Although the crime rate in Cuba is quite low, of course there are nevertheless some scammers doing their business and some people trying to sell you some stuff. On the one hand I can understand those people as they really poor. On the other hand I don’t see why I should be bamboozled. Hence, I will show you the commonest methods of sales pitches and scams in Cuba. The sad thing is that I experienced those on first-hand, so I know what I am talking about. Read on and take this information to avoid to be ripped off in Cuba.
Hello my friend, where are you from?
When you hear this sentence, you can be sure that someone wants to sell you either cigars or rum. And these persons tell you that allegedly their stuff is cheaper than elsewhere and has the same good quality. I did not buy anything as I don’t like neither cigars nor rum, so it’s up to you, folks to take this risk and to try it out. If you made some experience with that, please leave a comment for the other readers.
The fact remains that you will hear this sentence quite often and after a while this could become very annoying and make you aggressive. Therefore stay calm and ignore these people for it’s no use to get angry.
What surprises me, is the ingenuity of those people. At the beach in Varadero some of them dressed up like tourists and walked along the beach to find some potential buyers. The funniest moment I had in this case was, as I have been snorkeling close to the beach. Suddenly, a local guy popped up out from the water and asked me: Hello my friend, where are you from? I just laughed and said, before he could get onto my nerves, that I don’t need neither cigars nor rum.
Wannabe city guides
The next thing you will be confronted with is when you are in Havana or another town, that several locals will offer you a guided tour. Don’t agree with that, for it is usually a scammer. For in reality those people have no clue about a professional guided tour. They might be born in Havana, Trinidad, Matanzas, Santa Clara and so on, but the only thing they would do is to walk besides you and tell you: “This is a school, this is a hotel, this is a library.” If you would ask some details, they would lie to you just to make a professional impression.
Some of them would be stubborn but don’t be impressed by that. As we have been in Matanzas (close to Varadero), one of those jerks could not accept a “No” and walked about 5 minutes at our side, trying to play a tour guide. The best in this situation is to ignore them, and they will let it off after a while.
If someone wants to make a photo with you camera
In Havana there are some guys offering you to take a picture of you with your camera. If you do this, you need to be aware that they want some cash after that. It is okay to give some change or maybe a small tip. But remember to ask before, how much do they want. My mistake was that I didn’t ask, and he wanted 10 CUC (=10 Dollar) for a 4 – 5 pictures.
In a normal case I would solve the problem with some clear words. However, my problem was that he still held my camera in his hands, and I didn’t want him to make off with it. At least I could beat down the price to 5 CUC but there was still this feeling when you get ripped off. So be on guard, folks!
Taking a tour with a classic car through Havana
In Havana there are a lot of private people offering a tour with a classic car through Havana. There is no reason to reject this but you need to ask for the price really detailed. One those bastards told us we can make a tour for 30 CUC and showed us a “catalogue” with pictures of sight seeings in Havana. He said: „For 30 CUC I bring you to all these places“. But after one hour he suddenly said: The hour is over, if you want to go further you need to pay again 30 CUC for the next hour. At this point I told him, he shall bring us back. Therefore, ask for more details when you would like to take a tour with a vintage car through Havana (or other cities).
Okay folks, that’s it. I hope, I could give you some useful information. If you have been scammed in Cuba, please share you experience by leaving a comment. But please, don’t think now, Cuba is a place where you would been chased all the time.
The majority of the Cuban people is very friendly and helpful. You just need to know that there might be some „stumbling blocks“ on your journey and with information in this article you are able to sail around them. For Cuba is a country worthwhile to visit and if you would like to know more about this country, read my other articles about my experiences in Cuba.