When planning for any trip, it is helpful to know what to pack. A trip to Cuba is no different. This article won’t tell you to bring an exact number of shirt, pants, and/or dresses. What it will do is provide you with helpful tips that will make your life easier while travelling through Cuba.
1) Pack Everything You Need
This is the overarching theme of this article. Bring everything you might need with you. It is better to be prepared when visiting Cuba. I’m not saying overpack to an extreme – I managed with only a backpack – just be aware that it can be difficult to find even basic purchase. You can’t just go pick up items once you arrive.
Toiletries and Cosmetics are case and point for tip #1. Make sure to bring everything – shampoo, conditioner, deodourant, soap, lotions, makeup, etc. It is important to have enough of each to get you through the entire trip. I recommend adding two items that might not initially cross your mind – dry shampoo and baby power. Dry shampoo eliminates the hassle of carrying large amounts of liquids with you and helps maintain your hair even if it gets greasy in the afternoon heat. Baby powder on the other hand has numerous uses (smelly shoes, grease stains in your clothes, etc.).
Be sure to pack a full medical kit in your luggage. In addition to any prescription medications, plan to bring common pain relievers, stomach medications, and cold/flu relief. Nothing is worse than being ill and not having these your trusted medications with you. While it isn’t a medication per se, I recommend taking hand sanitiser to make sure you don’t get sick while traveling. It is a good addition in case bathroom facilities aren’t readily available for washing hands.
4) Sunscreen and Insect Repellent
Sunscreen is a no-brainer regardless of if you plan to spend time at the beach or not. Cuba is part of the Caribbean after all. Your need for insect repellent will vary depending on where you are going. Havana is virtually mosquito free while you’ll need to apply insect repellent if you are headed out on a day trip.
5) Contact Lenses / Eye Glasses
If you wear contact lenses or glasses, I strongly suggest you bring extra sets. This includes an extra set of eye glasses, an extra set of prescription sunglasses, another box of contact lenses, and plenty of contact solution.
6) Converters (if necessary)
The majority of casa particulars will have both North American and European outlets available for use. Personally I’ve never experienced an issue, but it is always advisable to double check that your electronics will work in Cuban outlets.
7) Filtering Water Bottle
It is important never to drink the tap water in Cuba. Bottle water is easily obtained, but for the extra cautious traveller carrying a filtering water bottle (such as Lifestraw) is a solid backup plan.
Plan to bring enough cash for the duration of your visit. With Vamos*Cuba you pay for the majority of large expenses before you reach Cuba – reducing the amount of cash you’ll need to carry with you.
9) Extra Tissues/Toilet Paper
Toilet paper isn’t readily available in public restrooms around the Island. It is handy to bring your own pack of tissues or even a roll of Toilet Paper with you. Just be sure to put used toilet paper in the rubbish bin rather than flushing it.
Make sure to bring a good pair of closed-toed walking shoes in addition to any flip flops and sandals. Every time I visit Cuba, I wear out at least one pair of shoes from all the walking.
To blend in in Cuba it is important to dress appropriately. Most people wear causal, simple clothing. It is recommended that you pack light clothing. Leave your jeans and synthetic fibers at home and opt for cotton and linen clothing instead. Also leave expensive accessories at home – a little modesty goes a long way.
I also recommend bringing at least one formal outfit with you in case you find yourself attending an occasion demanding a bit more formality.
12) Anything that will Help Beat the Heat
Cuba can be hot and humid. It is important to prepare yourself for the warm weather. For example, a travel umbrella can double as a parasol. It also protects you from any unexpected downpours. Hats and sunglasses are also a must. They keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes. A folding decorative fan is also a good addition. It can fit in your daypack and provide relief from the heat. Finally, I recommend bringing cloth handkerchiefs. You’ll notice that many Cubans carry a handkerchief to mop the sweat off their brows during the height of summer. All of these will help keep you cool when you are not in air conditioned spaces.