What to bring
- 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.
- Money: Please visit our Currency page for more details. Cuba is still very much a cash society. How much cash to bring varies greatly depending on your spending habits, souvenir purchases, etc. Tourism is based on the Convertible Peso (or Tourist Dollar). While $1.00 CUC = $1.00 USD (about $1.03 with bank fees) for electronic transactions, it’s advisable to bring Euros, Canadian dollars, British Pounds or Swiss Francs, as there is a 10% additional fee for converting US dollars in cash. Although right now on the black market we’ve heard locals are giving anywhere froom $1.10 – $1.20. It’s not a route we recommend if you’re not familiar with Cuba and who you’re dealing with. Many US participants exchange USD for CAD or EUR in advance and then use the official CADECA counters. 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. 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, WoWCuba offers an emergency cash advance service to participants in Havana if required. If you think you might buy things locally (besides the occasional beverage not included with meals, or visit a lot of museums, take a lot of taxis, bring home lots of rum/cigars/coffee…if you can find any coffee in the stores)…it’s probably better to bring a little more than you think you’ll spend, say $100 per day, to be safe. You can always take it home if you don’t use it.
- Luggage: Pack all allowable necessities in your carry-on luggage. Checked baggage restrictions by most air carriers: 1-2 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. A backpack can be handy packed inside your suitcase to use as a day pack on excursions. The outfitter provides a dry pack.
General Clothing: Informal, breathable quick-dry fabrics are recommended. 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 casual 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.
- Footwear: Comfortable hiking sneakers or boots for trekking/waterproof sandals for paddling, 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.
Accessories: Sunglasses (with a cord is helpful), Paddling gloves
- A compact hat or cap for sun protection when not paddling. There are some nice handmade hats to be found in Cuban markets, if you prefer to travel light/support Cuban artesans instead.
- 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.
- If washing out paddling 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).
Toiletries & Medicines
- Cosmetics: look for moisturizer/sunscreen brands with higher spf, waterproof features for paddling. Consider buying reef-safe sunscreen products or using a rashguard 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.
- 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.
- Insect repellant.
- Travel packages of tissue better than carrying a roll of toilet paper around), feminine hygiene products.
- A small first aid kit with immodium 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.
- If you have any allergies or health issues, remember that prescriptions should be clearly labelled and in your name.
- Antibacterial hand cleaning gel.
- No shots are required for travel to Cuba.
- Water: The kayak outfitter provides one 1.5L bottle per day/person. Bringing your own re-usable bottle that fits in a daypack pocket or clips to the outside of your daypack and to a kayak deck is ideal for transporting your water supply. 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/Sheets: Towels are provided at hotels but facecloths often are not. A beach towel is recommended for some out-of-hotel bathing or snorkel stops and for the overnight camping at Rio Negro. A sheet for camping is also recommended at that location.
- Snorkel Gear: is provided by the outfitter.
- PFD / Dry bag: provided by the outfitter.
- Ear Plugs: Cuban music may lose its appeal at 1 AM, so if you’re a light sleeper, ear plugs may be desired although in many of your accommodations this probably will not be an issue.
- 110v Adapter: While some hotels are 220v, most private houses are 110v. Always ask before plugging in your devices.
- Gifts: We recommend only giving gifts after a rapport has been attained and 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. We really love Cuba Libro at 19 & 24 in Vedado, Havana for this.
- 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 gps 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. It’s not recommended to bring electronics while kayaking unless in sealed bags for transport. The outfitter will provide you with a dry pack for your daily essentials.
- Last But Not Least: Your sense of adventure.
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 the staff that will be accompanying you on paddling holidays typically are in the range of 10% of your trip cost, and are often higher for private departures. Restaurant/maid/musician/porter gratuities are payable directly. 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.
- 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. You should be able to entrust your belongings to your tour staff who will also be looking out for your well-being along the way.
- 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 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.