Is Cuba safe for solo female travel? This is me traveling solo in Varadero, meeting a dolphin!

Is Female Solo Travel In Cuba Safe? A Local Woman’s Advice (2024)

Cuba is one of the safest countries in the region for travelers in general. If you are a solo traveling chica like me, you might naturally wonder, “Is Cuba safe for solo female travelers”?

As a solo female traveler who has been visiting Cuba for five years and staying in Havana for long periods of time, I feel competent to elaborate. The short answer is, YES, Cuba is one of the safest countries for solo female travelers for a variety of reasons.

Traveling solo as a female involves being aware of certain things in any destination, but solo female travel in Cuba is not a dangerous project.

However, there are things you need to know. And I will cover them here.

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Is Cuba Safe: Traveling In Cuba As A Woman

I have been traveling around Cuba as a solo female traveler for years. Here I am on the bus from Havana to Santa Clara.
Traveling around Cuba

Generally, Cuba is one of the safest destinations for travelers in the region, and there are several reasons for that. I’ll tell you more about that later, but first of all, is Cuba safe for solo female travelers?

After being based in Havana for over two years, I can safely say that solo female travelers can feel safe and walk alone day and night in most places in Cuba without worry.

It is also safe to take a bus or taxi between destinations and go to clubs and restaurants without needing extra measures.

That said, as a solo female extranjera, a foreigner in Cuba, you will get more than a little attention in the streets. Catcalling is still very much alive, so if you are not used to that, prepare!

All statistics will show you that violent and petty crimes alike, towards foreigners and travelers in Cuba, including women, are very low.

7 Key Survival Takeaways For Solo Female Travel Cuba

  1. As always, watch your Cua Libre cocktails (they are fierce), and don`t get ridiculously drunk on the city nightlife scene. 
  2. If you don’t feel comfortable walking, take a taxi or bicycle taxi, and the driver will be your protector on your way home.
  3. You can ask the hotel staff or your casa host to get you a taxi, but you will have to negotiate the price yourself.
  4. Don’t flash large amounts of money or valuables in public.
  5. Learn at least some Spanish phrases before you go (most Cubans do not speak a lot of English)
  6. Spiking drinks is not very common in Cuba, but it does happen. So watch your drink, and if you left it – get a new one.
  7. Ask the staff at your hotel or Casa for do’s and don’ts in your Cuban destination.
  8. Read the book CubaConga (to understand a little more and save some money)
  9. Try not to worry or get agitated by the comments and cat-calling. It can be exhausting (and annoying), but it is out of your control and probably not intended as an insult.
  10. Laugh at the weird stuff; there is a lot of it (and yourself)

Have fun and enjoy the weird and wonderful island of Cuba!

Strange Laws About Foreigners In Cuba

Breakfast at the rooftop terrace on my casa particular in Santa Clara, Cuba, a huge table with a lot of cheese, fruits, bead, and of course, coffee!
My solo breakfast at a casa particular in Santa Clara

Regardless of gender, there are a few strange laws in Cuba that are called the law against “fraternizing with tourists,” which targets any form of harassment (bothering) of tourists visiting the country.

This means that if anyone talks to you in the street, you can actually call the police on them only for talking to you, using the “harassment”-card.

This, however, does not deter everyone from talking to you or offering their services. Cubans will talk to you, man or woman, either to flirt, sell something, or offer their help.

Or do business or negocio as it is called here, as every Cuban has a business on the side of their formal job to make enough money.

You are a foreigner, and Cubans are unable to travel easily outside the country. Or inside the country, for that matter. Most Cubans have never traveled far from their hometown.

So knowing or “having” a foreigner as a partner or friend actually gives social status.

Also read: Cuba Trips From US: How To Travel To Cuba From US

The Safest Countries For Solo Female Travelers

A waiter dressed in white pouring white wine in my glass on a rooftop restaurant in Havana Cuba. It is a bright summer day, and the sun is shining.
Great service at a rooftop restaurant in Havana traveling solo

I have now traveled to Cuba for five years, been based in Havana for more than two years, and traveled around the island extensively.

My experience is in line with the statistics that Cuba is one of the safest countries for solo female travelers in the region.

As long as you stick to normal precautions, the kind of things women would think of anywhere, you do not have to worry about safety measures.

I walk alone at night, I feel safe, and so far, I have not had any unpleasant or risky situations happen.

The main reason for this is that Cuba depends on happy tourists, and there are severe punishments for anyone convicted of any crime against travelers visiting the country.

We are talking about years in prison for petty crimes like theft and pickpocketing, not to mention worse stuff.

Crime against tourists in Cuba generally amounts to petty crimes due to poverty, with a few annual exceptions. As statistics show, there are few reported crimes against tourists.

Havana is one of the safest cities in the region for tourists in general, including women. 

I want to mention that these statistics do not reflect the crime situation in Cuba in general. There are problems with violent crimes, but that is generally among Cubans.

For the record, I know a lot of really nice people in Cuba. The street-style impression you might get on a short holiday is not representative of everybody.

Cuban Gender Roles And Solo Female Travel

A bar in Havana close to the Malecon boardwalk
A bar in Havana close to the Malecon boardwalk

In Cuba, the difference between women and men is still huge, and there is a very strong traditional set of norms connected to gender roles, which is why you experience what you experience.

Both men and women normally work outside the home, but women are often still responsible for the home, cooking, and, of course, looking good.

This is Latin America, after all!

Ask anyone about the worldwide #MeToo campaign, and no one has heard about it. Attention towards women in the streets is considered compliments and not harassment or disrespect.

Women out alone are often perceived to be single and approachable (and probably looking for a boyfriend) because women in relationships are either at home or out with their partners, simply put.

Cuban women out on “girls’ nights” or in cafes for lunch together is pretty much a concept that does not exist. I have a Cuban female friend that I sometimes go out with for dinner and drinks, and this concept is a mystery to her boyfriend.

Couples go out together and stay together for the evening, and strong female friendships outside a couple (or outside family) are a bit unusual, weirdly.

As you probably will notice, appearance is very important for both men and women. For this reason, Cubans normally welcome compliments and comments anytime, anywhere, and they think you feel the same way.

So, what does all this mean for you as a solo traveling woman in Cuba?

What To Expect As A Solo Female Traveler In Cuba

Me with a tiny Cuban coffee for take-away in a park in Cuba on a warm sunny summer day.
Take away coffee in Cuba

You will not walk far alone in Cuba, especially in Havana, before you get comments and attention for your blue eyes, blond hair, or just looking like a foreigner.

“Linda! Hermosa! Lady! Taxi? Do you want a boyfriend? Hola! Preciosa! 

And if you (say you) have a boyfriend or partner in your country, that will not matter. Guys will still insist you need another one, a Cuban.

This is not dangerous. But whether this bothers you or pleases you, and to what extent, will probably depend on where you are from and what you are used to.

Also read: Solo Holidays To Cuba: Important Things To Know Before Visiting

The Comments And Attention Might Feel Like Harassment

Bar 212 in Havana central district. The rooftop is full of mostly Cubans partying, dancing, and listening to reggaeton music! A TV screen behind the bar plays music videos.
You might get a little too much attention in Havana

Safe does not necessarily mean “not annoying.”

The attention you will receive as a woman alone in the streets of Havana can feel rather intense for anyone not used to it.

If you are a seasoned Latina, you are probably not going to bat an eyelid in the face of this attention as it is normal for you.

But if you originate from the colder-blooded introvert and politically correct parts of the world (like me, close to the North Pole), you just might feel a bit taken aback.

You Never Walk Alone (So To Speak)

A woman alone in a stylish restaurant in Cuba, being served by an elegant waiter dressed in black and white.
Women on a restaurant in Cuba

On my first visit to Havana, I was completely baffled.

Every 20 meters, people were speaking to me. Commenting on my appearance, dress, hair, eyes, asking questions, and anything. Air-kissing. Psspsspss cat-calling. Super-awkward.

And the «catcalling,» quite frankly, was one level beyond expected. 

Now, I have found out that cat-calling is normal, it is gender-neutral, and a way to get someone’s attention here. Weirdly, it is not rude. 

As there is nothing you can do about this, whether you like it or not, there really is no point spending any energy feeling upset or insulted, even if this is outside of your comfort zone.

This has nothing to do with you, everything to do with the Cuban culture, and the intentions are not bad.

What Are The Reasons For This?

Reasons can also be found in a mix: Cuba is a pretty closed country; there is still a lack of international input and information, the economy is a disaster at the moment, and no one has a career (or money).

Food is expensive, taking care of family is super important, travel is impossible, and the perception is that tourists are “rich people.”

Therefore, tourists will get a lot of attention from people looking for business, including (especially) women.

Traveling Solo In Cuba With Small Group Travel?

Carnival in Cuba

If you hesitate because you believe it is an unsafe destination, I hope I have convinced you otherwise so far.

You will undoubtedly encounter both frustrations and amazing adventures in Cuba, but your safety should not be your main concern.

Now, if you have not traveled solo before and feel a bit overwhelmed by the idea, there are ways to ease into the solo travel experience.

In many destinations, I have joined small-group travel for parts of my journey, which is an excellent way to travel solo while still having some sense of security through a travel operator helping you along the way.

It will also provide travel companionship (if you want to), which removes the fear of feeling lonely that many solo travelers initially had!

G-Adventures is an amazing small-group tour company operating in Cuba, getting you the best Cuba experiences in multi-day tours in a safe framework – and also probably new friends!

They have a variety of tours with different focuses and duration and great reviews across the board, that all receive amazing reviews from former travelers.

So, Who Will Compliment You On The Streets In Cuba?

A salsa dancing couple dressed in white in a park in Cuba, on a bright sunny summer day with greenery and palm trees under a clear blue sky.
Salsa in Cuba

Well, everyone.

I – woman, 47 – get them from «kids» (well, almost) and grandfathers alike.

Still, let me narrow it down by stereotyping just a tad (my apologies in advance to whoever feels violated by stereotyping).

After five years of traveling the region, I just can not help but notice the characters you will meet in the Havana streets when you are walking around minding your own business. So here they are.

The Giggling Group Of Young Guys Hanging In The Streets

These guys will stop talking as you approach, and then when you have JUST passed, they will send comments your way although you have, in fact, already passed. All of them.

They probably do not intend to actually start a conversation, they will just giggle a little among themselves.

The Muchacho Spotting You From A Distance

You can see this guy from afar; he has spotted you (extranjera) in the crowd and is heading almost straight at you.

He will not stop you or touch you, but as he passes, he will say «liiiinda» in a low voice, and that is that. He walks on.

Recommended action: Ignore. It`s weird, but this will continue to happen. If you reply, he will engage in conversation, and there you are.

The Busy Guys Debating Important Things Who Almost Forgets To Compliment You

Being a guy on the streets in Havana, there are responsibilities. And one of them is complimenting women.

So occasionally, you will receive a hasty last-minute «lindahh!!»  from someone, almost apologetically, as you have passed before they immediately resume their important debate, forgetting all about you.

Super-weird.

The Street Vendors

These guys will smile and shout compliments at you, mostly with the objective of selling you something, a meal, a touristy shiny thing, jewelry, or whatnot.

They are also normally stuck behind a bar or a wagon or something, all smiles and sunshine.

The Old Man In The Street

This guy is probably sitting on a corner or under a shady tree somewhere, and as you are passing he will say «liiinda» with the quirky old man voice.

Because men do this in Cuba, of all ages, so don’t be surprised.

The Random Guy You Did Not See Coming

This guy will suddenly appear from your left or right or anywhere, comment on your eyes (azules) or hair (rubia) or dress, or simply say «preciosa» out of nowhere, making you jump.

This, too, is a case of a two-second encounter. It`s all very quick, still strange, but there’s no need for any reaction, really.

The Street Hustler (Cuban: Jinetero)

This guy is shouting at you from afar, from the side of the street, or the next street you are approaching, with no shame.

He is not targeting just women, but anyone that may be of interest bizznizz-vise.

The opportunity for negocios of any kind is the main motivation, personal or otherwise.

He will ask you tons of questions and present suggestions to show you the city, the beach, the best bars, and anything your heart desires.

If you are a woman, you are the most beautiful woman he has ever laid eyes on, and he will invite you to something, anything, and he will be interested in dates, sex, and probably marriage.

This guy will also possibly follow you along the street and talk extensively in a mixture of Spanish and English, something it normally is difficult to ignore without feeling extremely rude.

Don’t worry, just “be rude” if you really want to be left alone.

You probably do not need this guy’s help, but also, don’t panic. This person is just out making a living, and maybe it will be fun?

This person definitely knows the city and may teach you something. Of course, he will probably take you to his friend/uncle/cousin’s shop/restaurant/bar to make some money for bringing you. Just be aware of that.

As always, never say never, listen to your gut, know your limits, and just make the judgment if the situation occurs.

Does The Ever-Lasting Summer Have Anything To Do With It?

On this Caribbean island, a lot of this is not just a way of life – it is in everyone’s blood and bones.

There is a huge difference between Las Mujeres and Los Hombres in all aspects, and flirting is as important as breathing air. 

Also, there is dancing everywhere, steaming salsa or sensual kizomba or flirty bachata. But also you have all the other stuff, the politics, the economy, the gender thing, the closed-off`ness.

You, as a foreigner, represent money, opportunities, a good time, or a better life. There are so many factors.

Wrap-Up Safest Countries For Solo Female Travelers

The bottom line is that Cuba is not a high-risk destination for solo female travelers or any travelers.

Be conscious and normally aware, don’t go off with strangers alone in cars (unless it is a taxi), watch your drink, and take the normal precautions you would take anywhere.

Then focus on enjoying your time, staying curious and open-minded, and don’t sweat the things that are weird or different from your home country.

Bonus: The Cuban Humor Is As Dark As The Coffee Beans

Cubans are really nice people who are living in a super difficult situation.

And they make the best of it, with dancing, rum, an incredible ability to fix stuff that breaks, making black-market businesses, and maintaining a reasonably happy outlook on life. 

But what you may NOT know about Cuban culture is that its sense of humor is rather dark.

As sharpening the humor is a natural human reaction to dealing with a difficult situation, there is no wonder you find that here, I guess.

After more than half a millennium in colas (lines) trying to buy stuff that is sanctioned away, having jobs that pay $30 a month, and being shut out from the majority of the world, of course, the humor turns pitch black. 

Like dealing with the fact that Cubans are not allowed on boats. Yep (long, complicated law about that). A Caribbean island surrounded by rich fishing waters where the population can not access the sea from a boat. That is probably worth a dark joke or two.

However, you really have to know Cuban society profoundly, as well as the Cuban language (which really is not Spanish; it is a language of its own), to get the Cuban punchlines. 

In order to understand the humor or even find it remotely funny as a foreigner, you need to know a bit about the politics, culture, and everyday problems and challenges of this society, which is what the jokes are mostly about!

One tip, if you speak Spanish, is to follow Cuban humor accounts on Instagram or Facebook. I still don’t always get it, but as the semi-Cubana I have become: when I do, often it is so spot-on that it kills me!

Black and white photo of a man with a huge Cuban cigar, wearing a military uniform, with a beret and pilot sunglasses.
The man with a Cuban cigar

Understanding Cuba For A Yuma Is An “Impossible” Task

But you can try!

You really will benefit from finding out how to be a Cuba-clever, which is different from cleverness anywhere else.

If you become Cuba-clever, you will easily deal with the weird stuff, make friends, and have a great time.  

Books About Cuba

In addition to my own Cuba For Travelers Explained Travel Guide, there is also the previously mentioned CubaConga 2020 (2021) tourist guide, but one that is a little different. And it will help you a bit. 

It is an e-book written by residents of Cuba (who wish to stay anonymous) and has been given the fantastic name CubaConga 2020.

It is hilarious, insightful, extremely useful, and gives you a large number of WTFs and AHA moments when illogical logic suddenly appears before you while reading through it.

Book review by Karin Muller (Executive Director at Our Human Planet)

«I just finished reading CubaConga. It is by far the most useful book on Cuba I have ever come across. Almost any guidebook can provide that standard list of hotels, tourist hotspots, and eateries. 

None of them will give you this kind of in-depth, behind-the-scenes information that you will only figure out on your own after years of living among the locals if you speak the language and make a whole lot of expensive and painful mistakes.

I will be recommending it to anyone who is going to Cuba and wants more than the standard tourist resort experience. It will save them 10 times the cover price, and they will have a far richer cultural experience».

FAQs Cuba Travel

Why are US citizens not allowed to travel to Cuba?

This is NOT correct. US citizens ARE ALLOWED to travel to Cuba.

Americans can choose a reason for Cuba travel among 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba, determined by the US Government.

Can US citizens travel to Cuba as a tourist?

Technically, US citizens are NOT allowed to travel to Cuba as a tourist. Americans choose between 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel, among which the most common one is “to help the Cuban people”.

American citizens still need to buy a tourist card, also called a tourist visa, to enter Cuba.

What are the 12 requirements to travel to Cuba?

You can read about the 12 pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba for US citizens here.

The easiest and most common reason for Cuba travel is “to help the Cuban people”. There is no paperwork or application process connected to this, you just choose your reason and state that reason if anyone asks.

What happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba?

Nothing happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba apart from hopefully, the US citizen will have a fabulous holiday and encounter Cuban culture.

US citizens need to choose one of the pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba and need to buy the PINK Cuban tourist card, also called a tourist visa.

Selected airlines sell this visa/tourist card, or you can buy one online.

What documents do I need to travel to Cuba?

You need the following documents to travel to Cuba:

Do Americans need to be vaccinated to enter Cuba?

No, there is no requirement for specific vaccines prior to entering Cuba.

Your country’s health department probably has recommendations for what vaccines you should consider before entering Cuba.

How Do I get a tourist card for Cuba?

You can buy a tourist card online from Easy Tourist Card, or from the Cuban embassy in your country.

You might also be able to buy a Cuban tourist card from your airline or at the airport prior to departure. A tourist card can be bought at Miami International Airport’s check-in counter for American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

How Do I Get A Tourist Visa For Cuba?

A tourist visa is the same as a tourist card for Cuba. You can buy it from the following places:

  • Buy one online from Easy Tourist Card
  • Buy one from your airline if they offer this
  • Buy one at the airport of departure if they offer this
  • Buy one from the Cuban Embassy in your country

Is Travel To Cuba Allowed Right Now?

Yes, Cuba travel is allowed right now.

American citizens need to, in addition, choose one of the 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba (Americans can not travel as “tourists”) and follow some simple guidelines for traveling in Cuba.

Wrap-Up Cuba Among The Safest Countries For Solo Female Travelers

So, I hope that this article will give you a realistic view of what it will be like to travel solo as a female in Cuba.

I don’t want to scare anyone (it really is very safe!), but I also want to paint a picture that is reflected in what you will meet when you get there.

You will be noticed, get attention, and be the most amazing person every guy on the street has ever met.

But you will also be safe as long as you do what you normally do to be safe 🙂

Related blog posts:

How To Book Casa Particulares In Cuba (& Are They Legal?)

Breakfast In Havana: 5 Best Old Havana Breakfast Options From A Local

Where To Stay In Havana From A Local (Hotels, Neighborhoods & Areas)

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