Do you really need to belittle Pitt's point of view with phrases like "This is a bit muddy..." and such? Remove that part from your sentence and you will see that your point is still there, except that it will not be offensive. –  yms Dec 5 '11 at 23:25
1  
About the topic in question,it is not written in black and white anywhere that Cubans cannot walk around with foreigners,but there are many "flexible" laws that can be applied on those cases and it is up to police officers to do so or not. For example,someone who have not been working for 3 months or more, can be put in jail up to 3 years as "pre-delictive" security measure.This is one of the most controversial laws in Cuba, and it is frequently applied to Cubans "hustling" turists, and even more frequent in cases of prostitution. –  yms Dec 5 '11 at 23:33
    
@Jonik: After being checked again and again in one single evening it does make you question system behind it. Maybe 'forbid' is a bad word in that sentence, perhaps 'strongly discourage' would be better. The police did try every trick to prevent our Cuban friend to run around with us. But you need to keep in mind as well that all of this was in Havana and in the evening/night. In the smaller towns the laws are not reinforced that strongly. –  Pitt Dec 6 '11 at 16:08
    
Pitt: Yep, this kind of stuff is "muddy" in Cuba, and I agree, one of the problematic things about the current government. Not only that the enforcing may vary from place to place, but the actual laws & rules also keep changing somewhat arbitrarily. (But, to my understanding, in general such rules are much more lenient nowadays, compared to e.g. 80s and 90s.) @yms: I wasn't trying to belittle (just point out that this stuff isn't clear-cut in Cuba), and I don't think Pitt read it that way. Good info in your other comment! –  Jonik Dec 7 '11 at 17:01

Is walking around in Havana and travel by car through the country reasonably safe for travellers?

(I don't know about travelling by car, but I can answer the walking around bit. Also, I'll skip posting links and just tell what I've seen.)

Cuba as a country and Havana as a large city are both relatively safe. Especially if compared to many other places in Latin America (or for that matter, large cities in North America). Personally I didn't experience any threatening situations on the island during the ~3 weeks I spent there in 2008 (mostly in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Camagüey). Situation may be different after the hurricane turmoils in recent years, but not by much I guess.

So yes, travellers can generally walk around without problems. Still, there are places, like Centrohabana, where it may not be the best idea for you as a yuma (foreigner) to wonder around by yourself late at night.

That said, what yms wrote ("During the night you can still walk around but only in groups, not very far from the tourist center") sounds overly paranoid/silly to me. I walked around a lot even late at night (for example on Malecón, the seaside avenue, and in Vedado), usually alone, and had no problems. Of course one could say I was just lucky. I'd say common sense gets you far in most places and situations.

(Oh, I didn't go to the easternmost parts myself, but I remember my guidebook had a warning about Guantánamo nightlife:

Guantánamo is a rough city, and discos can be violent places.

Dunno, maybe that's true.)

I've sometimes wondered why Cuba is relatiely safe. Specifically, if this is because there is less of extreme poverty (as in not having food to eat) in Cuba than in most of Latin America (which is a fact), or because of the very harsh penalties they have for crimes against tourists (who are very important nowadays to the country's economy). My best guess is that both things affect this. Also, in many places, like central Havana, there's a copious amount of police officers on the streets. In any case, during the 1990s when Cuba was going through an much rougher period economically, tourists were much more likely to be robbed, to my understanding.

One thing you will certainly encounter is people "hustling" with you. In some places you get this a lot (e.g. Havana Vieja), in other places almost not at all (e.g. Vedado in Havana; towns such as Cienfuegos). Some people doing this are more aggressive and might even follow you around, downright begging or demanding for some money. Many are actually very friendly and interesting to talk with, and it may far from clear if they're trying to benefit from you or if they're genuinely interested because you're a foreigner. (Also, male (jinetero) and female (jinetera) hustlers usually take a different approach to the business; men will get you "really good cigars cheaply" or take you to a nice restaurant or whatever you are interested in, whereas women, if you're a guy, will offer their company to you. I guess it happens the other way around too.)

Sometimes this can get annoying, but generally I wouldn't count it as a big safety risk. If you get tired of it, get out of Old Havana and go to less touristy places.

(Btw, if you're going to Varadero, it's practically guaranteed to be safe, but then it also has very little to do with real Cuba.)

All in all, fear of crime definitely shouldn't keep you from visiting Cuba. :)

share|improve this answer
2  
About travel by car: based on what I've read/heard, I probably wouldn't rent a car / drive in Cuba. (Don't know if I'm being overly careful here myself.) There are good bus services that take you from place to place easily (I used Viazul, the more tourist-oriented option). –  Jonik Nov 17 '11 at 19:21
2  
Sorry, didn't mean to offend. :) But the phrasing of how at night it's safe only in groups, "not far from the tourist center" does sound silly, as it simply isn't true. You don't have to be from Cuba to know that from first-hand experience. But I just had a problem with the unconditional wording, that's all. As I wrote, there are places in Havana that aren't very safe if you're alone. –  Jonik Nov 17 '11 at 20:07

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.