Is Cuba Safe?
Cuba is generally very safe for visitors. The island is definitely one of the safest countries among Latin America. But there are dangers everywhere in the world, and Cuba is no exception, even if violent and non-violent crime are very uncommon throughout Cuba. Scams are the most likely safety issue in Cuba. But in general, most travelers feel very comfortable traveling in Cuba.
First, the good news: Generally speaking, you don't need to worry! Cuba is a very safe travel destination. Violent crimes hardly accrue. If you get victim of a scam, it will be usually just a few bucks. Most common are tiny price scams, where you get charged too much. For example, if a drink is officially 1 USD, the sales-person will charge you 2 USD. This happens very frequently, also between locals, mainly in public stores, like supermarkets and gas stations (remember: Cuba is a socialist country). It is somehow part of the Cuban system, due to the low public salaries.
Can one trust the police in Cuba?
Short answer: Yes! While one or the other policeman may turn a blind eye to a small matter for the sake of a tiny favor, the Cuban police has no sense of humor when it comes to criminal offenses. Especially not when foreigners are involved. If you are harassed, the threat to inform the police is usually enough. In the case you need help, just dial 1-0-6 (free from any phone).
7 Safety Tips for Traveling safely around Cuba:
Be cautious getting drunk too much
Never drink too much! Stay in a state where you’re aware of your surroundings. We generally recommend sticking to two, or tree drinks per night. Don’t accept drinks from strangers, and don’t leave them out when you’re drinking them. Keep your drinks always close to you and watch them like a hawk.
Documents, Money & Credit cards
Have copies of all your important documents. Only take a reasonable amount of cash and a debit card with you when going out. You should have two debit cards, ideally connected to two different bank accounts. Keep a few hundred dollars in your account, hide the card in your luggage or room, as backup for your primary card. Keep the rest of your stuff well locked up in your accommodation. Hide your money in multiple places. Do not keep your wallet in your back pockets!
Stay away from drugs of all kind
Cuba is almost drug-free. Even soft drugs can hardly be found. Not only the possession but also the consumption of any drug can be punished with dramatically severe penalties. Like anywhere in the world, drugs can be cut with poisonous substances that can even lead to your death.
Better not to have valuables on display
Many Cubans live in economically difficult conditions. Even if Cuba is very safe, flashy valuables can become a security risk in very rare cases. It should also be considered that the pandemic has made the economic situation worse. Therefore, it is better to leave expensive jewelry and other valuables at home. If you carry valuables (Camera & Phone), you have to be careful when you are between crowds of people (Public Transport, Stations & Beaches). Travelling by bus or plane, it is better to keep your stuff locked up.
Stay away from the black market
Money should definitely be exchanged in banks and official exchange offices. Anyone who exchanges money privately is not only liable to prosecution, but also runs a not inconsiderable risk of being scammed. The same applies if you try to purchase counterfeit cigars!
Do not Engage in prostitution or with Jinteros
Prostitution is forbidden in Cuba. If you involve yourself in that business, you may get robbed. Bringing a person to your accommodation is always a risk, for you and the owner of the place, if you stay in a casa particular. If you plan to take someone with you, better be clear about the identity (e.g. make a photo of the ID-Card).
Being careless or have too much trust
While traveling in Cuba, you often have to look twice to make sure everything is in order as it should to be. This applies both when paying and on many other occasions. For example, before taking a cab or going to a restaurant, you should always be aware of the price. Also, the one or other story of people seeking help or other people who are looking for contact with foreigners may be motivated in a financial interest.