Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba

This is a guest post by my friend Colleen Fogerty written by her and based on her recent experience in Cuba. For more on Cuba, check out my 5 Essential Places to Visit in Cuba, Americans Should Manage Expectations on Havana and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: What It’s Really Like.

When my friend called me up one day and asked if I wanted to go to Cuba, I said yes with little hesitation. I had only heard great things about the island that recently opened its borders to U.S. citizens, so it really wasn’t a difficult question.

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, Havana, Cuba

When I told my mom I was going, the first thing she asked was, “Is it safe?” A typical mom question but one as a female traveler I’m always hyper-aware of; especially, when traveling alone or with only women.

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, Havana, Cuba, La Habana

Overall, my friend and I felt very safe during our time in Havana. But, the unfortunate reality is that female travelers need to be extra careful while traveling. So, here are my tips for female travelers heading to Cuba.

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, Havana, Cuba, car

Stay in a highly-rated Airbnb

Female or not, renting an Airbnb in Cuba is the way to go. The hotels are extremely overpriced and you can get a quality home rental for around $30 a night.

For female travelers, I’d opt for staying in a private room rather than renting out an entire house. Not only will your on-site hosts be able to give you great advice about Havana, you’ll have personalized attention—meaning someone to notice if you don’t come home.

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, Havana, Cuba, AirBNB

Cuba is a poor country and tourism has the power to bring in a lot of money for people. With Airbnb, people can make in a night what others are making in a month. So, they rely heavily on getting a good review. Hosts will go out of their way to ensure you have a perfect and safe stay. Our host even made our beds every morning—what kind of Airbnb does that? You can trust that the good reviews you read on your booking site have been well earned.

I highly recommend my Airbnb. Oralia and her son were extremely hospitable and taught us so much out what life is like in Cuba. The room was private and clean and the beds were comfortable.

Get used to the cat calls

You’ll get lots of them. Sadly, you’ll have to be OK with hearing kissing noises and be called “guapa” or “linda” frequently.

Overall, I felt safe walking around Havana. However, as every woman knows, getting this kind of attention is extremely uncomfortable and every time a man made a kissing noise as I walked by I had to actively resist the urge not to shoot a snarky response their way.

Unfortunately, this practice is something that’s deeply ingrained in the Cuban culture and is intended to get your attention. It’s best to just ignore it.

Dress down

That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to dress conservatively—Cubans don’t. It’s more a reminder that majority of Cubans don’t have fancy, new clothes. The more flashy your clothes, the more attention you’ll get.

The further you veer off the tourist path, the more this becomes true.

Be extra careful with your money

For the most part, Cuba is cash only and what you come with is all that you’ll have for your trip.

Never walk around with all of your cash. I didn’t feel that pickpocketing was much of a threat, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’m confident that as American tourism continues to rise, so will tourist scams.

The money you don’t have on you should be locked up or divided and hidden in a few different spots.

Download is a maps app that works offline—it was a godsend for our trip seeing as our phones didn’t work.

Getting lost and aimlessly wandering can be half the fun when you’re traveling, but it’s alway nice to know you’ll be able to find your way back when you’re ready.

Having directions readily available in your pocket helps avoid asking locals for directions—that’s not to say talking to locals is a bad thing (I’ll touch on that later) but letting strangers know that you’re lost and vulnerable can be. The app also gives you peace of mind in cabs, allowing you to see that you’re heading in the right direction.

Bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer

Public restroom stalls won’t come with equipped with toilet paper. So, before it’s too late, you’ll want to grab some from the bathroom tender or have some stashed away in your purse.

I also found that soap is hard to come by. I was extremely thankful that I had packed hand sanitizer—you’ll need it.

Follow the music

OK, now for the fun stuff. They say in Cuba, everyone is a musician—and that proved to be true.

There are live bands playing every day, at every hour. Some of the best times we had were when we came across a random bar and sat down to listen to the music. For me, this was one of my favorite parts of their culture.

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, live music, Havana, Cuba

So, follow the music and don’t forget to dance!

Enjoy the cheap drinks

Three dollar piña coladas? Count me in.

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, Havana, Cuba, drinks

From mojitos to daiquiris to Cuba Libres (rum and cokes) the rum is constantly flowing and it’s ridiculously inexpensive. Enjoy yourself and drink responsibly.

Talk to the locals

Head to the local hang outs (Fábrica de Arte Cubano is a must) and talk to the locals. I found that tons of Cubans are dying to practice their English. So engage with them and use it as an opportunity to learn about what it’s like to live in Cuba.

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, Arte de fabric, havana, Cuba

One night, we talked to a computer engineer. A computer engineer who lives on an island notoriously known for it’s lack of Internet—how crazy is that?

Tips for Female Travelers Heading to Cuba, street, Havana, Cuba

Cuba is dirty, a bit chaotic and so full of color and life. As long as you employ some street smarts and listen to these tips for female travelers heading to Cuba-female travelers will absolutely love Cuba.

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  1. Thanks for posting this! It’s actually amazing timing because my girlfriends and I are going to Havana for Memorial Day weekend! I am a little nervous but this was very helpful. I didn’t know you accepted guest posts but thanks for this one!

  2. I completely agree about the cat calls. I experienced this last year when I went. It’s very annoying but there’s nothing you can do but ignore it. Good post!

    • It is the way it is, Cuban women like it as long as is not gross. If you understand Spanish well, some “piropos” are quite crafty and make everybody Cuban to crack a smile or a laugh. A “piropo” is a metaphor phrase or figure of speech to complement a woman’s beauty. It won’t go away just because you are from another culture, they will keep trying to get your attention, lol.

    • I’m sure it’s a difficult thing to deal with but ignoring I’d think is best.

  3. Hieu Vomann says

    I’d recommend staying in a Casa Particular rather than through Airbnb. Casas are the original Airbnbs, and the thought of Airbnb squeezing them out and taking a cut is disappointing. Sometimes shiny-modern isn’t the way to go.

  4. very useful tips for Cuba travailing. i have read your article and i think Cuba is not safe place for tour but you mention some fun activity so i think it is good for trip.

  5. Maria Franklin says

    Unfortunately, there are a couple of inaccuracies in your post. First, the Cuban government has never restricted access to Cuba for citizens of the U.S. Since 1960, with a brief respite after Obama\’s visit to Cuba, the restrictions have all been from the U.S. government. Secondly, Airbnb is definitely not the way to go. Casa particular is the way most visitors are accommodated in Cuba and that\’s as it should be. I agree with Hieu Vomann here. Why support a big foreign company taking income away from Cubans?

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