With more travelers heading to Fidel Castro’s home than ever the question of what to bring to Cuba gets asked a lot! It can be difficult to decide on what to put on your Cuba packing list.
After all, there are a lot of climate shifts on the island nation.
So, it’s tough to know what to put in your suitcase for the stifling heat of Havana or the cooler tobacco fields of Vinales. Cuba sees all walks of life from adventure seekers, cruise patrons, and even celebrities all with their own unique sense of fashion.
My suggestion is to go with your own fashion and stick to a few staple items!
What to Bring to Cuba
Essentials for Cuba
One thing to know about Cuba is to enter Cuba you must have a pre-organized Cuba Tourist Card. Many airlines offer customers the card for a small fee but check with your airline before your flight. Some flights incorporate the exit tax in their flight prices, so check the small print so you can spend your CUC money on cocktails instead! I recommend putting a number of books on your Cuba packing list. Wi-Fi is limited to specified areas and you must purchase a card to log onto the internet. The World Pursuit recommends They Walk Amongst Us, creepily true crime stories from the UK.
If you are a bit particular about your drinking water a water filter is a great idea. The World Pursuit recommends the LifeStraw Go just to be safe. It tackles 99.9% of bacteria and helps reduce plastic waste.
Clothes for Cuba
When you are deciding what to pack for Cuba you should first determine how long you are traveling in Cuba. It is recommended that you take one more undergarment than required.
There are not launderettes on every corner, so we ended up hand washing our clothes.
The Scrubba bag is great for hand washing items! Except we were using shampoo as detergent and that smell still lingers with me. Be prepared and bring your own travel detergent if you are traveling with a rucksack.
Vest tops are handy for day and night, a couple of cardigans won’t go a miss for covering up sunburn or throwing over your shoulders in the evening.
I recommend that you take a mix of shorts and skirts, I rarely wear long trousers (we traveled for three weeks during the month of June); however, the mosquitos at Playa Larga (near the Bay of Pigs) are the worst that I’ve ever experienced. So long pants may be worth it if you are heading in that direction. Definitely, bring one bottle of insect repellant.
Swimwear for Cuba
Cuba is an island and that islands mean water! Pack your swimwear for the glorious turquoise waters of Playa Ancon (Trinidad), Varadero, and Cayo Largo. Naturally, those who are holidaying in one of Cuba’s many all-inclusive resorts, beachwear will be the first thing they pack!
Most casas particulares provide towels. Our all-inclusive hotel actually ran out of large towels so we had to use two small ones (they did fashion them into swans though). If you want a good travel towel we recommend the Youphoria Dry towel or check out our other favorite travel towels here.
Footwear for Cuba
You will clock up many miles on your Fitbit during a trip to Cuba’s capital, Havana. By day you will climb stairs to see the 360 city views from the Camera Obscura and by night, salsaing at Casa de la Musica or Buena Vista Social Club so sensible yet sexy footwear is necessary. Cole Haan Ballet Flat’s are great for this!
Comfortable footwear that is structured and well-worn in is recommended for ticking off the top 10 things to do in Havana. You may want to bring a pair of closed shoes such as trainers for cycling to the mogotes in Vinales or hiking to Javira Waterfall in Trinidad. The World Pursuit recommends the Merrell Moab Ventilators which keep us comfortable all day.
A sensible party shoe such as a wedged heel will dress up the backpacker’s little black dress but give you that lift which makes the mambo slightly more manageable (those Cubans make it look so easy!)
Accessories for Cuba
A bit of bling never goes amiss when dressing to impress over mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio and you won’t want to forget a cute sun hat and shades for the blistering beach heat. Scarfs always make a great cover, blanket, hostel dorm bed curtain, hat or bag. So versatile!
Outerwear for Cuba
Although Cuba enjoys 7-10 hours of sun daily (time of year depending) and rarely dips below 79 degrees Fahrenheit it does rain. We were caught a downpour one afternoon in Trinidad and no amount of hiding in shop doorways was going to keep us dry. A decent raincoat goes a long way. I love my Marmot rain jacket as it’s light and folds away into its own pocket, perfect space-saving coat.
Electronics for Cuba
You won’t need a fancy phone or laptop because there are limitations on the internet in Cuba. However, investing in some sort of higher quality camera will most certainly pay off on these vibrant streets. The World Pursuit travels around with a Fujifilm X-T10 and a GoPro for underwater shots, activities, and taking discrete photos. If you must carry a laptop they recommend a cheap Chromebook, named one of their best travel laptops
Cuba mainly uses the standard U.S. style two-pronged outlet. Although you will find the Europlug at about 10% of the hotels in Cuba. Make sure to pack a universal adaptor with you just in case.
When we deciding what to bring to Cuba we were advised to take gifts for locals. We traveled from Havana to Vinales, Playa Larga to Trinidad then on to Varadero and not once were we expected to hand over gifts. We paid in cash for accommodation and apart from breakfast, we were left to treat the casas like hotel rooms. Owners would engage if we attempted to ask questions in our terrible Spanish. However, my friend recently took a group tour around the island and she was asked for toiletries around the southeast of the island. If you do plan on bringing gifts, be prepared beforehand. The reason that locals are looking for the likes of tampons and makeup is not only because their wages are low but mainly because their shops are often bare, it’s not unheard of the butter to run out!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
About the Author
Gemma and Craig, full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Check in at Two Scots Abroad for travel tips, quips, and pics that please. You can find them on both Facebook and Instagram sharing their love for travel around the world.