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Published on March 5th, 2018 | by Alyssa Daniells


Is Cuba Safe? Debunking Travel Safety Myths

Cuba may be one of our most popular beach vacation destinations, but before booking, our savvy clients often raise concerns. We hear questions like, is Varadero safe? Are there sharks in Cuba that make water sports risky? As well as people seeking advice about the Zika virus Cuba is affected by. From being bitten by mosquitoes to sharks, we take a bite out of the myths with some fact-driven answers. 

Is Cuba Safe?

From guide book warnings, online forums and travel safety advisories, sometimes it’s a wonder we ever leave our homes to go on vacation! This sentiment particularly rings true when it comes to Cuba. More than 1.2 million Canadians travel to Cuba every year, accounting for 40% of visitors, making us the most popular nation for tourism to the island country.

Yet in spite of Cuba’s popularity with sun-seeking Canucks, our travel agents are often asked a litany of concerns like, is Cuba dangerous, is Cuba safe for Canadian tourists, and so forth. Fear not, wise traveller!  We’re here to address your worries and answer your FAQs about safety in Cuba, to hopefully shed light on the facts and debunk the myths!

So, is Cuba safe? Most visits to Cuba are worry- and trouble-free vacations. Crime levels are low, much in thanks to an austere and prominent policing known as the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).  Violent crime rates are low, however pickpockets are on the rise, particularly looking for high-tech items like smartphones and laptops. When in central and Old Havana, err on the side of caution and take a taxi at night. Like any foreign country, don’t let your guard down and keep your wits about you.


Zika Virus in Cuba

By now, we’ve seen the news reports on the heartbreaking consequences Zika can have on the babies of affected mothers, while in utero. While these cases are still statistically very low, if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant, it is advised to avoid travel to Cuba. The reason for this is Zika virus has been reported in mosquitoes in Cuba, which is then spread to humans, leading to possible birth defects. Cuban public health officials warn against travel by women expecting or planning to have a baby, as well as their partners.  There is no vaccination or medicine at this time for Zika virus, so the best prevention is avoidance. Should you or your partner have to travel to Cuba, exercise a high degree of caution by taking steps to prevent spreading the virus.

At certain places and times of the year, especially in the wet season summer, Cuba will possibly have many mosquitoes, most often appearing at sunset. In climactic conditions that encourage the growth of mosquito colonies, resorts will often fumigate the surrounding land  at dusk. However, it is still suggested to pack a good insect repellent containing DEET. You are permitted to bring it in your checked baggage, or a cream mosquito repellent under 100 mL in your carry-on.

Cuba Vaccinations

The Government of Canada recommends the following Cuba vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus. Hepatitis and rabies also good for those planning a more rural trip within the country. While they are not mandatory, consider where you are travelling. Even five-star Cuba resorts are not immune to communicable diseases and Hepatitis contamination, despite best efforts to maintain the highest degree of cleanliness, therefore it is wise to make sure you get vaccinated. These can be acquired at your family doctor, but may vary by province. Other vaccines are available at a travel clinic, for an additional cost.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following Cuba vaccinations:

  • typhoid
  • cholera
  • hepatitis A
  • hepatitis B
  • rabies
  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella (MMR)
  • influenza

Are There Sharks in Cuba?




Whether you’re terrified every time JAWS reappears on TV, or you’re a bonafide selachimorphaphile (that’s just us trying out a fancy way of saying ‘shark lover’), a common question we get asked is, “are there sharks in Cuba?”

Indeed, Cuba is home to half the species of sharks that live in Caribbean waters. The shark-infested waters that Cuban asylum-seeking migrants were rumoured to swim through were in fact true, if not somewhat of a hyperbole. Cuba is a biodiversity epicentre for sharks, in part due to the coral reefs that surround the island.

For scuba and snorkelling enthusiasts, dangerous species are extremely rare to come across. The extent of what you’ll usually encounter are smaller ones like nurse sharks. Cuba is a wonderful destination to appreciate marine biodiversity. As a developing nation in many respects, a lot of the animal protection laws we take for granted in Canada are lacking, so ask your Flight Centre travel expert to recommend spots or schools that respect the other kind of schools!

That being said, one fifth of Cuba’s coastline has been declared a protected area by the government, and there are strategies in place for introducing new regulations in this field.

The most common sharks you’ll find in Cuba are:

  • Caribbean Reef Shark
  • Blacktip Reef Shark
  • Tiger Shark
  • Nurse Shark
  • Bull Shark

(Our apologies if we just sounded like the chondrichthye version of Bubba Gump.)

Put it this way — you’re more likely to see the automotive shark fins of a Cadillac Coupe de Ville, or one of the classic cars Havana is known for, than an actual predatorial shark.

Cuba Travel Advisory

Viva Cuba street wall sign

Currently, there is no Cuba travel advisory for Canadian travellers. You may check the Canadian Government travel advisory to Cuba for additional and updated information.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Cuba.

There is an Embassy of Canada in Cuba, located in Havana, as well as a Canadian consulate in Varadero, for Canadians travelling in Cuba. Varadero is one of Cuba’s most beloved beach resort towns, particularly popular with Canadians. If you’re asking if Varadero is safe, it is generally viewed as such, but again, it is always important to be sensible and cautious.

In short, travelling to Cuba is a lot safer than many of its Caribbean island counterparts, thanks to relatively low crime rates and widespread acceptance of Canadian travellers, who provide a big boost to the Cuban economy each year.

We are always excited to talk to you about planning a safe and trouble-free Cuba trip. Let’s make your next one a better beach vacation!

Got more questions about Cuba? Great!  Contact us at 1 877 967 5302, or visit us at a Flight Centre shop near you.

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About the Author

Alyssa Daniells

Alyssa Daniells incorporates her two enduring passions, writing and travel, in her role as copywriter for Flight Centre.

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