Cuba Packing List: What to pack for Cuba?
Cuba is such a unique destination that many travelers – whether seasoned or novice wonder about what to pack for Cuba. We traveled to Cuba and had the first-hand experience, so we can definitely share all the must-haves for your trip. In this ultimate Cuba packing list, we have included the basic items to electronics and clothing recommendations (like what to wear in Cuba) for the beach and also for photos.
Always be mindful of the weather before you travel. Cuba is located near the Caribbean Sea, so you can expect a warm climate all year round, with some months more humid than others. But you will never have to carry winter parkas or snow boots, that’s for sure. And that’s why Cuba is slowly becoming popular with North American tourists – both in the USA and Canada.
Cuba Packing List: What to pack for Cuba?
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If you only have a few days left for your trip, don’t worry, as many of these items can be purchased online and delivered the next day with Amazon Prime. You can sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime right here!
Travel Documents for Cuba
First things first – let’s start the Cuba packing list with travel documents for your trip. Carry your passport. Make sure it has not expired.
Cuban Tourist Visa
Cuban Tourist Visa can be either applied for in advance depending on your citizenship, or you can get one on arrival. Most airlines will include the cost of the Cuban tourist visa in the flight ticket or vacation package. You will have to fill out the tourist card in-flight and show it to customs and immigration officials on arrival.
Other travel documents
Carry other travel documents like – permanent residency card, photo ID or hotel and tour reservations.
Travel Medical or Health Insurance
Travel Medical Insurance is a MUST. Cuba doesn’t have free health care for people other than Cubans, so please take medical coverage/insurance. Immigration officials might ask for insurance papers at the airport or upon crossing the border.
Although we never found theft or pickpocketing to be an issue in Cuba, it is recommended that you keep your travel documents safe and secure.
Cash or Credit cards
Cash is king in Cuba. Cuba uses 2 types of currencies – CUC and CUP. As a tourist, you will be exchanging money for CUC – Cuban Convertible currency. CUC is only available in Cuba and you can exchange currency at the airport, national banks and (some) hotels. Take USD or CAD and get CUC in return.
Credit cards are very rare and limited to big hotels and resorts in Cuba. ATMs or money machines are also rare.
If you ever run out of cash, you will find a bank or two to take out the money in touristy areas like Havana and Varadero, but in smaller towns, it might be a little difficult to spot one. In our opinion, it is wise to budget well and accordingly bring cash in your own currency to get it exchanged as and when needed (in the hotel you stay in or at the airport).
Need Cuba Travel tips? Get our essential Cuba Travel guide to prepare for your trip here
Comfortable walking shoes for Old Havana Lanes
Old Havana is filled with cobblestoned lanes. As much as it is colorful and fun, wearing comfortable walking shoes is a must to enjoy this UNESCO heritage site to the fullest. I highly recommend trying out my KEEN sandals on the uneven, sometimes dirty lanes of Old Havana. This pair of KEENs come with toe protection, keeping you safe and clean. And they are WASH-ABLE!
The sole bed is super comfortable for all day long wear, and it also comes in a variety of colors! Because they are sandals you can use them at the resort or by the pool too.
Clean bed sheet or sleeping bag liners
Hotels and resorts in Cuba do not follow the same luxury or accommodation rating as in most of North America. So if you are booking a mid-range or 3-star hotel in Cuba, you will find that a 3-star in Cuba is definitely not the same as a 3-star in North America.
The bedding in most hotels won’t be very plushy (and sometimes may not look clean, but maybe clean). A lightweight bedsheet (in twin size) is a good option to carry. When in doubt, just throw the bedsheet on and get a good night’s sleep.
As a seasoned traveler, we carry a sleeping bag liner (although we don’t camp a lot outdoors, we find this hack super useful). Sleeping bag liners are super lightweight, and easy to carry. Traditionally they provide a thin insulated layer inside sleeping bags, for camping. But they are equally effective when hotel bedsheets are a little questionable.
The internet in Cuba is expensive and it is not as fast as the internet we experience in the US or Canada. If you love reading, consider taking an e-reader with you. We LOVE our Kindles. We loved our old bulky Kindle with the chunky keyboard, and now madly in love with the newest one, which is super lightweight and it fits into my small cross body travel bag.
This new Kindle paper-white is also waterproof, so you can get a lot of reading done under the sun while lazing at the resort pool or at the beach. Download all the books, PDFs, magazines, everything you want (it can fit up to 6000 books on the go, without killing any trees or weighing your bag down). I am sure you won’t be without a book or magazine on your entire trip!
Rain jacket or cardigan (all seasons)
Cuba can get chilly in the evenings, so a light jacket is handy. If it’s waterproof it takes out all the guesswork should it decide to shower, without warning. Weather is Cuba is quite similar to the weather experienced in Florida, so it is recommended that you carry a light rain jacket at all times of the year.
I always pack a light cardigan with me at all times in my travels, from Cuba to Europe and Mexico to Morocco. It is super handy should temperatures drop (and you are cold) or inside the resort, aircraft or tour vans – with the A/C cranked up. Here are my favorite rain jacket and cardigan
Cosmetic Packing Lists
Unlike most western countries of the world, where you will find shampoos and soaps at the hotel or at a convenience store, it isn’t the case with Cuba. For one, MOST hotels won’t provide you with shower gel, shampoos or body lotion. Even at a store, you will see unfamiliar brands. The “Unilevers” and “Doves” of the world are nonexistent in Cuba. So pack and carry your own
Here is the cosmetics list
- Face wash or facial wipes
- Sunscreen – The sunscreen is the most important as the sun is scorching hot midday at any time of the year
- Light moisturizer
- Shower gel
- Body lotion (with SPF sun protection)
- Hand sanitizer – Super handy when you are out and about. Don’t forget to carry a hand sanitizer in your purse.
- Facial Mist – Spray it while on the go to refresh your make up or just cause it’s hot and dry.
- Light Makeup – Eye pencil, lipstick, a light foundation with SPF
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Bug spray – Click here to view plant-based insect/bug repellent
- Mosquito repellent (or mosquito repellant)
- Sanitary pad or tampon
Carry them all in a transparent pouch and travel size containers. Here is what we recommend –
Medications for Cuba
As mentioned, Cuba will not provide free treatments or drugs to tourists. Nor will you find Advil and Tylenol or any medications that you are used to in America, Canada or Europe. So take your medications with you.
Here are some of the medications we recommend bringing
- Personal medications
- OTC painkiller
- Jetlagged medications if traveling outside of North America. Get one here
Electronics and Entertainment
Cuba literally takes you to simpler times, when the internet was not Wi-Fi nor free. And social media not so popular. So with that in mind, we say ditch the laptop and enjoy the weather and the Cuban culture. But if you are planning on working in Cuba and need an internet connection, you will have to prepare yourself and pay for the internet per usage.
So here is your electronics list
- Laptop (if you really have to)
- iPod – for music
- Phone – Mostly to download offline maps and take pictures or notes
- Adaptor – Cuba uses the same wall power outlet like the USA and Canada, so you won’t have to carry an adaptor. If you are traveling from outside of North America, you might need one. Get your travel adaptor here
- Convertor – You might have to carry a convertor with you to Cuba. Most hotels will have 110 volts in the bathroom for shavers and hair dryers. They should also have dual voltage in their rooms. But if you are staying at a casa particular, then consider carrying a voltage convertor. Cuba uses 110 volts mostly, US and Canada use 120 volts, Europe uses 220 volts. Get your converter here
- Charging cable – Highly recommend purchasing charging cables, with multiple ports, as it is super super handy to charge multiple electronics. I am in LOVE with this one – click to view prices.
- Power bank portable charger – As power outlets may or may not be readily available, take a power bank portable charger with you, fully charged. Get your power bank here
- Headphones – For in-flight entertainment, music on the go or while on day trips. Get noise-canceling headphones here
- Camera and memory card – Don’t forget your camera. Carry a high capacity memory card so that you don’t run out of space on your SD card. Here is a 128 GB storage card for you
Also, clear your SD card before you travel so that you have room for TONS of photos.
As mentioned above the internet is expensive in Cuba, you might want to take simpler items for entertainment
- Travel Notebook – To document your travels and take essential contact numbers
- Magazines travel guides and books – Get magazines, lonely planet travel guides or books to read at the resort or at night time.
Apps for Havana Cuba Travel
As free WiFi or hot spots are not widely available in Cuba, download these handy apps before you travel
- Offline maps – Download maps.me
- Weather App – This may or maybe THAT accurate, nevertheless still useful
- TripIt – Track and plan your Cuba Itinerary. Here is our itinerary to Havana
- Duolingo – Brush up on common Spanish words.
Get photography tips and location from Havana Cuba here
Convenience Items to pack for Cuba
Here are some items that are essential for your trip, from a convenience standpoint
Facial Tissue or Toilet Paper
Depending on how much you are carrying or traveling with – like a backpack or a suitcase, you should consider carrying some toilet paper with you. If you are staying at a budget hotel (less than 4-star hotel), chances are if you run out of toilet paper, it won’t be refilled. So carry some.
We carried 2 rolls of toilet paper and some packs of facial tissue for the two of us for 5 days.
Water Bottle with an inbuilt filter or Collapsible water bottle
This is one of our most recommended travel items for visiting Cuba – a very handy collapsible water bottle. Tap water in Cuba is not safe to drink, so you will have to purchase bottled water.
You can purchase water from a convenience store or at the airport. If you are staying at a luxury hotel, you will be provided with clean drinking water, so you can use these super compact water bottles to fill it up.
However, if you are not staying in a luxury hotel, we highly recommend carrying a water bottle with a filter for safe and clean drinking water. Relying on bottled water means spending a lot of money on it.
Sunglasses and Hat
Due to the sun and heat, both sunglasses and a hat will come in handy, to rescue you. Get sunglasses with polarized coatings, like this one from Rayban
It comes in different colors as well and is very light to wear and carry. A sun hat not only looks cool but also helps protect you from the sun. I love my floppy hat and I am sure you will too.
For the very reason – the sun. You can carry an umbrella if you do not wish to wear a hat.
Lightweight sand-free or Microfiber towel
A lightweight sand-free towel is handy both at the resort and at the beach. Fashionable towels are great, but I have realized how dirty the car or my beach bag looks after a fun sand-filled day! Don’t let it happen again – choose a sand-free beach towel, which will get rid of the sand in a quick shake.
This towel from Amazon is amazing, you can use it at the pool or beach. It is also lightweight and rolls up into a bag – easy peasy to carry!
Hot Sauce or Ketchup
If you like spicy and aromatic food, you may or may not like all the Cuban dishes. For example, fries won’t be loaded with salt or spices or free ketchup. Roast chicken and rice will be just that roast chicken and rice (very little salt and no spice)
But roopa vieja (or shredded beef with beans) will be spicy and delicious – so it really depends on what you wish to eat and what you get when you reach the restaurant or at your resort.
If you carry small condiments (like salt/pepper or ketchup), it will be handy.
The same thing goes for snacks. You may not find late-night snack bars or gas stations and if you are hungry and didn’t like the food at the restaurants, then you will need snacks (or beef jerky).
Carry on – Backpack or Suitcase
Before we move to clothes and what to wear in Cuba, let’s talk about your carry on or your luggage.
For our trip to Cuba, we both carried our backpacks and that’s what we prefer to travel with. I plan my clothes for the day/s and mix and match what I want to wear (Salil might disagree with this, but I LOVE to plan my outfits for each day :))
Okay, so backpacks. We prefer anti-theft backpacks and we have written a whole post about it, you can take a look at it here
But we found that theft was not an issue in Cuba, so even if you have a regular bag or backpack without anti-theft or RFID properties you should be good.
An anti-theft backpack of 25-35 liters is an optimal size if you wish to use the backpack as a carry-on and as a day pack when you are out and about exploring. Here is a backpack we recommend and it also has anti-theft properties. Get yours here
We always prefer and use to carry on when we travel. If you love suitcase as a carry-on, get this one from Swiss Gear – it is 21 inches long, perfect for use in flight (in an overhead compartment).
We find that packing cubes are super handy inside backpacks and suitcases. If you like to organize items and keep them neat and clutter-free in your suitcase or backpack, invest in good packing cubes. We recommend using these compression packing cubes, and I LOVE them!
They are decently priced and are sturdy.
Clothes and What to Wear in Cuba
Now the FUN part, your outfit and shoes, and accessories and what to wear in Cuba to look pretty in your photos.
Remember the weather is warm, so focus on light colors and airy/cotton clothes and linen pants or shorts.
How to dress in Cuba?
Cuba is a resort destination and is SO much fun – so leave your formal and dressy clothes at home. Carry pastel color skirts, dresses, blouses, denim shorts, swimwear, and casual shirts.
Because Havana is so colorful and pretty, wear monochrome or light-colored clothes. When you are photographing against a plain backdrop, you can mix it up with floral or bright prints to lighten up the photos. As always use a hat or sunglasses to add that jazz.
We found Havana to be completely SAFE. I could wear off-shoulder or tank tops, shorts at any time of the day, without being stared at.
Clothes/Outfits/Shoes for Havana Cuba and resorts
Here are our essential outfit and shoe list for you
- Flowy dress – Carry your pastel-colored, light and comfortable dresses – casual and fun, but not formal.
- Top and Blouses – Cotton, breathable fabric tops and blouses. Off shoulder, short sleeves are best (don’t forget sunblock lotion.)
- Shirts – Same thing as top and blouses, cotton shirts
- Pants – Linen or cotton trousers
- Skirts or shorts
- Swimwear and cover-up – Pack 2 -3 swimwear if heading to a resort-like Varadero. Don’t forget a cover-up
- Flip flops – Carry flip flops for the beach
- Comfortable walking shoes – Carry FLAT, comfortable, CLOSED toe shoes. Old Havana lanes are dirty and uneven, protect yourself and wear walking shoes (minus laces maybe)
- Socks – Get mini crew socks like these ones
Get our Havana Guide and Tips for sightseeing in the Havana city here
What to pack for Cuba for your hosts – For Cubans, hosts and new friends
If you wish to tip or give a gift to Cubans – your host, guide or new friends, carry simple items like a baseball cap, facial wipes, pocket games (like a magnetic chessboard), unused clothes to give away. They will appreciate it.
What not to take to Cuba?
Here are a few items that we would suggest leaving behind while traveling to Cuba
- Leave expensive jewelry or gold and watches. Wear fashion jewelry that doesn’t cost much.
- Ditch your heels
- Formal wear – tie, bow, tuxedo
- Expensive handbags (it is going to be hot and humid, so leave your handbags protected in dust bags at home)
- Too much makeup – Don’t compromise on your lotion and body essentials, but you could leave your eye pallets, 24 lip colors at home
Cuba Packing List Printable
Here is a quick review of the packing list. If you need a printable list, you can get it right here!
- Tourist visa, if required
- Hotel reservations
- Tour bookings
CLOTHING & LAUNDRY
- Sweater/Light rain jacket
- Night clothes
- Swimsuit, cover-up
- Travel-size packets of laundry soap
FIRST AID & HYGIENE
- Medication, prescription
- Bandages, tape, gauze, elastic wraps
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen
- Antiseptic cream
- Bug spray
- Bed liners
- Battery power pack
- Adaptor, if required
- Charging Cables
- e-Reader, tablet, laptop, magazines
- Apps – offline maps, translator
- Toilet paper
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Face wipes
- Minimal makeup
- Body spray / perfume
- Sunscreen, sunburn lotion or ointment
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Facial mist
- Water or water bottle with filter
- Health snack
GIFTS FOR HOST
- Educational toys, books
- Clothes, hygiene products
Cuba is SUCH an amazing destination. It truly takes you to simpler times and we felt so safe in the city of Havana and would recommend this place in a heartbeat.
Happy planning to Cuba!
Additional Packing Tips Resources
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.