For a long time, due to its political landscape, Cuba was seen as the kind of destination that cautious travelers just didn’t flock to, especially those coming from the US. Because this is a relatively new travel hotspot for some vacationers, many aren’t entirely sure what they should or shouldn’t bring with them on their trip.
In this guide, we compiled the most complete list of things to bring to Cuba, including gifts for locals if you want to support them during your trip. We suggested items you should take to the island based on our expertise and other travelers’ experiences.
This article has been updated to include the paperwork you must bring to comply with the Cuban Government’s travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Meet the Entry Requirements
Your Cuba Tourist Card (a.k.a Cuba Visa)
An interesting fact about Cuba is that most visitors must obtain a Cuba Tourist Card or Cuba Visa. This little document is one of the most important things to bring to Cuba.
You can get the Cuba Tourist Card bundled into your flight ticket from an online provider or at the Cuban Embassy or Consulate in your country.
While traveling around the country, please keep it on you at all times so that it’s not lost or stolen.
If you need to purchase the Cuban Tourist Card online, you can get it from Easy Tourist Card. They deliver the Cuba visa almost anywhere.
Travel health insurance
This is another of the most important things to bring to Cuba. Cuban law requires that all visitors have valid Cuba travel insurance while visiting their country.
If you currently have insurance, ensure it will provide coverage while on vacation. Additionally, ensure that you bring with you the proper proof. This is something officials will ask you about.
You also have the option to purchase travel insurance once in Cuba with Asistur, the local provider. However, be aware that this option is rather expensive.
Before traveling to Cuba, consider purchasing travel health insurance. Companies such as Insubuy offer these insurance plans starting at 8 USD per week per person.
Sanitary Statement and Customs Declaration
Everyone traveling to Cuba must also fill out the Sanitary Statement for Travelers (Declaración de Sanidad del Viajero), a sort of health declaration form. You must also provide the Customs Declaration form.
To save some time and annoyance, complete the required documentation in advance on D’Viajeros, the government’s official site.
As of April 4th, 2022, Cuban authorities no longer require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR.
2. Bring Good Travel Bags
A light travel suitcase or backpack
There are several different types of bags you can bring along for your trip. Your budget, the time you plan to spend in Cuba, and your personal preferences will determine your best choice. Whatever the case, you’ll want something light and durable to pack your things in.
If you are traveling on a budget or packing light, a travel backpack may be just what you need. This YORPEK backpack is designed for traveling by plane and holds up to forty-five liters.
If you aren’t a backpack fan, there are low-cost options for purchasing a suitcase. The twenty-four-inch AmazonBasics suitcase offers a protective shell and plenty of space for packing without an over-the-top price tag.
Packing cubes are zippable, often rectangular bags that help you organize your suitcase’s contents.
While any bag with a zipper could do, AmazonBasics offers a set of four packing cubes for a relatively low price. These will help to keep you put together while on your vacation. They also keep the entirety of your Cuba packing list easily accessible.
While it may not seem necessary, this is one of our top picks for what to bring to Cuba.
Laundry bags for clothes and shoes
While it’s possible to go on vacation without them, laundry bags are handy. They help with organization and prevent clean clothes from getting dirty.
Carrying a set of laundry bags for clothes and another for shoes is inexpensive to alleviate potential stress.
3. What to Wear in Cuba
Appropriate clothes and accessories
While the island’s landscape differs depending on where you’re staying, the climate is fairly similar throughout. It’s usually quite hot.
Pack mostly lightweight clothing suitable for sweating in the sun, and bring a light jacket or overshirt to wear during potential cold spells.
Although Cuba is a safe country to visit, don’t wear too many eye-catching accessories. When it comes to the jewelry, if you don’t need to bring it and hate it if lost or stolen, consider leaving it at home.
You may wonder what to wear in Cuba for evening events or iconic venues like the cabaret Tropicana. Just bring smart casual clothes, if not overly formal. Remember, there is no need to dress up.
Sunhats offer protection from the sun, which can be brutal in Cuba. They’re also rather fashionable on the island for both men and women.
Similar to sunhats, sunglasses will help protect you from too much sunlight. In Cuba, you will really need them.
Although, the same line of thinking applies to sunglasses as jewelry. Consider leaving your more expensive pairs home so they aren’t lost or stolen during your trip. You wouldn’t want them sinking to the bottom of the ocean or anything.
While traveling in Cuba, you’re likely to do a lot of trekking down rather dusty roads. It’s in your best interest to bring along some close-toed walking shoes for those occasions.
Something simple such as a pair of New Balance tennis shoes for men or women would work just fine. They will also be suitable if you visit the more mountainous parts of Cuba for outdoor adventure.
A comfortable and stylish pair of walking sandals are essential for Cuba.
You’ll want to wear these while perusing shops and other touristy locations in Cuba’s more metropolitan cities. That’s if you even want to get out of those colorful classic cars in Cuba (tip: you should take a drive!).
KEEN men’s or Teva women’s are relatively inexpensive options that should remain comfortable after a day spent shopping.
A simple, cheap pair of flip-flops are essential for both men and women when exploring the beautiful Cuban beaches.
A good microfiber towel is a must for any vacation where you plan to spend some time in the water or under extreme heat. Get a sweat towel that is lightweight, durable, and easy to pack.
Really? Do I need to remind you that Cuba has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean?
Beaches are a no-no for you if you come from the US, but for the lucky rest: don’t forget to pack your swimsuits!
4. Staying Healthy
Face masks are not required in Cuba. However, many Cubans still use them everywhere they go. Some facilities may also ask you to wear a mask inside. Please, be respectful of the mask etiquette on the island.
Get a pack of lightweight, disposable face masks suitable to use and carry everywhere in Cuba.
Hand sanitizer is scarce in Cuba. Commonly, locals use hypochlorite instead.
Bring your own pack of hand sanitizer to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 from surfaces, which may not be sufficiently clean in tourist facilities.
Although Cuba is praised for having a free healthcare system, the truth is that shortages of basic over-the-counter medicines are not uncommon.
You never know what might happen, and you’ll want to be able to take care of little emergencies as they arise.
Therefore, consider bringing along your own travel first aid medication kit.
Finding toilet paper in Cuba is complicated, except in high-end tourist facilities. You will likely find yourself needing some toilet tissues at some point during your Cuba adventure.
Therefore, bring a travel-size pack of toilet tissues. You will thank us later.
A filtered water bottle
Wait, what? Most people wouldn’t put a water bottle on their list of things to bring to Cuba.
We believe it’s a bad idea to travel without one. Water pollution in Cuba is still terrible. Additionally, the supply of purified water is meager.
If you don’t expect to have bottled water all the time, bringing your own filtered water bottle helps to eliminate some of the risks.
As with all tropical, sun-soaked countries, bringing and wearing an appropriate amount of sunscreen is incredibly important.
You definitely don’t want to spend your vacation sunburnt and miserable.
It’s important to keep in mind that mosquito-borne diseases are not uncommon in Cuba, such as Dengue and Zika.
For this reason, you must take whatever precautions necessary to repel the mosquitoes that carry this virus.
A simple bug spray is one of the most important items on the list of what to bring to Cuba. Make sure you use it every day and safely.
5. Electronic Devices
Your personal devices
Obviously, you’ll want to bring your cell phone and, if necessary, your laptop, tablet, etc.
Before traveling with your cell phone, contact your service provider to discuss travel rates. Also, make sure you will have Internet service in Cuba at all.
Additionally, it may be a good idea to fill up your tablet or e-reader with plenty of new books and put some new music in your library.
You’ll want to bring your camera to document all the adventures you will have on your island vacation.
Make sure you have plenty of available storage, whether bringing a professional camera or just using your smartphone.
Consider a waterproof camera to capture more of your beachside memories without the risk of water damage.
Bringing a portable charger means you are prepared for an emergency. Even if you cannot make it back to where you’re staying, you’ll be able to keep your devices charged.
Pin adapter, if necessary
Cuba uses the same plug types as North America, which is great for people traveling to Cuba from Canada or from the US.
This means you will need to purchase a pin adapter to plug in your electronics if you fly from elsewhere.
6. Touring Around
Cash, always cash
Cuba is primarily a cash country. ATMs are old and scattered. Many facilities won’t accept credit or debit cards, especially if issued by American banks.
Therefore, expect to pay most of your trip to Cuba costs in Cuban Pesos. Upon landing on the island, exchange your home currency for CUPs (Cuban Pesos)!
The official place to exchange your money for CUP is called CADECA (Casas de Cambio). You can find them at airports, resorts and hotels, cruise ports, and other tourism facilities across the country. Please, don’t exchange your money on the black market. You may be exposed to scams.
There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Cuba.
However, having a travel guide that can point you in the right direction can be helpful, especially if you are backpacking Cuba alone.
Real Havana by Mario Rizzi promises to guide you away from the tourist traps and enjoy Cuba the way Cubans do. You can also read our ultimate guide to the best Havana attractions.
Unless you are fluent in Spanish, a Spanish-English dictionary or phrasebook is a no-brainer.
Carrying one of these around with you will be incredibly helpful in communicating with the locals. This is important whether you have a simple question or need help in an emergency.
7. What to Bring to Cuba for Locals
Certain items that may be readily available and inexpensive in your home country may be hard to come by in Cuba. Many Cubans spend hours in long lines at stores to buy essential products you may take for granted, such as toothpaste, toilet paper, and painkillers.
Inflation, low wages, and shortages of almost everything have made it difficult for Cubans to access food, medicine, and other basic goods. Therefore, bringing a thoughtful gift will not only show your appreciation but can meet the vital needs of your host.
With that said, please don’t go around giving gifts to everyone on the streets. It’s inappropriate and unsafe. Bring gifts to friends, some hotel staff (don’t forget to tip them!), your “casa particular” or Airbnb host, and other locals you have emotionally connected with.
Also, be mindful of any items the Cuban authorities may consider offensive or subversive. You don’t want to get your hosts into trouble!
Here are some ideas for gifts you can bring to Cuba:
- Clothing, shoes, flip-flops, and accessories.
- Hygiene products: toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, soap, deodorant, toilet paper, and other female hygiene products.
- Medicines: aspirin, ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea pills, band-aids, and vitamins.
- Sheets, pillowcases, and towels.
- Sweets: chocolate, candies, chewing gum.
- School supplies and toys for kids: pencils, pens, coloring books, notepads, crayons, action figures, puzzles, balls, etc.
- Electronics accessories: flash drive sticks, SD cards, old tablets or cell phones, used cameras, batteries, power banks, charging cables, and USB chargers.
- Non-perishable food: canned goods, peanut butter, dry soups, jelly, coffee, cereals, granola bars, powdered milk, etc.
Essential personal items you leave behind after your trip may also be appreciated.
8. Cuban Import Regulations
Finally, read carefully the Cuban import regulations and the answers to your most burning questions about what you can legally bring to Cuba.
What to Bring to Cuba: The Packing List to Cuba
To recap, here is the full list of things to pack for Cuba. Review it, cross off the items you already have, and pack it up!
- Cuban Tourist Card (Cuba Visa)
- Travel health insurance
- Traveler Sanitary Statement
- Travel backpack or suitcase
- Packing cubes
- Laundry bags for clothes and shoes
- Sunhats (Our picks: Brooklyn Men’s Straw Sun Hat and C.C Women’s Sun Hat)
- Sneakers (Our picks: New Balance Men’s 990v4 and New Balance Women’s FuelCore Nergize V1 Cross Trainer)
- Walking sandals (Our picks: KEEN Men’s Newport and Teva Women’s Tirra Athletic Sandal)
- Microfiber towels
- Face masks
- Hand sanitizer
- First aid medication kit
- Toilet tissues
- Water filter bottle
- Mosquito repellant
- Personal devices (cellphone, camera, laptop)
- Portable charger
- Pin adapter
- Power adapter
- Travel guide
- Spanish-English phrasebook
- Gift for locals (items that are hard to get in Cuba)
It’s a Wrap!
Cuba is a wonderful destination. You’ll want to ensure you have everything you need to fully enjoy all the island offers. Hopefully, our guide on what to bring to Cuba will help you achieve just that.
Feel free to share your thoughts below, and share this article if you enjoyed it!
I was wondering if nail polish and mascara would be good items to bring along with tooth paste and tooth brush.
Hello we are visiting friends near Havana I Would like to bring them a small portable sewing machine and a few spools of thread is this allowed?
I only exchange $100 to CUP, most of the stuff you can pay in USD in Cuba. Ex. Restaurants they’ll indicate two amounts, CUP and USD. USD amount is the blackmarket conversion. Same with local Gift shops they appreciate it more if you pay them USD and they convert with the current blackmarket rates which is higher than the official conversion.
You say that bring them a gift they normally don’t have in Cuba., but I don’t know what Cuba is short of other then food, and clothes
All types of toiletries and medicine such as pain/ fever relief, kids medicine can be added to the list
You mention bringing canned good and other food items to Cuba. There is no issue at Cuban Customs bringing these items in?
I would like to know what currency people use to tip. I get it that Canadian currency is accepted, but because we don’t have a 1$ bill only a coin, I have read it’s not accepted. Should I than take a bunch of US $1 bills for tipping ?
Yes, you can tip in USDs. Please, read our guide to tipping in Cuba.
I’ve just returned from Veradero and saw tips in toonies & loonies. The staff said they accept those as well as Euros then they exchange it with travellers or the Cambio currency in the resort. Hope that helps. Plenty of Canadians visitors.
Great tips, DoubleOO. Thanks for sharing!
Cash is great, but Cubans will appreciate receiving everyday items that are difficult or expensive to obtain, such as toothpaste, tampons, soap, and even clothing.
I am a dual citizen PL/USA but after reading through your
website, I understand that I am bound by my American citizenship no matter what when travelling to Cuba.
I am a Spanish teacher and I would like to learn more a culture so the category “supporting people” would work for us for the couple days we are in Havana, then we are planning to go to Varadero and sail for a week. We will hire Cubans to help as sail/cook and would that qualify? I see that Varadero Marina is on the prohibited list of buisnesses by Dept. ot State of USA.
Thank you for clarify it for me, sending best wishes!
Having a full-time itinerary (6-8 hours) supporting private businesses should qualify for the Support for the Cuban People category. However, please notice that we are not able to provide any legal advice. Hope you understand.
Hello, I am fully vaccinated. I understand I need a negative per test to come into Cuba. What about coming home to Canada? Is there a place to get the test in Cuba and what is the cost? Thank You
hello, i have the 2 COVID vaccines and the booster and 10 days ago i got covid, hence i have a recovery certificate. Do i still need to have a negative PCR? the reason is that sometimes the PCR can be positive even after 1 month,,,and we are travelling in 1 week..Thank you!
According to the latest Covid-19 regulations in Cuba, you still need to present a negative PCR test.
The Cuban travel website mentions that we do not need a negative PCR test to get there. Is this true? I’ve also called Sunwing multiple times and they’ve said every single time that I don’t need one but why does this article say that we need one?
As of January 5, 2022, all travelers present a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours from the arrival date, regardless of vaccination status. Please, check out our updated guide to the current Cuba travel restrictions.
If you have a Visa bank Card that can be used as a ATM card through my bank Wells Fargo. Is that going to be a problem? For a 5 day stay would 2000 be sufficient in us currency? Thank you
Unfortunately, in Cuba, you won’t be able to use credit cards that were issued by American banks. To learn more about using money in Cuba, check out our guide to the Cuban currency and budget tips for Cuba.
Is there a beer shortage right now in Cuba (Guardalavaca area) ?
We are not aware of any shortage in Guardalavaca these days.
Havana shopping. Besides your typical souvenir shops, there are flea markets and antique shops. However, I have heard there are restrictions on what you can take out of Cuba. Any idea where I can find something comprehensive? I would hate to buy some old books or antique/vintage ceramics or crystal and find I have to leave it at the airport.
Thanks in advance
You shouldn’t have any issue taking out books and souvenirs as long as they are not valuable objets d’art. Here are two clarifying articles about it from the Cuban Customs:
Allowed and not allowed articles.
Article subjected to export requirements.
Be sure to take cash , Canadian or U.S. . We just returned from Caso Santa Maria and most time the internet was down.
at the Bank to get Cuban currency
Hello! Thank you for these comprehensive guides. I’m confused about the microfiber towels you suggest. Are there not towels provided at hotels and resorts? Or are these for another purpose I’m just not thinking of? Thanks!
Hotels and resorts do provide you with towels. We recommend microfiber towels against the sweat from the extreme heat in Cuba. Perhaps we should have clarified that better. Thanks so much for your question!
Is wifi available in Veraderos? Is it expensive? Travelling there from TO next week. I am with Rogers, can I use my phone there? Thanks!!!!
WiFi should be available in Varadero. Prices may vary depending on the service you will be using (NAUTA card, the hotel’s WiFi network, etc.). Please, check out our ultimate guide to getting Internet in Cuba for more details.
Hope it helps!
How many suitcases can you bring to Cuba?
First visit to Varedaro,Is wi-fi available in hotels
My family and I will be bringing items for donations, like soap, reading glasses, socks, candy, tooth paste and tooth brushes, will that be an issue? Will anyone be offended ?
Gifts and donations in Cuba are not expected but appreciated. No one should be offended. Instead, it will be helpful for the locals.
How much to purchase a straw hat while in cuba?
The price could be anywhere from 5 CUC from street vendors to 15 CUC at retailers.
We are leaving for Cuba, for a two week stay, how much luggage are we allowed to bring?
It is my husband and myself …also the weight of the luggage?
I want to bring two suitcases, but my husband disagrees … please bring some light to our disagrement.
Leaving from Montreal!
Each person can bring 25kg (55 lb) of personal belongings exempt from payment of customs duties. An additional 5kg (11 lb) as gifts may be exempt from customs duties too. Also, you can bring up to 10kg (22 lb) of medicines in a separate bag inside your luggage without paying customs duties for it. You will have to pay customs duties if your luggage weight exceeds those amounts. Here is more info on what you can import to Cuba within your luggage.
Whatever you do, just make sure that your luggage doesn’t exceed the maximum amount of 125 kg (275 lb) per person allowed to bring to Cuba. Otherwise, the Cuban customs will seize some of your items 🙂
Hope it helps!
I need help with the luggage. With Southwest we can take (2) suitcases, of 50 lbs each. Are you saying that once in Cuba they may confiscate anything over the weight limit?
Anything over 125 kg (275 lb) per person. You should be fine 🙂
Good god I travell alone and could use another suitcase so I cant imagine not taking one a piece.
I’m a bit confused about the weight limits as well. 275 is great but it seems that anything over 110 may be subject to a $10 US per kilo charge. So if I have 120 lbs of clothes, electronics and gifts would I be charged $50 + ?
Every kilo over 30 kg (66 lbs) costs 10 CUC. Keep in mind that these limits are per person. Therefore, if two people travel with 120 lbs (60 lbs each), there won’t be any additional cost. If, on the other hand, one person travels with 120 lbs, then there will be an additional 10 CUC/kg over 30 kg, which would be approximately $240 CUC [(54 kg – 30 kg)*10].
I want to bring a western saddle and head stall as a gift, is this allowed? The saddle is worth about $200.00 thx
We haven’t found any documentation regarding the import of those specific items, but I don’t think you will have any issue. Check out the official regulations on the allowed and not allowed articles and the items that need authorization. Hope it helps!
my health insurance is included in my plane ticket. so why do i need another insurance?
Of course, if your health insurance is included in your plane ticket, you won’t probably need another insurance.
Should you take all the cash you want to spend whilst in Cuba or can you get some money from ATM’s I’m travelling from the UK?
If you have a credit card that was NOT issued by a US bank, you can use it in Cuba. ATMs are mostly available in popular tourist cities like Havana, Varadero, Santiago de Cuba. You should also be able to use the credit card at resorts, airports, or cruise terminals. However, keep in mind that Cuba is mostly a cash country. Read our guide to Cuban currency for more info on this matter: https://www.tourepublic.com/blog/cuban-currency/
Why is it a no no to swim if you are from the u.s.?
Unfortunately, if you are a US citizen, you are not supposed to go to Cuba as a “tourist”… which means that, as a US citizen, you shouldn’t (legally) go there to swim at the beach 🙁
Did you apply for a visitor visa? I assume you’re traveling from the states.
If you are traveling from the states, you will need to apply for a visa (technically called “tourist card” in the case of Cuba). However, in some cases, you can also buy it from the airline. Hope it helps!
Just to let you know along with adapter plug you may need a voltage converter depending on where you stay their voltage is 220V and American and Canadian voltage is 110V
That’s a great tip, Debra! Definitely adding it to the article. Thank you!
Thought the TIPS section said their power is 110 same as US and Canada … (?) …
Yes, the power supply in Cuba is 110 volts. However, many modern hotels in Cuba have dual voltage with 220 volts sockets. Also, if you are staying in a casa particular, be aware that the air conditioning socket is for 220 volts 🙂
The swimwear section says beaches are a no-no if you are coming from the US….? Did i miss something there? Americans cannot go to the beach.?
yes! im confused by this too. what is the point of even going there then!