Packing tips for Cuba: The ultimate packing list. Walk the Havana Malecon along with the locals.

Must-Have Packing Tips For Cuba From A Local (2024)

After traveling regularly to Cuba for five years, during wet and dry (and hurricane) seasons alike, I can safely say I have a few insights into packing tips for Cuba.

Your main focus when making your packing list for Cuba or any destination in the Caribbean region should be dealing with high temperatures, high humidity, and SPF in all shapes and forms.

Some things need to be on a packing list for Cuba in particular, not just because of the climate and the seasons but because it is Cuba.

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Packing Cuba: My Best Advice

To ensure you don’t suffer from “rookie mistakes,” here are exactly what clothes, gadgets, and supplies your packing list for Cuba should include to secure the perfect holiday.

Your packing list for Cuba should take into consideration not just the weather and climate, but also that you will not get a hold of whay you want when you want it in Cuba!

What To Wear In Cuba?

  • Light summer dresses
  • Light tops
  • Airy skirts or shorts
  • Light and airy pants for exploring days
  • Light airy shirts
  • Evening outfits (Cuban evening outfits can be rather sparkly)
  • Bikini or swimsuit
  • Multi-use shawl (aka towel, dress, beachwear, beach blanket, etc)
  • A pair of jeans (for going horseback riding in Vinales Valley, which you should!)
  • A light shawl or scarf to wipe your face during the day and have around your shoulders in the evening
  • Sun hat or something protecting your face from the sun
  • Flip flops/sandals
  • Comfy breathing walking shoes
  • One pair of (comfy) heels (that you can salsa in!!!)
  • Sunglasses
  • An old-fashioned fan to “cool” your face in the daytime
  • Your handbag should have a zipper or a proper way to close the compartments
  • Tiny cloth bags or plastic bags to roll up inside your handbag/day bag. Not all shops or cafes have bags to offer for items you buy or food to take away, so bringing your own extra little bag can come in handy.
  • A small purse for a passport, vaccine card, visa, cash back-up, and relevant papers.

Get My PRO Cuba Packing List!

Cuba is not like other destinations – make sure you don’t leave life savers at home!

Following a packing list for Cuba will make sure you have everything you need so you can relax and enjoy your holiday, like here, at the famous carnival in Santiago de Cuba!
The famous electric carnival in Santiago de Cuba

Travel Pharmacy Packing List For Cuba

  • Any prescription meds you normally or sometimes take
  • Ordinary pain killers
  • Band-aid
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Antipruritic cream
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Tampax
  • Sunscreen SPF 50 for your face, 30 for your body
  • Remember confirmation that you have travel insurance including health insurance (also Covid-19 coverage).
  • Let me stress this a little extra; you WILL NOT find paracetamol or any super-normal pills or ointments you can buy over the counter anywhere in your country. Bring it with you.

Beauty Packing List For Cuba

  • Bring water (and sweat) resistant makeup!
  • Freshening face-mist spray can be very pleasant. I use the pink bottle from Clinique.
  • Mineral powder with SPF 30 to touch up sun protection of your sweaty face during the day. Like the super-easy Colorescience Brush-On that I have been using for years.
  • Elastic bands or similar to hold your hair in the heat (hanging loose, it may look like moist seaweed after a while).
  • Dry shampoo (for when the water disappears just when you are going out)
  • Anti-frizz hair stuff if your hair tends to frizz up when the air is in the humid spectrum
  • Body sunscreen with at least SPF 30 in the Caribbean sun.
  • After-sun lotion for face and body.
Remember to put plenty of SPF with high protection on your packing list for Cuba!
Lazy beach days require SPF SPF SPF

Super-Smart Cuba Packing List For Toiletries

  • Bring ALL THE TOILETRIES you need for the duration of your stay. These types of items are available, but probably not the ones you want. Expect that it will be a hassle finding and buying them in Cuba (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, moisturizers, sunscreen, all that stuff).
  • Because of this, Cuba might not be the destination where you travel light with hand luggage only. Depending on the duration of your stay, it is likely you will congratulate yourself on bringing your favorite jars and tubes (even over 100ml).
  • These items are also in short supply for Cubans and VERY expensive in Cuban economic terms. It could be an idea to bring a little extra to gift to your hosts or friends you make instead of tips.
What you put on your packing list for cuba need to take into consideration whay activities you are going to do as well, if you are traveling outside of Havana, for example horseback riding!

Clever Cuba Packing List Hacks

  • Bring at least TWO credit cards you keep separately. ATMs are readily available in large cities, and in shops, it is cash in the Moneda National (CUP) that counts. Extract CUP at an ATM upon arrival at the airport (NOTE: U.S. credit cards are not accepted in Cuba).
  • Bring a lot of cash, preferably Euro. “Everyone” wants to get paid in euros, as many national shops only accept euros as payment.
  • There are also so-called MLC stores in Cuba (Moneda Libremente Convertible), where you can only shop with credit cards – not cash. These stores have the best selection of goods but expect queues.
  • NOTE! For Americans, your credit cards will not work in Cuba due to the ongoing sanctions. You will need to bring cash for the duration of your visit and change the currency in offices when in Cuba.
  • A copy (and a photo on your phone) of your passport (and visa)
  • Pre-booked pick-up at the airport. Getting transport is not very difficult, but as Cuba is an off-line, cash-based nation, it CAN be smart to have arrival and pick-up guaranteed the first time you visit. Especially if you don’t speak Spanish, and you can expect to be off the grid for the first few hours.
  • Keep the phone number of your host or hotel with you. If the taxi driver (says he) has navigational problems, he can call them with his Cuban cell phone.
  • Water bottle with internal filter (for when you cannot find water to buy anywhere)
A packing list for Cuba need to include cloths and accessories for other situations than an airy rooftop terrace. Packing tips for Cuba

Best Travel Gadget And Tech Tips

  • Adapter (Cuba has 110W in most places).
  • Power bank! For any gadget you always need for longer journeys or for when the electricity goes out. I recommend the Mophie Powerstation XXL, which charges your phone 4,5 times in one go, brilliant.
  • Mini speaker! All the Cubans have them, and you will meet one-man discos anywhere at any time around Cuba. I have the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2, which has great sound and compact size for travel.
  • I recommend installing a good VPN service before you travel to Cuba. If you are using an iPhone, you will not be able to download or update your Apps from the App Store when in Cuba without it due to sanctions. I use ExpressVPN, which successfully puts me anywhere I prefer on the planet when I am in Cuba and allows me to work as a Digital Nomad.
  • Set your phone to flight mode to avoid surprises on your phone bill.
  • Get WiFi cards at Etecsa (a national phone company) to get online in your hotel or one of the many WiFi parks in the city.
  • For longer stays, consider a Cuban data sim card from Etecsa.
  • A pocket dictionary or offline dictionary on your phone (as you cannot just surf Google Translate anytime, anywhere in Cuba). But remember, Cubans speak “Cuban” – not “Spanish”!
  • Also, a lot of online booking services are not available in Cuba due to sanctions. Again, a VPN may help here if you need to consult different apps during your stay.

What Items Are Hard To Get In Cuba?

  • Chewing gum
  • Pastilles
  • Chips or chocolates
  • Nuts and bars
  • Pre-made salads and little meals
  • Soft drinks (well, you will find it. It costs $10 for a Coca-Cola in November 2021)
  • Wine opener!
  • Bottled water may be in short supply and difficult to find for periods of time. If you can buy a water bottle with a filter to bring with you, that may come in handy during your stay.
  • Papers and magazines
  • City maps
  • Notebooks
  • Chargers or adapters
  • Kitchen appliances (knives, casseroles, garlic press, etc.)
  • Ordinary pharmacy items like painkillers, allergy medicine, and ointments. Cuban pharmacies are “empty.”

Caribbean Skin Care

On a different note, anyone spending time in climates that can be tough on skin and hair knows the importance of taking care of both!

The Caribbean climate with the wonderful but merciless sun requires a little TCL and caring products to protect the skin from radiation, salt water, and humidity.

Number one on the list is, of course, SPF 50 (at least 30).

Also, cleaning and moisturizing the skin day and night is important, and to top it off, you will not regret investing in a serum or two and after-sun products.

What To Bring To Cuba For Locals

Because of a mix of a lot of things, including sanctions, the pandemic, and domestic political turmoil and reforms, Cubans in Cuba are having a tough time.

As a visiting tourist, there are simple things you can do and bring for Cuban locals in order to help out a bit.

As food prices and inflation have skyrocketed in the last year, many people have to prioritize all their money for food and not a lot more.

Here is a little list of things to bring for Cuban locals that they will be very happy to get.

  • The number one thing is to bring cash. Lots of it, preferably in euros or dollars. Pay with foreign currency any chance you have. People will want you to pay with foreign currency or to buy it from you to be able to shop for food in the national MLC shops.
  • Over-the-counter medicine like painkillers, allergy medicine, ointment, etc.
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Creams and soaps
  • Razors and razor blades
  • Sports shoes and sports clothes
  • Glue, tape, needle and thread, repair stuff
  • Old telephones that are not locked to a provider
  • Anything transportable, a little luxurious that is not a basic need

The Weather In Cuba

Due to its Caribbean climate, Cuba is super hot and humid pretty much all year round. However, there are differences in seasons, and in Cuba, they are divided into two: the wet and the dry seasons.

The dry season runs from November through April. As the name implies, during this period, there is less rain and cooler and less humid temperatures than during the wet season.

In the winter months, you may occasionally need a sweater or light jacket in the evening.

About 30% of the Cuban rain falls in the dry season, the rest in the summer months when the temperature is sizzling and humidity rather extreme.

Also, the hurricane season runs from August through October (September and October have the highest risk for hurricanes), when you can expect sudden heavy showers and thunderstorms.

Now, don`t worry; even in the wet season, serious hurricanes are very rare and mainly alerted beforehand, but the weather Gods CAN strike down hard on this part of the world.

FAQs Cuba Travel

What Is The Best Time To Travel To Cuba?

What is the best time to travel to Cuba? It depends on what makes you happy on your holidays.

The official high season for tourism runs mainly from mid-December to mid-March, and the peak of the dry season runs from November through April.

Also, the summer months of July and August are high seasons in Cuba, when the whole world has a summer holiday, although this is part of the wet season.

Prices are highest and tourist crowds thickest in the summer, so if you prefer more space and fewer crowds, all other months would be better for you.

Why are US citizens not allowed to travel to Cuba?

This is NOT correct. US citizens ARE ALLOWED to travel to Cuba.

Americans can choose a reason for Cuba travel among 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba, determined by the US Government.

Can US citizens travel to Cuba as a tourist?

Technically, US citizens are NOT allowed to travel to Cuba as a tourist. Americans choose between 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel, among which the most common one is “to help the Cuban people”.

American citizens still need to buy a tourist card, also called a tourist visa, to enter Cuba.

What are the 12 requirements to travel to Cuba?

You can read about the 12 pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba for US citizens here.

The easiest and most common reason for Cuba travel is “to help the Cuban people.” There is no paperwork or application process connected to this; you just choose your reason and state that reason if anyone asks.

What happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba?

Nothing happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba apart from hopefully, the US citizen will have a fabulous holiday and encounter Cuban culture.

US citizens need to choose one of the pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba and need to buy the PINK Cuban tourist card, also called a tourist visa.

Selected airlines sell this visa/tourist card, or you can buy one online.

What documents do I need to travel to Cuba?

You need the following documents to travel to Cuba:

Do Americans need to be vaccinated to enter Cuba?

No, there is no requirement for specific vaccines prior to entering Cuba. Your country’s health department probably has recommendations for what vaccines you should consider before entering Cuba.

How Do I get a tourist card for Cuba?

You can buy a tourist card online from Easy Tourist Card, or from the Cuban embassy in your country. You might also be able to buy a Cuban tourist card from your airline or at the airport prior to departure.

It is possible to buy a Cuban tourist card at Miami International Airport at the check-in counter with American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

How Do I Get A Tourist Visa For Cuba?

A tourist visa is the same as a tourist card for Cuba. You can buy it from the following places:

  • Buy one online from Easy Tourist Card
  • Buy one from your airline if they offer this
  • Buy one at the airport of departure if they offer this
  • Buy one from the Cuban Embassy in your country

Is Travel To Cuba Allowed Right Now?

Yes, Cuba travel is allowed right now. There are no health restraints from entering Cuba right now. There are no constraints for most international travelers entering Cuba right now.

In addition, American citizens must choose one of the 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba (Americans can not travel as “tourists”) and follow some simple guidelines for traveling in Cuba.

Wrap-Up Packing Tips For Cuba

As you can tell, apart from the weather and climate-adapted packing, you need to remember that Cuba is not like “other nations.”

Make sure you have all the things you normally use or need in your luggage! DON`T count on finding it in Cuban stores, as the likelihood is super low.

Related blog posts:

Sensational 7 Days In Cuba Itinerary By A Local

Cuba Trips From US: How To Travel To Cuba From US

Is Female Solo Travel In Cuba Safe? A Local Woman’s Advice

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