Cuba is an adventurous trip that feels like you’re going back in time. Lively Havana is filled with old fashioned cars, pastel colored buildings, and brimming with Cuban culture. So what should you bring with you to to Cuba? Below you’ll find the must-haves for your Cuba packing list.
I’ve included all the information I wish I had beforehand to make your travels that much easier. It’s time to get all your questions answered about the travel documents you need to bring to Cuba, currency, what to wear, cell phone service and more. You should also read What I Loved and Hated About Visiting Cuba for more tips.
Weather and Best Time to Visit Cuba
The weather in Cuba is pretty hot all year round with average yearly temperature of approximately 79 degrees Fahrenheit and lots of sunshine. December to May is the best time to visit this beautiful tropical place. This is the dry season and rain is very limited during this period. Cuba’s wet season runs from June to November, so you definitely do not want to plan your travel during this time frame because hurricanes are quite common.
10 Things to Put on Your Cuba Packing List
1. No Matter What – Bring a Portable Charger to Cuba
Cuba has infrastructure challenges and the power goes out periodically. Keeping everything charged and make sure you have a power backup like this portable charger. It will give you at least 2 full charges for your cell phone.
On my trip to Cuba, we lost power for almost a full day and my cell phone and computer went dead. I’ll never travel without my trusty, lightweight portable charger again. I also won’t let my electronics sit uncharged.
Cuba is mostly on 110 volts so Americans and Canadians won’t need an adapter. Hotels that cater to Europeans will typically have 220 outlets.
2. A Filtered Water Bottle is a Cuba Packing List Must-Have
Cuban water is not safe to drink. There’s a small take out restaurant on the outside of the airport where you can buy bottled water immediately. Make sure you have your Cuban currency with you.
Regardless, having a filtered water bottle on your Cuba packing list will give you peace of mind that you’ll always have safe water to drink. Plus, you’ll be making the better choice for the planet. These bottles are so good, you could drink from a dirty puddle in the street if you had no other options.
The Lifestraw Go water bottle has a 2 stage filtering process, which removes 99.99% of all the bacteria and harmful materials that you could be drinking. It is not only important to stay hydrated, but you want to make sure that you do not get sick so that you can enjoy every second of your trip.
Related Post: What You Need To Know Before You Visit Cuba
3. On Any Tropical Packing List Including Cuba, Insect Repellant is Important
The hot climate and tropical atmosphere of Cuba makes it a breeding ground for bugs. Make sure you pack insect repellant for your Cuba trip. Most resorts will fog spray for bugs, but by twilight you will be a tasty treat. This travel sized Natural Insect Repellant will keep mosquitos and no-see-ums at bay so you can enjoy your trip bug bite free.
4. Medicine to Add to Your Cuba Packing List
I bring medication for everything I don’t want to get when I travel. If I have the medication, I don’t get sick. If I forget the medication, somehow bad things happen. I traveled to Cuba without any protection for food borne illness, and guess what? Yep, it happens a lot in Cuba and you definitely want to have medicine on hand.
- Anti-Diarrheal: If you get a stomach bug, this will get you back to normal much faster.
- Electrolyte packets: These GMO free packets can help you rebound quickly if you get sick or hungover.
- Emergen-C: We are exposed to so many bugs when traveling, you should take a little extra precaution to boost your immunity.
- Sanitizing wipes: These days, we’ve all become professional germ warriors. Don’t forget to pack sanitizing wipes for the plane, hotel room and throughout your trip when you can’t wash your hands.
- Sunscreen: The sun is very strong in Cuba and no-one wants to get a bad sunburn while on vacation.
5. A Few Pairs of Cute Sunglasses
Like most tropical places, Cuba is filled with lots of sunny days, which means sunglasses are a vital part of your packing list. The sun is very strong in Cuba so a pair of polarized sunglasses will work best to help reduce glare and improve visual clarity..
6. Sun Protection Gear
Depending on the time of year you travel to Cuba, you’ll most likely be dealing be dealing with strong sun. Since the sun can be brutal in Cuba, you definitely need high SPF sunscreen. I like to use a tinted sunscreen that works as a makeup base.
On top of that, make sure to bring a packable sun hat that can double for sightseeing and pool time. I will never return to hats that are not easily packable for travel because I always leave them on the plane by accident. This one retains it’s shape, looks great and is a steal!
7. Travel Umbrella
I went to Cuba in January during the dry season and there was unseasonable torrential rain. You should plan for rain. There are still 4-5 rainy days per month during the dry season with light precipitation. As long as you bring an umbrella to Cuba, you should be set. Personally I like to get a a travel umbrella in a color that will add interest to photos like red.
8. A Zippered RFID Blocking Wallet
A wallet with pockets for 2 different currencies is one of the first things to pack for Cuba. Cash is king in Cuba so you’ll have more in your wallet than usual. With coins in the mix, a zipper will protect you from losing any money. There’s more information on currency in Cuba below.
RFID blocking wallets protect your credit and debit cards as you go through airports getting to Cuba. There’s a high probability you won’t be using debit or credit cards in Cuba but you need to know that everything is safe.
9. Bring Colorful Sundresses to Cuba
You’re probably wondering what to wear in Cuba. Known for bright colorful buildings, old fashioned cars and lively energy you want your outfits to fit the part. There’s a retro sophistication to Cuba that begs for floral prints and bright colored dresses.
This short wrap dress is perfect for warm days and comes in multiple prints and colors. Mix it up with a halter maxi dress or a sexy wrap dress for evenings. Dresses take no room to pack and at these great prices, you can pack a bunch of different looks.
Fabrics such as cotton, linen and rayon make for breathable comfortable clothing in the heated weather. Also, lightweight dresses just feel good when it’s hot out. Cute skirts are great for Cuba too!
10. Sounds Weird But Snacks Should be on Your Cuba Packing List
Whenever I go to a country with a chance of getting food borne illness, I like having snacks for a safe meal just in case. Thank goodness a friend told me to bring snacks to Cuba. There was a crazy storm right within hours of arriving. Between torrential rain and a long power outage, those snacks became my first few Cuba meals.
Since there aren’t convenience stores like other locations, pack nutrition bars, granola bars, trail mix bags or whatever is your favorite to ensure you have something to eat. It is never a bad idea to have snacks on you especially if you are on the go!
11. Bring Plenty of Cash to Cuba
Currency in Cuba is somewhat confusing. There is one type of currency for Cubans called CUP (Cuban pesos) and another currency for foreigners called CUC (Cuban convertible pesos). Apparently the exchange rate for Euros to CUC is better, so some people change their US Dollars to Euros prior to their trip. I personally just exchanged USD directly to CUC.
One thing is for sure, almost everything is paid in cash and you need to bring enough for your whole trip. Don’t count on being able to use credit or debit cards. Also, change money immediately so you can buy water.
What to Bring to Cuba for the Locals
So many vacation spots suffer from over tourism. Cuba is one of those places where your tourism really helps the country. There are a few ways you can make a difference. The first is just by visiting Cuba and spending money there. Try to use local guides. Stay in Casa Particulares. Make choices that make people’s lives better.
The second is bringing items to donate – specifically clothes and hygiene products. Since packing is generally light for a tropical destination, bring gently used clothes and shoes you don’t want anymore. It’s hard for cuban people to buy clothing. Many people can’t afford it. We think nothing of popping into the mall and buying whatever we want. They don’t have the same luxury.
You can also bring hygiene products such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap, and even makeup. No matter where you are staying, someone will know how to put your donations to good use. Although it is not expected to bring gifts, it is always extremely well received by the people.
Luggage Limits and What You’re Allowed to Bring to Cuba
Cuba does have some strict baggage weight limit requirements. All luggage including hand luggage must weigh less than 50 kg or approximately 110 pounds per person. Don’t forget that most airlines tend to have a 50 lb weight limit, but if you happen to be checking two bags be sure that they are under that combined 110 lb weight limit.
This hard-shell spinner luggage set has been all over the world with us. It holds up really well and is lightweight so you can use most of your weight allowance on the things you pack, not your bag. We use these compression packing cubes inside to fit more in our bags and keep everything organized. I would also suggest bringing a larger tote bag or laptop backpack that attaches to your carry-on or leaving some room in your suitcase to bring back whatever items you may buy while away.
Cuba Packing List Women
Documents You Need to Bring to Cuba
There are many important documents you can’t forget for when traveling out of the country. Cuba specifically has special document requirements so be sure that you don’t forget these three items.
- Passport: You must bring your passport with at least 6 months of validity to enter Cuba.
- Tourist Card: A Tourist Card, coming from the USA it’s also known as a pink card, is required of every visitor. You can apply for it ahead of time or you can get it at the airport. Your airline will provide you with information about the documentation you need and what type of assistance they offer. My flight from New York, stopped in Fort Lauderdale and there was a Cuban Travel Service kiosk at the Southwest check in that handled the tourist cards.
- Travel Insurance: Visitors to Cuba are required to have a travel insurance policy. Traveler insurance was included with my Southwest Airlines ticket. Check your airline first to see if they have included travel insurance. You will need to hold onto your boarding pass for access to the insurance.
- Proof of Return Ticket – You need to have your return ticket with you.
Phone Service & Wifi in Cuba
Phone: The phone service in Cuba is not great. Don’t expect to go to Cuba and use your phone, text, and data plan the way you do regularly. In fact, it would be best if you considered your time in Cuba as a digital break. I have Verizon phone service and I was told incorrect information about using my phone/data in Cuba. It’s really expensive and the coverage is spotty. I met a couple who had Sprint and they seemed to have a much easier time.
Wifi: I read about free wifi in parks in Cuba but couldn’t figure it out. My casa particular had wifi but only during certain hours. The hours were constantly changing so sometimes I got lucky for an hour or I had no service for hours on end. It was frustrating mostly because I didn’t know it was going to be such a problem. If you consider Cuba a digital break, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you get a signal. I would imagine that staying in a high end hotel (not available to Americans) the wifi situation might be better.
This Cuba Packing list will get you prepared for the trip. Make sure to read What I Loved & Hated About Visiting Cuba for more information about this interesting and beautiful country including where to stay. Information about traveling to Cuba is constantly changing. We will attempt to keep this information current but check the information provided by your airline. They will have the latest updates regarding tourist cards, travel insurance and luggage limits.
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