Deciding what to wear in Cuba and what to pack on a trip to Cuba isn’t quite as simple as packing for trips to other Latin American or Caribbean countries. It’s a similar climate, after all.
However, while you should pack all the usual stuff (which I’ve listed below), you really need to make sure you bring all the essentials with you. To help with this, you should make a packing list for Cuba, and make sure you are able to get everything you need – most importantly, pack everything you need – before you head out.
Cuba is a relatively new destination for tourists, and it’s not like other countries – not everything is available here. Due to that, it’s really not very easy to shop for things in Cuba, and you won’t be able to find some things if you forget to pack them.
That makes it extra inconvenient if you forget something you wanted to bring, and even more disheartening when you discover that you forgot to pack something you really needed. So make a list and check it multiple times before you zip up that bag and head out on your Cuba trip!
To help you do that, I thought I’d put together a Cuba packing list, complete with what to wear in Cuba.
What Luggage Should You Take To Cuba?
I really recommend bringing a backpack instead of a suitcase. There are a few reasons for this, but the main convenience is that a backpack is easier to carry around. Suitcases are heavy, bulky, and not fun to carry around.
If you think you’ve got the problem solved just because you have a rolling suitcase with wheels, think again. The streets, even in cities, are bad, and you’ll soon be dragging your suitcase along rather than smoothly wheeling it like you did back at the airport – trust me, I only know too well.
Having a backpack means having multiple compartments to organize your packing, being able to carry things comfortably on your back, and being more mobile in cities and when arriving at new destinations.
My go-to backpack is Osprey Ariel as it is really comfortable and makes packing super easy. You can check it out here.
Other luggage that you should bring to Cuba include a daypack. You’re not going to want to carry around your large backpack with you whenever you go outside, or if you go on a day trip. Having a daypack, maybe something around 20 or 25 liters, means being able to carry around your essentials for the day – water, a hat, snacks, a camera, and anything else you might need.
Opt for something that’s super comfy and lightweight, especially if you plan on doing a lot of exploring.
Online retailers sell all sorts of daypacks. Once again, my favorite brand for this is Osprey. I love the Stratos daypacks as they have pockets to fit anything I may need for the day. You can get yours here.
What To Wear In Cuba
Light hiking shoes
A pair of light hiking shoes are a must if you’re traveling to Cuba. Traveling around this country, or any country really, usually means there’s a lot of walking involved – and hiking if you plan on any day trips. Pack a comfortable pair of hiking shoes, not sneakers – you’ll want something durable that can last hours of walking. A light pair is best and not hiking boots, as they tend to be quite hot to wear.
Salomon makes some some of the best lightweight hiking shoes. You can see them here.
Sandals / Walking sandals
Hiking shoes aren’t always what to wear in Cuba. While walking around the hot streets of Trinidad or Baracoa, you will want something that doesn’t make your feet sweat! So having a comfy pair of sandals is key. If you like hiking in sandals, then having a specialist brand (such as Teva) would be a great addition to your traveling wardrobe.
Check out REI here for a selection of sandals – you will find a pair perfect for your style and price range.
Make sure to add a pair of flip flops to your Cuba packing list. You will use them to go to the beach, get in and out of the shower and even to walk around when it’s too hot for shoes.
Most travelers opt for Havaianas – you can get a pair here. I actually prefer Crocs, as they are super light and fitting, and even lighter in the backpack. Check them out here.
Respecting the sun should be one of your top priorities! It can get very hot in Cuba, and the sun feels even hotter – so a hat is what to wear in Cuba. Having the sun beating down on your head all day is a good way to get heatstroke, which is not fun at all (it happened to my sister in Camaguey and it was scary!). A hat is the best way to combat this. The shade from a wide-brimmed hat will also protect your neck, shoulders, ears and face from getting burnt, too.
Bring a sunhat that is light and folds in your daypack without getting ruined, such as this one.
Tank tops and t-shirts
These are essentials for any Cuba packing list. T-shirts are casual, easy to roll up without them looking creased and can be worn with just about anything. Tank tops are more a stylistic choice but are definitely cooler to wear on particularly hot days.
Kuhl sells all sorts of t-shirts – from comfortable ones to wear during the day, to more dressy ones for an evening out. You can check them out here.
Again, these are essential. It’s hot in Cuba, so a pair of shorts is a good idea to keep you from getting overheated. If you prefer trousers, then something made of natural material – linen, for example – are the best way to go over synthetic materials.
Kuhl has a selection of shorts for every occasion – from city wandering to hiking. I am sure you can find a suitable pairYou can check them out here.
Why miss out on swimming by forgetting to pack a swimsuit? It’s something you shouldn’t miss off your list. Whatever your style is, bikini or one-piece, it’s up to you what to wear Cuba. For guys, bring along those swim shorts, too!
Italian women have a preference for tiny bikinis. If you are looking for more classic check out what’s one sale on REI here.
Beach cover up
A nice sarong or a kaftan is definitely what to wear in Cuba when going to the beach, and rest assured that with so many gorgeous beaches in Cuba you will have plenty of opportunities to wear yours. Opt for a flowing kaftan or sarong that you can easily fold up and stash in your bag so that it doesn’t take too much space.
For lovely sarongs, check out PrAna here. Otherwise, this kaftan – also by PrAna – is very fashionable.
For something a little smarter and less on-the-road looking than shorts and T-shirt, a sundress is what to wear in Cuba. You’re not always going to be hiking or kicking back at a beach – sometimes you’ll want to look the part for an evening meal. Pack one or two – you probably won’t need them that much.
Lucie Dress by Kuhl is an excellent choice. It comes in several color combinations. I have the light blue and the pink ones and love them! You can check it out here.
Light jacket / rain jacket
In case of rain or you get caught in a downpour, having a rain jacket is pretty essential. My advice is to bring something light and breathable so that you can stash it in your daypack, and so that it’s not too heavy and humid when you wear it.
Deflektr Hybrid Shell is by far the best rain and wind proof jacket around. If you are wondering if it’s too much to wear while in Cuba, consider that if you are taking a long bus ride chances are the air conditioning will be way too low and you will freeze!
Not everywhere in Cuba is 100% warm all the time (you can check the weather broadcast here), and at night temperatures can be a little chilly (especially if you’re from a country with a warmer climate). A light sweater is a good option, ideally something that’s not too insulating – like wool – but an athletic sweater or something casual is a good option.
I love Stria Pullover Hoodie by Kuhl. It’s light, comfortable and fun to wear. You can check it out here.
Like I said, respect the sun! Sunglasses not only help you actually see stuff when it’s super bright outside, but they can protect your eyes from UV rays, too. They are definitely what to wear in Cuba.
Other Things To Add To Your Cuba Packing List
Toiletries to pack for Cuba
First things first, for the toiletries you plan to bring to Cuba, you’ll need somewhere to stash them. That’s where a toiletry bag comes in hand. You should opt for something that has multiple compartments, places to safely put your toothbrush away from your bandaids and ideally it should be waterproof – just in case of spillages. Some toiletry bags come with in-built mirrors which is pretty handy!
Get a good toiletry bag with multiple pockets and that you can hang easily in the bathroom, such as this one.
Having sunscreen is essential. The sun can do some serious damage to your skin, and hiking around in the sun all day without sunblock is just not a good idea. You should opt for reef-safe sunscreen, especially if you’re going swimming, as this contains fewer chemicals that are harmful to delicate marine ecosystems.
You may want to get a sunblock that is certified as environmentally friendly. Sun Bum makes an excellent one that is reef friendly and vegan. You can get it here.
Shower gel is a good way to keep your body clean. Having a travel-sized bottle is a must for carry-on luggage. Otherwise, you could opt to travel with soap, but in that case, you’ll need somewhere to put the soap every time you use it and keep it from soaping up everything in your toiletry bag.
Shampoo + conditioner
A must! You could also get this in eco-friendly bar forms, which also takes up less space.
Lush and HiBar make the best solid shampoo – you can get yours here.
Toothpaste, toothbrush and floss
Another must! Don’t forget this, as they can be expensive in Cuba. You might want to leave your electric toothbrush at home and pack an eco-friendly bamboo brush for your trip, and pack some floss too.
Mosquito repellent + itch cream for bites
Repellent to keep the pests at bay, and itch cream for when you inevitably get bitten anyway!
Get yours here.
Tampons and sanitary pads
To the girls reading this: It’s not always easy to find tampons and sanitary pads in Cuba so you should pack more than enough for your trip.
More essential now than ever before, a couple of tubes of sanitizer will keep your hands clean after using the bathroom, after a long bus journey or before you enjoy a meal.
You can get it here.
Tissues are an essential in any destination, so bring a couple of small travel packs with you. They can also double up as toilet paper if you ever find yourself short (trust me, you will).
Bandaids, medications and prescription drugs
Bring a pack of Band-Aids that come in a range of sizes. Sometimes you might need to cover up a cut from a rubbing sandals, other times you might scrape your knee on a hike, and you will need to keep the cut clean and covered.
Make sure to also pack a stash of medicines just in case you get sick during your trip. Paracetamol and ibuprofen may not always be easy to come by in Cuba. I also recommend imodium tablets, just in case!
You can get your first aid kit here.
Finally, it’s really important to pack enough of any medications you might need to take.
Keep a packet of condoms somewhere in your pack. You never know, you may need them when on your travels – it’s always better to be prepared and keep yourself safe!
Other essential items to pack for Cuba
Don’t forget to pack a few plug adapters so you can charge essential items like your phone and camera at the same time. Those of you that are traveling from the USA or Canada can leave the plug adapters at home however as Cuba uses the same plugs.
You can get a plug adaptor here.
Water bottle (with filter)
Make sure you stay hydrated in the tropical heat by packing your own water bottle. Consider taking a water bottle with a built-in filter so you can make sure the water you’re drinking is safe, and you will also be doing your bit to reduce plastic waste too.
Lifestraw makes the best water bottles with filters.
Folding down to a compact size, travel towels shouldn’t be overlooked. Not only are they lightweight so they don’t add extra bulk, they are also super fast drying so you won’t be traveling around with any damp, smelly towels in the bottom of your bag.
Get your microfiber towel here.
Although there’s no beating the real thing, Kindles are really useful when on the road. With the option to download tons of books, you can keep yourself entertained whilst on long journeys by losing yourself in a good book. Just make sure to download enough books before your trip, as internet may be hard to come by!
You can get your Kindle here.
Camera + usb charger
Snaps on your phone are good, but pack your camera so you can snap some amazing pictures of all of the incredible sights in Cuba. A USB charging wire and a power bank is also a good idea!
Get yours here.
Always handy when planning travel around towns, cities and whole countries, guidebooks are a great insight into a destination. Perfect for when you rock up in a new city and need to find somewhere for dinner or when you need to know the correct bus to take – especially in a country where internet isn’t much of a thing yet.
In terms of guidebooks, you can opt for the classic Lonely Planet. If you want something a bit more visual and with nicely-drafted city itineraries, DK Eyewitness guides are the best. Get yours here.
Documents You Will Need For Your Trip To Cuba
You just don’t want to leave home without your passport, but it is easily done! Make sure you check your passport well in advance of your trip to make sure it’s not nearing its expiration date – to enter Cuba you must have at least two months left on your passport. Keep it in a safe place in your bag so you always know where it is.
We all know that adventures to far flung destinations are fun but sometimes things can happen that are out of your hands. It’s a really good idea to take out travel insurance that covers you for medical care in Cuba just in case you need to take a trip to the Doctors. In fact, it’s actually a requirement to enter the country.
Tarjeta de viaje / Visa for Cuba
Visas can be a bit of a headache, but you will need to get your visa arranged in advance before you arrive in Cuba. Also known as a “tourist card”, the visa will usually allow for a single entry into the country and is valid for 30 days.
If you are flying from the US, you need a pink card.
If you are flying from anywhere outside the US, you need a green card.
Make sure to read my post How To Get A Visa For Cuba for more information on the tarjeta de viaje.
Finally, Do Not Bring Gifts To Cuba
It may seem like a nice idea to bring gifts to Cuba, but my advice is don’t!
Many tourists have a habit of bringing gifts with them on their trip to Cuba – pencils and pens, bars of soap, even clothes, among other things. When they walk around, they hand them out to people on the street, or give them to people who provide services along the way, such as taxi drivers and casa owners.
However, they almost never go to people who really need them. Instead, these items find their way to markets and are sold.
If you want to help, my advice is to research organizations or charities which you can donate to. That way you can give money or items that get put to good use. For a list of organizations that are involved in helping the living conditions in Cubs, click here.
To prepare for your trip to Cuba, these other posts may come in handy:
- The Best Things To Do In Cuba
- The Best Things To Do In Havana
- The Best Day Trips From Havana
- The Ultimate Guide To Camaguey
- What To See And Do In Cienfuegos
- A Short Guide To Vinales
- The Best Hikes In Cuba
- The Best Cuba Travel Tips