Written by Kieran Proctor

Essential Items To Pack When Traveling To Cuba

The are certain items that I consider essential, for traveling to Cuba. Now, I’m a frequent long-term visitor to Cuba. ...

The are certain items that I consider essential, for traveling to Cuba. Now, I’m a frequent long-term visitor to Cuba. And these are the items that I will tell you, from my own experience, that you will absolutely need in Cuba.

You can choose to take these items with you to Cuba, on my recommendation. Or you can get there and realize you need them. And then waste a large part of your holiday running around, trying to find them on the island. The choice is yours.

Here’s my list of essential items, for traveling to Cuba. These items should be on all packing lists for Cuba. For everything else, you should read my Cuba FAQ page.

A VPN Is Essential For Traveling To Cuba

Without a VPN in Cuba, you will not be able to access your favorite social media applications, messaging apps, websites, foreign banks, or do much at all on your mobile devices.

Cuba is under US sanctions. And the Cuban Government tries to limit access to certain social media and messaging applications. What this equates to, is an inability to access much on your phone or laptop, without a VPN.

Don’t travel to Cuba, without a VPN loaded onto all of your devices. Once you arrive in Cuba, you’ll realize it’s a much more involved process to add a VPN.

You can add a VPN after arrival, but it’s a chicken versus egg problem. You’ll need to access your mobile App Store to get a VPN. But you will need a VPN to access that online store. I’ve got a how to guide on this website, for all the people who don’t heed this warning.

The only VPN I use and recommend for Cuba, is NordVPN. You can get NordVPN at

NordVPN Argentina

Travelers Medical Insurance Is Essential For Cuba

Cuban Aduana (customs and immigration) may decide to check if you have travelers medical insurance, that specifically covers Cuba when you arrive. It’s a legal requirement in Cuba that you have medical insurance, that clearly states that it covers you while you’re in Cuba.

If you’re found not to have travelers medical insurance covering Cuba, then Aduana will make you buy their own Cuban version. The Cuban version of travelers medical insurance costs more and it’s worthless. You don’t want to be treated for anything, in a Cuban hospital.

I get all of my travelers medical insurance for Cuba, from

Do Take An Adequate Supply Of Personal Medications

If you don’t take enough of the medications you need, with you to Cuba, you’ll likely need to hunt for medication on Revolico. And on Revolico you’ll be competing with the locals.

Any medications you require, or have been prescribed by a doctor, should be taken with you to Cuba. You should definitely take more than you require, for the length of time you intend to stay on the island.

I would strongly urge you to take an extra 7 days worth of medications when you travel to Cuba. This is because you might get stuck somewhere, or your travel might be delayed. If you don’t have enough extra meds to cover any delays, then you might need to go without.

Revolico is Cuba’s blackmarket craigslist. You can find most things on Revolico. But hoarding is common in Cuba. And when meds do pop up on Revolico, it’s often a race to buy them all. Which then leads to more shortages, even on Revolico.

So, do take the medications you require on a daily basis, with you to Cuba. And take extra medication to cover any potential travel delays that you might encounter.

Do Take An Adequate Supply Of Cash To Cuba

Always take more cash with you, in USD or Euro, than you believe you will need. Don’t rely on electronic means of payment. If you run out of cash in Cuba, this can be disastrous for your Cuban vacation.

There are ways to get extra cash to Cuba, if needed. Yet all of these are going to be much more expensive, than just taking extra cash with you, in the first place.

Always ensure you have an adequate supply of easily exchangeable foreign currency, when you visit Cuba. Your credit card is practically useless in Cuba.

Travel Tip: You will need to carry rather large stacks of local currency while in Cuba. So it’s a good idea to take something that you can carry cash in, like a fanny pack or a small bag.

Cuban Pesos CUP
Cuban pesos at the informal exchange rate

Sunblock Is Essential For A Vacation In Cuba

Sunblock can be hard to find in Cuba. And you definitely wont find any sort of post sunburn, aloe gel. You should definitely take these with you to Cuba.

The Caribbean sun is harsh. As a tourist, you’re going to be outdoors a lot. You’ll be walking between museums, wandering around Old Havana, visiting the beach, or riding in Cuba’s classic old convertibles.

You’ll get exposed to Cuba’s sun everyday, during your vacation. If you don’t have sunblock and some form of gel, to deal with potential sunburn, this can quickly ruin your Cuban holiday. Be sure to take sunscreen and post sun gel with you to Cuba.

Take Personal Care And Personal Grooming Items To Cuba

Cuba has frequent shortages of most products. And Cuba never has the same selection of products available, that you will be used to in your home country.

I always take my own shaving supplies, shower soap or shower gel and my preferred deodorant. So I can avoid running around town, buying random products from Cuban markets at inflated prices.

Having an adequate supply of personal grooming products, means I don’t need to run around looking for these items at private markets. And it means, I can use the same products I would at home. Because I take these items with me.

You don’t need to overdo it with personal care and grooming supplies. Just take the same amount you would normally use, at home.

Take A Light Weatherproof Jacket To Cuba

Cuba can have random cold snaps. And it’s more often the wind, that makes it feel cold. You would do well to take a very light and portable weatherproof jacket, with you to Cuba.

Ideally, you’d want something that rolls up quite small, but is capable of blocking both wind and rain. Finding yourself stuck in a cold breeze or worse yet, a cold breeze with torrential rain, can be very unpleasant.

I always carry a wind-cheater with me in Cuba. That way, when the weather turns inclement, I can pop it on and avoid getting drenched by the rain or frozen in the cool sea breeze.

I also carry a couple of light denim shirts with me, that I can wear like a very light jacket. These help cover my upper body, from the harsh Caribbean sun during the day. And for slightly cooler evenings, they keep some of the cool sea breeze off me.

Kieran La Guarida
The stairs at La Guarida in Havana

Other Miscellaneous Products (Junk You Don’t Need)

Various websites recommend taking a lot of random junk. Fancy filter straws and the like. But I have never needed these and I have never found a use for them in Cuba.

Having a ‘life straw’, is all well and good. But bottled water is everywhere and cheap. If you aren’t comfortable spending around $1 per day, buying bottled water in Cuba, you can go and buy a $20 disposable straw.

Some blogs will also recommend prepaid travel SIM cards. But these are next to useless in Cuba. And when they do work, they’re far more expensive than using a regular Cubacel SIM card, from ETECSA.

The prepaid travel SIM cards wont work with La Nave or Mandao. Two of the most important mobile applications that you will need in Cuba. For how to get a local Cuban phone number, read my guide.

Non-American Travelers Transiting The USA

If you’re not an American citizen and your flight transits the USA, you will need to apply for a substantive visa for the USA, before you visit Cuba. The visa waiver program (VWP), that normally allows for the use of an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), will not work for you after visiting Cuba.

If you visit Cuba on or after 12 January 2021, you’re automatically ineligible for an ESTA. And the USA has added Cuba questions to the forms. They will cancel any existing ESTA you may have, if you visit Cuba.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My Cuba travel guide will save you a lot of time and money on your next trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can arrive unprepared. Read the most complete Cuba Travel Guide.