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Crime and Safety

Cuba - Crime and Safety


Cuba is generally a very safe country; strict and prominent policing, combined with neighborhood watch style-programs keep the streets safe from violent crime. Nonetheless, a certain degree of common-sense and caution is advisable, especially in major cities. Visitors are advised to avoid coming to the attention of the Cuban police and security services. Drug laws can be draconian and their implementation unpredictable. The same may be said about the laws concerning prostitution. The importation, possession or production of pornography is strictly prohibited. Tourists are therefore advised not to involve themselves in the following three areas: politics, drugs, or pornography/prostitution. It should be noted however that Cuba is not totalitarian by any means, and usually mild comments concerning the regime will not lead to arrest or other penalties. In fact, many employees and locals will often openly agree with the criticisms, especially away from the major cities.


Scams

A few well established scams exist:

Real-looking discount cigars of dubious authenticity being offered by street touts.

"Friendly" locals inviting tourists to bars for a drink (normally a Mojito) or to a restaurant; the tourist will be charged two to three times the normal price, and the spoils split between the establishment and the "friend".

Short-changing in bars or taxis or giving national pesos (CUP) in change for convertible pesos (CUC).

In Havana it is important to always be careful when using money. When taking a taxi, ask someone familiar with the system what the approximate fare should be, as many drivers will try to set an artifically high fare before departing. If in doubt, insist that they use the meter. You can almost be sure that any predetermined fare from the airport is at least 5-10 CUC higher than it should be - insist on the meter.

Shop assistants have been known not to give change and go on serving the next customer, assuming the tourist will not be able to speak enough Spanish to question the matter. In addition, some ambiguity exists between whether or not published prices are in CUC or CUP, and many vendors will take CUC when CUP is due and pocket the difference without telling you of your mistake. If in doubt, observe what the other customers are doing before making your purchase.

Credit card scams are common. Do not let your credit card out of your hands, and watch as the salesperson passes the card in the machine. If anything seems strange, DO NOT SIGN! Merchants in small shops may take your card to an adjacent bank counter and use it to take out a cash advance. Look closely at your receipts, if the receipt indicates 'Venta' and a dollar or CUC amount, this means that is has been passed as a cash advance (which will be kept by the dishonest employees). Often, real products such as rum and cigars may be switched by employees for fake ones which are under the counter or in a storeroom.

Jineteros are a problem in more hidden areas of larger cities, and will try to sell tourists anything from restaurants to cigars to drugs. Note that this type of soliciation is illegal in Cuba and most will leave you alone if you ignore them or politely say no for fear of police attention. If you do find yourself in a situation with a more relentless jinetero, tell them that you have been in the country for several weeks, that you are a student at the university or that you are from a third-world country (which you could pass as a citizen of) and they will probably leave you alone. Many rely on tourists with who are unfamiliar with the system and comparatively rich, so ideally you should try to make an impression otherwise.


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