Tourist Info (FAQ)

Absolutely! It's relatively safe, sunny, historic and loads of fun! While the embargoes on Cuba and the communist rule may steer less adventurous spirits away, the nation's political climate has, over the decades, also created a unique, insulated culture. It's a culture centered around family, music, baseball and food. There is an antique feel as old cars, maintained through the ages, race around less-maintained, palm-lined streets. Flatbed trucks brimming with bananas and mangoes roll by vendors with hand-rolled cigars for sale as open-air markets, tourist attractions, national parks, exotic trees and beautiful beaches thrive under sunny, blue skies. Be it lounging on white sandy beaches, sipping a cold Cristal beer in Hemingway's favorite bar or strolling Havana's historic streets, Cuba is an unforgettable adventure.

On the streets, Cubans will often approach tourists with the question: "Where are you from?" Many Cubans love to talk, meet new people and hear about life elsewhere, though some tourists, after wandering Havana's streets for a few days, get the feeling that talkative citizens are simply running a hustle. There are hustlers and many Cubans, like the French, can be snobbish to tourists but, overall, there is a gentle kindness in Cuban culture that is unlike much of the world.

Due to property laws, several generations of families often live under one roof with pets, relatives and friends. Kids play baseball in the street with make-shift equipment, music is everywhere and Cubans love to salsa to classic Caribbean tunes. It is a Spanish-speaking nation with the highest literacy rate in the world: 99.8 percent.

Havana, the country's capital, is Cuba's largest city with over two million residents. As the Caribbean's second largest city, Havana is a major port and commercial center. The country's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba, is located 540 miles southeast of Havana and is also a major port. It has a smaller population of just under 500,000. Other Cuban cities, in descending order by population, include Camaguey, Holguin, Santa Clara, Guantanamo, Bayamo, Victoria de Las Tunas, Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, Punar del Rio, Matanzas, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Cadenas and Palma Soriano.

Overall, Cuba is relatively safe with the lowest crime rate in Latin America. This high level of safety combined with beautiful beaches and scenery is why Cuba is such a popular tourist destination for young or retired couples, solo travelers and families alike. However, Cuba is not free of petty crime and tourists should always keep their guard up as there are pickpockets, con artists and, like anywhere, the occasional thug wandering around. Violent crime against foreign tourists is extremely rare. In fact, violence is usually perpetrated by one drunken tourist to another rather than Cubans attacking foreigners. Cubans who get caught harassing tourists face stiff consequences. Sexual assault is also rarely reported and female tourists can stroll city streets solo even at night, but women should remain vigilant as Cuban men can be aggressive in their "seduction" techniques. Cuba has strict laws, hard prison sentences and police always on patrol. While keeping themselves safe from petty criminals, foreigners should also be careful to abide by the law as nobody is immune to Cuba's rather unforgiving legal system.

Some people consider Cuban food and water safe but, really, it's better to avoid raw foods, make sure all your shots are up to date and only drink from a bottle that you opened yourself. Avoid consuming tap water – a rule that includes ice and watered-down drinks. Many doctors and experienced travelers recommend that, if you didn't peel it, don't eat the fruit and make sure your meat is not only thoroughly cooked, but also cooked recently. Of course, no matter how careful or vaccinated you are, foreign bacteria and other ailments are always lurking in any tropical destination. Some tourists do just fine ignoring the recommendations and never get sick. Others can, quite frankly, spend a lot of their trip in the restroom or even make a trip the hospital. Don't worry, Havana does have modern medical facilities and many of the doctors speak English.

Pack for the weather. It is hot in Cuba all year round. There's little reason to wear long pants or sweatshirts, though it's recommended that tourists bring one warm outfit just in case because, besides cooler coastal nights, the air conditioning in some places and on tour buses can be freezing. The island is prone to sporadic, unexpected rain, so be ready to get wet. Many tourists bring candies, gum, little games and baseballs to pass out to the kids. The youth, who love baseball, rarely get a chance to pass a real ball around. Also, items like wall calenders, pens, hair brushes and other small tokens can be used to tip your hotel maid or even trade in flea markets. Strong sun lotions, bathing suits, sunglasses and flip flops are, of course, essential when traveling to Cuba.

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