After having booked their trip to Cuba, the main thing that many people start getting prepared for is to have a good time. And rightly so - Cuba in one of the best countries in the world to let your hair down! It is also wise, though, to prepare what you need to pack in your luggage. First and foremost, you should never forget to get hold of and take with you a ‘tourist card’ (Cuban visa) as it is mandatory to enter Cuba. Then comes the decision as to what to pack in your suitcase. Hear are five items that are highly recommended.
Cuba is famed for its healthcare system. There are more doctors per head In Cuba than in almost any other country in the world. As a tourist, you are likely to be seen quickly, and receive a high level of care and expertise.
That said, when it comes to medication it is highly recommended to purchase what you may need before you leave, instead of relying on buying it in Cuba. Whilst medical centres that cater to tourists tend to have pharmacies stocked with various necessities, it can be pricey and may not have everything you require. It is much, much easier to reserve a small part of your suitcase for a selection of medications that might come in handy. Definitely bring any prescription medication that you take regularly back home. A box of painkillers and a first aid pack are also well worth having too.
Note, any paracetamol you have left at the end of your trip make a nice gift to donate to anyone in Cuba that has helped you out on your trip. Other items from the list below are also worth donating too - remember that anything you choose to donate from your suitcase will free up more space for you to bring back some lovely Cuban products - coffee, rum, cigars, chocolate and honey!
2) Sun Cream
The sun shines in Cuba all year round. Sure, there are sometimes cloudy days, but during your stay it is almost inevitable that at some point you will be exposing yourself to direct sunlight. Having a bottle of sun cream to hand will therefore be an invaluable asset, a great way to protect your skin and give yourself peace of mind during your stay.
That all said, if you have forgotten your suncream and have already boarded the plane to Cuba, don’t panic. Ask staff in the hotels and travel agencies and they should be able to direct you to somewhere that you can buy it. The main downside is that your options will be more limited, prices will be higher and it may take a while to find it. So much better to pack it before you leave, and not in your hand luggage as it is a liquid!
Sun cream, like paracetamol mentioned above, is also worth donating on the last day of your trip. It is particularly prized by parents with small children, so that they can play outdoors with a reduced risk of sunburn.
3) Loose-fitting clothing
The daytime temperature Cuban cities rarely drops below 20°C, even in the winter. In fact, in January and February, Cuba’s coolest months, the average maximum temperature in the daytime in Havana is still 26°C. In July and August it is 32°C. If you cannot live without tight-fitting jeans then go ahead and wear them. In fact, they are very popular these days with a lot of Cubans too. But bear in mind that the price you will pay can be a lot of sweat and discomfort, especially if you are spending your days outside actively sightseeing.
With all this in mind, it is worth noting that in the winter months the temperature does drop at nighttime. The average low in Havana is 18°C, but it can feel quite cool, especially if there is a breeze. For that reason, whilst preparing for the heat is a necessity, don’t forget to bring a jacket for the winter evenings. In fact, if you are planning to go anywhere with higher altitudes, then bring a sweater too.
Whilst many aspects of Cuban culture seem quite informal, there are certain places where there are some dress codes. Shorts and sleeveless vests are not generally allowed when entering theatres and cinemas. This is sometimes the case for certain exclusive bars and restaurants too. Therefore it is wise to remember that those comfortable shorts that you’re wearing for daytime sightseeing may not be appropriate for your evening schedule.
As with paracetamol and sun cream, clothes are also an item worthy donating at the end of your trip, especially If you bought specific clothes for your holiday, and don’t think you’ll be wearing them again, they’ll be put to great use in Cuba. Fast fashion has not hit Cuba, and whatever you donate is likely to have a long lifetime, as worn out clothes tend to be repaired rather than thrown away.
4) A Guidebook
The main reason why a guidebook for Cuba is so handy is that internet in Cuba is still not as widely available and fast as in many countries. For example, it is still not a given in cafes, some of which display signs saying: “we have no wifi, talk to each other instead!”. You can use hotel lobbies and various other places to get information, and should you need internet during your stay then it is there. But having a printed book is much more convenient, as you can use it any time anywhere. And you don’t need to wait for it to buffer!
Another reason guide books are great for your trip is that most of them dedicate a section to explaining Cuba’s culture and history. This island has seen it all, and brushing up on a few pages of Cuba’s cultural facets and turbulent history can really enrich your visit and help you make sense of this fascinating island.
5) A UK-US Travel Adaptor
The majority of the plug sockets in Cuba are of the US variety, therefore take a travel adaptor with you for your electrical items. The power supply in Cuba is mainly 110 volts, but most hotels have dual voltage, with room sockets being 220 volts. Make sure to check this before using them. And remember that internet access in Cuba is not the same as in the UK, so don’t arrive with the same expectations. Wifi can be found in the bigger hotels, but is not as readily available out and about, and using your UK data is extremely expensive. Before departing for Cuba it is therefore better to download any videos/podcasts you may wish to watch/listen to during your stay, instead of waiting til you arrive.
The five items I have listed above should be considered as a starting point. Medication, sun cream, loose-fitting clothing, a guidebook and a UK-US travel adaptor will all be very beneficial for your trip to Cuba. And alongside these five items, don’t forget your tourist card (Cuba visa)! With a little bit of smart preparation you can make sure that your trip to Cuba is a special one.
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