Cuba quickly became one of my most favorite places, but there’s no denying that when it comes to basic necessities, it’s not as easy to come by what you need as in most destinations abroad. You can read all about my trip here!
Due to the Socialist government and economy, it’s very hard to import things into Cuba, and when they are imported in, the cost is much more than you’d expect to pay. Pair that with the fact that most Cubans live on a salary of $15-40/month, and there’s not a huge market for these items.
There are a few things worth packing to have handy for your visit, and they’ll save you a lot of time and money (and inconvenience)!
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Start with the right suitcase!
I opt to travel carry-on only whenever I can, and especially for this trip. I’d heard horror stories about waiting up to three hours for baggage to come onto the carousel in Havana, and I did not want to experience this for myself! Unfortunately, on the first leg of my flight, I was informed the bins were full and they checked my bag! Thankfully, it got to Havana without incident and we waited about 20 minutes or so to collect them from the carousel! Thank goodness!
I’m a big fan of my Away “Bigger Carry On” with its portable battery pack, and adaptors included in an efficient case inside. It’s got a roll-out laundry bag inside, which is a nice feature, and its compartments are perfect for keeping your things organized on-the-go! I also love that it comes with a dust bag to store it in, when its not in use!
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For my “personal item,” I always use one of my Lo & Sons bags. For this trip, I used the Catalina Deluxe Weekender Bag, with a bottom zipper compartment where I kept my mini travel steamer (it’s perfect for a pair of sneakers or a couple of pairs of sandals, too!). It’s great for having to take on a day trip to the beach, too!
You get 15% off your first purchase with them when you sign up for their email newsletter, and they frequently have sales, too!
As with any foreign country, you have to be a little more careful when it comes to procuring what you may need for health issues. Aside from bringing your usual medicines, it’s helpful to have a few things on hand in case your tummy doesn’t agree with the water or food-as its much different than here in the USA. Some public toilets don’t have seats, just bowls. If you use an inhaler, even just as-needed like myself, please don’t forget it! My inhaler saved me after dealing with all of the exhaust and diesel fumes from the old classic cars, and I generally never need it at home unless I’m having severe allergies.
Bug Spray wipes (the mosquitoes are no joke)
First things first, being a woman in Cuba is a little mind-boggling. I didn’t realize the hardship they face getting things like sanitary napkins or tampons. So make sure you’re prepared with some of those, even if your cycle isn’t imminent (you can always leave them behind as a gesture of goodwill when you leave)!
The obvious things like toothbrush and toothpaste are essential. I actually opted for toothpaste tabs from Lush and took a swig of water with one, crunched it up a few times, brushed, and rinsed again with bottled water. They offer a mouthwash tab, too! This gave me some peace of mind about not swallowing the tap water, which isn’t suitable for consumption.
Wet Wipes/toilet paper (toilet paper is thin and sometimes not easily found in public restrooms)
Shower Wipes– I found these to be a lifesaver for freshening up during the day. The humidity had me dripping pretty much all the time!
Sunscreen (an absolute necessity, but I never actually saw any for sale)
Lotion Bar: Another Lush find, I opted to take a massage bar for post shower moisturizing, to ensure I had enough without having to pack a large bottle (I like to travel carry on only, when possible).
Hand Sanitizer: Great to have on hand after a day exploring dusty buildings, sandy beaches, or animal laden farms!
Chafe-Relief Gel: If you’re typically victim to the dreaded “chub rub,” this stuff is a GOD-SEND! I use it on my inner thighs in humid climates with shorts and dresses, and it also helps to put some on the areas my shoes usually tend to rub on my feet! Its a multi-purpose lifesaver!
For perspective, a friend told me she bought a can of pringles in a hotel for $7. You can’t walk around expecting to run into a supermarket or convenience store, so it’s helpful to have snacks on hand in case you need a pick-me-up! They are great for when those weird in-flight meals are better uneaten, too!
Some of my favorites:
If it’s heavy, skip it! Light fabrics are your friend! Whatever you wear, you’re likely to soak it with sweat. Linens and other breezy fabrics are perfect, and dry quickly in the A/C when you finally get into some! Breezy dresses, light weight shorts, flowy chambray and linen pants, and light weight tees and tanks were my best friends!
I brought two pairs of sandals, a dressier pair for going out, and a regular pair for the beach and walking around. I also brought an old pair of Converse for walking around in. The streets are broken or rough, and in the Valley you walk along a lot of dirt roads, so fancy footwear is futile!
My brilliant friend Megan brought some scarves along to tie in her hair like cute headbands, which I regret not doing! Take a page out of her book for a stylish way to help with all that perspiration! Bonus points for the vintage aesthetic, which perfectly matched our classic car taxis!
Cuba has so much to offer in the way of a beautiful cultural experience, but it doesn’t hurt to have some of the essentials to keep you going if you hit any snags while you visit!
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