My Essential Packing Guide for Cuba

My Essential Packing Guide for Cuba

Need a packing guide for Cuba? Packing for Cuba is pretty easy really so if you are wondering what to wear in Cuba, you can wear whatever you feel comfortable in. Remember Cuba is hot, humid, and laid back. So when deciding what to wear when traveling in Cuba think light materials.

As it’s not a religious or conservative country so in Cuba you can wear what you like! It does rain over the Summer so it’s worth taking an umbrella or a light rain jacket. I have put together a list of some essentials to pack for Cuba. It is a list of basics so you may want to add a little more luxury if you have space. I only had a 28lt Cabin Zero Backpack with me so there wasn’t much room for luxury!

This packing guide for Cuba is based on traveling from 7-14 days there. I managed to go for the whole ten days washing a few items of clothing and my underwear in a sink using a laundry soap bar I brought with me and a little scrubbing brush. You can ask your casa host to do your laundry for you if you prefer.

What to wear in Cuba

It’s pretty impossible to tell you exactly what you should and shouldn’t wear in Cuba. But what I can do if offer you some first-hand observations and share with you how I pack and dress in these particular areas. 

Also at the end of the day, dress how YOU feel comfortable, just because I choose not to wear hotpants and a crop top in Medellin doesn’t mean you shouldn’t if you are comfortable doing so.

Cuba Travel essentials

Travel Insurance

First things first, you are going to need some solid insurance. If you don’t believe me then read this. I personally use SafetyWing Digital Nomads Insurance which is an ongoing policy that just renews each month. But before that, I used World Nomads who are the company I would highly recommend if you are backpacking.

Reusable Water Bottle

In most cities in Cuba you cannot drink water directly from the tap. Having a good reusable water bottle is essential in Cuba. If you are still a little worried then get a water bottle with a filter like this for peace of mind.

Bug Spray

Not so essential in Bogota, but travel to Minca, Salento, Cartagena, or Amazonia and you will need a bucket full! I suggest getting an eco-friendly one for your body and then getting something a little more aggressive like this to spray on your clothing.

Vaccines 

To travel to Cuba you should make sure you have the recommended vaccines: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza.

Although you should never take medical advice from a travel blogger, so please check in with your doctor’s office as they will be able to give you the most up to date advice. 

You will not need malaria pills in Cuba.

Download my packing list

Luggage for Cuba

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Backpack

I took my trusty 28ltr Cabin Zero bag. I love it because it looks excellent, store everything easily, and the thick straps make it comfortable on my shoulders. Read my full review here.

Purse

I also took a cross-body purse that I could use during the day and a tote bag. I love traveling with a tote because they are great for shopping, laundry and hardly take up any room in my backpack.

Other Useful Things to Pack for Cuba

Over the years backpacking the world I’ve got packing down to a fine art and I have some essential items in my backpack that you might not think of. So here are some things you are going to need that you might not think of!

Laundry Soap and a Nail Brush – Unless you want to be doing laundry every few days, it’s best to just wash out your underwater in the shower each night. To do this I always travel with a bar of laundry soap and a nail brush. It also comes in handy to clean off marks and stains from clothes you are washing.

A Travel Washing Line – I love mine, it’s so handy and takes up no room at all.

A Sewing Kit – When you are traveling sometimes you need to make-do-and-mend.

Mini First Aid Kit – Goes without saying really! I also add in some extras like activated charcoal and other useful pharmaceuticals. 

Carabiner clips –  So useful for attaching things to your backpack!

Head torch – Equally as useful for camping as it is for reading in bed, or trying to find your way home in the dark.

Ear Plugs – If you are planning on staying in hostels you are going to need these!

A Whistle – I know many people worry about safety and want to protect themselves. I like to carry a whistle just in case I need to pull attention. It might not be as effective as pepper spray, but as that is illegal to fly with too many countries, this is a good alternative.

A Door Stop – Worried about safety in your room at night? Use the doorstop to block the door from the inside and make it harder for someone to enter the room.

Silk Sleeping Bag Liner – Another thing that doesn’t take up so much room, but will give you a lot of peace of mind if you need it. Sometimes you might either find yourself chilly or just not wanting to sleep in the bedsheets. So hopping inside a sleeping bag liner helps you get a good night’s sleep, wherever you are…

Umbrella – If you are traveling somewhere tropical it’s likely to rain, but still be hot. Having an umbrella in your bag will keep you dry without making you feel like you will collapse from heat exhaustion!

A padlock – I recommend getting one of these locks so you don’t need to worry about keys. They are TSA approved so you can use them to lock your luggage when flying as well as using it to lock your locker at the hostel.

USD – I always keep an emergency $50 USD hidden somewhere, just in case. USD is the most widely accepted currency, but you will need to ensure the notes are clean and crisp. Many places won’t accept them if they are marked at all.

Quick-dry towel – I have 2, a large one and a small hand size one that I keep clipped to my backpack.

A sarong – I never travel anywhere without at lease 2 sarongs. I use them to replace my towel, hang over my bed in a hostel for privacy. Wrap around my hair when it’s wet, sunbathe on… I could go on and on. I even make a dress out of mine when I’m at the beach.

A scarf – Another multi-use item that doesn’t take up much room. Scarfs are great for covering shoulders from the sun, or when entering churches. It will also help keep you warm, and they look cute!

Yoga Mat – I never travel without my yoga mat. I wrote a whole post to help you choose the best travel yoga mat here.

Spice Bag – If you are planning to do some cooking then I recommend making a spice bag so you don’t end up wasting lots of money or herbs and spices, or eating bland food for the whole of your trip. I put my spices into ziplock bags and then keep them in one of these clear bags

Ziplock Bags – I know, I know, more plastic. But they do come in really handy when traveling and you can wash and reuse them so you aren’t throwing them away.

Coffee Flask – Great for keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. It also saves you having to use disposable cups when you buy a takeaway coffee.

Aeropress – I do love my coffee, so traveling without my Aeropress is not an option haha. This is also another great portable coffeemaker/ mug if you aren’t a fan of the Aeropress. 

Clothing to Pack for Cuba

You can see my full Cuba packing list here on Amazon, and you can also download my free Cuba packing list here. So I’m going to try and keep this section brief.

I never travel with much and Cuba is a pretty dressed down country anyway. Here’s what was in my bag for Cuba:

  • Four basic vest tops/ t-shirts
  • 2 ‘nice’ more dressed up tops
  • Two pairs of denim shorts (one black and one blue)
  • One pair of leggings (for horse riding and avoiding mosquitos)
  • One dress (suitable for salsa)
  • One dress (suitable for daytime/ beach cover-up)
  • One denim shirt (the only time I used this was as a blanket on the bus and plane so I probably could have done without it.
  • Five pairs of panties
  • Two bikinis
  • 1 crop top/ bralette

As I said I pack pretty light. I also wash out my underwear and top each night and leave it to dry to save space. Don’t skimp out on essentials though. If you need things like glasses, make sure to pack extras or spares. You don’t want to be caught out if you break your main pair or lose them. Consider a range of styles for your spare pair – John Lennon glasses, cat eye glasses, rimless glasses… the options are endless!

Note: Catcalling is pretty rife in Cuba and although hot pants and crop tops are totally acceptable (most locals will be dressed like this). I personally decided to dress a bit more conservatively most of the time. This is my personal choice as I feel a bit more able to deal with the looks and calls when I’m less exposed physically. You may feel totally different to me. So you should feel free to dress however you personally feel comfortable. Just be aware that no matter what you are wearing you are likely to get a lot of unwanted attention for local men.

Toiletries to Pack for Cuba

You can very all of the travel toiletries I recommend here on this Amazon list. Many things you can actually buy in Cuba easily, so I wouldn’t stress too much about buying a lot of toiletries to travel with. But there are some things that are harder to get hold of and expensive in Colombia, like shampoo! It’s all imported and I’m always shocked at how much it costs. So I always try and travel with my own.

Technology to take to Cuba

If you are stressing about taking your smartphone to Cuba, don’t. Most Cuban do have smartphones, so you aren’t going to stand out having one too. You will need to be careful about flashing your expensive digital gear around Cuba though. Take a read of these posts to help you prepare if you are worried.

Here are some digital things I’d recommend packing for Cuba.

Smart Phone – If you don’t want to take your fancy iPhone traveling, then this is a great phone with a very good camera for under $300. It’s what I personally have and shoot a lot of my vlogs on.

Kindle – Save space by investing in a kindle and kindle unlimited. You will find most of the lonely planet travel guides are available to read for free with the plan. 

Lightweight laptop and external hard drive – I have a MacAir which is perfect for traveling. After losing all of my photos a few years ago I also always travel with a heavy-duty external harddrive.

Camera and Tripod – I travel with this DSLR but I also have this mirrorless camera which I often take if I want to use something more discreet. I also love this tripod as I can use it with all of my cameras (even my phone), plus it’s small and light enough to fit in my daypack.

Backup charger – I have these two and always keep one in my bag.

Travel adaptor – Get a worldwide one like this so you can use it wherever you travel to.

Portable WiFi – I never travel without my TEP wireless device. If you can’t live without WiFi I recommend buying or renting one.

Check out My travel books

The Solo Girls Guide to Traveling Without Fear

The solo girls guide to becoming a digital nomad

Book your trip now

Are you ready to book your trip?  To help you get the best deals and service here are the companies that I personally use to book all of my travel online. I always shop around before booking anything, but these are my tried and tested starting places.

  • Skyscanner – I’m a bit fan of Skyscanner, it is who I use to book all of my flights. I often will check other like Google Flights or Momodo, but I always go here first and it is who I book 99% of my flights with. 
  • Booking.com – I LOVE booking.com especially when I can book and cancel free up until a certain point, mostly because my plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections. 
  • Airbnb – I’m not a huge user of Airbnb, but sometimes I do like to use it, and I ALWAYS check it before I book anything else. You can get some really cool places to stay here, and it is especially good in places like Cuba. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
  • Hostelworld – If you are looking for hostels then this is a great place to check first. They often have additional places that you won’t find on Bookin.com.
  • Agoda – Although I don’t use it as much as booking.com, Agonda is especially good if you are traveling in Asia as they really do dominate there. 
  • Worldpackers – If you want to travel on the cheap and save money on accommodation then you need Worldpackers in your life. You can read more about it here. If you click this link to sign up and use the code CLAIRESITCHYFEET then you can get a 40% discount on your membership! 
  • Book a Way – If you are traveling in Asia and want to pre-book your transportation then bookaway.com is a fantastic site to do so. They have buses, trains, and cars.
  • RentalCars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals. 
  • Welcome Pickups – Very occasionally getting from the airport to my accommodation is a total pain in the butt, or I’m traveling in a group and it makes sense to arrange a pickup. When I do I use Welcome pickups.
  • World Nomads – If you are looking for flexible travel insurance then it’s World Nomads all the way. I wrote all about insurance here if you want a more thorough review. 
  • SafetyWing – AsI’m a Digital Nomad and not moving around quite so much anymore I personally use SafetyWing now for my health insurance. I wrote a full review here
  • Viatour – Sometimes it can be a little expensive, but I like Viatour for somethings, especially if you can get a discount code! It’s also great for inspiration. 
  • Klook – If you are traveling in Asia, then Klook is great! You can book all kinds of tours, activities, and train tickets, plus they even have sim cards and WiFi.

Claire Summers

Dancer, producer, traveller, photographer, cake maker, dog lover and knitter of Christmas scarfs.

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