Solo female travelers face a challenge when choosing their next travel destination. Is the country relatively safe? Are the locals friendly? Will I be okay to travel around by myself?
Cuba not only checks off all of those concerns, but offers solo female adventures an experience they will never get anywhere else.
There is nowhere else in the world you can dance with locals until dawn and feel completely safe doing so.
And I can guarantee you there’s nowhere else in the world you can truly experience all of that without being constantly distracted with modern technology.
As someone who frequently travels around the country by myself, I have some tips for my fellow independent ladies!
This isn’t exclusive to female travelers, but anyone traveling here. Cuba doesn’t have internet accessible to you at all times of the day. There is wifi at the parksbut not around town.
This means you have to be open to new experiences and change of plans. It’s okay to have a basic itinerary, but in a country where locals are always willing to invite you to places or direct you to a different spot, you have to be willing to change courses.
This is particularly true if you travel around the country. Conception of time is not the same in Cuba as it is in western countries. We wait in hour long lines to get nowhere or nothing. The driver doesn’t feel like driving, so you wait. Or the bus isn’t working (again) so you’ll have to take a taxi or other way of getting around.
Point is: just be open to an adventure!
Cuban men are NOT shy when it comes to approaching you. And even more so when you’re a Yuma (a foreigner).
You are noticeable from the moment you get out of the airport until the minute you get back in a taxi to leave to the airport.
You’ll be stared at, cat-called, and woo’d.
Here’s my tip: Most of the time, ignore the unwanted cat-calls. We get them DAILY and CONSTANTLY and it’s just something you get over after a while.
Be Careful of Jineteros
This is a taboo topic in Cuban culture. Jineteros are Cubans, both male and female, that try to get money or other services from foreigners.
Jineteros in Cuban culture are associated with prostitution, but this is not always the case. They tend to hang around tourist areas and have foreigners pay for their meals or drinks.
Jineteros sometimes like to make a romantic connections with their foreigner girl in order to get money and/or products from them when they leave back to their countries.
I’ll write more on Cuban love later, but given this, I want to say: its important not to think every local or man willing to dance with you is a jinetero. Cubans are naturally warm and inviting people. Just be careful if they expect you to pay for everything.
Stay in a casa particular
Cuba doesn’t have hostels (well, not that many) but it has the next best thing: Casa Particulares.
Casa Particulares are rooms/apartments rented by local families. Many can be found on Airbnb or if you want my recommendations, you can email me.
Many times, if not all the time, casa owners are a great way to befriend locals. It is custom in Cuba to offer meals and coffee to your guest. They can recommend places and even sometimes offer to join you. It’s a great way to get introduced to Cuban culture.
Don’t dress like a tourist: Yes, no straw fedora hats.
As I mentioned before, its obvious you aren’t Cuban. I don’t care if you have darker complexion. Everyone knows.
But, if you want to try to blend in a bit more and not get hassled (especially in tourist areas), tone down the tourist look.
Some things that AUTOMATICALLY recognize you as the following
- Fedora Hats: No one wears these. No one. And Cuba isn’t the set of the godfather
- Off-the-shoulder ruffle dresses: Women in cuba don’t really wear flowy dresses….. at all.
- Travel Backpacks: Probably the most recognizable “look at me im a foreinger with lots of money” look. I never understood why travelers lug things around on their back when the invention of the wheel was over 5000 years ago
Bring all your essential beauty/medical items with you
There’s no CVS in Cuba. There’s no Sephora. There’s no Walmart.
Bring that hairspray. Bring that brush. Bring that makeup. Bring some backup.
Beauty items, feminine products, and other essential things you can most likely pick up anywhere else in the world is not found here. Yes, Havana has more items but to make sure you aren’t running around market to market, bring your own things and a backup just in case.
Travel outside Havana
Transportation is an issue for most Cubans. We wait in lines, have to hitch-hike or plan days in ahead to get from one place to another.
Book a ticket there (or at any major hotel in Havana) and go! Cuba is an entirely different country outside Havana.
I really advise anyone to use tourist transportation, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
Vinales is a beautiful picturesque country town where most of the nation’s tobacco comes from.
Cienfuegos, nicknamed the pearl of the Caribbean, is exactly that. It’s a beautioful town set on the side of a bay.
Trinidad is a UNECO world heritage site. Its combled streets and old-spanish backdrop makes it a beautiful place to visit.
And, of course, tourist favorite…Varadero. But, there’s better beaches.
Learn a bit of Cubano
You might know Spanish or you might not, but heres a few terms in Cubano (yes, Cuban Spanish) that you should know to stay safe and understand a bit of what people are telling you:
Yuma: a foreigner aka YOU.
Chavito or Fula: CUC – Convertible pesos (not moneda nacional)
Que Bola: Hey, whats up!!
Acere: friend, amigo, pal
Por la izquierda: Under the table. You might want to indicate money exchange by using this term
Jevita: Female girl or “girlfriend”
Dale: Not only pitbull’s term, but ours too. It means goodbye or “come on, hurry up!”
Knowing the Art of Negotiation
Cubans are infamous for making petty scams like charging more to foreigners. I hate this! But I only justify it for the necessities we have economically.
Given this, you HAVE to negotioate! If you are not in a taxi collective (fixed route shared taxis, these are routes that pick up other passengers on the way to the destination.. it cost 10 CUP per person or 50 cents!), you have to negotiate the rate with the driver!
If they tell you $10 to go from Habana Vieja to Vedado (neighborhoods) they are overcharging you. Always try to negotiate down. Cubans will always try to hustle, but you have to too. Be safe with your money, many times you can’t get more of it.
Do Not Over Drink
This is by far the most obvious tip for being safe in Cuba. But its also not customary for women to get extremely drunk. It’s just not something you really see in Cuban culture.
Yes, women drink, but not to the point of no control.
And in Cuba when a drink costs around $2-$3, it can get tempting to have another one.
It’s okay to enjoy yourself, but if traveling alone always be careful of your surroundings.
Want to see Cuba like a local? Or go on a tour with other solo female travelers? Check my tour schedule!