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What to Pack for Cuba

What to Pack for Cuba

CARIBBEAN, CUBA, DESTINATIONS

When my cousin in Cuba asked me to be her daughter’s godmother, I was thrilled at the thought of being a godmother and of visiting Cuba again.

I had visited Cuba in March hoping to be there for my cousin Leticia’s due date. Unfortunately, the timing was off and I didn’t get a chance to see the baby which was born two weeks after I left. This time, my timing was better. The week before I flew down, President Obama announced of a new Cuba policy. It was an incredibly exciting time to be down there.

Being Cuban-born, traveling to Cuba is easier for me than for other Americans.   A few months earlier, they announced that they were changing the process for Cuba American’s to travel back to Cuba.  In order to visit, we had to have a valid Cuban passport. So I rushed to get my application in before the deadline and submitted the $400 payment they required.  After waiting nearly 60 days I was contacted by the agency Marazul and was told that my passport was in.   We waited until I was able to travel to Cuba after the holidays to schedule a date in the church for the baptism.  The date was set for January18th.

Normally, it takes me a few weeks of preparation for a trip to Cuba.  Since, I had a recently returned from a trip, I had only four days to shop and pack all the items I was bringing down.  My house looked like it was turned upside down deciding, “What to Pack for Cuba”?

 

 

Having so much family there, and having been back recently, I had a good idea of what to bring.  Many of my family members asked me to bring specific items like shower curtains, towels, baby pampers, candles, cafe bustelo coffee, flashlights, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, medicines, and baby toiletries.

Cuba is known for it’s power outages called “Los Apagones”.  It’s a little spooky walking down a street that is pitch black.  Sometimes, while making dinner or getting ready to sit down to eat, the lights go out.  Especially odd is doing homework in the dark by candlelight.  That’s why bringing candles and flashlights for the family was important.  For Cubans, it’s a way of life that they are used to.

 

Kids doing homework in the dark in Cuba
Kids doing homework in the dark in Cuba
Woman preparing dinner in her kitchen in the dark
Woman preparing dinner in her kitchen in the dark

When the lights go out, the mosquitos go on a biting spree.  I could count about 20+ bites on just my legs from my last trip.  So I made sure to not forget to take mosquito repellent and cortizone cream.

 

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Packing List for Cuba

Batteries – AAA and AA
Toilet Paper – At least a whole roll for ever week that you are going to be there. More if you are going to share it.
PaperTowels
Napkins
Small Flashlights
Umbrella
Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, body wash, soap)
Seasoning – Sazon Goya con Azafran,  Badia Adobo
Hand Sanitizer
Off Mosquito repellent ***very important**
Meds (Advil, Imodium, Alka Seltzer, Pepto‑Bismol Caplets, Visine Eye Drops, Cortizone-10, Neosporin)
Bandages
Suntan Lotion
Hat
Camera– remember to pack your chargers — and a big memory card too !!
Extra Toilet Paper!

 

I arrived at the Miami airport at 4:30 a.m., three hours before the flight as required by the airline.  I know it’s crazy!  First you stand in line and show them all your documents, proof of health insurance, and passports. They passed all my documents to the counter on the other side, where they weigh all my luggage.   I went over my weight by 120 pounds.  Yikes!!

American citizens are only allowed to bring 44 pounds of luggage to Cuba.  If you go over the weight, they charge you $2 a pound in the US, and $10 CUC a pound in Cuba.   Make sure you pack all the medicines in a separate bag.  In Cuba you can take out the bag, if they weigh your luggage, they won’t charge you for it.

 

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Many people in Cuba tip with gifts at hotels and around town. A gift that is hard to get in Cuba would be soaps, bath products, aspirin, school supplies, razors (men and women) notepads, stationary, baby clothes, childrens clothing and more.  Money is also very appreciated.

Travel Adaptor

Most resorts have dual power supply 110v and 220v so you can use either. It’s not a bad idea to bring an electric converter.

Clothing

Cuban climate is fairly warm most of the time, so you’ll need summer attire (shorts, sandals, t-shirts). In the months of Nov/Dec through to March/April you may find that it gets a little chilly in the evenings, a thin/lightweight cardigan or sweater may be useful to bring for a chillier evening.

I said goodbye to everyone here in the states, and shut off my iPhone knowing that I wasn’t going to have internet access or phone service in Cuba for the next 10 days.   Off I went to Cuba…..Arriving in Santa Clara.

Read about March 2014 trip to Cuba, So Close Yet So Far
Read about December 2012 trip to Cuba, Reconnecting with my Cuban Family

 

About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

17 Comments

  1. vicky Alonso [MissArretrancos]
    January 23, 2015 at 11:15 pm
    Reply

    Great post, Carmen!

    • Carmen
      January 24, 2015 at 1:02 am

      Hi Vicky,

      Thanks, more to come soon on Cuba.

  2. Tim
    January 24, 2015 at 12:15 am
    Reply

    I am going to do my best to get to Cuba this year; hopefully before it gets flooded by the US and others who want to explore and exploit.

    • Carmen
      January 24, 2015 at 1:03 am

      Hi Tim,

      I hope you do get a chance to go. I worried about the same thing too. For me, it’s an easy 45 minute flight, so it will be a fun destination to go to often with my family.

  3. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}
    January 24, 2015 at 3:55 am
    Reply

    I’ve been wondering if there were direct flights from the USA to Cuba or did people have to transit elsewhere in order to make the trip. The power outages remind me of Malaysia, and I would have never thought to bring gifts to serve as service tips. This is such an enlightening post, and I’m betting it will get lots of traffic as travel to Cuba increases.

    • Carmen
      January 25, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Hi Michele,

      Thanks! Most of my friends that have gone to Cuba have had to travel through the Bahamas, or Mexico. I’m sure the airlines will offer direct flight to Americans shortly.

  4. Fairlie
    January 24, 2015 at 7:14 am
    Reply

    Recently several of my friends have started talking about visiting Cuba…I’ll be fowarding this very useful post to them for info!

    • Carmen
      January 25, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Fairlie,

      Cuba is a hot topic of conversation for everyone these days. All my friends that haven’t been want to go. I’m glad that others will have the chance to see what a beautiful island is it.

  5. Jolanta aka Casual Traveler
    January 24, 2015 at 6:47 pm
    Reply

    Your post, especially the mention of electricity blackouts, brought back memories of growing up in communist Poland when we also had blackouts one year. But that lasted only a while and we actually did use to tell our teacher, “I couldn’t do my homework because the lights were out.”

    Other than that, great post! I think your packing list would apply to many ‘non-Western’ countries, not just Cuba, especially the toilet paper!

    • Carmen
      January 29, 2015 at 2:07 am

      Jolanta,

      On my first trip to Cuba, we were getting ready to sit down and the lights went out. I had my iPhone in my pocket and turned on the flashlight. It seemed to be a regular thing for them that they were used too. I can’t imagine sitting in front of a candle and doing homework.

  6. Gemma
    January 24, 2015 at 8:32 pm
    Reply

    Very interesting – thanks especially for the info regarding mosquito repellent and tips. Wow did you have a lot of luggage!! I’m really hoping to go to Cuba this year

    • Carmen
      January 29, 2015 at 2:09 am

      Hi Gemma,

      It’s hard for me not to bring lots of items over when I know they need them. I think Cuba is going to be one of the top Caribbean destinations once it opens up to Americans. I hope you get to go this year too!

  7. Esther
    January 25, 2015 at 9:19 am
    Reply

    I SO agree on the toilet paper! There is such a shortage, I even ran into Cuban girls in the ladies rooms in clubs who had a toilet roll in their handbag!

    • Carmen
      January 29, 2015 at 2:11 am

      Hi Esther,

      I made sure to carry keenexs with me at all times. Even restaurants didn’t have paper napkins for people.

  8. Lauren
    February 1, 2015 at 12:34 am
    Reply

    Although I’ve never been to Cuba, as a Canadian, I can travel freely there – and I’m so happy to hear this is in the future for Americans I hope! I’ve got a question for you Carmen: if I were to travel there in the future, and I wanted to bring some extra supplies and things for needy families who live in Cuba, do you have any connections to resources that would accept unused toiletries and such?

    • Carmen
      March 12, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      Hi Lauren,

      Of all the organizations and resources that I’ve met. I would have to say the church would be the best one. The Catholic Church in my family’s town of Placetas just opened a orphanage for kids who’s parents are deceased or just can’t afford to cloth/feed them. They also hold classes in the evening, and have youth groups to help the community. Five of the priest are from France and have been there for a few years now. They are working on setting up a senior citizen home now. I know they would greatly accept any donations for the kids. As an American, I’m only allowed to bring in 44 pounds of luggage. This last trip I went over by 110 pounds. They need everything in Cuba from soap to toothbrushes. It’s hard to say “No” when they ask me for stuff.

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