The first, and most important thing, you need to know as a solo female traveler to Cuba is that you can be perfectly safe there. Of course, you should exercise caution and plan your trip in advance for maximum safety. However, these rules apply no matter where you go. And the truth is that Cuba is a much safer place for solo female travelers than many other popular beach vacation destinations. Violent crime is pretty low in Cuba by default, and main streets of the cities are the safest place for a traveler.
4 Tips for Staying Safe for Solo Female Travelers in Cuba
1. Follow the people
This is a personal safety tip that can help any traveler regardless of where you go. You should always take the lead from the locals. See which street vendors have the longest line, take cues on how to dress, and generally pay attention to manners and interactions.
This tactic will not only help you avoid food poisoning, high risk areas and social faux pas, but also enable you to discover some places usually hidden from the tourists. While you are at it, you should also make friends with the locals as they can help guide you.
If possible, you should start making friends before you even arrive at Cuba. Meet people online so you come to the island already knowing someone who won’t let you get lost or fall prey to scammers.
2. Get touristy entertainment from reputed sources
As the tourism industry is the main contributor to the Cuban economy, a great number of businesses on the island are oriented toward travelers. But not all of them are ‘official businesses’, and dealing with the ‘unofficial’ ones is a major risk. Therefore, if you are looking to enjoy some Cuban diving, or popular horse rides, or to take an old car tour in Havana, you should research the provider of said activity.
Airbnb Experiences are a great way for solo travelers in Cuba to meet other people. Make sure to read reviews beforehand, and print out all the details of the Experience you book before your trip, in case you won’t be able to access the internet while you’re there (this happened to me!).
If you book through a local Cuban company, check if business has a website and some independent reviews posted online. It’s true that the Cubans have yet to join the global digitalization, but reputed businesses have a solid online presence. If you book through Airbnb, you still support independent locals, by the way.
Ignore all offers coming from ‘personal guides’ who will throw themselves on you. While these people know the place and really can take you to some interesting attractions, they will require a hefty fee and you can’t be 100% sure that they are safe.
3. Be prepared for catcalls
While catcalling on the street is seen as rude and downright offensive in many Western cultures, in Cuba it’s a common thing – I already talked about this when I shared the most important things you should know before you visit Cuba. As a solo female traveler in Cuba, you will stand out and garner this kind of attention. This is a good example of cultural differences that one has to accept when traveling.
As it’s literally a part of the local culture, and Cuban women get those same catcalls and wolf-whistles you do, you shouldn’t take offense. In the majority of cases, this kind of behavior is harmless and you can ignore it completely.
However, if the people who first show those reactions to you start getting pushy, like following you or trying to get into your personal space, you should be prepared. Start with saying ‘no me moleste’ (don’t bother me). If that doesn’t work and you don’t have an opportunity to simply leave, take out your personal alarm or other personal defense tools you have on you and do your best to get to a populated street.
4. Leave expensive jewelry at home
All tourists stand out in Cuba, so you’ll definitely attract attention, and this includes attention from pickpockets and other nasty individuals who prey on tourists. Avoid becoming a target by not wearing anything these people might be tempted to steal. This includes carrying your fancy smartphone in your hand.