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.
Fortunately for the undecided, we have compiled the most comprehensive list of what to bring to Cuba and what to wear in Cuba. This includes items you must bring to comply with the Cuban Government’s travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve also highlighted recommended products, based on our expertise and the travelers’ experiences.
1. Entry Requirements
Your Cuba Tourist Card (a.k.a Cuba Visa)
Visitors from most countries will be required to obtain either a Cuba Tourist Card or a Cuba Visa. This little document is one of the single 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, keep it on your person at all times so that it’s not lost or stolen.
If you need to obtain the Cuban Tourist Card online, you can get it from Easy Tourist Card. They deliver the Cuba visa to almost anywhere.
This is another of the most important things to bring to Cuba. Cuban law requires that all visitors have valid travel insurance while visiting their country.
If you currently have insurance, make sure that it will provide coverage while you are on vacation. Additionally, ensure that you bring with you the proper proof. This is something officials will absolutely stop you to 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.
Pre-arrival PCR test and Traveler Sanitary Statement
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuban Government has imposed tighter travel restrictions to curtail the spread of the virus. As of January 2021, all incoming travelers are required to present a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours from the arrival date.
Everyone traveling to Cuba must also fill out the Sanitary Statement for Travelers (Declaración de Sanidad del Viajero), a sort of health declaration form.
Keep in mind that while in Cuba, you may be subject to further restrictions, such as two additional PCR tests, and a 5-night quarantine.
A light travel suitcase or backpack
There are several different types of bags you can bring along for your trip. Your budget, the length of time you plan to spend in Cuban, and personal preferences will affect which is best for you. Whatever the case may be, 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 fan of the backpack, 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.
Of course, if your goal is quality over everything, there are higher-end suitcase options. Travelpro offers a carry-on-sized suitcase with Duraguard coating, its own USB charging port, and plenty of other luxury features to help you travel to Cuba in style.
Packing cubes are simply zippable, often rectangular bags that help you to organize the contents of your suitcase.
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 like a necessity, this is one of our top picks for what to bring to Cuba.
Laundry bags for clothes and shoes
While it’s entirely possible to go on vacation without them, laundry bags are very useful. They help maintain organization and separate dirty clothes from clean.
At the same time, they can help from your clean clothes becoming dirty if everything is mingled together.
3. What to Wear in Cuba: Quick Guide on How to Dress in Cuba
Appropriate clothes and accessories
While the landscape of the island 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, but also bring along 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 things such as jewelry if you don’t need to bring it and you would hate if it were lost or stolen, consider leaving it at home.
You may be thinking about 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.
Similar to sunhats, sunglasses will help protect 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 at 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 plan to visit the more mountainous parts of Cuba for outdoorsy adventure-seeking.
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.
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 are coming from the US, but for the lucky rest: don’t forget to pack your swimsuits!
4. What to Pack to Stay Healthy
Face masks are required everywhere in Cuba. It makes sense. They are proven to protect people from getting COVID-19. Once on the island, you will be required to use them at all times.
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 the surfaces, which may not be sufficiently cleaned 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.
It’s very difficult to find toilet paper in Cuba, with the exception of high-end tourist facilities. It’s very likely that you will find yourself needing some toilet tissues a least 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 very low.
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.
5. Electronic Devices
Your personal devices
Obviously, you’ll want to bring things such as your cell phone and, if necessary, your laptop, tablet, etc.
Before traveling with your cell phone, make sure you 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 along to document all the adventures you’re going to have on your island vacation.
Make sure you have plenty of available storage, whether you’re bringing a professional camera or just using your smartphone.
Consider a waterproof camera so you can 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 are not able to 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 plugins as the United States and Canada.
This means you will need to purchase a pin adapter to plug in your electronics if you are traveling from elsewhere in the world.
6. Touring Around
Cash, always cash
You won’t be able to use American debit or credit cards anywhere in Cuba, so they will be useless on your trip.
Before leaving the States, make sure to get cash from the bank. You can then take that cash and exchange it for CUPs (Cuban Pesos) once you reach Cuba. They used to charge a 10% tax on exchanging US dollars, but the Cuban government lifted this tax in July 2020.
The official place to exchange your money for CUP is called CADECA (Casas de Cambio). You can find them at airports, many 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 an immeasurable help.
Unless you are fluent in Spanish yourself 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 you need help in an emergency.
7. Import Regulations
8. What to Bring to Cuba: The Packing List to Cuba
To recap, here is the full checklist of things to pack to Cuba. Review it, cross off the items you already have, and pack it up!
- Cuban Tourist Card (Cuba Visa)
- Health insurance
- Pre-arrival PCR test and 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
It’s a Wrap!
Cuba is a wonderful destination. We couldn’t be more excited that it’s taking off as a traveling hotspot.
Hopefully, our guide on what to bring to Cuba and how to dress in Cuba helps you plan the holiday of your dreams. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, and share this article if you enjoyed it!