The Ultimate Girls Carry-On Packing Guide for Cuba

Packing for Cuba is very different from packing to most places in the world. This is because in Cuba many items that we take for granted are hard to find there. Items such as shampoo, tampons, toothpaste, hats, sunscreen, beach towels etc. So if you forget it, you will find yourself wasting precious trip time trying to find these items. What makes it trickier is that when traveling to Cuba, only carry-on luggage is recommended because only poorly paid government employees work at the airport, so retrieving checked in baggage could take up to 4 hours, and who wants to waste half a day at an airport waiting for baggage right?

So here is my Cuba packing list for an 8-day trip, yes that’s me below with only a little backpack and a shoulder purse heading to Cuba from the CBX bridge in San Diego via Tijuana and Mexico City:

First thing is to pack all the essential items, which went into my shoulder purse. These include:

  • Passport
  • Euros (for an explanation of why euros and not U.S. dollars, see my article here)
  • Print out of tickets, maps, and host information (wifi is hard to come by in Cuba, so print out and bring with you all important trip info.)
  • Battery pack and charger for cell phone
  • Notebook +pen because without wifi you will need one
  • Glasses/contacts + solution
  • Lip balm
  • Tissues
  • Sunglasses
  • Body wash
  • Shampoo + Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste + toothbrush
  • Hair brush
  • Toiletry bag to pack everything into
  • Energy/snack bars
  • Socks to keep my feet warm on the plane

Next thing I packed are clothes. Even though I am going for 8 days, I can’t pack 8 outfits as not everything will fit in my carry-on. So in order to take as little as possible, I brought separates instead of dresses, with dark colored bottoms or jeans that don’t show dirt, can be worn a few days without washing, and match different colored tops. I also brought extra body wash with me and washed my tops, bras, and underwear in the sink/shower of wherever I was staying. After my trip, I found that I could have actually done without the extra pair of jeans.

Below I packed:

  • 7 Tops (4 blouses, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 1 undershirt, 1 pajama top)
  • 1 Sweater for cool nights
  • 1 Jacket/Blazer for dress up events.
  • 4 Bottoms (2 pairs of jeans, 1 black skirt, and 1 pair of pajama shorts.)
  • 1 Swimsuit
  • 3 Bras and 6 pairs of underwear.

For shoes, I wore high-quality hiking sandals. I wore these every day of my trip. I wore them walking the streets of Havana, going out to restaurants, going to the beach, and even going horse riding in Viñales. These Merryl’s cost me around $90 but they were worth every penny, I’ve been traveling with them for over a year now, and they are still going strong. What I like about them is that I can get away with wearing them with a dress or jeans.

Dress sandals. I actually only used these once on my entire trip. Dressing in Havana is a lot more casual than I thought it would be, especially when compared to other capital cities, and as a female tourist you can get away with dressing in casual shoes for most of your trip. Next time I visit Cuba, I will only bring my hiking sandals.

I never travel without a sarong, they can be used as a towel, a makeshift dress, skirt, shoulder wrap, scarf, or can be used to carry stuff, such as laundry. They are a lot lighter and take up a less room than a towel.

I then rolled (not folded) and crammed all of the clothes (except for what I was wearing on the plane) and my dress sandals into a packing cube. Packing cubes are travelers must have item, they condense clothing tightly allowing for you to fit more into a smaller bag.

Then I packed the packing cube in my bag, and off I went to Cuba!

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