While on one of our tours in Cuba, you will be on the move a great deal. Our advice is to pack as lightly as possible. We recommend the use of a duffel bag or backpack (whatever you find easiest to carry), or even one of those cases with wheels will be fine as long as it's not too big. Keep in mind however, that you will normally have to carry your own luggage on and off buses and along cobblestone streets. A good size daypack is essential. If you need to store some things in Havana and pick them up at the end of the tour, this is definitely possible for a small cost (about 5cuc per week) . You will need to tell us beforehand so that your guide will have an arrangement prepared.
It's hot, but watch out for the cold!
It can get very hot and humid in Cuba throughout most of the year, especially in the summer months of June, July, and August, when lightweight clothing is recommended. In the winter months of Cuba - in December, January, and February it can get colder, particularly during the evenings. It is recommended to bring a fleece top, jacket, or the like, for these months. A fleece top can also be useful on public buses or flights in Cuba where it can be quite cool due to the air-conditioning, even in summer months. Although the temperatures don't get very low in Cuba (the all-time record in Cuba is -1 Celsius), because of humidity levels and the fact that Cuban houses are not set up for cold weather, the cold can be hard to escape from. In general however, during the day, the climate in Cuba is hot and tropical.
Some people can get by with just a pair of sandals. In the summer, because of the temperatures in Cuba, open footwear is definitely preferable, even in the evenings. There are some interesting day-walks in Cuba that you may want to do. These involve walking over some steep and rocky terrain, so it would be advisable to bring footwear that you would feel comfortable doing this in, if you are interested in such activities. Some travelers have suggested that "water shoes" are the best footwear for these trails. Water shoes can also be useful for snorkelling in the Bay of Pigs where access to the water is by walking over rocky surfaces that can be sharp and pointy.
For going out in the evenings in Cuba, casual dress is acceptable everywhere you go, so there is no need to bring footwear especially for this, although some people may be more comfortable doing so. Despite their low income levels, Cubans love to dress up smartly whenever they can.
There will be plenty of opportunities for swimming in Cuba (beaches, rivers, pools) so be sure to bring your swimwear.
- Fleece top or similar (see above)
- Sandals and footwear for walking (see above)
- Small towel and swimwear
- 4 shirts/t-shirts
- Sun hat
- 1-2 pairs of shorts
- 1 pair of long trousers
- Re-fillable water bottle
- Toiletries (including soap)
- Insect repellant
- First-aid kit**
**First aid kit should contain lip salve, Aspirin, Band Aids, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, and prescription drugs you may be taking.
- Reading/writing material
- Cover for backpack
- Snorkeling gear
- Healthy Snacks - If you are traveling with children or if you have special dietary requirements and like to eat snacks between meals, we recommend you bring your own snacks to Cuba, especially for travel days. Snacks are available in Cuba, however they may not be to your liking or as readily available as you'd like.
- Gifts for Cubans - Cubans are delighted to receive gifts from foreigners even if they are items that you would consider throwing out at home. Second hand clothes are warmly accepted as gifts as they can be distributed among family members and friends. Soap, shampoo, perfumes, non-prescription medication (such as panadol), and pens or pencils are also very popular with the Cubans. Inexpensive soap is readily available in Cuba if you intend buying some as gifts. Used mobile phones are valued in Cuba and recently double-wall stainless steel portable water bottles have become very much desired objects.
Though they would be most happy to receive them, it is not necessary to bring gifts for your host families, as they are probably some of the more well-off families in Cuba and will be happy enough with just your good-natured presence. If you want to take gifts for your host families perhaps something that they can use around the house or in the kitchen would be a well received and inexpensive gift - such as keyrings, place mats for the table, towels, etc.
Donating large amounts of items in Cuba can be a little more complicated. Your tour guide will be the best person to help you with ideas on who to donate to, and how best to carry this out.
Here are a few suggestions on who you might like to donate to in Cuba...
- the cleaning staff at the hotel
- the people employed in the guesthouses. That is, not so much the guesthouse owner but the people they pay to do the house work for them
- the teachers and school principal of any schools you are able to visit during the tour
- likewise to people working at somewhere like one of the organoponicos (urban organic community vegetable gardens).
We suggest donating to people who are working for the government and with whom you have some sort of positive inter-action during your stay, rather than to random people on the street in Havana.