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While there is a staggeringly low crime rate in Cuba, that doesn’t mean there aren’t scam artists trying to take advantage of tourists.
There are a number of scams the locals use to siphon money from visitors. Like with any country, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and aware of potential scammers in Cuba.
Here’s the scams I most often saw while exploring Cuba:
Shady government workers at money exchanges
Since US credit and debit cards don’t work in Cuba, you have to bring enough cash for your trip. When I exchanged $1,000 worth of British pounds (I was told it was better to have pounds) into Cuba dollars, I was given $900. The woman -- a government employee -- stole $100 from me. I tried arguing with her. But with my awful Spanish paired with my the soldier with the gun 5 feet away, I decided to just take the hit. I was furious. But, what could I do.
Nonexistent cigar festivals
We were approached several times from locals about a special “cigar festival.” Approved by Raul Castro himself, the festivals allowed tourists to buy Cuban cigars at a discounted price. How lucky we are! Except, there is no cigar festival. They are trying to get you to buy terrible, overpriced cigars in a dingy apartment. Do. Not. Go!
Charging for photos
It seems everything in Havana makes for great photos.
Unfortunately, if you snap a photo of a guy playing guitar or a woman in a colorful dress smoking a giant cigar, they may want some money. I got a great photo only to have a man aggressively ask for money. Ironically, he wasn’t the person I was even taking a photo of. I told him no, and he walked away.
It’s up to you to give these people money or not.
Restaurant suggestions from locals
There are a lot of people walking around Havana that are more than happy to suggest a local restaurant. However, these people are paid by restaurants to get tourists in their doors. Do research beforehand, and find a restaurant that way.
Shiesty taxi drivers
While we walked as much as we could while in Cuba, some destinations required a taxi. And nearly every time we took a taxi, we ended up arguing with the taxi drivers. They tried to overcharge us every step of the way. One night, we screamed at a coco taxi driver to pull over after his cost quote went from $5 to $25. He pulled over and we walked the rest of the way.
Are there any scams I missed? If so, comment below!
Hey! I'm Christian.