Safety / Health / Medical Services
Cuba is generally a very safe country to visit; in fact it's even one of the safest destinations in all of the Americas, the crime rate is very low. Tourism is very important to Cuba's economy so strict and prominent policing and guarding make the streets and hotels places where tourists usually feel safe. But "safe" doesn't mean 100% crime-free so you should still use common sense, and pay attention to your belongings, as you would do at home or in any other country.
You'll find a safety deposit box in most hotel-rooms in Varadero, to store your important documents, cash, electronics, jewelry, etc. Some of them work with a regular key or a magnetic card, but many are rather equipped with an electronic keyboard with which you choose yourself a 4-digit code. USEFUL TIP: After setting your code, do first a locking/unlocking test with the door open!
The hotels in Varadero usually have uniformed security personnel, 24/7. They also have fire alarms and fire extinguishers, and safety programs and procedures are in place. But safety may lack in some adventure tours or activities so it's important for travelers to use good judgement.
Most crimes in Cuba are neither confrontational nor physically-threatening, such as: purse-snatching, pickpocketing, solicitation, and prostitution. Violent crimes against tourists are very rare and they are very severely punished. Many Cubans are "entrepreneurs" and may try to sell you something of offer their assistance, but hustling and solicitation is usually non-insistent and not intended to be threatening. The Cuban people are mostly friendly, open and helpful.
Here are some the most frequently reported dangers or annoyances in Varadero (and Cuba in general):
Mostly to sell cigars, rum, lobster meal, or taxi service. If you're not interested simply say no with a smile, hustlers are usually nor insistent or aggressive.
Electrical outlet confusion:
ELectrical current could be 110V or 220V (depending on the hotel), and the electrical outlets are not always labelled. Check with Reception if you are unsure before risking damage to your devices.
Pickpockets and snatch & grab
Occur mostly in the downtown area especially in crowded places or during special events, festivals or fiestas.
Mostly theft of unguarded belongings on the beach.
Red flags on the beach
Although the sea is usually calm in Varadero, it can sometimes be more dangerous due to higher surf, strong currents or undertow, especially during bad weather (strong winds, tropical storm or hurricane). Green Flag: Low hazard calm condition, Yellow Flag: medium hazard moderate surf and current, Red Flag: High hazard high surf and strong currents.
Solicitation for prostitution
Occurs mostly around the downtown area, in nightclubs, and around the cheaper low-end hotels.
Overweight baggage charges
Some check-in agents may try to tell you that your checked baggage is overweight on your return flight, charge a fee and then keep the money for themselves. If you’re almost certain that your baggage is within the weight limit, ask to speak to a supervisor, chances are the agent will apologize saying that it was a mistake.
Theft in checked baggage at the airport
Thefts of items in checked baggage by airport employees have been reported at Varadero airport. We suggest that you don't pack valuables or small electronics in your checked baggage.
Most cigars sold on the street or beach and by bartenders or taxi drivers are counterfeit, even if they have the proper label and seal of a well-known brand. They will most likely tell you that the cigars were taken from someone they know who work at this cigar factory, it's rarely true. It doesn't mean though they're bad cigars or they aren't a great deal, but simply that they are fake.
Health and Medical Care
The Cuban health care system has a very good reputation and is more advanced than most other countries in Latin America. It often serves as a model for developing nations around the world. Cuban doctors are usually highly qualified and the care and treatments are comparable to the ones received in more developed and wealthier countries, but some medicine or equipment are not always available or sometimes obsolete.
Cuba operates a special division or hospitals and clinics for paying foreign clients, with English-speaking doctors and better supplies and equipment. They are called "Clinicas del Sol" and are part of the SMC network (Servicios Medicos Cubanos). There's one of these international clinic in Varadero, see the list of clinics and pharmacies below. The cost for a consultation or treatment is very low compare to private clinics in North-America or Europe. In recent years, "Medical Tourism" greatly increased in popularity; several thousands of "Health Tourists" travel to Cuba each year.
Mandatory health insurance and Asistur
Since May 1st 2010, all foreigners who travel to Cuba must be covered by a travel insurance that includes a medical care benefit. Upon arrival travelers may be required to present a proof of medical coverage valid for the entire period of their stay in Cuba; in the form of an insurance policy, medical assistance card, insurance certificate, etc. If you enter Cuba without medical insurance, you'll have to purchase a health insurance plan with the Cuban travelers aid company called ASISTUR S.A. (www.asistur.cu), at the point of entry.
Clinics and Pharmacies in Varadero:
Hotel’s medical service (mini-clinic)
Most of the larger hotels offer some medical services on-site (doctor and/or nurse) for basic first aid.
Clinica Internacional Varadero (Clinicas del Sol)
Address: Avenida 1 between Calles 60 and 61
Phone: (53 45) 66 7710/7711/7712
Opening hours: 24 hrs
This is the largest and best equipped clinic in Varadero for tourists. Services include: Emergencies, medical or dental consultations (10 to 30 CUC), hotel calls (50 to 75 CUC), ambulance, medical imaging (X-rays, ultrasounds), laboratory, physiotherapy, dental clinic, good pharmacy on-site.
Centro Estomatologico (Dental Center)
Avenida 1 corner of Calle 49, varadero
Opticas Miramar Varadero (optical clinic)
Avenida 1 corner of Calle 42, Varadero
Phone: (53 45) 66 7525
Hours: Mon. to Fri.: 9am to 5pm. Sat.: 9am to 1pm
Plaza America SPA Club
Avenida Las Americas, Varadero
Phone: (53 45) 66 8181 ext.233
Consultation, natural medicine, body treatments, electrotherapy, acupuncture, massages, cosmetology.
Farmacia Internacional Aeropuerto Juan Gualberto Gomez (Varadero Airport)
Carretera Areglatito, Carbonera, Matanzas
Phone: (53 45) 25 3489
Farmacia Clinica Internacional
Calle 60 corner of Avenida 1, Varadero
Phone: (53 45) 66 7710/11
Opening hours: 24h
Novafarma - Farmacia Internacional Servimed Plaza America
Avenida Las Americas, Varadero
Phone: (53 45) 66 8042
Opening hours: 8am to 9pm
Novafarma - Farmacia Internacional Servimed Kawama
Carretera Kawama corner of Calle 4
Phone: (53 45) 61 4470
Farmacia Hotel Breezes Bella Costa
Avenida las Americas Km 3.5
Phone: (53 45) 66 7210
Farmacia Iberostar Varadero
Carretera Las Morlas (Autopista Sur)
Phone: (53 45) 66 9999
Farmacia Hotel Royal Hicacos
Carretera Las Morlas (Autopista Sur) Km 15
Phone: (53 45) 66 8844
Lily & Normand