Is it safe to bring a Nikon SLR to Cuba?
February 23, 2009 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Is it safe to bring my Nikon SLR to Cuba? The depressed economy, and presence of hucksters makes me think not...

I will be largely staying at a resort but will be making several day trips to Havana and elsewhere. After reading about the Cuban economy, it seems that carrying an SLR would be like walking around pulling a large wagon-load of gold bricks.

If I keep it in a bag most of the time, and pull it out only for photos, should I expect to be reasonably safe?
posted by SNACKeR to Travel & Transportation around Cuba (16 answers total)
I intend to bring mine when I go.
posted by captaincrouton at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2009

Of all the people I have talked to that have been to Cuba (including Havana) none have ever been concerned with their safety or been mugged/pickpocketed. And most brought nice cameras too - I've seen the pictures. The last person I was talking to just got back this week so this is current information.
posted by saucysault at 10:09 AM on February 23, 2009

What's the point in having an expensive camera if you're not going to take it to interesting places. Live a little! Just make sure to backup your pictures frequently.
posted by delmoi at 10:42 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes. Bring it. Seconding delmoi, this is why you have a nice camera.
posted by zazerr at 10:46 AM on February 23, 2009

I think taking all the precautions you would do, going into public anywhere with an expensive object would suit you well. Use it don't flaunt it, and always remain in physical contact with it.
posted by edgeways at 10:47 AM on February 23, 2009

I was going to make delmoi's point and add that you may want to make sure it is insured, just in case.

One of our residents is from Cuba so I posed your question to her, and she said that in big cities there is relatively little crime as long as you stay out of suspicious places. If anything happens it would likely be a snatch and run type robbery but even that is unlikely as Cuba has a large police force. For what it's worth my uncle lost his Rolex to a purse-snatcher type thief-in Naples, Italy. So things happen anywhere and it sounds like Cuba might actually be a little safer than some places.
posted by TedW at 10:50 AM on February 23, 2009

You will not get mugged. It is even unlikely that it would be stolen in your hotel if you left it unattended. Havana has plenty of questionable characters but armed robbery or pickpocketing rarely happens even there. It just doesn't happen. The people are friendly for the most part and to not take a good camera along would be a crime.

I had no qualms about carrying my Canon EOS around early in the morning on dark Havana streets. Of course use common sense and try to travel with friends if possible.
posted by JJ86 at 11:04 AM on February 23, 2009

I say bring it, but you should definitely be mindful of your surroundings when you're using it. A friend of mine who was recently visiting Cuba was the victim of an attempted theft in broad daylight in Havana. The would-be thief ran up to her on the street and grabbed her bag, which was slung over her shoulders. He then tried to break the strap by yanking on the bag and ended up dragging her down the street by her neck until bystanders started running to help and he gave up and ran away. This was on a main street in the middle of the day (while she was walking with friends), so it's certainly possible that there will be people looking for a opportunity to make a quick grab.

But this is true of nearly any highly touristed place anywhere in the world, not just Cuba. Doesn't mean you should be afraid to bring a camera. You own it so you can take pictures when you do interesting things! Just keep your eyes open, your hands on your valuables and use a strong camera strap. If you're going to have your camera out and taking pictures, just do a little scan of your surroundings to see if things look safe.
posted by otolith at 11:04 AM on February 23, 2009

I have a friend who went to Cuba and took great pictures with a great camera with no problems at all. He reported that Cuba seemed much safer in terms of petty crime than other places he had been (Europe, etc.)

For what it's worth my uncle lost his Rolex to a purse-snatcher type thief-in Naples, Italy. So things happen anywhere and it sounds like Cuba might actually be a little safer than some places.

Naples, Italy is notoriously one of the worst places in the world in terms of purse snatching/pickpocketing/etc. The "so things happen anywhere" with Naples as the example does not really apply. I have a hard time imagining a tourist going to Naples with a Rolex and not having it stolen.
posted by The World Famous at 11:23 AM on February 23, 2009

Drop the paranoia, you're more likely to get mugged in Spain than in Cuba. All the hotels have safes in each room, if day to day security is an issue.
posted by furtive at 11:24 AM on February 23, 2009

Maybe try taking out travel insurance that would cover any theft?
posted by tapeguy at 11:33 AM on February 23, 2009

I've had an expensive camera stolen before. It didn't take long for me to get over the cost of buying another one. What really annoyed me in the long run was losing all the great pictures I had taken. Material possesions can replaced -- memories and experiences cannot.

I now use lots of small memory cards that force me to keep swapping them, so that if I were to lose my camera I would not lose too many pictures in one go. I suggest you do the same.
posted by randomstriker at 11:46 AM on February 23, 2009

Travel insurance is a good idea if it's an expensive piece, of course.

I've only been to Cuba once, but found no real threat of crime. Obviously take precautions, always wear the neck strap or a wrist strap while you have it out, use a non-obvious camera bag, etc. But, keep in mind that you're going to be one of many tourists there. You'll find lots of people will be trying to sell you lots of little things to make money for themselves, but I didn't at all get the feeling that they were waiting for me to let down my guard.

I also agree with The World Famous a few spots up, Naples and other Italian cities are thievery Meccas, that's where you should be leaving the SLR at home and bringing the disposable.
posted by dnesan at 11:53 AM on February 23, 2009

Thanks for the input, I have resolved to bring it. @TedW: thanks for asking around!
posted by SNACKeR at 12:33 PM on February 23, 2009

Judging by the number of photos i've seen of Cuba, i'm thinking you'll be fine. Also, what's the point of owning a nice camera if you aren't going to use it?
posted by chunking express at 8:39 AM on February 24, 2009

So I went, got some great pictures, and for the most part felt safe, although eyes were definitely on the camera at certain locations. Discretion is definitely a good move - it is hard not to be aware that the camera if worth more than a year's income for many of these people.
posted by SNACKeR at 6:42 AM on April 15, 2009

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