Is it safe to travel solo as a female in Cuba? It’s a question that crops up a lot, and we’re not really sure why! Away from the headline grabbing war of words between the communist government in Cuba and the United States – which has lasted since the presidency of John F Kennedy – there is a truly welcoming Caribbean nation. From Baracoa and Santiago in the east, to Pinar del Rio and La Fe in the west, you can be absolutely sure of a warm welcome as a solo female traveller. That said, here we detail all you need to know as a solo female traveller.
In contrast to some Caribbean destinations, Cuba is phenomenally safe for travellers, and that doesn’t change if you’re female or if you’re travelling alone. Though you shouldn’t face any significant problems, it’s always wise to keep an eye on your belongings in crowded areas such as markets.
Any attention you receive will more likely be as a tourist generally, rather than a solo female tourist, with locals eager to find out where you’re from and perhaps practice their English. Should it become any more than this, be firm – it doesn’t matter in which language – and try and find a safer spot, such as the lobby of a hotel where there are staff and security guards to keep an eye on any trouble makers.
What to bring
The first thing to say is that Cuba has been up against a trade embargo from the United States since the 1960s. While this has led to the crumbling façades and vintage taxis that make Cuba such a unique destination, it also means items aren’t as readily available here as elsewhere in the world. You should therefore bring any special toiletries – and definitely medicines and sun creams – with you and not rely on finding them in the country.
We wouldn’t recommend relying on a constant internet connection to get you around either – those mapping, language, and travel guide apps could well be useless because of the limited access to internet connections that the country has. To be safe, its best to print off anything you might need – from airline tickets and addresses to maps and things to see and do – before you leave home.
Its warm climate means you’ll want lots of light clothing from natural materials such as cotton, which helps your skin breath. Beach wear, from swimming costumes to sun hats and summer dresses, are also a must if you’re to get the most out of your time as a solo female traveller in Cuba. And while you can definitely get around Cuba in casual fashion, Cuba’s like to get dressed up when heading to a bar or nightclub, so you might like to take some evening wear (or accessories to add pazzazz to day wear) to help blend in!
How to travel
How can we put this? Public transport in Cuba is …interesting to say the least. If you opt to travel by this means you’ll be saved the worst of the crush by being required to use the more expensive Viazul coach network that crosses the country and providing ticket holders with dedicated seating.
A better way to travel around the country is perhaps as part of a tailor-made tour in Cuba. That way you get to create your own personalised itinerary – seeing what you want to see, and avoiding everything you don’t – and having the added advantage of knowledgeable English-speaking local guides, and private air-conditioned transport to get you from place to place.
Where to stay
The highlight of many independent traveller’s time in Cuba, casa particulares are without doubt the best places to stay on the island. The best way to think of these uniquely-Cuban establishments is as a bed and breakfast. A relatively new concept for the still heavily controlled and restricted Cuban economy, casas (as they are more routinely known) offer a much better option than the large government-owned and run hotels on the island. Run instead by families, casas generally consist of just a handful of bespoke rooms in the family home, and range from budget bed-and-bathroom listings to luxury penthouse apartments.
As a solo female traveller you’ll get the benefit of becoming a member of the family for however short a time period, have trustworthy people to chat with, and learn a lot more about Cuban culture than you ever will in a hotel with hundreds of rooms. Should you need further convincing, the breakfasts (as well as lunches and dinners should you want them) are rapidly becoming legendary – just another demonstration of the Cuban desire to welcome their guests!
If you’ve ever wondered whether Cuba was a safe destination for solo female travellers, we’ve hopefully shown you that it is, detailing a few hints and tips that will make any solo journey to this wonderful island all the better along the way.