Proper packing is essential for a successful trip to Cuba, as the socialist country is not a shopping paradise. The supply of goods in stores is limited, and what you do find is often expensive. To avoid any surprises, it's important to bring everything you need with you when traveling to Cuba. This article covers the main items you should pack for your trip.
Cuba has a tradition of shortages, as the socialist economy is not based on the market. The supply of goods varies by region, but is generally poor. The state controls the import and distribution of goods within Cuba, rather than the market.
While the situation is typically better in smaller tourist towns, Havana often has the worst shortages. Finding even the most basic goods can be a challenge in the Cuban capital. Supermarkets and shops are often empty, and even buying something as simple as bottled water can be difficult. Some items may be completely unavailable.
Given the extremely limited supply of goods, it's a good idea to pack all the clothes, cosmetics, and hygiene items you'll need. Sun protection is particularly important. If you're traveling with children, it's essential to have enough supplies of everything they need.
Many items are not only hard to find in Cuba, but also very expensive if you do manage to locate them. For example, a small tube of sunscreen can easily cost 20 USD. Since the supply of food is also limited, travelers with special dietary needs should bring some long-life snacks with them.
The must-have items for your packing list for a trip to Cuba
When packing for a trip to Cuba, it's important to choose clothes that are light, breathable, and made from light-colored fabrics. Dark colors tend to show sweat stains more easily, and light colors provide better protection from the sun and mosquitoes. Sun and mosquito protection should also include long-sleeved shirts and pants, as well as sunscreen for those with fair skin.
Children, in particular, should be well-protected with suitable headgear that can be worn in the water. In the summer, it's also a good idea to bring an umbrella for sun protection, as many Cubans use. A foldable umbrella that can be easily packed and unpacked as needed is a good option, as it will also come in handy if it rains.
For beach vacations, hats and light-colored tops that provide sun protection (ideally waterproof) are a good choice. If you're traveling with children, you may also want to bring a beach shelter.
Cuban women often wear short, light clothing to cope with the high temperatures, so don't worry about dressing appropriately – it's hard to be more free-spirited than the confident women of Cuba.
Your shoes should be functional and comfortable, and it's a good idea to bring at least one pair of open shoes (sandals) and one pair of sturdy, breathable shoes. Keep in mind that open shoes can increase the risk of sunburn, so be sure to protect your feet with sunscreen.
Apart from the tourist infrastructure, there is often a lack of toilet paper in public bathrooms and frequently there is a lack of running water. Therefore, you should always have enough paper and a small tube of disinfectant with you. For longer individual trips, it doesn't hurt to pack some handwashing detergent so that you can wash clothes quickly if necessary.
Note: It is essential to take all medicines in sufficient quantities.
For a flexible round trip without a rental car or taxi rides, it's best to avoid heavy wheeled suitcases. The roads and sidewalks in Cuba are often in poor condition, and if a wheel breaks, it can be difficult to find a replacement.
A suitable backpack that allows you to bring only what you need, but as little as possible, is a better option. If you do prefer to use a rolling suitcase, choose a model with two sturdy, large wheels.
Packing- & Checklist: Overview
The following list provides an overview of the most important things that, according to the experience, travelers might need during vacations in Cuba. Depending on your individual travel planing it is possible to systemize the items in the five categories: Documents, Clothes, Beach items, Hygiene products and others.
Copy of documents
|Light underwear & lingerie|
Long shirts & pants
Comfortable & light shoes
Equipment for snorkeling
Packing- & Checklist: Details
If you want to go to Cuba, you need a passport valid for at least six months. The Cuban passport is obligatory for Cuban citizens - even if you have dual citizenship. You can find the details about entry in the Visa and entry article.
- Tourist card
A visa in the form of a tourist card is required to enter Cuba. You must show it when you check in at the airport. Learn all important information about the tourist card and entry into Cuba in the corresponding article.
- Health insurance
You also need a valid international health insurance. Its coverage must be verifiable on request - in Spanish. Find all the details in the article health insurance for Cuba.
- Money & Credit Cards
Having sufficient funds is fundamental for a trip. The most reasonable recommendation for money supply for traveling in Cuba is a combination of cash and credit cards. The tourism package travelers can only take cash with them. Check all the information about money and currency in the corresponding article.
- Driving license
If you want to drive a vehicle then you need an original driver's license. We give you all the details about rental cars in this article.
It is advisable to make photocopies of all documents and take them with you. You should also have a good travel guide and a map.
- Light underwear & lingerie
Due to the year-round warm and humid climate, it's recommended to have light and breathable underwear. According to the experience, natural fibers such as linen or silk are well suited for the often very high temperatures.
- Long shirts & pants
Men should wear long trousers in restaurants and when going out at night. Long shirts and trousers are also important to protect against mosquitoes and the sun. Therefore, body-covering clothing is also recommended for women.
Especially in the hot summer months, a headgear protects against the extreme sun. At best, light and breathable hats.
A warmer item of clothing should also be part of your luggage. Some cool days or balmy nights may require a sweater or jacket. Also near the sea, blow a little fresh wind. In addition, air conditioning systems like to run at full speed in many facilities. When traveling by bus or air-conditioned train, for example, you should definitely wear something warm, otherwise there is a risk of colds.
- Comfortable & light shoes
If you don't just want to lie on the beach, you should pack light and comfortable shoes. Better to pack at least two pairs in your luggage. Not that something breaks or that you have to walk with wet shoes. A qualitative replacement is hardly available in Cuba.
It is essential to wear sunglasses, especially on the beach and when driving.
Nudism does not correspond to Cuban taste. So if you want to swim, you should wear a suit for it or a bikini. It is also advisable to wear a long top that protects you from the sun in the water. Cubans like to wear light-colored surf shirts when swimming.
- Equipment for snorkeling
Cuba has a fascinating underwater world on many beaches. You can rent the equipment but, if you don't mind the weight, it is better to bring your own
- Bathing shoes
Many beaches, especially in eastern Cuba, are often quite rocky. Therefore, you better pack bathing shoes.
- Bath towels
If you want to take a bath on the way between two accommodations on a round trip, you should have your own towel with you.
Sufficient sun protection is essential in Cuba. Sunscreen is usually hard to get and also extremely expensive. Basically, the highest sun protection factor is recommended.
Anyone who really travels to Cuba will find that many toilets are in very bad conditions. Often there is also no water to wash your hands. Overall, the hygienic conditions are not comparable with developed countries. In addition, skin diseases have it easier to spread in the warm and humid climate. So always carry a disinfectant when traveling.
- Mosquito repellent
If you are less worried about mosquito repellent than about the bites, take precautions with an effective mosquito repellent.
You should take all other cosmetic and hygiene articles with you. The most common are shaving kits, tissues, shampoo, women's products, condoms and Band-Aids.
It is essential to take all medication with you. For the customs, the medicines should remain in the original packaging. If you get food poisoned, charcoal tablets can help, so it's better to have them with you in an emergency. You can also get them in international pharmacies in most vacation areas.
- Travel adapter
In Cuba is common the flat, two-pin plugs, so if your devices have an Europlug, you must require an adapter to use them in Cuba. A simple one is sufficient in most cases. Details on current, voltage and sockets can be found on the page on the subject.
- Offline Map
A map makes navigation easier for round trips. The better way is to load an offline map to your smartphone. You can get a free and very detailed map with the maps.me app.
A flashlight can be helpful for power outages, poorly lit paths or breakdowns with the rental car. If you have a smartphone with an LED lamp, you may need to take a battery pack with you.
An umbrella not only protects against rain, but also against the often very strong sun at lunchtime. In the best case, you should take a foldable bright umbrella with you. They can be stowed away in the backpack on excursions.
For day trips, a medium-sized backpack is recommended to transport the necessary things. The backpack should be breathable, waterproof and big enough to fit at least provisions, a 1.5 liter water bottle, umbrella, swimming suit and sunscreen.
It is advisable to pack a pocket or a folding knife that will be very helpful if you want to try one of the tropical fruits on the road. If the knife has a corkscrew, you can also open a bottle of wine. But remember that knives can only be transported in checked baggage.
If you forget something
If despite careful planning, you have forgotten something or are unlucky to lose something important, usually it is quite complicated to get a replacement. As described, many goods are often out of stock, but simple hygiene items can mostly be found in normal supermarkets and kiosks. Other cosmetics and hygiene products can only be purchased in special foreign exchange shops. These stores are often located near larger hotels in major cities and important vacation spots. The most important drugs are available from so-called international pharmacies at foreign exchange prices. Condoms can only be bought in pharmacies. There is an Adidas and a Puma store in Havana and Varadero. In some smaller shops you can get simple clothes, shoes and flip-flops.
Gifts & Souvenirs
If you still have space in your suitcase and want to make the people of Cuba happy, you can fill up free storage space with gifts. On the island, many people lack the most trivial daily goods. Almost every vacationer can help without spending any money. How this works and what kind of things are best to take with you can be found in the article about gifts & donations.