If you are walking or driving in Cuba, take into consideration you can be stopped anytime by the Police to check your papers. Specially while driving a rental car or if you look foreign to them.
I dont have a clear idea why they do this, just simple intimidation or probably they want some money.
Dont bribe them , just show your car rental papers or valid ID. they will just leave you alone after they see you are not doing anything illegal.
I found Havana to be on of the savest cities in Latin America. Even though the streets are badly-lit at night and can be very run down, I never felt uncomfortable walking around.
Of course, things might be different for a single woman or for someone that doesn't speak Spanish. Common sense is always necessary! But compared to similar cities in Latin America like Salvador in Brazil or Santo Domingo in the DR, Havana is a save place to roam around - day or night.
Don't stop to talk to anyone offering 'Havana cigars' on the street, as these are the most persistent hustlers around. Shops may try to overcharge or cheat you, especially if your Spanish is minimal. Verify all prices before buying, check the addition and count your change before leaving the counter. If you eat in restaurant try to keep menu or remember the prices. They will try to overcharge you.
Havana is an amazingly safe city, and the heavy police presence on the streets keeps it so. You can walk through areas here in the middle of the night that you wouldn't dare enter midday in places like London or New York. However, watch out for young men on bicycles who try to snatch purses, handbags or cameras. Like anywhere in the world, pickpockets are active on crowded city buses.
You will find many people stopping you asking for peso, or pushing false cigars. Try to avoid the eye contact.. If they stop you polite say "no" They can be very annoying. we took many stuff to give away like soaps,pencils.. but we cant satisfy all Havana.
Sometimes people are trying to be clever. One guy stopped us asking for t-shirt. We didnt have any except this ones we were wearing. He said, there is a shop its only 3 peso. I felt sorry for him. We went to shop with him to get some t-shirts and the cheapest one costed 20 peso!!!!
if you go and vist the crocadile farm please be very very careful a lot of the cages are open and some of the crocs are wondering around also there a observation towers but they aren't very safe as the over hang the croc pond and are very unstable.
This was my 3th time in Habana and i thought i knew it all not te get robbed etc. But on one of my last few days walking on the Malecon it was pretty quiet there not many people so i had my bag not across me but just over my shoulder holding on to it.Walking near the road because it was very slippery in some parts i was passing 2 young guys i didnt look at. but as soon as i passed them i got a strange feeling and just when i wanted to put my bag across they grabbed it of me and run across the street into a street next to Riveria hotel.Nobody around , no police, no tourists but they where fast.So i lost my money,camera, phone,and loads of other bits and pices.Of course it took a while to get a policeman, me waiting with him for ages, into police-car to a station..where between about 20 policemen not 1 person had a word of english.so i tried my best to tell them , but alltogether they didnt care didnt ask me what the bag looked like or the guys.After hanging around there for 3-4 hours i told them i wanted a taxi to go back to my casa and there telephone number so my friend could ring up for more information.But we didnt hear no more of it and i know people spend so much time at the station for nothing.This put such a downer on my holiday because i had sooo many good photos done and there meant soo much to me. now i came home with nothing..as i gave nearly all i have to people.Well next time if there is one i will put every day my pictures on a cd if i can because i dont care about nothing else as much as the pictures.so all i say..please be allways carefull ..even when u think u are alone!!!
Tricking tourists into exchanging CUC for Cuban pesos is one of the biggest scams in Havana. The worst place for this kind of scam is in the Vedado area, but it also happens in La Habana Vieja. If you're walking up the Paseo, young men will constantly come up to you and start chatting, trying to make friends with you, perhaps saying that they work at your hotel and have seen you arrive the night before. Now, if it's your first day in Cuba, you'll of course be delighted to speak a bit of Spanish and exchange with local people. After a while, they might slip into the conversation that you should be thinking about getting some Central pesos, that you would be getting a much better deal than with CUC. They might even offer to take you to a bank where a friend works, and put some added pressure by saying that you need to go straight away as he's taking the next week off.
To sum it all up, whatever you do, stick to CUC! They only place where you should be exchanging money is at an official Casa de Cambio. Central pesos are in fact Cuban pesos and although you might be able to buy an ice cream cone with them, that's about as far as they will take you. After talking to a few of these young men, we realized that there was a code they were using to see whether someone had already tried to trick you into changing money and it's the "salsa festival" (mind you, they might change it from time to time). But once we figured that out, every time someone would walk up to us we would tell him we already knew about the salsa festival and they would instantly disappear. Which is kind of sad because we really wanted to meet some local people, but it's still better than being taken for a fool.
It was my first time traveling to Cuba and I must admit that I wasn't careful enough. Coming back from la Casa natal de Jose Marti, someone caught up with me from behind, ripped off my shoulder strap and ran away with my purse. Some people saw us running after the thief and next thing you know, there were about 15 police cars, 50 policemen and 2 boats looking for him. Sure enough they found him after about 30 minutes and found my purse as well, with almost nothing missing. The police then took me to the hospital to make sure I was fine and then to the police station. They were incredibly nice, and even funny!
So, my advice to first time travelers would be to leave your purse and wallet behind (in a safe, preferably). After all, you only need cash to get around Havana so just bring a small wallet which you can fit into your pockets. And if you want to avoid trouble all together, just stick to the more touristy areas - there are enough policemen there to ensure that nothing will happen to you.
Although you generally feel safe in Havana, what with the police standing all over the place, there are a few places that aren't entirely pleasant. We heard that the area surrounding the baseball stadium wasn't safe at night, and as we waited for a taxi after the game, we did see some drunk kiddies get into a bit of a fight.
We were, however, accompanied by a security guard at the time, who was waiting with us until our taxi arrived. The Cuban government goes out of its way to ensure that tourists are well looked after, so unless you're seriously looking for trouble you should have no problems while in town.
Perhaps it was because we had dreadlocks, but it was difficult to go anywhere in Havana without a few offers of marijuana. If anyone offers (and you don't want to take them up on their offer) just be firm but polite and tell them no.
The same goes for cigars, or any other thing that they might try to offer you. If they continue to persist, just seek out one of the many many police officers on the streets and they'll no doubt solve the issue for you.
Lot of people keep asking questions about the use of CUC and Cuban Pesos...here are some questions and answers:
....If I was going to buy a meal or pay for a bus ride or taxi journey what currency will I be charged in?.... Depends on some factors but usually, as U´re a tourist people will say the prices in CUC. If U take the local buses or camello (I advice U not to do it) it is on cuban pesos. Taxis usually charge 10 or 20 cuban pesos for cubans but for U it´ll be more. Discuss the price prior to the ride...
....If I am charged in local pesos how will I now if I am being charged correctly? If I am charged in CUC then what change will I be given, will it be local Pesos or CUC's....If the place has a menu, check the menu. The conversion is 25 cuban pesos for 1 CUC. But if U exchange smaller accounts, typicaly it will be 5 cuban pesos for 0.25 CUC. If U pay in CUC, expect to receive change in CUC, if U use cuabn pesos, the change will be in cuban pesos. Sometimes maybe somebody will try to give U cuban pesos in return of CUC, don´t accept it and ask for CUC´s...
....If I have local pesos then how and when can I use them. Does a black market exist in currency....The cuban pesos can be used in many places. Just apply the conversion 1 CUC = 25 cuban pesos. In China town for example, the prices are listen on CUC and cuban pesos. And many other places accept this kind of combined payment. Goverment places only accept one of a kind, CUC or cuban pesos. And yes, there's a black currency market, stay away from it, cab be tricky...
Even though Cuba is a safe and has a low crime-rate, you should take some precautions to avoid being caught out by petty thieves, who are just waiting for the chance to grab any belonging such as wallets, photo and video cameras, pieces of luggage, handbags or shopping bags. Public peace is ensured in streets by lots of young police officers always willing to help in case you need them, though they do not speak english. You should take note of the following advice: do not take more money with you than you need; do not be careless with your belongings and purchases; take good care of your wallet and passport in crowded places, we suggest you keep them in your front pocket; check the bill at restaurants; get rid of so-called "tourist guides", they are not professional and many are not aware of Cuban history and culture, they just pretend to be nice to tourists in order to fool them; keep your jewels and valuables in the room safe.
Jineteras...other way to call protitutes. But this ones are quite diferent. Maybe they are have universitary degree and knows more than 2 language. Some are teenagers that hang around in Havana, mainly along the Malecon trying to pick up tourists. When they take a man home, they usually introduce him to the family, ask to buy her things, clothes or something for the family, medicines or just food. Because of the economical problems this kind of behavior is normal, they seek ultimately to get married and fly away from Cuba. Being in other countries they can help their family economically.
Of course U'll find the classical one, 20 bucks for this, 40 for that and 50 for everything....
So my advice is that if U're not along be aware with this girls. They may seem innofensive, but can create a real mess. I mean, if U're with your gilrfriend/wife they will not care and will blink eyes, make sensual movements and even will dare to talk to U... so if U're not looking for this kind of "diversion" better keep away from them.
So...women travelling alone. Cuba is a very safe country. The government has made it's best effort to keep away the big problems like grugs and guns problems. And they have achieved this goal.
Some streets may seem dark and frighteninig but they are for sure safe. Nevertheless, avoid just in case dark places or walking alone very late at night. Try to walk trough iluminated streets or just grab a taxi. At night better take a government taxi, Havanatur or Panataxi, it will be safiest, just to avoid any particular taxi driver with bad feelings.
And most of all...
Because of the economic and other kind of problems in cuba, many seek to fly away, by any mean they can find....translated it means that many young and not so youg men and women will approach to U with good intentions but many of them are looking just money, or, the final goal, get married and leave the country.
So my advice is: enjoy Cuba, meet their kind and always happy people, try to know all our customs and ultimately try to discover each lovely place this island has. But, take the usual precautions that U use anywhere and don't fall in love. If U do it, just try to be sure about your and yours mate feelings.
And this goes for men and women, same situation for each of U in Cuba!
Cuba is located in a place where almost all the tropical hurracanes in the caribbean touch or affect the island someway.
The government has a very good program to protect first of all, people lifes so if U catch one of this natural disastars, just follow the orders U receive and don't panic.
The hurracane season begins on april until november, so it leave only 5 moths without this natural disasters. The last worst hurracane was "Charley" on august of 2004. It had lot of wind and strong rain. In the Saffir-Simpson scale this hurracane was a 4, with winds of more than 210 Km/h...and that's a strong wind, I can tell U. I was still in havana at that time and it was really big. Some days after I went to the street to see the desctruction it caused.
Nevertheless the destruction, there where no lost of human lifes.