Cuba has become one of the hottest travel destinations on the planet, and with pristine beaches and rich cultural heritage, it is easy to see why. Before you head over to this amazing country, there are a few things you must pack to simplify your trip to Cuba.
1. Passport and Visa
Your passport and visa are the two most important documents to take with you to Cuba. Make sure you carry them with you wherever you go. Travelers from almost every country are required to have a Cuban Travel Card or visa which you can either buy online or obtain from your travel company. Make sure you also make photocopies of all your important documents to keep in your luggage in case you misplace anything.
Most places in Cuba prefer cash over credit cards, and any credit cards from the USA are not accepted. Carry plenty of cash with you while you travel to Cuba.
Cuba has two forms of currency: Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and Cuban Pesos (CUP). Cuban Convertible Pesos are more valuable than Cuban Pesos and are used most frequently by travelers. However, if you plan on buying items at markets or street stalls, you may need to have a small stash of Cuban Pesos on hand. If you pay in CUC, ensure you receive your change in CUC and not CUP.
You will only be able to exchange your money to CUC in Cuba, and it is illegal to take Cuban currency out of the country, so you will have to exchange your money before you leave. If possible, change your country’s currency to euros before you depart as the euro offers the best exchange rate with CUC.
3. Health Insurance
All travelers to Cuba are required to get health insurance, and you will be unable to apply for a Cuban Travel Card or visa without insurance. You may be covered for travel under your current health insurance plan, but if not, consider purchasing travel health insurance. Take proof of your insurance with you to show Cuban officials.
Clothing and Accessories
4. Sun Protection
The sun is always shining in Cuba, even during the wet season, so it is essential to take along clothing and accessories to protect you from the sun. Choose light clothing in natural fabrics to keep you cool, and pack a wide-brim hat and sunglasses to protect you from UV rays. Leave your valuable accessories at home. Although Cuba has a relatively low crime rate, pickpocketing is common in larger cities.
Cuba is home to some incredibly beautiful beaches, so pack your swimsuit to make the most of the sun and sand on your trip. Check out the ever-popular Varadero beach for water sports. Or, visit the more exclusive Caya de Coco beach which is part of a group of islands off the mainland known as the Jardines del Rey.
6. Comfortable Walking Shoes
One of the best ways to explore Cuba is on foot. Cuba is full of stunning national parks and forests perfect for hiking, as well as cultural exhibits and attractions dotted throughout major cities. Pack comfortable walking shoes in addition to your flip flops.
Health and Safety
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7. Filtered Water Bottle
Unfortunately, Cuba’s water is not considered potable and finding bottles of filtered water can be problematic. To stay healthy and safe while traveling through Cuba, we recommend taking your own water bottle with a built-in filter such as a LifeStraw bottle. This removes most of the contaminants to keep you healthy.
8. Medical Kit
When traveling to any destination, it is always a good idea to pack a small medical kit for emergencies. Although you may be covered by health insurance, you might be unable to see a doctor right away. Manage minor injuries and illness while you travel by stocking your kit with items such as ibuprofen, Immodium, bandages, antiseptic spray, and hand sanitizer.
9. Insect Repellent
Mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and Dengue fever are not uncommon in Cuba. Prepare yourself before you go with the appropriate vaccinations and plenty of insect repellent.
10. Portable Charger
Don’t miss out on any photo opportunities during your stay. Take along a portable charger for your camera, phone, and any other electronic device so you will always have power. Consider investing in a second battery pack to keep on-hand for those outings away from a power outlet.
Plugs in Cuba are the same as those found in the USA and Canada. So, if you are traveling from either of those countries you won’t need to bring a plug adapter. However, if you are traveling from any other country, pack an adapter in your luggage.
12. NAUTA Card
The Internet is highly unpredictable in Cuba, and there is no free Wi-Fi for travelers or locals. If you are staying at a hotel, you may have access to their internet or use their computers. Alternatively, if you are staying at a casa particulars, you may be able to use the host’s internet for an additional fee.
If you need to access the internet during your stay, consider buying a NAUTA card which gives you internet access at Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country. You can purchase a NAUTA card from official stores in major Cuban cities and from Jose Marti International Airport.
13. Paper Map
Because internet access is sporadic at best, you may not have access to your GPS or navigation system while traveling. Pack a paper map of Cuba and the local areas you will be exploring to avoid getting lost. You can download and print maps online before you leave or pick up a map from your hotel concierge.
14. Travel Guide and Phrasebook
There are so many things to see and do throughout Cuba that you will be hard-pressed to do them all during your stay. Take along a travel guide with recommendations and advice on the best attractions in the area you will be staying so you don’t miss a thing. Pack a phrasebook or Spanish-English dictionary to help you communicate with the locals.
15. Cuban Cigars
What is a trip to Cuba without sampling an authentic Cuban cigar? Visit the Pinar del Rio province and follow the cigar trail. Here you’ll find some of the best cigars on the planet, including the plantation which produces tobacco for arguably the World’s most popular brand, Montecristo cigars. Pack a box in your luggage before you leave but beware of fakes. Montecristos are among the most counterfeited cigars in the world.
If you have enjoyed spending lazy summer days sipping cocktails by the beach, why not take home a bottle or two of authentic Havana Club aged rum and relive your holiday memories? Check with your country’s customs limits on alcohol. Most countries limit returning travelers to 2 liters of alcohol, which is approximately 2-3 bottles.
If Cuba is the next destination on your travel bucket list, pack all these travel essentials for a stress-free trip. With the packing done, you can spend more time enjoying the sites and scenery of this incredible country.
Christina Canniff is a blogger and avid traveler who developed a love for seeing the world as a young child. She loves trying new and exotic cigars, wine, and cuisine to immerse herself in any culture she visits. Christina loves detailing her travel experiences with readers who share her passion for adventure around the globe.