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Bonus tip: find out additional ideas on what to wear in Cuba!
What to Pack for Cuba
Written by: Lily Kim
Expect sun in Cuba year-round. Cuba is often humid up to 95% except closer to 75% November to April with little relief from the heat, which feels most intense close to 38 degrees Celsius on the eastern side from June until August.
Late March and early April are the best months for travel to Cuba. Even with the risk of hurricanes in July and especially from August, the high season in summer is festive with social events like Carnival in Cuban towns and cities.
Travelers can expect high chances of rain from late May to autumn or through hurricane season. The temperature can range from 30-34 degrees Celsius 22-26 degrees overnight in spring and around 35 degrees in summer.
Things to Know
- Tourists should prepare to become “unplugged”. Getting access to internet and wifi in Cuba is a struggle plus it’s extremely expensive, too.
- Only “quad-band” or mobile phones with 900 MHz frequency may be used in most places, and any incoming calls or messages to mobile phones would cost a fortune even for unread messages.
- Be aware that every checked bag is inspected by customs at the airport prior to baggage claim, which can be a 1.5-2 hour wait.
- The best plan upon retrieving checked baggage is to exchange Euros or Canadian not yet American dollars to CUC Cuban Convertible Peso in Havana airport near Departures, due to the absence of ATM bank services and credit or debit card machines.
- Although the exit tax is no longer demanded of tourists, the 30% currency exchange fee is inevitable as “cash is king”. Have coins and cash in small denominations handy for public toilets or ordering from bars or tipping, including tour guides but not taxis.
- Carry a Spanish phrase book and printed copies of your destination address as well as of passports and travel visas if required.
- Also, you may want to bring a small stash of your favorite condiments and snacks in light of the reputation of the fare or lack of food variety.
What to Pack for Cuba: Clothing
When planning what to pack for Cuba, think low-key, casual fashion and footwear during the day.
Generally speaking, a la carte restaurants at most hotels expect vacation dresses or pants; there, the dress is smart-casual, and people are also dressed-up in the evening. Otherwise, in the resorts, people wear beach attire during the day.
Versatility is the key to a travel capsule wardrobe. Learn more in my guide!
A suggested packing list for Cuba would be:
SUMMER PANTS to keep bugs away while sitting outdoors
- a long-sleeved shirt or sweater for sun and mosquito coverage
- 1-2 beach coverups
- 2 swimsuits for daily wear or drip-dry use
- a rash guard for coral reefs or caves
The sea varies in temperature between 26-31 degrees Celsius, so even advanced scuba divers might not wear a wetsuit in Cuba.
What to Pack for Cuba: Shoes
- flip flops for the beach
- walking shoes for steep and rocky terrain
- wedge sandals or else club shoes at night
When planning what to pack for Cuba, keep in mind that footwear is fairly casual. Above are some suggested styles. Alternatively, Crocs sell sling-back rubber ballet slippers in a variety of colors, which are ideal for both land- and water- exploration.
They will survive the heat on double-decker city buses ($5 CUC roundtrip) or on a rental scooter, which is fine for getting around many cities outside Havana (approximately 16 CUC/2 hours).
What to Pack for Cuba: Accessories
Stick to costume jewelry and leave your expensive accessories at home. Sunglasses will protect your eyes from blowing sand, and sun hats are suggested for the tropical weather.
For better quality supplies, bring your own after-sun, fins and snorkel-masks. Most beach resorts offer free water activities, lounge chairs and icy drinks, so it’s unnecessary to pack towels and blankets.
However, your can’t go wrong with a a book, Ziploc plastic bags for delicate trinket-souvenirs, and a water bottle to refill with carbonated water.
What to Pack for Cuba: Toiletries
Moisturizing and long-lasting sunscreens should be applied with regular applications of bug repellent on top especially after the rainy season begins in late May. TFG loves this travel-friendly, non-liquid mosquito repellant stick .
Toiletries for full days of sunlight include durable sunscreen, such as Jane Iredale or Cover Fx makeup and powders with SPF, and a good facial cleanser. Don’t forget “Frizz” products and serums along with shampoos, conditioners, soap and razors.
A small first aid kit with a few Bandaids never hurts, in case blisters appear from walking. Anti-histamines, Preparation H, green teabag compresses or even hand sanitizer will help relieve the inflammation of bug or sand flea bites near the ankles.
Feminine hygiene products are difficult to obtain, as well as Wet Wipes and Kleenex tissue packs. Along with these important items, pack a few painkillers or anti-diarrhea medicine. Since dairy (except canned milk) is rare in Cuba, hydration salts and a bottle of probiotics will also help a troubled gut!
What are your tips on what to pack for Cuba? Please comment!
For more North America packing tips, please read:
- Packing for Disney World
- What to Pack for Grand Cayman
- What to Pack for the Bahamas: 7 Cruise Essentials
- What to Pack for a Florida Keys Vacation
Suggested Travel Resources:
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Author Bio: Lily An is a Canadian educator and Vancouver-born nature enthusiast. When she isn’t working or traveling, she is likely to be skiing, diving, or mountain biking with her family.