Crime And Scams In Cuba: 3 Tips For Travelers

Cuba is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit.

With its stunning beaches, rich culture, and fantastic nightlife, Cuba is the ultimate vacation destination.

Crime And Scams In Cuba: 3 Tips For Travelers

However, every country has crime, including Cuba. 

The country has its fair share of petty and violent criminals, as well as scams that target unsuspecting tourists.

While it is a must-see place full of beauty, you should take precautions to keep yourself and your party safe.

This guide will tell you all the common crimes and scams you should be aware of in Cuba, and our top tips for avoiding these criminals.

Violent Crime

Unfortunately, violent crime is on the rise in Cuba.

Often, the violent crime here is a result of petty crime gone wrong, where victims resist or fight back against the perpetrator.

Armed Robbery

Many criminals in Cuba carry weapons such as knives and machetes for defensive reasons, or to commit armed robbery.

They frequently work in teams to easily overwhelm their victims, targeting groups that they outnumber.

Sexual Assault

Incidents of sexual assault against women also occur from time to time, mostly during the night and in areas that aren’t well-known to tourists.

While incidents of catcalling are relatively harmless if unsettling, rare cases of sexual assault and rape can happen.

Top Tip

The best way to avoid these criminals is to travel in groups and in densely populated areas.

Avoid secluded areas and try not to walk alone, especially if you are female.

You should always make a mental note of your surroundings and be aware of who may be targeting you. 

If you do find yourself in an armed robbery situation, don’t be a hero – resisting these criminals can end in serious injury, so hand over any valuables and get somewhere safe as quickly as possible. 

Petty Crime

The majority of crimes committed in Cuba are typically non-violent and occur in crowded areas frequented by tourists, such as Old Town Havana, El Centro, and Playa del Este.

Pickpocketing And Purse Snatching

Crime And Scams In Cuba: 3 Tips For Travelers

Pickpockets and purse snatchers are the most common petty criminals in Cuba.

These criminals are professional and know exactly who to target and where to target them.

They are especially active in nightclubs and bars, as well as tourist hotspots and even airports. 

Car-Related Theft

Car-related theft is also on the rise in Cuba.

These criminals operate in groups where one slashes the tires of a vehicle and then offers assistance to the owner.

While they are pretending to be helpful, their accomplice will steal anything valuable in the car.

Top Tip

The general precaution for avoiding falling victim to these petty crimes is to not carry too much cash and to conceal your valuables.

You should also hold your bags tightly in front of you and never leave them unattended.

Be aware that thieves in nightclubs will target the most intoxicated people, as they have less awareness of their surroundings, so drink responsibly in these crowded places.

Scams

There are various scams that tourists often fall victim to in Cuba.

These scam artists know how to take advantage of tourists who aren’t familiar with the area and can easily spot a naive traveler.

Jineteros And Jineteras

Also known as “career criminals”, these native Cubans make their living by scamming tourists.

They operate primarily in large cities and popular tourist destinations where there are plenty of people for them to swindle.

They will try to sell you anything they can, especially discounted tickets that are not valid.

Fake Cigars

Crime And Scams In Cuba: 3 Tips For Travelers

Cuba is famous for its cigars and true Cuban cigars are some of the best smokes in the world.

However, with such popularity and high demand among tourists comes scam artists ready to take advantage of them.

They will approach foreigners on the street offering to sell Cuban cigars, however they are often either fake or stolen.

Legitimate cigars are only available in state shops, state hotels, or at official cigar factories, so if someone offers to sell you cigars on the street, it’s definitely too good to be true.

Real Cuban cigars come in a box with certification and a holographic seal.

Short Change

Cuban currency can be confusing for tourists, and some locals are aware of this so take the opportunity to make extra cash dishonestly.

Some taxi drivers, waiters, and shop owners may short change you, or add extra to your bill.

They may also give you change in the wrong currency, since Cuba uses both the CUP and the CUC. 

Top Tip

It is best to avoid jineteros and jineteras all together. Don’t interact with them and keep walking by if they pester you.

Also, don’t be tempted by what they have to offer, especially Cuban cigars, because these are more often than not fake.

To avoid being short changed, be sure to check your change every time to make sure the correct amount and currency, and always double check your bill before handing over your money.

Extra Tips For Staying Safe In Cuba

Here are some extra safety precautions you should take while visiting Cuba to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Get Travel Insurance

If you fall victim to a crime in Cuba, travel insurance is a life-saver.

Insurance will cover you if you’re injured and reimburse you for any missing belongings.

Be sure to choose a fail-safe travel insurance plan before traveling.

Make A Note Of Emergency Numbers

Crime And Scams In Cuba: 3 Tips For Travelers

It may not be the most pleasant thing to think about when going on vacation, but you consider the possibility of something unexpected.

Make a note of these emergency numbers in case you find yourself in a crisis:

  • Police – 106
  • Fire Department – 105
  • US Embassy – +53 7839-4100
  • Canadian Embassy – +53 7204-2516
  • British Embassy – +53 7214-2200

Lock Your Luggage

You should invest in a luggage lock when traveling to Cuba, so your personal belongings remain safe at the airport and in your accommodation.

It is also a deterrent for thieves, as they are more likely to target easy pickings.

Avoid The Slums

Like all countries, some areas are safer than others.

Cuba is no different, so it’s best to avoid the slums as you’ll be easy prey for muggers and thieves.

It may be wise to carry a personal safety alarm or emergency whistle in case you find yourself in an unpleasant situation. 

Identify Potential Scammers

You can detect con artists on the streets of Cuba easily if you know the signs.

People who are overly friendly and offer you information or a service should be avoided, as they will expect payment for anything they think they’ve provided for you.

This includes sketches, singing, photos, even directions. Be firm with them if they do approach you. 

Dress Modestly

In some parts of Cuba, locals are not used to the same luxuries you have.

Any indication of wealth, such as expensive jewelry or designer clothes, may attract attention from unsavory people.

To avoid being targeted by thieves, dress modestly, especially in areas that aren’t frequented by tourists.

Final Word

Traveling to a foreign country always poses risks, however it shouldn’t deter you from visiting Cuba.

With this knowledge and our safety tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful natural wonders and exciting nightlife of Cuba without having to worry about falling victim to the criminal minority.

Jim Stanton
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