In one word, no, Cuba is not a dangerous country. For us in Cuba this question is so funny. Ask people when you are there and see them smile…
Crime levels are low and from my experience take the form of opportunistic theft. This is confirmed by the website of the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) and other travel guides. Friends of mine have occasionally been targeted by pickpockets’ and bag snatchers while visiting tourist sites or nightclubs.
Australians should check out Smartraveller (provided by the Australian government) - http://ow.ly/RGjUF
Tourism is the second biggest contributor to Cuba’s GDP, so crimes against tourists are punished severely with long prison sentences. I have been told that they are viewed the same as treason - hence the punishment. A Cuban police officer informed me over lunch one day that most reported tourist crimes are solved.
Kidnapping is unheard of in Cuba, unlike other Central and South American countries. When you live in the country you begin to understand that there is no privacy - everybody knows each other. The whole of Cuba has a population of only around 11.5 million, so if anybody commits a crime it’s likely to be seen by somebody that recognises or knows them.
It is truly amazing how safe Habana and the rest of Cuba has become since the revolution. As just one example, there are cars called Colectivos and/or Maquinas which operate as taxis and tend to work a specific route (like a bus) around Habana at all times of the day and night. School children, boys and girls from the age of 7 or 8, will take Colectivos across Habana on their own. In other words, every day children get into cars with drivers who are normally a stranger to them and arrive at their destination safely. At night, or more likely in the early hours of the morning, my Cuban and foreign female friends will catch a Colectivo, and are happy to get into them alone. Children walk to and from school in Habana and out in the countryside without incident or in fear.
One of my foreign female friends was picked up by a passing ambulance and driven directly to her door.
My best advice is to just watch out for scams and don't get too drunk. This is the same advice you would be given anywhere else in the world.
A wonderful Irish friend of mine told me about the time a man attempted to snatch her bag. She was so outraged that the whole of Vedado and the rest of Habana could have heard her scream at the thief. He was so intimidated by her reaction that he promptly stopped and returned the bag!
This is not the first time I have heard such a description - so screaming or shouting at the time can stop the thief in their tracks. A few years ago my parents’ friends were in a bar in La Habana Vieja (old town). This bar had brilliant live music and people would stand on the street and listen through open windows. My parents’ friends witnessed a hand coming through the window from the street, lifting a bag that was on the seat next to its owner who suddenly and loudly leapt onto her chair, pointed at the thief (who by now was holding her bag in mid-air) and screamed at the top of her voice. This not only silenced the playing band but caused the would-be thief to return the bag quickly with an apology – he was desperate to avoid drawing the attention of local Cubans.
Violent crimes happen everywhere in the world but it would be pretty unusual for you to be a victim of this type of crime in Cuba.
The Salsa Teacher
A lot of Cuban males are teachers of salsa, especially when the foreign woman is pretty and/or blonde.
My Friend Works At The Cigar Factory
Everybody, whether they are a bartender, a guide, a cleaning lady, a taxi driver, a casa owner, or a hotel worker has a father, brother, uncle or friend that works at the cigar factory. These cigars will be counterfeit (even if they have genuine looking labels or stickers on them) or stolen.
Roadside & Hotel Punctures
Don’t let the mechanic take the car alone. The puncture will be repaired but the car might be used as a taxi for most of the day before being returned.
People might try to tell you that in Cuba milk is only available to tourists, and that they do not have any for their children. This is not true. I have worked in local schools in Vedado, Miramar and central Habana and schoolchildren receive free milk. These scams are very organised and clever. When the scammer has persuaded you to help, they will not take any money directly, but instead take you to a store. Cartons of milk will be removed from the shelves and placed on the checkout, then you will be asked to pay the cashier (I have seen pregnant women used as props by men in these cases). An excuse is made that a brother will collect the cartons later and the cartons remain in the store. After you leave the cartons are returned to the shelf and the money is split between the cashier and your new BFF (Best friend forever).
Money For Medicine
Money for medicine and/or surgery. Cuban healthcare is free for all Cubans and is of a high standard.
Pope Francis in Cuba Vatican