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Locally Sourced Travel Cuba

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Traveling Light: What to Take to Cuba on Vacation

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Packing for a holiday can be like a variation on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Will you pack too much, too little, or just right? Yeah, this can be a totally subjective thing and for some people, bringing only six pairs of shoes might feel like too little. Too much can be a financial burden, since you don’t want to check your bag in at the airport only to have the clerk smile and say, “Oooooh, sorry – your bag is over the limit. There will be a surcharge of (insert a ridiculous amount of money here)”.

Getting your packing to be just right can be a bit of a struggle, and this is why some research is needed. It really helps if you know what to expect at your destination, although this is not always the case unless it’s a trip you’ve made before. If you’re worried about what to take to Cuba on vacation, then stop! Sure there are some things that only you will know you need, but we’ve prepared a rather handy list of what you need to take with you when it comes to your Cuban getaway.

Cash and Credentials

cuban-currency

Remember that Cuba is a cash-based economy, and so you can’t pay with card in the vast majority of places. In some instances (like if your card has been issued by a US provider) you can’t even use your card to withdraw cash, so please check with your bank or financial institution before you go. There are cash machines at the airport so you will be able to withdraw money upon arrival, and yet the cautious traveler might want to bring some currency to exchange as well. Don’t bring US dollars (since there is an unpleasant surcharge) and instead stick to British pounds, Canadian dollars or European Union euros.

Ideally you would be able to get some Cuban pesos before you leave, but it’s a closed currency so this is not possible. Also have your travel insurance documents in an easy to reach place. Immigration authorities are known to do spot checks upon arrival and if you cannot prove that you have travel insurance, you will either be denied entry or will be forced to immediately buy coverage from a local provider, which isn’t going to be cheap. OK, so what needs to actually be packed in your suitcase when it comes to what to take to Cuba on vacation?

Check the Weather when Deciding What to Take to Cuba on Vacation

baracoa beach cuba

Cuba is warm. This is not news. But depending on where you live, it’s not necessarily always going to feel like it’s that warm. Tourists from Finland will be basking in the heat, even in the depths of the Cuban “winter.” Tourists from Florida will not necessarily do the same. Check the average temperatures for when you’ll be visiting and consider how much warmth you’ll need. A heavy jacket is never necessary in Cuba, but you might want to consider a few sweaters or even a shawl.

June through November can be thought of as the rainy season, with tropical downpours a reality. These are brief and refreshing, although annoying if you happen to be caught outside. A light windbreaker with a hood can protect you from the worst of it, and you might also want to bring a plastic rain poncho.

Dressing Up

tourists with map

Cuba is a fairly casual country, and this is important to remember when thinking about what to take to Cuba on vacation. You won’t need anything all that formal, but remember that the beachwear you’ve packed isn’t always going to be suitable. A smart-casual option can be wise when you go to certain venues, such as restaurants or a show in the evening. So a dress shirt and matching trousers can be helpful for men, and a blouse/skirt or dress can be useful for women.

Obviously wear what you feel comfortable in, but remember that you’re not going to need any truly formal attire.

On Your Feet

Listen carefully: Comfortable shoes. The keyword is comfortable. You will be doing a lot of walking, so bring something that makes this possible without shredding your feet. A good pair of athletic shoes will do the job. And yes, you will also need something lightweight for the beach such as espadrilles or flip flops, along with something to wear in the evening.

Please don’t try to be ironic and wear Cuban-heeled boots everywhere.

Things You Will Definitely Need

Cuba is known for many things, but a wide variety of consumer goods isn’t one of them. There are some things you will definitely need that you will have trouble finding all that easily in Cuba. And you are almost certain to be unable to find them in your prefered brand.

So when it comes to what to take to Cuba on vacation, please don’t forget to pack these essential items.

1. Medication

Obviously you’ll need to take any prescription medication you’ll need (and bringing a copy of the actual prescription can be wise when you travel). You will also need to bring anything that you traditionally would buy over the counter, such as painkillers and allergy pills.

2. Sunblock

Not impossible to find, but problematic sometimes, so bring your prefered strength of sun protection in a bottle with you.

3. Insect Repellant

These annoying beasts can be even more annoying in the wet season when they have more puddles in which to lay their eggs. Some decent insect repellant is a must. 

4. Hair Products

Don’t forget your shampoo and conditioner. These can be bought in Cuba, but it’s difficult if you need something for a specific purpose (such as anti-dandruff shampoo). You should also bring any hair styling products you can’t live without.

5. Cosmetics and Skincare

Makeup, moisturizers, chapstick and anything that you regularly use will need to be brought with you.

6. And Also

Feminine hygiene products and contraceptive products should be packed if needed.

Do you have any questions? Please leave your comment below!

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Locally Sourced Cuba Tours is dedicated to providing you with an authentic and unforgettable Cuba tour experience. Our tours are designed to showcase the 'real' Cuba, including its lively culture, rich history and wonderful people. We focus on being local, personal and authentic with all the tours we run.

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