When you arrive in Cuba, your MacQueen’s Island Tours bicycle tour typically begins with a transfer to your first hotel (for those who request this service in advance as part of their package). Depending on your flight arrival time, we usually begin with bicycle outfitting (including adjustments or special installations of saddles/clipless pedals) the following day prior to the first ride. A briefing on cycling etiquette, currency, local customs and more will be provided by our bicycle tour representative on the outfitting day. Beginning with outfitting, your MacQueen’s Island Tours rep accompanies you on all parts of the tour including overnights outside of Havana, so if you have any questions or concerns including regarding tipping etiquette, please let him or her know.
With your cooperation, we try to get an early start each day to avoid the afternoon heat. On transfer days, please bring your bags to the van BEFORE breakfast, which is usually at 8:00. We urge you to travel lightly, one medium/large bag plus a carry on works best for most people. Each evening at dinner, our guide and tour leader will explain what you can expect the following day.
What to Bring (and how to avoid overpacking)
- Passport: valid for 6 months from departure date stored in a ziplock bag. Recommended: backup copy of passport information pages, stored separately from your passport.
- Cuban visitor visa (tourist card). Most airlines facilitate visitors visas for travelers; either included in advance fees, or for purchase at the point of departure. For some countries, travel visas must be requested in advance through the nearest Cuban Consulate or Embassy. Check in advance with your airline for details.
- Evidence of medical insurance coverage in Cuba to comply with Cuban immigration requirement. Are you familiar with how your medical insurance is activated in Cuba? If not, it can be very helpful to ask in advance to know if a) services are expected to be paid locally and claimed on return to your country of origin, or b) if you present your insurance policy or boarding pass locally to have services paid by the insurance company in Cuba. You should also know c) the limitations of the policy’s coverage. You don’t want to be worrying about this detail in Cuba where communication can be more challenging.
- Invoice from WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours (electronic version OK) with contact info.
- The Pre-Tour Communication with your team’s contact information.
Money: Cuba is still very much a cash society. How much cash to bring varies greatly depending on your spending habits, souvenir purchases, etc. If you have a non-US (or affiliate) bank issued credit card you may be able to use it for purchases or cash advances in Cuba. With 24 hours advance notice, we offer an emergency cash advance service to participants if required. Please visit our Currency page for more details. Don’t bring US currency to Cuba as it’s subject to a 10% levy.
Photography & Electronics: Hand check phones, cameras, laptops and electronics. Bring spare batteries. Electronic, GPS or radio communications equipment is forbidden but cellular phones and cameras with sps technology are permitted. See the official Cuban customs website for further details. See our Trip Planning Resources for space-saving telephone travel app & translator suggestions for Cuba.
General Clothing: Informal, breathable quick-dry fabrics are is recommended for riding clothes. Selecting travel-friendly fabrics that don’t require ironing’s always nice. Who wants to spend time ironing when traveling?
Essential items to pack:
- Swim wear.
- Walking shorts and/or tights.
- Several tops interchangeable with.
- A minimum of one pair of pants or wrinkle-free dress/skirt.
- Bring a hoodie (day) or versatile sweater (night) for possibly cool mornings and evenings.
- Bike/Smartwool socks & underwear.
- Comfortable biking shoes/sneakers/sandals for riding, and some good walking shoes and/or sandals for the rest of the time. Especially for women, some of the newer Crocs sandal models can be versatile space-savers for moving between beach, pool, shower and outdoors for day/night.
- A compact hat or cap for sun protection when not riding. There are some nice handmade hats to be found in Cuban markets, if you prefer to travel light/support Cuban artesans instead.
Bicycle Clothing: You might get by with general clothing, but there is a reason for the cycle clothing industry. We recommend:
- ∙Accessories: Sunglasses, Gloves.
- 3 cycle jerseys and 3 pairs of padded shorts. If you’re worried about chafing or being uncomfortable “down there”, invest in some Chamois Butt’r cream (female and male versions).
- If you use a clipless pedal system, bring your shoes and pedals and we’ll install them.
- If washing out bike gear/other clothing after use, blow-up hangers or one of those awesome compact stretchy braided drying lines and some powdered detergent or shampoo can be useful. Remember: not all accommodations have laundry facilities on-site or dryers, so if you’re not washing your own, then in our experience it’s best to deliver clothes for laundering on arrival to the property programmed for any 2-night stay. They usually charge per piece (not per load).
- Showers may occur anytime, but rain gear is only recommended in the rainy season, May – October. They’re sometimes hard to find/out of stock, but the Cuban art-themed umbrellas that the Cuban cultural company Artex produces and sells are excellent quality, spacious for 2 and a wonderful souvenir.
Cycle Gear: No special gear is required, but feel free to bring your favorite saddle, clipless pedals and helmet. Helmets are included but odd sizing (especially XL) may be limited.
Toiletries & Medicines:
- Cosmetics: look for moisturizer/sunscreen brands with higher spf, waterproof features for riding. Consider buying reef-safe sunscreen products for snorkeling areas. As a responsible traveler, please take that initiative and be conscious about how important it is to reduce your impact and conserve ecosystems.
- Insect repellant.
- Prescriptions should be clearly labelled and in your name.
- Travel packages of tissue better than carrying a roll of toilet paper around), feminine hygiene products.
- Imodium or alternative natural anti-diarrhea medicine, Glycerine tablets for constipation.
- Aspirin or Ibuprofen for pain/fever.
- Ginger (natural) or Gravol (pharma) for motion-sickness, nausea.
- Antibacterial hand cleaning gel.
- Toothbrush/toothpaste, floss.
- Some conscious travelers check their own 3-in-1 ecologically-friendly shampoo/conditioner/bath gel and help reduce single use plastics in hotels that haven’t introduced a better solution yet.
- We provide bottled water for rides and ensure the bottles are later recycled. We urge you to consider safe, ecological drinking water options for the rest of the water you’ll consume while traveling. Boiling water & adding iodine isn’t always practical or palatable. Check out these modern ways to keep your footprint minimal while away from home.
Towels: Towels are provided at hotels but facecloths often are not. A beach towel is recommended for some out-of-hotel bathing or snorkel stops (such as Caleta Buena or the Fish Cave near Playa Giron).
Ear Plugs: Cuban music may lose its appeal at 1 AM, so if you’re a light sleeper, ear plugs may be desired.
110v Adapter: Some hotels are 220v so a 110v adapter may come in handy.
Gifts: We recommend only giving gifts after a rapport has been attained and only when appropriate. Cash is a much more practical way to remit gratuities to those who have provided you with a service. In our experience, indiscriminate handouts send the wrong message and often encourages children/people to beg, not engage in meaningful work. We strongly recommended that donations of school or medical supplies be left with a responsible non-profit organization or person for distribution. We can make suggestions if required.
Luggage: Pack all allowable necessities in your carry-on luggage. Checked baggage restrictions by most air carriers: 2 suitcases with a combined weight not exceeding 20 kilos per passenger is typical. Liquid restrictions may be in place. Allow room for purchases and remember, most people over pack.
Last But Not Least: Your sense of adventure
Tourism is based on the Convertible Peso (or Tourist Dollar). While $1.00 CUC = $1.00 USD (about $1.03 with bank fees), it’s advisable to bring Euros, Canadian dollars, British Pounds or Swiss Francs, as there is a 10% additional fee for converting US dollars. Credit cards from Canadian and non-US banks are accepted while US credit cards are still not able to be processed in Cuba. Travelers cheques are not widely accepted. Emergency cash advances can be made locally on Visa/Mastercard by a WoWCuba/MacQueen’s Island Tours representative at a 10% surcharge. Please visit our Currency page for more details.
WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours includes standard gratuities for hotels, servers, domestics, musicians and porters on all Cycle Tours. Tips for tour staff, with whom you’ll build a personal relationship and who are the key to the enjoyment of your holiday, are encouraged and welcomed. Weekly tips for cycling holidays typically range from $50-$100 CUC per person per staff member (tour leader, tour guide, driver) More info on Gratuities in Cuba
Cuba is generally very safe but petty crime does exist. Because most Cubans are so friendly, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. You should use common sense and take the same precautions as you would in any country. Your physical well being should be very secure, but your camera or hand bag may not.
For individual travelers there’s no significant savings to prepaying a taxi versus laying locally and unless you’re traveling as a group, the latter is usually what we recommend as the least bureaucratic option. Take an official taxi and agree on the fare for your route in advance. We’re happy to provide estimates for your route as a guideline.
Use the safety deposit box in your room
Carry only small amounts of cash in your purse/wallet – use a money belt for extra cash & larger bills
A passport is the best form of ID for most credit card transactions
Keep passport/travel documents in a designated side pocket of your luggage while traveling so that they don’t get misplaced during packing and unpacking
Don’t wear flashy jewelry
If renting a car, before or after your cycle tour, keep your valuables under the seat and if you pick up hitchhikers, don’t ever leave them alone with your possessions
When parking your vehicle, always leave it under the surveillance of an official (with badge) parking attendant
Always be aware of your surroundings
Use simple common sense!