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Crime & Safety

Crime & Safety

Written by and/or contributed to by Christopher Baker
Is crime a serious issue?
Cuba has the lowest crime rate in the Western Hemisphere. Even in neighborhoods that you would avoid in other major cities (such as much of Centro Habana) you are unlikely to suffer any incidents of violent crime. Incidents, which do happen, are generally tied into a more personal encounter with ‘dubious characters’.

Petty crime is more of a concern and a bag left unattended in a major city may well be swiped. Pickpocketing does happen in certain locations, especially in busy discothèques although, again, is relatively rare and should be preventable with a certain degree of caution and lack of ostentation.

General hassling is pretty prevalent at least in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and other major tourism spots. Hustlers are called jineteros/as, literally jockeys, and, while they can be an annoyance, are generally pretty good-natured and non-threatening once you accept their existence and learn to politely but firmly decline their offers of cigars/‘friends’/special paladares, etc.

Begging does exist in certain spots but again is pretty minimal and non-invasive.

Cuba a good place to travel alone as a woman?
This really is a question of your own attitude. Some women love the flattery and the attention (piropos), which is omnipresent; others find it threatening and unpleasant. You need to bear in mind that a Cuban guy is simply programmed to whistle and shout compliments at a pretty woman walking down the street. Anything else would be considered an insult. You should learn a few responses in Spanish since there is no point in getting grumpy about it, better simply to point out that you are out of their league!

Having said that, as in any country, especially in major cities, you need to use your female instinct. Don’t go down dark streets at night, the same streets you wouldn’t go in your own hometown. Take a taxi when you go out at night and ask the taxi driver to wait until you close the door of your home behind you. Smaller towns like Trinidad or Viñales are safe at nighttime for female travelers; you can just walk home. The major risk for some single women traveling alone may in fact be falling in love!

  Christopher P. Baker is a professional travel writer and photographer, and leads tours of Cuba for MotoDiscovery and National Geographic Expeditions. His six books about Cuba include MI MOTO FIDEL: MOTORCYCLING THROUGH CASTRO?S CUBA (National Geographic Adventure Press), winner of two national book awards.
? Christopher P Baker
travel writer ? photographer ? moto-journalist ? cuba expert |

Lowell Thomas Award 2008 Travel Journalist of the Year  

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