Packing for Cuba was just like packing for any tropical destination, but there were a few random items I’m so glad I had, and a few I didn’t have but want to make sure you do. They are:
A map – GPS is nonexistent and taxi drivers had a hard time finding some of our Airbnbs without a map or specific directions, and it’s also helpful for walking around Havana and other cities sans Google Maps. This is a good one.
Sunscreen – You need this everywhere in the world, but you should bring extra to Cuba because it’s hard to find and expensive once there.
Kleenex/Toilet Paper – The bathroom situations are not always ideal, as in not stocked or always functioning. Won’t be surprising if you’ve traveled often, and not an issue if you plan ahead.
A Spanish/English dictionary – Remember dictionaries? Just like with Google Maps, if you’re American your phone won’t work for translating apps either, so you’ll have to go back to the dark ages and pick up a book. We found that people either spoke English very well, or not at all, so a dictionary is very useful. You should also try practicing some Spanish before you go. I love Babbel and Fluencia for quick refreshers.
A water bottle – We drank bottled water most of the time anyway, but it’s cheaper to buy large bottles and then fill your own. (You could also just lug the large ones around, but it doesn’t seem as pleasant).
Cash! Your cards will not work in Cuba. I repeat, your cards will not work in Cuba. Bring all the cash you need. For more on money in Cuba, check out this post.
Bug spray and a post-bug bite solution – We encountered a few mosquitos, and with all the fretting over Zika lately we were glad we brought bug spray. A friend I was traveling with also got some sort of sand flea rash, which wasn’t completely healed but was at least soothed by using an after-bite ointment. She used Green Goo, which I love and have written about before.
A camera – You’re going to want to take hundreds of photos. I had almost 2000 when I returned home!
An open mind! Cheesy, but true. Cuba has been economically stagnated for decades, so sure some things don’t work as well as they could, or are not as efficient as you’re probably used to, but that’s not a reflection of the people and you’ll have a better trip if you don’t let inconveniences bother you.
And in case you want to know what I brought to wear (because it’s a bit more fun than maps and Kleenex), here’s what I had in my suitcase:
Three sundresses, one nicer dress, two pairs of shorts, linen pants, two tank tops, one t-shirt, two bathing suits, a sarong/towel, walking sandals, dressier sandals, sunglasses, and my beach toiletry/makeup essentials. Pretty easy! One note on clothing: Really anything goes. Women wear tight, bright clothing, and positive body image seemed to be a pretty strong thing, which is great. Also, it can get windy walking along El Malecón in Havana — I learned the hard way when my dress blew up over my head, exposing too many people to my (luckily boyshort) underwear. Maybe wear shorts if you’re walking around on a windy day, or at least a dress that stays put…
Shop my carry on here: