A grand neoclassical building with a prominent dome and columns, marked with the inscription 'CAPITOLIO' on its façade. A Cuban flag waves in the breeze against a clear blue sky.

The Best Cuba Packing List: How To Pack for Cuba

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.


Got a trip to Cuba? Bring what you need with this ultimate Cuba packing list! From essential items to gifts, I’ve got you covered on what to pack for Cuba.

What do you pack when visiting a country seemingly stuck in the 1950s?

Do I pack my best dancing shoes for the disco? Should I bring my grandparent’s Elvis records? Do I start growing out my sideburns beforehand?

Only jokes, of course. And even though Cuba is portrayed as a look back in time, visiting Cuba and packing for it isn’t much different than any other country. There are some travel hoops to jump through, though. So, I made this packing list. On my first trip, I did some things right and some wrong with my packing list for Cuba. And I don’t want you to make the same mistakes with your checklist. From the large to the small, I have you covered with everything you’ll need for an enjoyable trip.

That said, here’s a list of everything you should bring along.

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Complete packing list for a trip to Cuba

Before you start packing for Cuba, it’s important to ensure you’ve sorted out all the necessary documents, especially if you’re from the USA. The best way to do that is by checking out my guide on how to visit Cuba as an American.

It’ll detail each form and step you need to follow to ensure your arrival is smooth. It’s not much different from any other country; it just has a few hoops to jump through. But after that, you’re in just like any other tourist.

And that’s where this packing list will come in handy.

Travel documents

A vintage red convertible car with the number '00' on the door is parked outdoors in the shade. The focus is partially obscured by a nearby branch with bright green leaves, against a lush green background.
  • Passport. Must be valid for at least six months.
  • Cuba travel card. You can get this online or from your airline. I purchased mine in Panama City before I boarded the plane to Cuba. Just check if your airline sells it beforehand. You MUST have this to enter the country.
  • D’Viajeros formThis form speeds up your entry through Cuban customs and is required to enter. It only takes a few minutes to complete on the website.
  • Affidavit for travel to Cuba. U.S. citizens must fill it out and show it at the gate before boarding their flight.
  • Travel insurance. It says medical insurance is required, but I was never asked for it. I still had it, just in case. Many flights from the US to Cuba include insurance in the ticket cost. If not, you must purchase it from a Cuba-friendly insurance company. I recommend Visitors Coverage, which is what I used.

Luggage for your Cuba trip

A row of classic cars sits on a main avenue in Havana
  • Backpack/suitcase. I prefer packing light and traveling out of a backpack because it’s easier and faster, but choose what suits you. Either way, carry-on-sized luggage is the best option for traveling in Cuba.
  • Daypack. Leave your main bag at home and head out with a small daypack full of only essentials—water, money, a copy of your passport, a phone, a camera, etc. It’s easier and more inconspicuous.
  • Purse/wallet. It’s not a must if you have other areas to store money and your ID, but toss it in the daypack, and it’ll be fine.

Clothes/accessories to bring to Cuba

How To Visit Cuba as an American cover with a picture of a statue and a Cuban flag
  • 7-8 lightweight, breathable shirts. It gets hot in Cuba, so having a few options for all situations is a good call.
  • A pair of long pants or a dress. For more formal situations or a night out when you want to look nice.
  • 4-5 pairs of shorts/pants. Your preference. I wore shorts the entire time there. Except at night, I would put on the lone pair of jeans I brought.
  • 10+ pairs of underwear. Did I mention it’s hot in Cuba? Packing a few extra pairs of underwear will be an amazing gift later, trust me.
  • 7+ pairs of socks. Socks are easy to wash, so you don’t need to bring many. But, if you’re more active, it’s good to have a pair to change into.
  • Sunglasses. Keep that forehead wrinkle-free and look stylish, too.
  • Hat. If you’re spending a lot of time exploring, a cap is needed to save you from the sun.
  • A comfortable pair of walking shoes. The quality of the roads and sidewalks depends on the area, so a good pair of walking shoes will help keep your feet safe and fresh.
  • Sandals. If you’re headed to the beach, this is obvious.
  • A rain jacket or umbrella. It didn’t rain during my visit, but I was prepared just in case! And you should be, too.
  • Travel towel. Great for showering situations, but also nice to lay out for a place to sit on the beach or even use as a blanket in some situations.
  • A swimsuit (optional). Obviously, if you’re headed to the beach, you’ll need a swimsuit! I stayed in Havana, so I didn’t visit the beach.
  • Light jacket. You may not use it, but it can get chilly at night. So bring a light jacket that will be enough for those cool Cuba evenings.

Cuba travel essentials

The image shows the entrance of the Floridita bar and restaurant in Havana, Cuba. A prominent blue sign reads "Floridita, La Cuna del Daiquiri" (The Cradle of the Daiquiri), and below it, another sign has Ernest Hemingway's signature. The facade of the building has pink and beige colors with the words "La Florida" written on top, referencing the historic bar famous for its association with Hemingway.
  • Filtered water bottle. The tap water in Cuba isn’t safe to drink. Cubans may be able to, but most foreign stomachs won’t handle it. You can buy bottled water (which I did), but if I had been there longer, I would have wanted a filtered water bottle for environmental and simplicity reasons. Plus, Cuba is hot, so stay hydrated.
  • Copy of passport. This is just a general rule for travel: Make a copy of your passport and leave your real one locked away in your accommodation. This is just for safety reasons.
  • Small first aid kit. I don’t usually travel with a first aid kit (maybe a mistake), but having one in Cuba isn’t a bad idea. Finding the small things you’re looking for can be difficult, depending on your Spanish level.
  • Diarrhea medicine. If you accidentally drink tap water or something doesn’t agree with your stomach, it’s always good to have the medicine on hand instead of venturing out to find it.
  • Travel guide. Having a Lonely Planet, National Geographic, or DK Eyewitness guide on hand never hurts. Since you don’t have the Internet, it’s a great resource for information about the sights!

Don’t have medical insurance for Cuba yet?

Cuban scenery

I recommend using Visitors Coverage. It’s one of the few insurance plans you can find that covers Cuba (which is HUGE!). Here’s what it covers:

  • New illnesses and injuries
  • Emergency services (including hospitalization and surgery)
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Lost luggage
  • And more!

And the best part? Their plans are super affordable.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Cuba, check out Visitors Coverage right now!

Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link, and I may make a small commission if you buy. But I only recommend products I’ve used!

Toiletries & cosmetics

A historic building with arched columns and balconies, featuring 'Sloppy Joe's Bar' written in bold letters multiple times on the façade. A white car is parked nearby, and a pedestrian is walking past, under the warm sunlight.
  • Toothpaste/tootbrush. You could just get a Cuban brand once there, but I always bring a small travel tube. After being stuck in airports for long periods, I’ve learned you never know when you’ll need it.
  • Deodorant. I’m honestly unsure how available deodorant was in shops. Again, I had brought my own travel size for simplicity.
  • Sunscreen. I didn’t bring this, but if your skin is sensitive to the sun, then it’s worth it.
  • Shampoo/conditioner/body wash. Same as the toothpaste and deodorant. Although your casa particular may provide these as mine did.
  • Contact solution (if needed). Difficult to find in Cuba. I forgot mine and was barely getting by with the little I had.
  • Razor. I don’t know about you, but my Spanish vocabulary regarding shaving is extremely limited. And I usually just shave myself anyway, so a razor is a must.
  • Additional cosmetics. I’m not unaware that I typically travel light compared to most people. So add any cosmetics you usually travel with here, such as makeup. 

Tech gear

A mural of three men on the side of a building in Havana, Cuba.
  • Computer. This all depends on your preferences. I edit photos and do other work when I travel, so my laptop was a must bring to Cuba.
  • Phone. Your home carrier obviously won’t work in Cuba. And, depending on the length of your trip, I don’t recommend getting a SIM card because it’s too expensive for the product. But it’s still good to have directions, photos, etc. So make sure to bring your phone anyway.
  • Chargers. Phone, computer, camera, and any other device you bring!
  • Camera. There’s plenty to see in Cuba, and there’s plenty to take pictures of, too. I strongly recommend bringing a camera (or just use your phone.)
  • Portable charger. Nice to have for those long days out exploring for a quick charge, especially if you’re taking many photos.

Apps for Cuba

A mural of Camilo Cienfuegos on the side of a building near Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana.
  • Maps.me. You won’t be able to connect to the internet for live maps. And this was the most essential app I downloaded. It gives you offline maps and turn-by-turn directions. I didn’t have internet in Cuba 90% of the time, so this came in handy. You can also use Google Maps. Just download the maps before your trip.
  • VPN app. If you get on WiFi, you’ll need a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access all the sites you usually visit. I recommend ExpressVPN.
  • Google Translate. Depending on your Spanish level, this will be a savior. I usually get by with my Spanish skills, but this app is perfect when I haven’t encountered a word or phrase.
  • My Currency Converter. Easy currency conversions so you can know how much you’re spending/exchanging.
  • Obscura (iPhone-only). Think of Obscura as a way to unlock an iPhone’s advanced camera settings. So, if you want the best photos out of your iPhone, this is the app to use.

Tips for Cuba

Your credit and debit cards won’t work

Most credit and debit cards won’t work in Cuba.

Due to the embargo and other sanctions, travelers are forced to withdraw cash beforehand. So make sure to bring enough for the entire trip. This is why I recommend booking accommodation, tours, etc., online before your trip so you can minimize how much cash you have to carry.

Cuba uses the same plug for electricity as the USA

Save time and space! You don’t have to bring a power converter or adapter. Your electronics should be able to plug right into the plugs if you have items with U.S.-style plugs.

Don’t exchange foreign currency for Cuban Pesos on the street

It’s dangerous, and you’ll often get ripped off.

Instead, exchange with your casa particular host or some restaurants. They’ll have the best exchange rates, and it’s much safer than standing in the middle of the street with a wad of cash.

Get travel medical insurance

I recommend Visitors Coverage because of its simplicity and price. It covers most things I’d need while traveling (minor injuries, hotel stays, surgery, etc.), and it didn’t cost me a ton to get it. Plus, it’s one of the few with coverage in Cuba, which is obviously huge for travel safety!

If you’re traveling from the U.S., it may be included in your ticket, so be sure to check.

Make the most of your time in Havana

If you’re headed to Cuba, you’re guaranteed to pass through the capital, Havana. This vibrant city shows everything Cuba has to offer.

And you can see it all in as little as a few days! So, to help you along, check out how to spend three days in Havana so you can make the most of your trip. From the Capitolio to Old Havana to classic car tours, these action-packed three days will make your first trip to Cuba exciting.

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

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