There's no two ways about it - Cuba is one of the safest tourism destinations in the world. Crime rates are low, and violent crime against tourists is virtually unheard of. The country also has what is perhaps the best healthcare system in the developing world and doctors are found either onsite or on-call at most hotels and resorts. But still, there are always inherent risks when travelling and precautions you can take to guard against these risks. Read on to learn more about health and safety in Cuba, and see what you can do in order to prevent any potential problems during your holiday.

Cuba Quick Facts


Capital
Havana
Area
110 860 km² (almost half of UK)
Population
11 242 628 hab.
Language
Spanish
Currency
Cuban Pesos (CUP)
Electricity
110 v / 60 Hz
Dial code
53
Time zone
GMT -5 hours

Health and safety during your holidays in Cuba

Let's take a look at what you'll need to know regarding health and safety during your Cuba holiday:

Before you go

The most important thing to know regarding health and safety before taking your trip is that health insurance is now required to enter Cuba! Even if you have insurance at home, make sure before you go that it applies internationally.

If you find yourself without international healthcare coverage, don't fret-Cuba does have an option for you. Upon arriving on the island, uninsured tourists are able to purchase a local insurance plan right at the airport from Cuban company ASISTUR, which offers a variety of plans each at the equivalent of only a few pounds per day.

It is also recommended to bring any prescription medications you may need with you to Cuba, in their original packaging and with a doctor's note if possible. Most medications are possible to find in Cuba, but occasionally it's difficult to do so outside of Havana. Better safe than sorry!

Medical services in Cuba

Cuba has one of the highest rates of physicians per capita in the world, ensuring that you'll quickly find a doctor able to help you almost anywhere on the island should this be necessary. Additionally, all of Cuba's hotels have physicians on-site or on-call, guaranteeing rapid access to primary care. In large cities and major international resort destinations, you will always find special clinics designed for international tourists. Here, doctors speak English and certain medical supplies are more widely available. As a tourist, the free health care provided in local Cuban clinics should only be used if you are travelling and have no nearby international options.

However, all this is not to say that the Cuban healthcare system is without its flaws. According to the British government, medical evacuations are sometimes necessary for patients in need of specialist care and psychiatric care facilities for foreigners are quite limited on the island. Still, for most basic healthcare situations there's hardly a better place to be in the world than Cuba.

Crime

Cuba, thanks in part to its very prominent police presence, is one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean as well as in Latin America. The most common crimes against tourists are non-violent, including pick pocketing and bag-snatching. Even these are rare however, and basic precautions such as keeping your wallet in a front pocket, carrying your bag in front of you, and being careful with cameras and electronic devices will most likely deter any would-be thieves.

Occasionally, however, more violent crimes such as muggings do occur. These normally happen in peripheral neighbourhoods of large urban areas such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba and most always after nightfall. The best way to avoid this is to take taxis after dark, especially if you must travel outside of the main tourist areas.

Driving in Cuba

Foreigners are allowed to drive in Cuba as long as their license from their home country is valid and up-to-date. If renting a car, make sure to carefully check the insurance policy you are purchasing. Additionally, remain aware that driving standards and road conditions are significantly different from those in the United Kingdom and Ireland-drive slower, because you never know what you're going to find. If possible, avoid driving at night and, as always, refrain from drinking and driving.

Scams

The reality of the current situation is that most Cubans earn very little cash income. As such, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some turn to tricking tourists as an easy way to make some quick cash. Please try to keep this in mind-and don't let yourself be duped!

One of the most common scams against tourists is an attempt to offer change in national pesos in place of convertible pesos. National pesos are worth significantly less, so be wary of this especially as you're still getting accustomed to the currency.

As cigars are one of the most popular purchases by tourists to Cuba, it should come as no surprise that they're the subject of a number of popular scams. Unless you're a real cigar connoisseur, you should probably stick to buying cigars in official shops. Cigars sold on the street are often fake, and if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Another common scam involves women approaching tourists and claiming that they need milk to feed their children. This scam plays on the image of Cuban poverty, but it's simply untrue - the Cuban government offers free milk to mothers until their children reach the age of seven. If you fall for this trick, you'll buy overpriced milk from a shop and, after you leave, the "mother" will immediately walk back in, return the milk, and split the proceeds with the shopkeeper.

Lastly, be wary if a Cuban, especially one speaking fantastic English, approaches you seemingly at random and invites you to a restaurant or bar. Not only will you be paying for everything, but you'll be paying extra - part of the cut will go to the establishment, while part will be pocketed by your new Cuban "friend".

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