an orange and white vintage American car on the street in Havana

The Essential Cuba Packing List for U.S. Travelers

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As you prepare for your trip, you may be wondering what items to bring to Cuba, beyond the usual travel necessities. Packing for a trip to Cuba is especially difficult and requires thoughtful consideration due to factors like limited availability of certain items, weather, and internet restrictions. 

To ensure you have everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable journey, our team has created a comprehensive packing list tailored for the unique challenges of Cuba exploration adventure.

Portable Water Filtration System

While bottled water is widely available in Cuba, reducing plastic waste by using a portable water filtration system is both environmentally friendly and convenient. It allows you to purify tap water for drinking, saving you money and reducing your ecological footprint.

Confused about visas? Allow us to explain.

Our mission is to provide clear, accurate information on Cuba travel for Americans. Check out our article on visas or visit our site for more!

Electrolyte Rehydration Powder

Exploring Cuba’s streets under the Caribbean sun can be draining, so replenish your electrolytes with rehydration powder. Whether you’re walking through Havana’s historic neighborhoods or dancing the night away in Trinidad, staying hydrated is key to enjoying every moment of your trip.

Or, if you’re planning to indulge in the full range of Cuban rum cocktails, you might consider grabbing a pack of ZBiotics probiotic drinks, which help your body process alcohol. If there were anywhere on earth to give it a try, the country with a reputation for the best rum would be the place.

Toilet Paper

Not to worry—your hotel accommodations will have ample toilet paper, but it’s not always readily available in public restrooms, so having a travel-sized roll or even a pack of wet wipes ensures you’re prepared for any situation. It’s a small item but you’ll thank yourself for having it in a pinch.

Laundry Detergent Sheets

Cuba is hot and humid, so clothes will get dirty. Most hotels and B&Bs will offer laundry service if needed, but it is typically charged per piece, so it can get pricey. Packing laundry detergent sheets will allow you to easily wash a few items by hand should you run out of clean options, and avoid dealing with the logistics and cost of paying for laundry service. 

Over-the-Counter Medicines 

Stomach issues and headaches can put a real damper on your Cuban escapades, so pack a supply of over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and imodium just in case. These medications can be trip savers, and if you don’t use them, they are a great thing to leave behind as a donation, since these types of medicines are quite hard to get on the island.

Note: Food safety and cleanliness varies greatly from restaurant to restaurant, which is why we recommend sticking to well-reviewed places, like the ones on our restaurants Google map and list of best local restaurants and cafes in Havana

Booking Lodging? Taxis? Activities? Restaurants?

Our mission is to provide expert advice on Cuba travel for Americans. Our private business guide connects you directly to Cuban shops, restaurants, hotels, activities, and more!

Unlocked Cell Phone

Wi-Fi hotspots are available in hotels and some public areas, but having a phone that can access the local cell network while you’re out and about in Cuba is a total game changer. Roaming charges for Cuba on U.S. cell carriers are insanely high, so we recommend buying an inexpensive unlocked cell phone before your trip, which will allow you to get a local SIM card and inexpensively stay connected. With local cell service, you’ll be able to access apps like Google Maps and La Nave (the Cuban rideshare app). 

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

When you connect to wifi at your accommodations, you’ll still encounter websites and social media platforms that have been restricted by the Cuban government. For example, sites for banking and transfers (like PayPal), U.S. media and journalism (like the New York Times), Gmail, and the Google and Apple App stores are not accessible in Cuba.

 A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is invaluable for bypassing these restrictions and ensures secure and unrestricted access to the web. Whether you’re staying connected with loved ones back home, accessing important travel information, or simply wanting to browse without limitations, a VPN is an essential tool for any traveler exploring Cuba. 

While there are many options and even some free VPNs, our team uses NordVPN. We’ve found that having a reliable, secure connection through a reputable company is worth the small fee they charge for the service. If you do get a VPN make sure you download and set it up before your trip because once you arrive in Cuba, there is now way to access VPN websites and services.

Portable Charging Bank

In Cuba, power outages and limited access to electrical outlets are common occurrences, especially in more remote areas or during peak tourist seasons. A portable charging bank is a lifesaver for keeping your devices powered up on the go. Whether you’re capturing stunning moments with your camera, navigating with your smartphone, or staying connected with loved ones, a charging bank ensures you never run out of battery when you need it most. Opt for a high-capacity charging bank with multiple USB ports to keep all your devices charged throughout your Cuban adventures, allowing you to capture every moment and stay connected effortlessly.

Sunscreen

The intensity of the sun in Cuba can’t be overstated. Year-round, it’s important to apply ample sun protection. Pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF to shield your skin from the intense Caribbean sun rays so you can explore outdoors without getting burned.

CAYOS: Cuba Travel for Americans

Our mission is to provide clear, accurate information on Cuba travel for Americans. Check out our articles or visit our site for maps, itineraries and more!

Rain Jacket

Cuba’s tropical climate means rain showers can occur unexpectedly, especially during the wet season from June to October. A lightweight, packable rain jacket will keep you dry during sudden downpours, allowing you to continue exploring without interruption.

First Aid Kit

A compact first aid kit is indispensable for any travel destination, but it’s particularly essential for Cuba, where basic medical supplies are hard to come by  and access to medical facilities outside of major cities is limited. If you make your own, be sure to include bandages, antiseptic wipes, adhesive tape, and antibiotic ointment

Spanish Phrasebook 

While many Cubans in tourist areas speak some English, having a basic understanding of Spanish can enhance your interactions and cultural experiences. Pack a Spanish phrasebook to help you communicate and connect with locals more effectively.

Travel Insurance

Medical services in Cuba may not accept U.S. insurance, so purchasing travel insurance with medical coverage is highly recommended. In case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances, having comprehensive travel insurance provides peace of mind and financial protection. 

Insect Repellent

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever and Zika virus by packing insect repellent with DEET or picaridin. Apply it liberally, especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, to avoid uncomfortable bites and potential health risks.

Travel Documents

Lastly, don’t forget to bring your passport, Cuban tourist card/visa, travel insurance documents, and copies of important paperwork like your itinerary and emergency contacts. Store these documents securely in a waterproof pouch or digital folder for easy access and peace of mind throughout your journey. You’ll also need to complete the official Cuban Health Form within 72 hours of your flight’s departure.

The Cuban government also requires visitors to have proof of health insurance coverage, but if you book a flight on a U.S. airline, the required insurance is included in the price of your ticket. This insurance gives you access to Cuba’s network of tourist hospitals and clinics should you need them. 

If your flight originates outside of the U.S., you can purchase insurance independently or pay a small fee for access to Cuba’s tourist system. 

Buen Viaje!

With this packing list, you’re ready to embark on a Cuba adventure that will be unforgettable—for all the right reasons. Whether you’re strolling along the Malecón in Havana or savoring the flavors of authentic Cuban cuisine, these essential items will ensure you’re prepared for whatever the island has in store. So pack your bags, embrace the rhythm of Cuba, and get ready to create memories.

More Cuba Travel Tips

Our team is dedicated to helping U.S. travelers plan safe, legal, independent Cuba travel. In addition to maps, we offer free phone consultations, customizable itineraries (coming soon) and helpful guides and articles

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