While honeymooning in Cuba, I couldn’t help but compile a list of all the items that either I wish I had brought with me or that I was happy I did bring with me. Cuba is such a beautiful destination but it is definitely a place trapped in time as far as many amenities and service go. To help make your Cuban adventure more hassle-free, here is the list of items I would recommend bringing with you:
- Pedialyte Packets!!!: bring a minimum of 2/person/day. It is extremely hot so dehydration is important to avoid. Since bottled water is not as easily accessible in Cuba as it is elsewhere, being able to add some electrolytes, like those found in handy powdered Pedialyte single-serve packets, to the water you do have is a big plus.
- Hats: to protect you from the killer heat.
- Sunscreen: obviously.
- Sunglasses: of course.
- Bug Spray: it is a tropical country, which means mosquitos!
- Instant Coffee Packets (just in case): if you need your coffee first thing in the morning like we do, you may want to bring some instant coffee packets with you as backup. Strangely enough in a country known for its Cuban coffee, we had quite a difficult time finding any. Our hotel offered some at the on-site restaurant but if it’s not open, you’re out of luck. One morning we had a very early departure time for our full day tour and were really thrown for a loop.
- Snacks: unlike many other countries where you can find a convenience store or market fairly easily, grabbing a snack in Cuba proves to be a little more difficult. We found it helpful to have some snacks on hand such as: protein bars, granola bags & salty items like nuts or pretzels.
- Water-Resistant Shoes/Sandals: it’s not unusual for it start raining pretty hard out of nowhere so being prepared with the right shoes will help prevent you from walking around with wet, squishy feet.
- Euros: while we were told US dollars were very difficult to change, we actually found it easier to change them than Mexican Pesos, which is what we were advised to bring. Instead, I would recommend bringing a mix of Euros and US Dollars. However, the exchange rate given for Euros is more favorable. The concierge at our hotel (Hotel Saratoga) was able to exchange US Dollars and Euros but not Mexican Pesos. The exchange booth at the Havana airport DID exchange Mexican Pesos. There are also a few exchange venues in Old Havana that did as well but they are less convenient than the front desk of the hotel. It is important to note that you cannot buy or sell the Cuban Tourist currency (CUC) anywhere outside of Cuba so be sure to exchange your CUCs back before leaving Cuba. Cuban nationals use a different currency than tourists do, which is abbreviated CUP.
- Gifts: while we had heard stories about the overwhelming appreciation of gifts, it could not have been more true! Both kids and adults were unbelievably grateful for any types of gifts. We brought large bags of candies and handed them out freely but what we felt would have been even better were the following:
- Clothing: any type, condition & size are totally welcomed as Cubans have very limited access to a variety of shoes and clothing options.
- Toiletries: we were asked multiple times if we had soap, shampoo, perfume, deoderant, etc.
- Baby Formula: any powdered version of infant formula is also something we were repeatedly asked for.
- Makeup: looking to clean out your makeup bag? Bring all the eyeshadow, blush, liner and lipstick you no longer use.
- Sporting Equipment / Games: the kids are always excited to receive these items.
- Baseball Hats: I am not sure if it was limited to the LA Dodgers cap my husband was wearing while we were there but several kids and adults were asking for him to generously part with it. Baseball is a HUGE deal in Cuba!
- Sunglasses: again, I’m not sure if this was limited to my particular taste in sunglasses ($20 flat-front mirrored aviators from Sorella Boutique in my case), but I had women AND men asking me about them. If you’re feeling extra generous, bringing a few extra inexpensive pairs with you would make you a big hit!
- Candy &/or Snacks: options in Cuba are limited so any of your faves may easily be an eye-opening treat!
- Pens: strangely enough, when we toured a rum factory near the town of Viñales, every worker asked us for writing pens.
- Money: as in any place, money is always appreciated. If you are so inclined, be sure to carry lots of singles with you because you are sure to be asked. Unlike many cities in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, the request for money is not nearly as aggressive. In fact, we found people to be very respectful and kind when asking for anything. When we did not have anything to give, we politely declined and we’re not asked any further. Remember, only very recently were Cubans allowed to have their own businesses (with several restrictions) and even more recently allowed to own real estate. Despite these new changes, the Cuban people are still living in extreme poverty. With that said, people are beyond grateful to receive any and all donations you are able to offer.
For more on insight on how to plan a trip to Cuba: “Havana, Cuba: Where to Eat, Stay & Play“.
If you are an American traveling to Cuba, be sure to check out my post: “How to Travel to Cuba as an American“. It includes important details on Visas, money (US credit & bank cards do not work in Cuba), & how to book your travel.
UPDATE: Since Trump took office, he has made an effort to tighten President Obama’s recently relaxed travel restrictions for Americans visiting Cuba. While we were fortunate enough to travel to Cuba while President Obama was still in office, I wanted to pass along the latest updates on Trump’s changes since I initially drafted this blog. I found the following articles helpful:
“Trump unveils new restrictions on travel, business with Cuba”
“Obama sparked a tidal wave of change in Cuba. Trump’s new policy misses the point.” https://www.yahoo.com/news/obama-sparked-tidal-wave-change-cuba-trumps-new-policy-misses-point-191214413.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma