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Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

Crime-wise Varadero's dangers are minimal. Aside from getting drunk on free mojitos and tripping over your bath rug on the way to the toilet, you haven't got too much to worry about. Watch out for mismatched electrical outlets in hotels. In some rooms, a 110V socket might sit right next to a 220V one. They should be labeled, but aren't always.

Out on the beach, a red flag means no swimming allowed due to the undertow or some other danger. A blue jellyfish known as the Portuguese man-of-war can produce a bad reaction if you come in contact with its long tentacles. Wash the stung area with sea water and seek medical help if the pain becomes intense or you have difficulty in breathing. They're most common in summer when you'll see them washed up on the beach; tread carefully. Theft of unguarded shoes, sunglasses and towels is routine along this beach.

Twenty-four hours a day, long tongues of flame shoot up from two tall chimneys just southwest of Varadero, as excess natural gas from oil wells in the vicinity is burned off. Coming into town from Cárdenas and points west, you'll notice a nauseating smell as sulfurous gas is released from the wells. The offending odor sometimes drifts over to hotels on Varadero's western side. Persons with asthma especially should avoid staying anywhere west of Hotel Bellamar. We've received reports that Sherritt International was engaged in a project to clean the gas and convert it into electricity, but the stench lingers. Varadero itself may be sitting on top of the richest oilfield of all, and wells may one day sprout from the hotel gardens.

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While you're there

Medical services

Many large hotels have infirmaries that provide free basic first aid.

Clínica Internacional Servimed (66 77 10; cnr Av 1 & Calle 60; 24hr). Medical or dental consultations (CUC$25 to CUC$5) and hotel calls (CUC$50 to CUC$60). There's a good pharmacy (open 24-hours) here with items in Convertibles.

Policlínico Dr Mario Muñoz Monroy (61 34 64; Calle 27; 24hr) Near Av 1. Intended for Cubans, but they don't generally turn sick people away.

Servimed Farmacia Internacional(Plaza América, cnr Av Las Américas & Calle 61; 9am-7pm) Well-stocked pharmacy with items in Convertibles.

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