Cuba is such a unique destination that many travelers – seasoned or novice wonder about what to pack for Cuba. We traveled to Cuba and had a 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 (what to wear in Cuba) for photos.
Always be mindful of the weather before you travel. Cuba is located near the Caribbean Sea, so you can expect warm climate all year around, some months are humid then 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 – USA and Canada.
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Cuba Packing List: What to pack for Cuba?
Travel Documents for Cuba
First things first – let’s start the Cuba packing lists 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 in advance depending on your citizenship or you can get one on arrival. Most airlines will charge you for the tourist card or Cuban tourist visa in the flight ticket or holiday package and you will have to fill out the card in-flight and show it to customs and immigration on arrival.
Other travel documents
Carry other travel documents like – permanent residency card, a photo ID or hotel and tour reservations.
Travel Medical Insurance
Travel Medical Insurance is a MUST. Cuba doesn’t have free health care for people other then Cubans, so please take medical coverage/insurance. Immigration might ask for insurance at the airport or upon crossing the border.
Although we never found theft or pick pocketing to be an issue in Cuba, it is recommended that you keep your travel documents safe and secure. Use this travel organizer to keep all documents handy.
Cash or Credit cards
Always carry cash with you to Cuba. Cuba uses 2 types of currencies – CUC and CUP. As a tourist, you will be exchanging for CUC – Cuban Convertible currency. CUC is only available in Cuba and you can exchange them 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. If you ran out of cash, you will find a bank or two to take out the money. But ATMs or money machines are rare. So budget well and accordingly bring cash in your own currency and get it exchanged when and as much needed.
Need Cuba Travel tips? Get our essential Cuba Travel guide to prepare for your trip here
Cosmetics 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 Dove 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 most important as the sun is scorching hot mid day at any time of the year
- Light moisturer
- 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 its hot and dry.
- Light Make up – Eye pencil, lipstick, light foundation with SPF
- Tooth brush and tooth paste
- Bug spray
- 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 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 internet connection, you will have to prepare yourself and pay for internet per use.
So here is your electronics list
- Laptop (if you really have to)
- Kindle – You can download thousands of books and it can go on for days without charge or internet to download more. Super handy. Buy your Kindle from Amazon
- iPod – for music
- Phone – Mostly to download off line maps and take pictures or notes
- Adaptor – Cuba uses the same wall power outlet like USA and Canada, so you wont 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 uses 120 volts, Europe uses 220 volts. Get your convertor here
- Charging cable – I am in LOVE with this one. It has multiple ports and is super super handy.
- 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 of 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 internet is expensive in Cuba, you might want to take simpler items for entertainment
- Magazines, travel guide and books – Get magazines, lonely planet travel guides or books to read at the resort or at night time.
- Travel Note book – To document your travels and take essential contact numbers
Get photography tips and location from Havana Cuba here
Apps for Havana Cuba Travel
As free WiFi or hot spots are not available widely in Cuba, download these handy apps before you travel
- Off line maps – Download maps.me
- Weather App – This may or may be 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.
Here are some items we thought are essential for your trip, from a convenience stand point
Facial Tissue or Toilet Paper
Depending on how much you are carrying or traveling with – like a backpack or a suitcase, you should consider carry some toilet paper with you. If you are staying at a less then 4 star hotel, chances are if you ran 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 (Collapsible)
This is one of our recommended TRAVEL items – 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 from a convenience store or at the airport and perhaps buy an 8 litre so that you save money (it will last you longer) and fill your collapsible bottle with it while you are on the go – exploring.
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 coating, like this one from Rayban
It comes in different colors as well and are 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.
A light bed sheet (twin size) is a good option to carry. You can use it to lay it on the bed or carry yourself up while sleeping. The bedding in most hotels won’t be very plushy (and sometimes may not look clean, but may be clean). When in doubt, just throw the bedsheet on and get a good night’s sleep.
Micro fibre towel
Micro fibre towel are handy if you are at the resort or enjoying the beach. Get yours here
Hot Sauce or Ketchup
If you like spicy and aromatic food, you may or may not like all the Cuban dishes. For example, fries wont 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 what you wish to eat and 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.
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 out backpacks and that’s what we prefer to carry when we travel. We plan our clothes for the day/s and mix and match what we want wear (Salil might disagree with this, but I LOVE to plan my outfits for every 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.
Anti theft backpack of 25-35 litres 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 carry on when we travel. If you love suitcase as a carry-on, get this one from Swiss Gear – it it 21 inches long, perfect for use in flight (in over head compartment).
We find that packing cubes are super handy. If you like to organised items and keep them neat and clutter free in your suitcase or back pack, invest in a good packing cubes. We recommend using these ones from Eagle Creek.
They are decently priced and are sturdy. Buy your packing cubes from Amazon here
Clothes and What to Wear in Cuba
Now the FUN part, your outfit and shoes and accessories. Oh God, this is a must 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 in plain back drop or background, 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
Here is our essential outfit and shoes list for you
- Flowy dress – Carry your pastel colored, light and comfortable dress. Casual and not formal.
- Top and Blouses – Cotton, breathable fabric top and blouses. Off shoulder, short sleeves are best (don’t forget sun block lotion.)
- Shirts – Same thing as top and blouses, cotton shirts
- Pants – Linen or cotton trousers
- Skirts or shorts
- Swim wear – Especially you are heading to a resort like Varadero
- 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 may be)
- Socks – Get mini crew socks like these ones
Get our Havana Guide and Tips for sightseeing in the Havana city here
What not to take to Cuba?
There are a few items that we would suggest leaving behind while traveling to Cuba
- Leave expensive jewelry or gold and watches. Wear funky and junk jewelry that don’t cost much.
- Ditch your heels (wedges could be okay)
- 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 make up – Don’t compromise on your lotion and body essentials, but you could leave your eye pallets, 24 lip colors at home
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 base ball cap, facial wipes, pocket games (like magnetic chess), unused clothes to give away. They will appreciate it.
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 heart beat.
Happy planning to Cuba!
Additional Packing Tips Resources
Last Update: April 26 2019
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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