Cuba is one of the safest countries in the region for travelers in general. As I am a woman living in Havana, I can tell you upfront that Cuba is also one of the safest countries for solo female travelers, for a variety of reasons.
As a solo female traveler, there are things you need to be aware of in any destination, but solo female travel in Cuba is not a very dangerous project.
Generally, in Cuba, solo female travelers can walk alone day and night in most places without worry, take a bus or taxi between destinations, and go to clubs and restaurants without any need to take extra measures.
That said, sometimes things do happen, and not everyone has pure intentions. But all statistics will show you that violent and petty crimes alike, towards foreigners and travelers in Cuba, are very low.
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Strange Laws About Foreigners In Cuba
Also, there is a strange law in Cuba against “fraternizing with tourists”, which is targeting 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 easily travel 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.
The Safest Countries For Solo Female Travelers
I have now lived in Havana for more than a year and a half and traveled around Cuba for more than three years.
My assessment is that Cuba is one of the safest countries for solo female travelers you find. As long as you stick to normal precautions, the kind of things women would think of anywhere.
This perception is also in line with statistics and the low number of reported crimes against tourists. Havana is one of the safest cities in the region for tourists in general, including women.
I walk alone at night, I feel safe, and so far, I have not had any very unpleasant or risky situations happen.
Also read: Create Awesome Solo Holidays To Cuba 2022!
The main reason for this is that Cuba is dependent on happy tourists, and there are very 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.
I want to mention though, that these statistics do not reflect the crime situation in Cuba in general. There are problems with violent crimes in Cuba, among Cubans.
Cuban Gender Roles And Solo Female Travel
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.
Couples go out together and stay together for the evening, and strong female friendships outside a couple (or outside family) are unusual, weirdly.
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.
Appearance is very important for both men and women, as you probably will notice. For this reason, also, compliments and comments are normally welcomed by Cubans, and they think you feel the same.
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
You will not walk far alone in Cuba, especially 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.
The Comments And Attention Might Feel Like Harassment
Safe does not necessarily mean “not annoying”.
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.
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 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)
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, anything really.
Air-kissing. Psspsspss cat-calling. Invading my personal space. Super-awkward.
And the «cat-calling» 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.
Reasons can also be found in that Cuba is a closed country, there is a lack of international input and information, the economy is a disaster in 2022, 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, including (especially) women.
Traveling Solo In Cuba With Small Group Travel?
If you do not feel completely comfortable traveling solo to Cuba, that may be for good, or not-so-good, reasons.
If you hesitate because you believe it is an unsafe destination, I hope I have convinced you otherwise so far. You undoubtedly will meet both frustrations and amazing adventures in Cuba, but your safety should not be your main concern.
Now, if you have not traveled a lot 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 be traveling solo, but still have some sense of security through a travel operator helping you along the way.
It will also provide travel companions (if you want to), which removes the fear of feeling lonely that many solo travelers have initially!
G-Adventures is an amazing small-group tour company operating in Cuba, getting you the best Cuba experiences in a safe framework – and also probably new friends! Visit their home page, and search for Cuba Tours!
Whatever you prefer, below are a few lighter comments on what kind of attention you might meet from men you don’t know in the Cuban streets!
So, Who Will Compliment You On The Streets In Cuba?
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 three 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 are not intending to actually start a conversation, they will just giggle a little among themselves.
Recommended action: Ignore. Pffff.
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.
Not sure what the intention is (I am really curious as to what these guys are thinking, what do they think will happen?).
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.
Recommended action: Nothing really, you may smile to yourself, it is kinda funny.
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.
Recommended action: Whatever you prefer, if you want to chat or buy something, practice your Spanish, no probs. You can stroll on whenever you like.
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.
This is even for me, a very sweet non-invasive compliment (in my view).
Recommended action: A look, a smile, and a «thank you/gracias» is appropriate I think.
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-seconds encounter. It`s all very quick, still strange, but no need for any reaction really.
Recommended action: Ignore if you have time before he has vanished. Walk on.
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, as long as you pay, 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 the blood and bones of everyone. 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. If you really want to talk about it all, contact me!
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 really not representative of the country.
7 Key Survival Takeaways For Solo Female Travel Cuba!
- I did not mention it before, but as always, don`t get ridiculously drunk (alone) on the city nightlife scene.
- If you don’t feel comfortable walking, take a taxi or bicycle taxi, and the driver will be your protector on your way home.
- 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.
- Ask at your hotel or Casa for do’s and don’ts of your Cuban destination
- Read my Cuba For Travelers Explained Travel Guide, or the book CubaConga 2020 (to understand a little more, and save some money)
- 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.
- Laugh at the weird stuff, there is a lot of it (and yourself)
Have fun and enjoy the weird and wonderful island of Cuba!
Wrap-Up Safest Countries For Solo Female Travelers
Bottom line is that Cuba is not a high-risk destination for solo female travelers or any travelers.
Be conscious, normally aware, don’t go off with strangers alone in cars (unless it is a taxi), watch your drink, normal things all over the world.
And then focus on enjoying your time in Cuba, stay curious and open-minded, and don’t sweat the things that are weird or different from your home country!
Extra: The Cuban Humor Is As Dark As The Coffee Beans
Cubans really are super nice people 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 the culture is that the Cuban sense of humor is actually rather dark.
As sharpening of 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, 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 the Cuban society profoundly, and also the Cuban language (which really is not Spanish, it is a language of its own) to get the Cuban punchlines.
As well as knowing a bit about the politics, culture, and everyday problems and challenges of this society in order to understand the humor or even find it remotely funny as a foreigner.
One tip if you speak Spanish, is to follow Cuban humor accounts on Instagram or Facebook. I still don’t always get it, but the semi-Cubana I have become, when I do, often it is so spot-on that it kills me!
Understanding Cuba For A Yuma Is An “Impossible” Task
But you can try!
You really will benefit from finding out how to be 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.
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 making 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».
Do you have any questions about Cuba? Leave a comment, or send me an e-mail! Happy to help!