Health & Safety
Cuba is generally a very safe country to visit; in fact it’s one of the safest destinations in all of the Americas, 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 feel safe. Safe doesn’t mean 100% crime-free so you should still use common sense and pay attention to your belongings like you would do at home or in any other countries. Most crimes are neither confrontational nor physically-threatening, such as: pickpocketing, purse-snatching, solicitation , and prostitution). Violent crimes against tourists are extremely rare and 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. Cuban people are mostly friendly, open and helpful. Most hotels and resorts have fire alarms, 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.
Here are some the most frequently reported dangers or annoyances in Varadero (and Cuba in general):
Mostly for: cigars, rum, lobster meal, or tourist assistance. If you’re not interested simply say no with a smile, hustlers (called Jineteros) are usually nor insistent or aggressive.
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
Theft of items from checked baggage by airport employees is becoming more frequent at Varadero airport. Don’t pack valuables in checked baggage.
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 tell you that the cigars were taken from someone they know who work at the this cigar factory, it’s never true. It doesn’t mean though they’re bad cigars or they aren’t a great deal, but simply that they are fake.
They’re most common during the summer months when they can sometimes be washed up on the beach. Coming in contact with its tentacles can produce a painful reaction.
Electric socket confusion
Hotels have either 110V or 220V sockets, or sometimes both, and they are not always labelled. Check with the Reception if you’re not sure before damaging your equipment.
The Cuban health care system has a very good reputation and is much more advanced than most other countries in Latin America and it often serves as a model for developing nations around the world. Although some medicine or equipment are not always available, Cuban doctors are highly trained and the care and treatments are comparable, and sometimes even better, than the ones received in more developed and wealthier countries.
Cuba operates a special division or hospitals and clinics specifically for the foreigners and diplomats, with English-speaking doctors and better equipment and supplies. The cost for a consultation or treatment is very low compare to a private clinic in North-America or Europe. For all of these reasons Medical Tourism increased in popularity and statistics revealed that in 2006 nearly 20,000 Health Tourists traveled to Cuba and it’s a fast growing business.
Mandatory Medical Travel Insurance and Asistur:
Since 2010, travelers must have a travel insurance that covers medical expenses in order to enter the country. 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, insurance certificate, medical assistance card, etc. Travelers without medical insurance are required to purchase one through the local travelers’ aid company called ASISTUR S.A. (www.asistur.cu), they have an office in every Cuban Airport.