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
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 in 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.
The Backpack and Luggage: 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.
A Suitcase: 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.
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.
Remember, if you forget to bring it, you may well struggle to find it in Cuba so pay close attention to our Cuba checklist.
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.
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.
Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. This is great for Cuba as it acts a water purifier and bottle in one.
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS!
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.
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.
Your Passport or Other Government ID
You will need your passport to enter Cuba. You will also need to show it when checking into hotels and accommodation.
It is probably also wise to keep a few copies on you as well, just in case you are asked to show them to the authorities.
Money Belt – By Active Roots
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.
Electrolytes and Headache Medicine
For some reason, people tend to drink a lot when visiting Cuba…Believe us, the measures of Rum are pretty dammed generous and a lot more than you will be used to.
Having some form of hangover kit is strongly advised for your ‘what to pack for Cuba’ survival items. A combination of partying, hot desert weather, and lack of sleep is a recipe for feeling a bit out of sorts the next day. In addition to drinking plenty of water, you may need an extra rehydration boost with travel-friendly electrolyte tablets.
And if the headache is too much to bear, it’s a good idea to have some over-the-counter medicine to help nip it in the bud as soon as possible.
Let’s face it; for the foreseeable future, COVID 19 issues are just going to be a part of travel. How do we do our best to mitigate the risk while still traveling and experience life’s pleasures? Pack the right PPE gear.
PPE may be hard to come by once in Cuba so it may be worth packing the following;
The Basic Stuff To Pack For Cub
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
- 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
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!
Also – don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of travel insurance for backpackers.
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