Scams to Avoid in Cuba Feature

You Havana a Laugh? Scams to Avoid in Cuba

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Is Cuba safe? Yes, it is actually one of the safest countries in the world when measuring crime figures however living in Cuba is not easy. Some Cuban men and women make up their communist level pay with Cuba scams, which is frustrating when you’ve saved hard to take a trip of a lifetime. After quite literally spending three weeks, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 scams to avoid in Cuba. Follow these tips to help you keep some of that the CUC in your pockets while having a great time but also giving the lovely Cuban people a fair price for their services.

Cuba Scams Havana

1. When did you arrive, sir?

If you answer “today” expect the response to be along the lines of… What a great day to arrive, it’s the national day of – whatever black market goods / service he is selling – at an over inflated price, of course! We’ve not heard of any Cuban airport scams but it does seem to be quite a popular search on Google. Have you experienced any?

How to avoid this scam

Smile, give pleasantries and move on. Although don’t be afraid to ask these guys if you need help with directions, finding a casas particulares (renting a room in a local home, very common in Cuba), want a car tour etc. Cubans work in connections. They can source what you need and then they receive some commission from the local. For example, we hired bikes in Trinidad. We asked a taxi driver, he walked us to his neighbour’s house and we set up the hire for the next day. The lady with the bikes was honest when we asked what the taxi driver got out of it, commission. It’s a clever way to make money while living in a country which has has been restricted by el bloqueo embargo.

Some tourists even find the chancers mentioned above charming! After three months of travel (we had arrived from South America) I certainly didn’t. If you do not feel comfortable arriving with no accommodation planned I recommend booking a hostel or hotel for the first two nights and then consider moving to casas afterwards.

Hotels in Cuba

Although casas are a great experience and should be considered for your trip to Cuba, I do understand that some holiday-makers will prefer the luxury of hotels. Some in Havana even have swimming pools and access to WiFi like the Seville. Unfortunately we can’t book before we arrive via search engines and we can’t use American credit/debit cards to pay for our stay.

Hostels in Cuba

There are a few more options for hostels in Havana than there were when I arrived. You can expect to pay less than $10 for a dorm room bed, check out the best rates at Hostelworld. Solo travellers, I would highly recommend doing this so you can meet fellow travellers to backpack around the island with and/or discuss itineraries and public transport times. We’re a couple but still spent two out of the three weeks with a group. This made finding future casas at each stop pretty easy (since one of our new friends was fluent in Spanish!) and also cut the costs of taxi collectivos (taxis) which are expensive. Cuba is really not that cheap. Check out what we spent over the three weeks in our budget guide. Final word on Havana hostels, check the images for dorm rooms, many of these ‘hostels’ advertised on Hostelworld are in fact casas, if you want a more social experience do a bit of digging first.

Airbnb in Cuba!

Airbnb has landed but to be honest Cubans have been running their own for an age! If you feel more comfortable looking at images and reviews of casas and having a booking in place use Airbnb for Cuba. New to Airbnb? We’ve used it all over the world, sign up using our referral link for money off your first stay and we will receive credit. Thank you!

2. Leche ‘Con!’

Spanish speakers will get my word play here. We’ve met two clever guys who fell for this one as well as having it tried on us! A jinetero (hustler) will plea with you to buy his baby some milk (leche.) When you arrive in the supermarket the milk will be prepackaged in a bag ready to go and you’ll be charged $20-30! Once you leave the shop, the milk is returned and shopkeeper and the tag team hustlers split their loot! Don’t cry over spilled milk – apologise and move on. This seems to be more popular in Havana than other Cuba destinations.

Avoid this scam

Just be aware and have your wits about you. As soon as you are being led into a shop take your sympathetic ear away and your hand out of your wallet!

Jinetero I Cuba Scams

3. “Lo siento, no cambio”

Traders never seem to have change! This is just a ploy so you have to buy more stuff. We fell for this with the cocktail man in Trinidad (not just one of the Havana Cuba scams). Learn from our mistake and keep your Cuban money close, tell them you’re going elsewhere for change and they miraculously find some!

Learn the language! We have survival Spanish but struggled, luckily for us we were travelling with a fluent Spanish speaker. Purchase a phrase book at the very least.

4. $6 Coffee – What a Stir

Some shops sell overpriced coffee, please don’t be surprised when a local ‘kindly’ offers to buy it for you in local currency (CUP) at a fraction of the cost in exchange for a dollar. Another scam! Coffee is about 50 cents – $1. If you are particularly gullible this scam will be extended. Your new friend will now wander through the streets with you sharing friendly local knowledge. Do expect a bill for a private tour at the end. This happened to a mature couple we met. Unsure about Cuban money? Read our Cuban Currency Guide.

Coffee I Cuba Scams

5. Blowing Smoke

Everyone seems to sell cheap fake cigars! Don’t buy them, the sealed box normally contains banana leaves. Only buy from plantations or shops, fakes and no duty paid will be confiscated at customs. There is even a great difference in price between authentic Cuban cigars. If you are budgeting, finest Cuban cigars were cheaper (three times!) in the official shop in Viñales than the official shop in Havana.

Finest Cuban Cigars I Cuba Scams

Find out more

6. Casa Particular Prices

On average, Cuban government wages are $28 per month, some would say this wage is relative to local prices, others would say it’s not. To bump up wages, many Cubans rent out second houses or extra rooms. Guide books and websites recommend you budget $10-30 per night. We quickly found that the rooms going for $30 were the same as rooms at $10. We never paid more than $10 each (plus breakfast) after the first casa. Everything you need to know about casas particulares here. Should you buy gifts for locals? Good question and one we get asked often. We didn’t and were never asked for any. My good friend, Laura, did feel that there was more of an assumption that tourists would have gifts in the south of the island or possibly because she was part of an organise tour and not travelling independently? If you do want to bring items think about what is actually needed like sanitary towels, toiletries like deodorant or facewash and toys for kids?

Casas Particulares I Cuba

7. Bad Bus’ness

Casa owners are reluctant to share bus times and hide the truth about the frequency of buses to entice you into another nights stay with them. If there really are no buses they will hook you up with a taxi collectivo (share taxi)…eventually. Print out all of the timetables you need from the Viazul website before you go. Even the station staff are at it. We asked the times of the buses at Trinidad for Havana and the security guard hooked us up with his friend for the same price! Cuba really is the country that you should invest in a travel guide book for. I never and I regretted it, I felt powerless!

8. Fawning You Off

Restaurants have everything, including deer! Well, until you get there! PRs will promise you the world to get you into their place, once there the extensive menu and inclusive drinks suddenly becomes fish, pork and rice. Remember that some Cubans only live off rations. We suffered from this scam in Caleton (Bay of Pigs).

9. Sisters are Doing it for Themselves

If the police approach your date – run! We met a young Irish high school teacher who set up a date with a waitress of the same age. He became concerned when the cops were showing her as much interest as he was! The police do try to have your back so will question known pros if they are seen with gringos. There are countless Cuban marriage scams (scamsters being both male and female) online!

Roberto Fabelo I Cuba Scams

Roberto Fabelo’s Feature

10. Shop Shut!

This scam is not unique to Cuba but we did experience a good attempt to get us into a bar and away from The Revolution Museum. An older couple told us that it was their anniversary! Congratulations, we rejoiced. After a bit of chat they asked where we were going… Alas the museum is closed today but you should check out this bar! We said our goodbyes and turned a corner to an open museum. They get commission when you step through the bar door.

Havana Revolution Museum I Cuba Scams

Now we are not saying Havana is ‘scam city’ but like many developing countries (especially this one which has suffered from embargos), there are people who try! This post has proved quite popular (and controversial!) Read the comments below for more scams in Cuba, and the rest of the world…. If you have any to add, please comment below.

Incoming – we have a new one from a reader (don’t forget to check the comments below for additions, and tell us if you experience any!): overcharged internet cards. Don’t been fooled, read our post on how to get WiFi in Cuba or make sure you have your SIM card for Cuba 3G roaming activated before you go.

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Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world but that's not to say Cuba scams don't exist. Follow this Cuba travel guide and enjoy your trip to Cuba!

Comments 114

  1. We ran into the bus and coffee scam a few times! It’s amazing how many times it was tried when looking back on it. Great write up, this will be super beneficial for new travelers, especially with US-Cuba relations smoothing out.

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  2. Wow what helpful travel advice and my guess is applicable to many other countries. The scams that jump to mind are the ones where sellers hand you something ( CD, bracelet, you name it) and you grab it by instinct. Then the seller demands money as you have taken it. We’ve never fallen for it but watched it happen to many.

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    2. OMG yes that happens alot, even here in the US where your walking from store to store in the mall and someone hands you a sample and you take it like you said by instinct and they grab your wrist and dont let go and start with ma’am but ma’am let me show you. Ugh i hate that so much!!

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  3. Great Tips!!
    Your post made me think about our trip to Morocco last year. Completely different country, culture and landscape but almost the same scams and the tiring sensation of being overcharged all the time. Of course we try and need to avoid the scams, but we all know that once a while we gonna fall in one of their tricks.
    Thanks for the tips!
    😀
    Nat

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  4. Cuba is pretty high up on my travel bucket list right now so thank you for this incredibly helpful post! I think it can be so easy as a tourist to get lured into money-making schemes and you don’t want to seem rude so you just go along with it…but these are great tips to keep your money in your pocket instead of spending it unnecessarily!

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  5. Ah, it all sounds so familiar!

    It was a countless amount of times we were invited to a special anniversary of the Buena Vista Social Club, or to someones cigar shop!

    The joys of travel in Cuba hey!

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  6. OK, so I dont know if it is because I have been living in Latin America for the last 2 years but this post really made me chuckle, because its SO true… My dad came and visted me last year and he said to me..”does everyone here ‘have a friend?'” YES, YES THEY DO.

    And lo siento, no tengo cambio is soo frequently. I have been there long enough now however to be stubborn, so Im like Bitch please…you have cambio ahaha .

    Loved the post, actually

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  7. We’ve been to Cuba a few times, but not for at least 10 years. We didn’t encounter the numerous scams you mention, but we did get shafted by one bartender. Our best experience was when a cab driver took us to Holguin for a boxing match, as my hubs loves boxing. We were the only tourists in the place, and felt quite privileged to be there.

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      Ah that’s very cool! One of Craig’s favourite memories of our trip so far is watching the Manny Pacquiao fight in Uyuni. We got a lock in with the staff, I fell asleep on the table.

  8. we fell for the police scam in paris, good thing my partner realized what was happening and we went for a run. My friend on the other hand wasn’t so lucky, they got her wallet.

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      I think I fell for a police scam in Paris! I didn’t have my metro ticket (binned it, stupidly) and four men demanded money from me – no uniforms or badges. I was 19 and terrified.

  9. Thanks for this. No doubt it will save a lot of folks from getting scammed. Unfortunately we have been to a few places (Vietnam and Peru) where similar scams seem to be the norm. They seem to think all tourists are rich and have no qualms about ripping them off. We have also run into many taxi scams, most recently in Hong Kong, where for tourists the going rate is 3-4 times what the meter would be. It gets tiring, as you can’t relax.

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  10. I think scams are just part of travelling, aren’t they?! I came across countless while travelling in India – taxis telling you your hotel of choice had been shut down, ‘broken’ meters in taxis etc.. One of the joys of navigating a new country!

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  11. Great post guys. And yes, you definitely get the gold star for the headline. GENIUS. Thanks for sharing these scams… they all sound like things I would fall for :S…. Must get better. I found Morocco a little bit like this… When I was walking through the main square in Marrakesh, a man came up and literally threw a monkey onto me. As soon as it was on my shoulders, he demanded money. Similarly, a woman grabbed my hand and started covering it in henna before I could move. Keep your eyes pealed for those ones! Loved this!

    Gabby

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      I’ve heard this about Morocco. The henna hand one terrifies. Well it did until I heard you get monkeys thrown at you too. I’d maybe just steal it and keep it in the house like Ross from Friends.

  12. This was great! We’ve been to Cuba several times but unfortunately only got to explore the streets for brief periods (we were doing the all-inclusive thing). We managed to avoid the scams for that reason. BUT while we were in Beijing, we decided to make our way to the Great Wall ourselves, instead of paying for a tour, even though we were warned by the hostel that it was littered with scams. We ran into three and managed to dodge the first on our own, the second with the help of a friendly local but the third one had us being served 60 dumplings instead of 6 at a restaurant near the wall!

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  13. HAHAHAHA! Some of these are quite ingenious, not to mention hilarious. Not so funny when they happen to you of course. I’m wary of being ripped off when I travel alone a lot too. The lost money isn’t the biggest deal really; but knowing that somebody took you for a ride really dents your confidence. Great post though – love to have some of this information first hand before you travel someplace.

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  14. Ah, yes. I have run into some of these before. They are all taking advantage of you, but I especially hate the ones where they act super friendly. I’ve grown to be wary when locals offer to do something for you and I usually dismiss them. It feels rude, but it’s often necessary in some places. Of course, not everywhere is like this, so it’s great to know about scams in specific places!

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  15. Wow, it has always been my dream to travel Cuba! Can you please write about the internet situation there? Is it really hard? I have an online job and I am afraid I can’t work when I travel Cuba. Thanks for the tips!

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  16. My darlings, it seems you have been to Cuba! It is THE scam country of the world. I must say that not even I had that many scams in Cuba – congratulations, you win. I have yet to understand why Cubans have a reputation for being friendly. They were all but friendly to me.

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      1. Oh you bet. Way too friendly. Especially when they discussed among themselves (as if I was not present and could not understand Spanish) who was going to f**k me that night.

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  17. Such a creative title you got there! I love it 😉 Great post! This is definitely a head up that my travel partner, Lilo, and I need! We are hoping to go to Cuba this upcoming spring! It’s great to know your experiences with scamming. Since we’re both too nice, sometimes we would let it slide – such as “I don’t have the change” unless my change is a rather large amount! i’ll check out your other posts about Cuba too! 🙂

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  18. Really great posts above. Cuba is still a great place to visit. The scams mentioned above are real and so great to publish them. California guy here with a Cuba tour business. We work with the best tour guides in Cuba. If you have any interest in going and want the other side of Cuba…feel free to check out our web site..Thank you. Charles Kimball
    http://www.outincuba.co

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  19. This is a great list with some awesome tips! Cuba is so high up on my list and I hope 2016 will be the year I get to cross it off! Keep traveling! Love what you are doing.

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  20. Yep, great post. They tried a few of those on me.

    I’m Spanish, but I don’t know if that made it any easier for me to discriminate between con artists and people just trying to make a living by selling overpriced stuff. While I find inflated prices for tourists infuriating, they are par for the course in many parts of the world, so I can live with that.

    At one point in Havana, though, I got really tired of being approached so often by people trying to get my money. However, I found Cuban people so charming and nice to chat with that my overall impression was really positive.

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  21. OK, brand new one. I returned from my 13th trip to just before Christmas 2015. I have been going since 2002 and thought I knew ALL the scams. I am a photographer and carry pretty major cameras when walking around. I was in Old Havana in December and walked into a Catholic church. There was a mass baptism going on and I thought it was sort of interesting, so I walked up to the front of the church and just watched for a bit. A woman came up to me and asked if I would take a picture of her family (her grandson was being baptized) and later send them to her “via Internet” (there is pay-for wi-fi in most of the open squares and parks now) I said “sure”, took a few images of more and more of her family and gave her my photography business card and told her to send me an email and I’d send her the images. (I have a special email account only for Cuba–that is how “scam-proof” sensitive I am—after fifteen years, you learn to protect your flank)

    So, I didn’t hear from the woman until last week. She sent me an email mentioning that she was the woman from the baptism with the twins. However, she didn’t want the pictures, she wanted me to top off her cell phone account “because if you do it, it is double for the money right now if you buy it in the US”. I chuckled and shook my head at her ingenuity. I have thirty images of a family baptism event and it was all a ruse to get my email address so that they could ask me for money. I didn’t get “scammed” because I wrote back using and in no uncertain terms told her that I owed her nothing, she had no right to ask me for money, and “adios”, but Cubans are nothing if not creative. And, as I said, I have a special gmail account that I change as needed for Cuba so that I can just shut it down if it gets abused. Getting a new gmail account is easy and printing cards is cheap.

    So, I was both annoyed and a bit in admiring awe at this one. I didn’t see it coming, and I thought I had seen it all.

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      That’s what everyone says about Cuban scams – they are so charming when they do it! That is unreal, you seemed reading for to it though. WiFi in open squares – what?! I was only there in June, what happened in the past seven months?! Mind blowing…

  22. Yes, there is Wi-Fi in many parks and squares now that anyone can use (you have to pay the same $4.5 CUC/hour as in hotels). I think it started in August and has been spreading rapidly to more and more areas, The throughput is slow to stop, but Cubans aren’t complaining,

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  23. Below is a WiFi map.. There are about 50 hot spots now in Havana. More (about 20) were added in December. Kids all hang out around the parks and squares now with their smart phones.

  24. Cuba Announces Pilot Project To Bring Broadband Internet Into Homes, bars, restaurants

    02/01/16

    “Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company, ETECSA, reportedly announced late Sunday a pilot project to bring broadband internet into homes in Havana. According to the announcement, cafes, bars and restaurants would also be allowed to have broadband connections, which would be offered through fiber optic cables.”

    http://www.ibtimes.com/cuba-announces-pilot-project-bring-broadband-internet-homes-2287844

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  25. First off all of this information is CRAP! I am Cuban born and raise there…those scams you’re talking about in reality is just people trying to make a living, trying to survive. Come on! If you know they’re only making $28 per month have you stopped to think how can they get the food in order to serve you breakfast you douche bag! Just pay them $30 a night don’t be cheap! And about the bus time they really don’t know smart ass! You have no idea how it is to live there so don’t write articles when you don’t know what the hell youre talking about you ignorant!

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      Thanks for commenting Elice, always nice to hear a local’s point of view. Where are you in the world today? We never actually came across a $30 casa room, just word of mouth from fellow travellers. Like we said here, we did pay for breakfast every day, on top of the room charge. Of course those casas are second or third incomes for the owners. I don’t doubt that there is inequality in Cuba, like there is in every country, even Scotland. Of course we will continue to write about our experiences in the countries we visit, that’s the point in travel blogging! Obviously you’ve read all ten of articles on Cuba to get the overall picture of our three weeks spent travelling around as part of our eighteen month trip.

  26. As a visitor to Havana, here are some valuable tips to keep you safe and happy:

    NEVER TRUST PEOPLE WITH GOLD TEETH IN CUBA. NEVER. They are almost always the criminals and scammers. In a country with an average monthly income if $15, only the criminals can afford gold in their mouths. The main scam in Cuba consists of locals trying to get you to exchange your CUC money for their worthless local ration dollars. Don’t exchange money anywhere except the airport and legitimate Cambios. DO NOT EXCHANGE MONEY WITH ANYONE ON THE STREET unless you’re buying something. And be conscious of the change you get back (research the different currencies before your trip).

    Be very wary of a person offering to take you on a walking tour of the city, they will likely lead you to their friends who want to scam you out of your money with the promise of a “better exchange rate”.

    Be very wary of people “inviting” you to dinner or restaurants. They will try to get you to pay for the entire meal at an inflated price. A couple tried this with my friend and I, leading us into an empty dining room. My instincts told me something wasn’t right and I told her we need to leave now. We left before they could scam us.

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      I never met anyone with gold teeth in Cuba, my Gran has one though – hope she’s not a secret scamster! That’s a good point about the airport – I’ve not heard of any airport scams yet but it is a popular search on Google. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience. Did you still have a good time regardless?

  27. We have plannend a trip to Cuba next janary 2017, I think these tips are good, but could be scary to people to go. We’ll see, have an open mind, people just try to get some extra money.

    At least if there is no hard criminality, these scams are part of every country with lots of tourists, even here in Holland, say Amsterdam or less in Rotterdam.

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      I haven’t heard from anyone else that they found the article scary – it was not my intention! I just like to show all sides of travel, the palm trees and the problems. It would be unfair of me not to be truthful. Sure, many of these scams are used throughout the world to get a quick buck, I’ve not made any of them up – this either happened to us or fellow travellers during our three weeks in Cuba! I’m sure you’ll have a blast, what’s your itinerary?

      1. Arriving in Havana, stay 3 nights, then of to finales, Soroa, cienfugos, Trinidad and end in varadero. All stays are casas, and all transfers by oldtimers, we booked all of this from Holland with Better places, they have specialized people for Cuba, together with them we planned the trip. And for a reasonable price.

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          1. Yes, I like a good cigar, will take your advice.
            Since I’m a fan of the fifties I most certainly will have fun, hope I will have the change to actually drive an oldtimer, going to ask anyway.

            Since internet is not quite well all images and videos we plan to shoot will be placed after the trip on Facebook.

            We can’t wait to go, just a little over six months.

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    2. I am a Canadian who traveled to Cuba 9 times now. I love the country and the people. If you’re a younger person I would suggest that you visit Varadero first for the beaches, parties and things to do! Go all inclusive! 😉 From Varadero you can day trip into Havana. Havana is a beautiful place full of history trapped in time from past to present. The only thing I really did not like about Havana was the con artist beggars. Be careful and don’t fall for those scams. A popular one is… “I need money to buy food for my baby”! … only to learn that she has a different baby every day! I found the children find it easy to beg as well! I did take things for the children that were In school tho. I love going to Holguin and I have made a lot Cuban friends there. Truly sincere people that welcome you into their homes and don’t ask for anything even when you try to give them some things. I have been invited to join some friends from Montreal that are joing to Havana in November for a week. I kinda know what expect. I plan on renting a casa with a kitchen for the week in “Chinatown Havana”. I like to cook and since I have issues with shrimp and pork, I think this will be best! There are many affordable places to stay in Havana and I don’t mind paying to stay in someone house that can help me and help them out as well. The average wage for a Cuban is about $30 per month. I understand why they beg, but I tell them that we work very hard for these vacations and we do not spend time with family like they do! The Cubans are very family oriented and when you spend time with them you will see that! I hope his helps you out and I hope you do make that visit to Cuba before they become “Americanized”! Cuba is a beautiful place to visit! FYI, I bring my own ketchup, mustard and spices because theirs are not to my liking! 😉 Any questions, you can emai me!

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    3. Cuba was awesome, returned Sunday from Varadeiro and therefore a fresh experience. My son works in Canada but we are South Africans, so….. just to get through customs was a challenge on its own. The scams are a reality, we were fortunate to have a Cuban friend as our guide and the scamsters sincerely apologised when she started speaking Spanish. Tip: I found that the Cigars and rum at the duty free shop at the airport were cheaper than the shops and no security hassles.

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  28. I love this post. I’ve recently read a couple of your Cuba posts I found on Pinterest. I visited Cuba at the start of a 6 month backpacking trip through Latin America and left feeling confused and often frustrated. I wrote a blog post about the many scams, issues and my first thoughts of Cuban life. I loved the country and I highlighted that throughout my post I mentioned how I felt Havana was lazy and the work ethic in Cuba was different to what I had grown up understanding. One woman came across my post and decided I was simplistic in my views and shared it across many platforms. She wanted others to criticise me as she had. I got no further comments on the post but felt obligated to edit what I had initially written all those months ago.

    I loved my time in such a vibrant country, the learning experience I had was like no other. But often things in Cuba were bittersweet for me and I couldn’t help but over analyse most situations I found myself in. I’m glad you have written this post because although it is controversial it is true. And I feel not many people are unable to see past the tourist picture painted in Cuba. Thanks for sharing (sorry for the long comment).

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      I totally agree! We’ve had quite a few negative responses to our posts on Cuba (especially this one) but all of these things are real experiences and what’s the point in blogging if we only share the palm trees and cocktails side of travel?! Sorry you experienced that, some bloggers would say that’s a milestone… I think our Trinidad post is where we really show the burnout coming through, I found it difficult to write. But I am glad I went, I’ve encouraged my friend to go in January, and would recommend a trip (with caution) to others. It’s not an easy country but it definitely is interesting! No apologies required for long comment, I love interacting! Where’s next?

  29. I just came back from Cuba and I have exactly experienced the same. I felt bad the first days like having bad conscience for not feeling sorry for people that scam me and rob me openly….because I come from Europe and supposedly better off? Well no, this lasted only two days. Everyday I had to engage in discussions in order to get the right bill for everything we shopped and still this has been more expensive than holidays in NY?!
    Cubans who deal with tourists have money, what they don’t have is shops to spend it on. Yes, their system has become decadent but at least they don’t have a group of policemen banging on the door to throw them out of their homes because they couldn’t pay the rent or bank loan.
    Yes, I enjoyed Cuba’s nature, no I didn’t enjoy Cubans sourness because I demand a fair price.

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      You make a very good point about the lack of shops for locals to spend money in! It certainly wasn’t a smooth three weeks for us either. Of course the beaches are postcard perfect and Havana is a lot of fun but it was the toughest country we travelled around in the whole 17 month trip, and that includes South, Central America and the Balkans.

  30. Scams in Paladar: I recommend you to take meals on paladars, foods are very good, too big and cheap; but some paladars have serveral list of prices, they will offer you a multiplied price depending on how the customer is. They traid to scam me with this system on Havana and also in Santiago. Rememeber: a nice diner will cost less than 12 CUC

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  31. I recognize many of these scams from when I was in Cuba.
    Luckily, I had read ALOT about it before I went, so I was prepared, but of course I’m guilty of falling for some of it.
    I’ll give some examples of what happened to me, so other can be warned, hopefully 🙂

    The first one happened the first day in Havana, when I was walking from my casa particular in Vedado to Havana Vieja via the Malecón, when a guy approached me and directly asked for money for the children of a school where he claimed that he worked. Haha, I figured his business out so fast and declined. He mumbled some profanity in Spanish at me while walking away.

    The second one, also on the Malecón in Havana, a 21 old woman approached me and started talking to me in a overly friendly way. Of course, as the gullible tourist I was, I happily went with the woman, who claimed that the Museum of the Revolution was closed due to something I can’t remember (it wasn’t closed).
    After walking around for about 30 minutes, the woman “invites” me to a bar where some of her friends are, and pulls of the baby-milk-scam (“I need money for milk for my baby”), but I immediately sensed that something was wrong, declined, and went away. The woman and her friendliness was gone in less than one second!!

    Third Havana-scam was almost the same as the above mentioned, the scammer was just an older 30-something man.
    He tried to get me to the same place, but as I recognized the bar from a distance, I declined.
    Like the woman, the man and his friendliness was gone before I could count to three.

    Another one happened in Santiago de Cuba, it was a quite different one.
    I was going to buy ETECSA 1hr internet cards from a street seller (not the best idea, I know).
    I bought them for 2CUC each at the ETECSA office, but the guy charged 3CUC (which I though was fair enough, since they also need to earn on selling them).
    I had bought one internet card from him the day before, so I came back to buy two this time.
    He then said the price was 8CUC (!!), but gullible as I was, I just paid the 2CUC too much, and only first figured this out when I was on the Viazul bus to Bayamo!! 2CUC doesn’t matter to me, but you know….

    Not to mention the countless times I got overcharged on taxis. Remember to agree on a reasonable fare BEFORE getting in, and not just go along with whatever the taxi driver says at first.

    (PS. if you’re in Santiago de Cuba, don’t forget to try the motorcycle taxis. Really fun experience).

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      Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I honestly think people don’t believe that all of these scams actually happened to people we met during the 3 weeks on the island. It sounds like you are still feeling positive about the whole experience though?! We have a post on WiFi in Cuba which warns readers for that card scam. Grrr!

  32. going to Cuba in a couple of weeks with a friend. Thanks for the advice on scams. We will hopefully be prepared after reading your blog.

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  33. As a cuban / american citizen, and a cuban born native who has returned multiple times, I can guarantee these things happen in many parts of the world but with relations opening up and tourism growing by the day please do be wary of these scams.

    Like another poster has mentioned though my people are very friendly and humble but we also sometimes are very Sly (maybe I am hitting a language barrier here) in the sense that we may try to benefit off of tourism in a less ethical way due to the image my people may have in their heads about tourists.

    Yes they don’t have to worry about losing their homes or starving at times, but the cuban people may at times have to play their cards in order to make a few more $ vs laboring away for dirt wage, but they may not also realize that while we also work and earn more me have other financial issues we deal with.

    Thank you so much for writing this article, my people are both good and bad like any other race and we are very friendly, and family oriented just let these people know you are not a sucker and inform yourselves because the more people fall for scams the less my people might respect you tourists as anything other than walking wallets.

    Sorry for the wall of text but remember helping those actually in need is respectable so I encourage discussion with some of these “con artists” instead of just flat our refusing everyone who seeks out to make a bit of CUC or USD try to get a good judge of character on them.

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      Thanks for reading and commenting Leon. I mean no disrespect when I presented this piece, of course I would never band all of one group to be the same – not all of us Scots like to drink to oblivion and we don’t all wear kilts! I agree, there are people out to make a quick dollar every where. We heard about lots of scams in South America too. One of the most popular ones was throwing white liquid on tourists (pretending it was bird poo) then offering to help, while another person steals their belongings. Scary stuff. It’s tough when many backpackers don’t actually have masses of money, they’ve saved hard to see a bit of culture.

      1. I am glad, hope you guys can enjoy what beauty the world has to offer and wish you guys many more joyful and safe trips, I will be looking forward to this blog maybe it will motivate me to explore other places.

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  34. We are two women in their 60’s, whose husbands do not want to visit Cuba. We are smart, healthy and fit. Would we be safe there for 2 weeks by ourselves?

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  35. Just booked my Casa via AirBnB. The host offered to change $ if I didn’t want to wait in line at the airport (which I don’t). I have looked at photos of the CUP vs CUC. Do you think this is ‘safe’ for US, It would be minus 10% tax. Then ? about the commission charge. 3% would be expected? Thank you for the info.

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      I’m not quite sure I understand what is being asked, sorry! Could you explain again.

      The casa owner is asking if you’d like collected from the airport?

      We’ve used Airbnb in North, Central, South America + Europe and never paid in cash, you’d lose any safety. Although, you don’t have to use Airbnb in Cuba, we didn’t. We booked casas on recommendations from fellow travellers or taxi drivers etc (then they get some commission – that’s the Cuban way). We never paid more that 10 CUC / $10 each for a night in a casa and the quality was pretty standard, clean. Here’s our post on casas if that helps.

      Come back to me with question broken down again. Happy to help but not sure what is being asked. Thanks.

  36. Sorry for the confusion. They question is about changing money into Cuban $. (I paid via credit card to air bnb.) They were just saying they could change my $ into CUC at their Casa if I did not want to wait in line at the airport to do so. All the info you read says to only do this at ‘official’ place. I have looked at the bills on line so I can tell a CUC from a CUP. I’m thinking of doing it if it doesn’t seem TOTALLY stupid. They have very good reviews on Air bnb.

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      Thanks for clarifying! I was never in this situation so I couldn’t tell you go either way, sorry. I would say that the Cubans we met really love to make money so be careful. Let me ask some blogging friends who have been too and I’ll get back to you.

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        Morning Deb. So a few friends have said that they were offered this service too but they never took it opting to take enough euros to cover their trip and exchanged some at the airport. The honestly wasn’t big when we arrived, however the ATM did not work when we exited. It looks as if British pound is indeed still the strongest as highlighted in my post on Cuba money. Here’s a link from the Havana Times from 2016 which outlines exchange rates. Come back after your trip and tell me what you did, always keen to hear about other people’s Cuban experiences. Gracias!

  37. I was in Paris, leaving a museum and was approached by a middle aged woman who asked if I dropped a ring. It was an obvious fake, a thick gold colored wedding band type ring. “No,” I replied, but she continued to pantomime that I should take it. Finally, I said, “okay” and began to walk away. Then came the ask.

    It wasn’t exactly a scam because I knew what was happening right away, but I enjoyed it as “street performance” and happily parted with some coins.

    Thanks for the above tips. Looking forward to my first visit to Havana in April.

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      I was followed by someone at the Eiffel Tower when I was in Paris! It happens everywhere. I am excited for you, there is no country quite like it! Have you checked out our Cuba travel guide page for tips on casa, currency etc? Any questions don’t hesitate to ask and come back after your trip and tell me how you got on (and if I need to update any info!)

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  38. Great post. Thanks for all of the info. I’m heading to Cuba shortly and it gives me a heads up of some of the things I may run into. I have to say it reminds me of my experience in Cartagena, Colombia. I felt like a walking dollar bill and it was just exhausting, which was really unfortunate because it was such a lovely city. I’m hoping I’ll find that most Cubans are warm, wonderful people and the hustle will be limited. I’ve read through the rest of your articles on Cuba and they’re really helpful. Thanks for your energy in putting this together.

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  39. Baby milk con tried on us when i stopped to read a map.
    The guy had a new Lacoste bag over his shoulder and new TT shirt & trainers. Wonder who paid for them? We didn’t add to his wealth, we just walked away from him.

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  40. I live in the US and travel all over the world, luckily, for work but this trip to Varadero in July gor 4 days is for “Research “, I’ve encountered a lot but now I’m extremely intimidated to even leave the resort. Technically from the US, Research is my only way but reading on changing currency, sightseeing, taxis. …are now worrisome. Having that much cash on me at all times, getting something to eat outside the resort, shopping(and where to go for trinkets/market), just even a taxi. ..and not being scammed.
    I’m not sure how much money to bring as I can’t take it back. Help please.
    Also do you recommend using euros instead, is it easier than US $ to exchange.

    Sorry for all the questions.

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  41. Good to know. We’re just in Varadero only for 4 days, we don’t know much about what to do there, do you or other readers? Also, it seems expensive, $to CUC? We want to shop but wow.
    And, do you know cost of a taxi from VRA to the hotel zone on peninsula?

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      We never ventured into Varadero proper, it will be costly as they know that’s where all the tourists are unfortunately. To put into some perspective we were travelling for 2.5 hours ish for $25 and there would be 4-5 of us paying that amount. We were burning through our budget fast hence why we checked into an all inclusive. Here’s how much we spent in three weeks.

  42. Hey! Same thing happened to us in HK. We used Uber after and it was 5! Times cheaper than the official rate of the taxi. Hope you will have better luck next time.

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  43. Any advice on gifts, I’ve seen a lot of people comment to bring them various gifts from the US but what does that mean toothbrushes shampoos school supplies, trinkets or are they just looking for money only?

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      Hiya Heather, yeah my friend’s mum told us to take gifts (she’s from the UK) but in all honesty I would of felt weird giving gifts over. My friend went in January and said it wasn’t really a thing Havana – Trinidad (my route) but there was an expectation further south of the island and the kind of things that were expected was toiletries. Does that help? Remember, you are paying them to stay in their house and they make nearly more than their monthly average wage by charging you for a night’s stay. It’s business.

  44. Wow! It was fun to read about scams I’d never heard of or encountered before! Have to give them some credit for being creative… Great to read this and be on the lookout though.

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