Is it Safe Visiting Cuba?

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Fishermen along the seafront Malecón at sunset

It’s funny how often we are asked if Cuba is a safe place to visit.

Cuba has to be one of the safest places to travel at the moment. The thought came to us when a friend sent a link to a story from last December featured in Condé Nast Traveller entitled “10 ‘Dangerous’ Places That Are Actually Safe To Visit.” Cuba was one of the 10.

The article did not go into much detail as to why Cuba was safe. Here is what it said while showing a rather old photo of the Federico García Lorca Theatre next to the Capitol building:

Under Obama, traveling to Cuba legally from the U.S. has gotten much easier – whether on a group tour or a “people-to-people” trip. Beyond the embargo, the art scene in Cuba thrives – it’s full of exciting and experimental work, and much of it is largely affordable. You can even bring artwork back with you to the States without much hassle.

safety in cuba

We don’t think the person who wrote the caption has ever stepped foot in Havana or Cuba. One key reason why Cuba is so safe is that the government’s security is extremely strong and its police force innumerable. However, more importantly, the Cuban people are friendly and do welcome visitors. They also understand how important tourism is to their economy and are looking forward to more Americans visiting following the recent change in U.S.-Cuban relations.

“We are very excited about the thought of more Americans coming to Cuba,” a taxi driver told us as we were driving down the Malecón in Havana in his 1952 Ford station wagon. The hand-painted car had a British diesel engine from an old truck powering it.

We have been traveling regularly to Cuba for journalism for more than two decades and have had only one crime incident. It was in the mid-1990s and someone broke into a friend’s rental car and stole about five boxes of cigars. The thief was caught in about an hour and the cigars returned. “We don’t take it lightly when tourists are part of a crime,” we remember the police officer saying.

Indeed, the two to three million tourists coming to Cuba this year are important to the economy and represent about 10 percent of the country’s GDP. We suspect there’s another two to three million Americans ready to come when U.S. travel restrictions are completely relaxed, and Cuba is a lot safer than Mexico and most other places in Latin America or the Caribbean.