Havana, Cuba

Havana-Cuba-tourist-scamsHavana is one of the most picturesque cities of the Caribbean, an open-air museum full of 1950’s American cars and once-majestic buildings that have deteriorated over time, where you can let yourself get immersed in the salsa music, mojitos and cigars. The Cuban people have proven their resilience and resourcefulness over the years, and are very friendly and welcoming to visitors and happy to show them the spirit of Cuba.

Havana-Cuba-tourist-ripoffsHowever, Cuba is also a country where the government is always watchful and the communist influences are visible and tangible under the veneer of happiness. In this second layer of reality, the people of Cuba don’t make enough money from their government-controlled jobs, so that almost everybody has a shady business on the side to provide for their family. And the constant stream of rich tourists that are allowed to enter the country for the past 20 years are a welcome source of income for most Cubans, albeit not everybody earns it in an honest way. What’s even worse, is that even the government-controlled money change agencies at the airports have a profitable habit of stealing from unsuspecting tourists.

Havana, Cuba tourist scams

As in every tourist hotspot, tourists need to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the “all is well” holiday atmosphere which causes the traveler to be off guard when it comes to being tricked or scammed. The differences in culture and habits can be a bit confusing, even to the experienced traveler, and that gives those with dishonest intentions an advantage, especially with travelers who have just arrived after a long and exhausting flight.

  • Always count the money you want to change on the desk together with the clerk before handing it over, or you’re at risk of getting robbed, even at the airport.
  • Never buy cigars from a private person, either on the streets or at their home. You’re likely to buy fake “banana leaf” cigars.
  • If a stranger invites you for a drink in a local bar, keep in mind they’re doing this to get a commission on the drinks. This also goes for someone showing you the way to a restaurant.

Buenos_Aires-tourist-scams

Most of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a handful of Pesos, but they could still make you feel like an idiot as soon as you realize you’ve been tricked.

Be on guard for these known scams and variations to them. If you happen to run into a new kind of scam, or if you have a story about how the swindlers work, make sure you tell us about it. That’s the best way to warn other travelers and to prevent them from falling into the same traps.

And most importantly: just enjoy your vacation. Don’t be discouraged by these stories, they don’t happen to everyone, and they don’t mean Havana is unsafe. On the contrary, 99.9 percent of the Cubans are incredibly friendly, sincere and honest, and Cuba is still a great Caribbean destination to spend your holiday.

  • Money change scam

    Havana-Cuba-money_change-scam-tourist-ripoffs

    Money change scams are found in almost every tourist hotspot across the globe. Most of them happen when a tourist changes money on the streets with someone who just approached them instead of at an official money exchange office. In Cuba, it’s the government itself who steals from unsuspecting tourists who are off guard from […]

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  • Overpriced drinks and food scam

    Havana-Cuba-bar-scam-tourist-ripoffs

    There are two versions of this scam in Cuba, one of which is very similar to the bar scams that you find in other tourist destinations like Budapest, Jamaica and Bangkok, except that 1) the prices, though exorbitant for local standards, are not bankbustingly extreme and 2) there’s no need to use physical threats to […]

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  • Fake cigars scam

    Havana-Cuba-fake-cigars-scam-tourist-ripoffs

    Cuba is famous all over the world for its cigars, they are the pride and joy of the country and the Cubans are not afraid to show it. With well-known and respected brands like Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta and Montechristo, Havana is the capital of the cigar industry and every tourist would love to take […]

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Comments

  1. Rosemary Crosland says:

    We picked up a hitch hiker near Trinadad in the mountains he spoke good English and showed us some beautiful places off the tourist track …lovley bloke …however …we stopped at a farm for coffee and shortly afterwards we had a puncture he helped us change the wheel and when we got to the next town he suggested that he would take our tyre to be repaired as he would not get charged tourist rates. OK good idea but when reappeared with the tyre he told us the price was 39CUC …..a lot of money for Cuba. We dropped him off shortly afterwards and realised he had proberbly put something under the tyre when we stopped at the farm !! However we had a great day and visited some wonderful places using his advise and directions.so lesson learned he proberbly made £20 out of us for his trouble.

  2. JUNE TROTTER says:

    We have just returned from a cruise where we spent 2 days in Havana. On our first day we agreed a price 5CUC each for a 1 hour bicitaxi ride round the main sites. The Driver drove us around, kept stopping for us to wander round squares, took us to Dos Hermanos Bar where we bought him a monitor. However, when we asked him to take us back to the Museum of the Revolution he drove us round some really awful areas (so we couldn’t get off) then met up with one of his “colleagues” in a side street somewhere near the Museum and demanded 200CUC for the ride. We didn’t have that much money on us, so they demanded American Dollars. They became quite aggressive and in order to get to safety we ended up giving them $150. This was a scary experience and I am writing this to warn other travelers to BEWARE OF BICITAXIS.

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