Cuba sparks the interest of every globetrotter; it captures the imagination with its fascinating history, images of Che Guevara and “Viva la Revolución” plastered all over the streets, and old vintage cars – coupled with its life-loving people, infectious salsa music, the world’s best cigars and rum, and beautiful landscape.
It’s as if Cuba were a magical little island trapped in time.
And you’re dying to see it for yourself – we get it! But before you head out for an epic backpacking adventure through Cuba, there are some guidelines and tips to follow for knowing what to pack for Cuba.
But – don’t fret – we’ve put together this comprehensive survival guide for you with our top 23 needs packing checklist, what to wear in Cuba and what to leave behind. We’ve also included a useful breakdown of Cuba’s seasons and what to pack accordingly.
Ultimate Cuba Packing List
Nomatic Travel Bag
- Capacity > 30L
- Price > $299
Nomatic Navigator Carry On
- Capacity > 37L
- Price > $400
GoPro Hero 9
- Resolution > 5k
- Price > $400
- Price > $500
Insurance From World Nomads
- Price > Click For a Quote
This may be one of the few destinations where our first rule of what to pack isn’t to pack light. There are items you’ll be hard pressed to find when you visit Cuba and will need to bring with you. Because of sanctions and its economic situation, don’t assume you can pop into a convenience store and pick up your favorite brand of toothpaste if you forget to pack it. Your brand options are limited – if you can find the item you need at all.
Best Backpack For Cuba: Nomatic Travel Bag
Before you even take on the task of figuring out what to pack for Cuba, you’ll need an amazing backpack to pack it all into. For all types of travelers and destinations, our number one recommendation is the Nomatic Travel Bag.
The Nomatic travel bag covers every detail to make backpacking travel the best experience. Because of its smart design, it manages to provide loads of packing space in a convenient, carry-on size package! Its handy built-in pockets make plenty of room for all the necessities on your what to pack for Cuba checklist – you’ll find separate compartments for important items like shoes, water bottle, electronics, underwear and socks. As an added bonus, there’s also an RFID-safe and cord management pocket.
You have a choice between backpack or duffel bag carry, and extra carrying comfort for your back thanks to its innovative strap system and detachable sternum strap. And its black, waterproof material is every bit sleek and modern as it is durable and tough. There is a reason why most Broke Backpacker staff swear by this backpack.
We’ve tested countlessday packs over the years, but the Tropicfeel Shell is something else. There are a lot of flashy backpacks on the market but not many come with a detachable wardrobe.
Weatherproof, eco-friendly, durable, feature-loaded, and comfy as fudge brownies: these are just some of the words people might use to describe the Tropicfeel Shell. But we just call it bloody beautiful.Learn More • View on Tropicfeel
Best Suitcase For Cuba: Nomatic Carry-On Pro
Backpacks not your thing? That’s ok. Our friends at Nomatic are back again with a great alternative to their badass Travel Bag; the Nomatic Carry-On Pro.
This suitcase is ultra-durable, sleek, and comes with a handy tech compartment for transporting your laptop and other electronic bits. Nomatic has been an industry leader when it comes to travel gear and that reputation is reflected in the quality build design and functionality of the Carry-On Pro suitcase.
Check out our Nomatic Carry-On Pro review to learn more about this epic suitcase.
Best Camera For Cuba: GoPro Hero9 Black
For most of us, our smartphones now feature cameras with stunning photo capabilities. Visiting Cuba will give you loads of opportunities to get shooting.
But… if you are an aspiring photographer who wants to take next-level photos and video beyond iPhone selfies, I recommend going with an action camera like the GoPro Hero9 Black.
It does deliver pro-quality video and gives you a bunch of a different angle options and shooting speeds to work with for photos (including a selfie-mode).
Think of a camera purchase like this as a long term investment that will have you capturing epic shots well beyond your time exploring here. If you are looking for something cheaper for video specifically, check out these epic GoPro Alternatives.
Best Sim For Cuba – HolaFly eSim
The good news about Cuba is that there is some 4g and 5g Internet coverage. The bad news is that your native SIM card will not work and so you will not be able to access any of this online goodness until you rectify that particular situation.
You can waste time hanging around Japanese mobile phone shops queuing to get a plastic sim or you can simply install an eSim onto your phone before you leave home. You just access the HolaFly site, choose the package you want, download it and off you go – you are online the moment you land at the airport.
eSims are easier to set up and better than the environment than plastic sims. The downside is that not all phones are eSim ready.
Best VPN For Cuba – PIA VPN
In case you don’t know this, a VPN is a Virtual Privacy Network. It is basically a piece of software or programme you run that essentially “hides” your IP address and therefore your computer’s location.
All travellers should use a VPN as they can be used to access blocked sites in countries that have internet censorship as well as enabling you to stream TV from backhome! Digital Nomads however REALLY need a good VPN as it provides extra protection against fraud, trackers and other dubious cyber-scum bags.
There are a lot of VPN providers out there but we use PIA VPN as they offer a solid level of protection at a very tempting price (if you buy the annual package its a bargain!)
Packing Cubes For Cuba – Wandrd Packing Cubes
In case you have never used them, packing cubes are little compression cubes that allow you to neatly pack clothes in in order to help facilitate better packing. They allow you to pack more stuff, and to keep it all better organised.
For the longest time, I thought that packing cubes were a superfluous indulgence, but boy was I wrong. Now I never travel without a few.
These ones from WANDRD are great quality and excellent value.
What To Pack For Cuba: Personal Gear
Wondering what to bring to Cuba? What to wear in Cuba? Whilst we are not going to micro manage your Cuba packing, we’re gonna throw in a few carefully picked suggestions for some great inclusions.
Good Shoes – Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero
Unless you are simply gonna spend tour whole time in the beach, there will probably be some serious walking involved in your Cuba experience. Whether it’s walking Havana’s battered old streets or doing a full on jungle trek, these will have you covered. They are also pretty good for Salsa dancing.
I admit that most shoes that are also good for hiking are not the most attractive pieces of footwear. But they are some of the most comfortable and deliver good ankle support for a long day of walking about town. I mean, your body is already going to be suffering enough from all of those Cuba Libre’s.
Plus, the mountains and hills of Cuba offer excellent day hiking opportunities, so packing a pair of hiking shoes gives you the option (and eliminates excuses) to go head for the hills when the city becomes too much.
Check out the women’s Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero.
Keeping a journal is one of the best things to do when traveling. The Drifter Leather Journal by Kodiak is our favorite, it works great for digital nomads and organized backpackers and can be used as planner or a dream diary – whatever you want!
Keep on track with your goals, travels and save those precious memories, especially the ones you do not want to share online. This one is bound in beautiful leather so it looks beautiful and will withstand life on the road.
A reliable pair of sunglasses is undoubtedly one of your Cuba packing essentials. Our favorites are Abaco Polarized Sunglasses because they deliver on quality and style.
They’re built tough with triple-layer scratch-resistant lenses and trademarked Adventure-proof Frame Material. You can also customize them with your choice of lens and frame colors to reflect your own style.
A Good Daypack for Hiking – Osprey Daylite Plus
If you intend on doing any hiking, doing a sugar tour or bussing around the country then you will need a daypack. They are great for carrying water, hat’s and gloves and for packing sandwiches for lunch. We love Osprey products and this daypack is our personal pick. They are also great for beach days too.
The Osprey Daylite Plus has a mesh-covered panel to keep your back cool and fresh by minimizing contact with the back of the pack itself and allowing air to get between you and the pack.
Check out our full review of the Osprey Daylite plus for more details.
Additionally, you can attach it to other Osprey packs in case you want to add more capacity and carry just one piece of luggage… but the reviews on this feature are mixed.
Waterbottle – Hydroflask Vacuum Bottle 32 oz.
Packing a reusable water bottle is probably the best thing you can personally do to combat single-use plastic bottle use whilst traveling. There is simply zero need to buy plastic water bottles. Tap water is a mixed bag in Cuba but at least you can buy a big 5l bottle and fill this every day before you set of exploring.
We love the Hydroflask Vacum Bottle for its quality and because it keeps cold water cold for many hours and vice versa for hot beverages. This bottle is the ideal water bottle to get not just for your Cuba trip but for daily use. Please don’t be that person buying plastic water bottles. We are all judging you…especially mother earth.
If you go with the Hydroflask, you’ll probably never need to buy another waterbottle again.
A Hat – Patagonia Fitz Roy Trucker
As you should know by now, the sun in Cuba is strong and you will undoubtedly be spending a lot of time outside. Having a hat on your Cuba packing list is a good way to ensure your face is protected from the sun throughout the day. This is also a baseball cap and if there is one thing Cubans love even more than rum, salsa and socialism, it is baseball.
Patagonia makes great hats. I have probably bought three or four of these over the last five years. Simple. Practical. Comfortable. That is what you are after.
Suncream: Thinksport Safe SPF 50+
By now, all of us are as pasty as the driven snow from sheltering in place for the last six months. Am I right? This means we are even more vulnerable than usual to the sun’s fierce rays. Packing sunscreen for Cuba may seem like a no brainer, but you would be amazed how many sun-burned cocktail-toting people you see wandering around.
Thinksport Safe SPF 50+ sunscreen gives folks strong sun protection in a non-oily formula that’s free of gluten, paraben, phthalates and biologically harmful chemicals.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
Another backpacker/traveler favorite for staying organized is a hanging toiletry bag. It’s extremely helpful to have all of your accessories neatly gathered in one bag that you can hang for easy accessibility, especially when counter space isn’t plentiful or even available. A well-organized bag is worth having whether you’re tree whilst camping or a hook in the wall – it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
Historically, I have been the guy who has my stuff all over the bathroom, so getting one of these things really changed the toiletry game for me. Plus they are not too expensive either. A no-brainer essential.
Make sure you fill it before you set off for Cuba though as some cosmetic and toiletries are hard to come by once you’re there.
Money Belt – By Pacsafe
Whilst Cuba is not particularly dangerous, crime can still happen and tourists are sometimes targeted.
Therefore it is always a good idea to use a money belt to hide your cash just in case something does go wrong.
The Basic Stuff To Pack For Cuba
On top of the essential items listed above, here is an additional suggested checklist of what to pack for a trip to Cuba
- A few pairs of comfortable pants/jeans
- 1-2 pairs of shorts (summer/late spring)
- Some socks
- (Sexy) underwear x 2/3
- Mosquito Repellent
- Ladies: a few dresses, pants, outfits, or desired lady apparel for a night on the town.
- Dudes: A few collard shirts or something half-way decent for a night on the town.Smartphone with a good camera for photos if you are not bringing an actual camera
- Portable power bank for charging your phone on the go
- Phone charger
- Amazon Kindle
- Basic first-aid kit
- Copy of your passport just in case
- Cash – it is hard to get cash once inside of Cuba
- Packable Towel
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Final Thoughts on What to Pack for Cuba
Ok, amigos, that should do it! Your Cuba survival guide – complete with Cuba packing essentials covered by our top 23-needs packing list, tips on what to wear in Cuba based on seasons that fit into Cuba street fashion, special tips for gals and guys and what NOT to pack for Cuba.
Knowing there’s lots of stuff you can’t get once you arrive in Cuba can be nerve-wracking – but just follow our tips, do your best to pack smart and let go of the rest. Once you’re there, you’ll relish in Cuba’s electric vibe, people and culture – so sit back with a mojito, listen to the music and go with the flow!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!
Cuba’s tap water isn’t very polluted, it is no safe for a traveler because it’s a hard water and your stomach is not used to it.