Often when traveling abroad, the packing list suggestions are primarily related to plug adaptors and the right shoes. But after months of offering people-to-people Cuba travel programs, International Expeditions’ experts put together this helpful list of the five most important things to bring with you to this historic place. As you might imagine, legal travel to Cuba has a very specialized list of things to “pack.”
Even for experienced globe trotters, travel to Cuba is unlike anywhere else in the world. Your accommodations, activities and more can change daily, varying greatly from the printed IE itinerary. Those who travel with an open mind will be much happier with their experience. When the hours of a restaurant magically change, you may end up at a privately owned paladar sampling delicious food while chatting with this new breed of Cuban entrepreneurs. If a museum isn't open at the intended time for a visit, your Cuban guide may arrange extra time on the trail with a conservation specialist. In short, flexibility is the key!
- Toilet paper
Resources that we view as basic necessities can be scarce in Cuba. While toilet paper will always be found in your hotel room, this is not necessarily the case while traveling throughout the country. Bring some tissues and you'll be prepared in any situation!
If you feel so inclined, gifts are incredibly appreciated in Cuba where, again, resources are limited. Toiletries, schools supplies, and gently used clothing will all be greatly welcomed. You can bring notebooks for the local school you visit or leave extra shampoo and soap for the chambermaid. Just know that Cubans are incredibly resourceful and will always maximize the usage of whatever you may bring.
- Your Own Bottle of Hot Sauce
If you thought Cuban food was the spicy mix of frituras de malanga and melty Cuban sandwiches — think again! Part of the Cuba travel experience lies in sampling the many culinary offerings, and modern Cuba is not known for its inventive culinary scene. The primary staples of a meal are still rice and beans, and many meals may not offer a wide range of vegetables. However, when we stop at an organic farm in the Viñales Valley, you enjoy a range of delicious farm-to-table dishes.
When you travel to Cuba, it’s important to carry cash. American credit and debit cards cannot be used unless your cards are not connected with an American bank in any way. All souvenirs, gratuities, bar tabs and hotel extras have to be paid in CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos). IE recommends bringing around $700 unless you know you’ll be shopping for art, for example, and will need more. You may not spend this much, there is no way to get more money should you need it. Of course, the cost of IE’s people-to-people Cuba travel program already includes all your activities, visitor visa, accommodations, 25 meals, two drinks at group lunches and dinners, bottled water and tips to porter, day guides and waiters.
Thanks to Cuba guest Jack Grove for this photo!