We were well prepared for our trip to Cuba and all of the items listed below were things we were definitely glad we brought with us. There is one item on this list that we added after our trip that we wish we had. Can you guess what that item was?
The sun is brutal in Cuba and you will be doing a ton of walking. If you aren't wearing clothing that covers the skin, we highly recommend putting on some sunscreen.
We really didn't have issues with mosquitoes in Old Havana when we were walking around, but the mosquitoes definitely came out at night. For rental homes that do not have air conditioning, the windows are left open for most of the day, so the bugs will most likely come in. On our first night, we had a couple of mosquitoes buzzing around in our room and we were so glad we brought some non-toxic repellent to get some sleep.
It's not necessary to give gifts to your hosts, but we heard from so many other travelers that common items like deodorant and toothpaste are hard to come by in Cuba, so it's a good idea to bring these items as gifts. We were so happy that we brought some toiletries for our Airbnb hosts because they were the nicest people and were so accommodating with everything we needed. They were grateful for the gifts.
Heels are not recommended in Cuba, especially in Old Havana where it is mostly cobblestone streets. We brought tennis shoes and sandals and even with our comfy shoes, our feet were beat by the end of the day.
5. Extra Food
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in Havana, but many establishments are not open in the early mornings. Also, if your taste buds or stomach don't agree with the food, it's nice to have back-up. We packed granola bars, energy bars, trail mix, beef jerky and even cookies. They were great for those times we were hungry in the mornings or when we were out exploring the city.
This may seem like a strange essential item, but you will need this. We would say that 90% of public restrooms in Cuba do not have toilet paper. Even the restrooms at the airport did not have toilet paper.
Do not drink the tap water in Cuba. It will most likely not sit well with your stomach. You can buy bottled water in Cuba, but if you want to be extra safe, buy water at the airport after clearing security. We bought eight 16.9 oz water bottles at the US airport and it was just enough for our 48 hours in Cuba. If you want to save some money, fill up your own water bottles at the airport water fountain.
There will be long wait lines at the airport while checking in and exchanging money. Even when there are only 5 people in line, you will be waiting for awhile because there is only one attendant at each service desk and they like to take their time. We are talking waiting times of at least an hour. We saw some travelers reading a book while waiting in line and wish we had brought one too! We are so used to having our smartphones as a way of killing time, but with little to no wifi, this was not an option for us.
We brought everything on this list except for #8. Yup, this seemed like a no-brainer since we knew that lines would be long, but had no idea it would be that long! Have you been to Cuba and have something we didn't list here? Comment below and let us know.