Cuba is safer than most cities in westernized countries:
- Old Havana has a bad reputation at night, there have been cases of violent assaults, so it should be avoided, since once the shops and official buildings are closed, it is very empty. If you are going out for dinner or listening to live music, you should return to your accommodation by taxi.
- The rest are just small scams, many related to the exchange of unofficial currency and the quality of souvenirs, especially the cigars, and small thefts. Habanos in the street should never be bought, they will be cigars, but they will not be Habanos; if you hear the phrase “it’s tobacco from a cooperative” means you should have left that conversation a little while ago.
- Tolerance is zero respect to politically criticizing the government.
- As “jineteros or jineteras” people are known to offer articles (usually illegal) and prostitution (also illegal) to tourists. They can become a real nuisance for those who do not travel as a couple.
- For information on diseases, see the Health section in PRACTICAL INFORMATION IN CUBA.
SCAMS IN RESTAURANTS
We counted 4 times in 11 days, they have tried to charge more in the bill of a restaurant, either claiming error in the price of some item, incorrectly calculating the tip, or mistaking the change, it is no longer suspicious but alarming. It is very widespread, it have happened to us in Havana, Viñales, Trinidad and in a parador in the highway. Check the bill and the change ALWAYS.
ROADS AND TRANSPORT SAFETY
Roads in Cuba are generally in poor condition, although it is true that like everything else in this country, they are improving. As for transport, shared taxis, which we will have to use at some point, are the truly insecure ones. For more information see the post of TRANSPORTATION IN COLLECTIVE TAXI and the one about CONDITION OF THE ROADS IN CUBA.
WAIT AND QUEUE
Everything here moves slowly, quietly, people take their time, no stress… I think that in my entire life as a traveler I have never waited longer than in Cuba:
- Shared taxis pick you up late.
- Buses leave late.
- To go for dinner or lunch requires planning: in the restaurants while you are served, they bring you the command and you pay, can spend two hours.
Nor have I queue more:
- To change money in the cadecas: the first time an hour in the sun and the second time half an hour, but people speak about being in the line for two hours, especially at the airport in Havana.
- To enter a bank: do not even think about it, you can waste a whole morning. Luckily ATMs are almost always free.
- To pay in a supermarket I understand, but to enter also?
- To get assistance in a travel agency: an hour.
- To buy internet cards: another hour.
By the way, the queues may seem totally chaotic, the system is as follows:
- When you arrive at a place ask “el último? (the last one?)”. Someone will raise their hand, and in that way you become “el último”.
- But the latter may not be physically in the queue; he could be sitting in the shade or just standing in the same place he was when he arrived, although perhaps 20 minutes later the line has advanced; therefore, queues are not a line, but a set of disorganized people where everyone has to know who arrived just before him.
This is very important, because we can get in a queue thinking that there are only three people, and it turns out that those 15 people sitting in the shade on the other side of the street are also waiting.
The ease of getting internet has reminded me of Bolivia in 2009. Given that as in March 2017 Cubans are not allowed to have internet at home, all those who do not stay in luxury hotels will be forced to go to a cybercafe or an Etecsa point to connect to a computer or to buy cards with code to connect to one of the very few WiFi areas, which are usually tourist butt, so the connection often fails.