Traveling to Cuba can be a wonderful experience, as long as you are prepared to deal with the peculiarities of a tropical country, avoiding unexpected circumstances that could ruin your vacation days. A good practice is to talk to your tour operator, friends who have visited Cuba before, or your private guide to know which things to bring to Cuba are a important. (If you haven’t booked a an amazing private tour yet, take a look to our marketplace of tours in Cuba). Here is what we consider are the most important things to bring to Cuba.
(TIP: Visiting Cuba soon? Check out our guide to plan a cheap vacation to Cuba)
List of things to bring to Cuba:
Always remember that forewarned is forearmed. So, you better manage your own Cuba packing list with everything you need to make your trip a memorable experience.
Light travel bag
If you are heading to Cuba, try to pack as light as possible. Cuban Customs establish a maximum of 30 kg to enter the country without paying duties. Therefore, if you don’t want to over limit that number, try not to use heavy bags.
Most of the people who travel to Cuba use the so-called gusanos (worms). These duffel bags can be sometimes a bit difficult to carry since they don’t have wheels, but they are very light and spacious. They are also flexible and you can extract the air by using a vacuum. But even when the gusanos allow you a better use of space, it is better to not place objects separately. Always try to mix them or fit them according to their shapes. This way you will have enough room for the things you want to take to Cuba.
If you travel to Cuba for the first time and don’t know anyone there, you should use a backpack with many pockets. That way you keep all the belongings in only one luggage.
Some people say that a hand luggage is a women’s thing. But a small backpack could be very handy for everybody, especially in case the luggage is delayed or lost.
You can put plenty of useful items into your hand luggage. For example, your passport and identity documents, cell phone, camera, guide book, or essential hygiene items such as toothbrush, toilet paper or important medication you may need.
It is important you know that due to security reasons, you are not allowed to take into your carry-on punching and cutting objects, like scissors or nail clippers. It is better to put these items into your check-in luggage.
Photocopies of important documents
Among the essential things to bring to Cuba, you must not forget certain mandatory documents. Take several photocopies of your passport, airline tickets and travel insurance, and make sure you leave one photocopy at home or in your e-mail inbox. Once you arrive to the island, put these documents in a safe place where you can frequently check.
Please, follow these basic security measures and you won’t regret losing any document. Always keep in mind that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Add cash to the things to bring to Cuba. There are two currencies that circulate in the island: the CUP (Cuban Pesos) and the CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos). If you travel with euros, US dollars or any other international currency, it is more than likely that you won’t be able to pay at some private or state institutions.
You shouldn’t count either on paying for goods or services with a credit card almost anywhere in Cuba. Why? Because over there, cash is the king of the castle.
The safest place to exchange your money is at CADECA (Casas de Cambio). They are placed at airports, many resorts and hotels, and other locations across the country. Once there, change your money to CUC, which is the most accepted currency for tourism services in Cuba. Please, don’t exchange your money in the black market, you may be exposed to some sort of scam.
You shouldn’t exchange all your money for once, but if you do it don’t take it with you all the time. Although Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world, pick-pocketing is becoming a growing problem and it is better to be cautious. Just carry the amount of cash you need for each day.
(TIP: Know exactly how to deal with the Cuban currency on your Cuba vacation)
Include the medications you take on a daily basis among the things to bring to Cuba. Be sure to bring enough supplies for the time you are staying in Cuba. They will be safer if you put them in your hand luggage.
It is completely normal for visitors to have stomach problems, which are likely to appear when you expose to a different routine and climate. So, if you are sensitive to foreign food and water, your medical kit should contain antacids and tablets against diarrhea. Also, drink bottled water all the time. In Cuba you will find both still and sparkling water.
Additionally, don’t leave at home anti-histamines or any other drug you use to treat allergies and insect bites. There are many mosquitoes in Cuba, and high temperatures may slightly affect your immune system.
Every tourist who visit Cuba may receive proper medical attention at the International Clinics. However, to be attended you are required to travel with health insurance. Cuban health services are only free for Cuban citizens.
You should get a health insurance policy in your country to cover for medical expenses in Cuba. In case you don’t have insurance at arrival, you may buy a policy from the local insurance provider – Asistur S.A -, which has offices near the immigration area at any airport. Travel assistance services from Asistur S.A are available 24 hours all year round.
Clothes and accessories
Worried about what to wear in Cuba? Fortunately, this question has very simple answers.
Cuba is an eternal summer. It can get very hot and humid throughout most of the year, so cotton and other light natural fabrics are ideal to wear when travelling to Cuba.
Don’t wear clothing and jewelry that is too flashy. Remember that the living standard in Cuba is not high, and you don’t want to look or feel out of place.
Among the things to bring to Cuba include shirts and T-shirts, shorts, skirts, summer dressers and jeans or trousers. Also, consider a light jacket or sweater, you could need them in case the evenings get cooler, or in some places where air conditioning is often set to freezing. Likewise, bring smart casual clothes, if not overly formal, if you plan to go to evening events or iconic venues like the cabaret Tropicana. Remember, there is no need to dress up.
Cuban is an island, so you will have plenty of opportunities for swimming. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuits!
The Cuban government is strongly committed to the preservation of its colonial towns. Thanks to that effort, villages like Trinidad, Havana, Remedios or Sancti Spiritus, just to name a few, still have iconic cobblestone streets. This means, ladies, that you must leave your high heels at home if you truly want to enjoy your walking.
Exploring the Cuban streets on foot is definitely an adventure. Walking around any city will help you better understand the Cuban natural and cultural landscape. Commonly, the distances among the main tourist landmarks of a city are relatively short. If you are eager to discover the authentic Cuba, add sandals and sneakers to your packing list and you won’t regret a thing.
Sunscreen and sunglasses
Among the things to bring to Cuba, you definitely must not miss sunscreen and sunglasses.
Temperatures in Cuba can get very high, so use as much sunscreen as you can. The minimum SPF should be 15. Believe it or not, this product is hard to find in the island and it is very expensive. Since you must use it on a daily basis, better pack lots of sunscreens. To pass it easier through customs, empty the content into 100ml plastic containers.
Sunglasses are absolutely important and necessary to protect your eyes from the harsh rays of the sun, especially when you are in the beach.
(TIP: Check our recommended time to travel to Cuba if you are looking for sun and beaches)
There are many mosquitoes in Cuba, especially in coastal and country areas. They are a nuisance that torment tourists who normally don’t have to deal with them at home. Include a mosquito or insect repellent among the things to bring to Cuba. Spread it all over your arms and legs, particularly at late afternoon. This is the time when mosquitoes like to show up.
If you booked a hotel or a casa particular via Internet, be sure to bring the correct address and phone number. This will help you to when giving directions to taxi drivers or asking for references to local people.
Personal grooming items
It can be very difficult to find certain toiletries in Cuba, especially if you look for specific or popular brands in your country. The most common brands in Cuba are L’Oreal, Pantene, Garnier and, when available, they will cost you more than what you would pay for at home.
If you have a special preference for a shampoo, conditioner, or a type of fabric, you better add them to the things to bring to Cuba. Some hotels and casas particulares may offer some essential toiletries, but perhaps not your favorites.
Generally, the electricity power in Cuba is 110 volts and the two prong outlet are the most frequently used. However, some hotels have predominantly 220 volts electricity and three prong outlets. So, pack power converters that allow you to connect your electrical equipment like laptop or cell phone. You may also bring a universal plug, although some Meliá hotels are already equipped with these adapters.
Follow these tips and pack everything you need to bring to Cuba in advance, you will tell amazing stories to your neighbors, excluding any “but”.
Have you been in Cuba before? What other items do you think must be among the things to bring to Cuba? Leave your comments below!