The weeks after buying your plane ticket to Cuba are filled with planning. Planning the perfect tours (with @mimaincuba or @escapingNY perhaps), deciding which cities will be worth a visit (answer: all of them), choosing which Visa option is the best for you and as your trip gets closer planning what you’ll need to take with you.
So Let’s Get Packing
Bring with you anything and everything you think you will need for the duration of your vacation. This means lotion, toothpaste, toothbrush, towels, tampons, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, ibuprofen, etc. AND DO NOT FORGET the sunscreen. On a hot beachy island that is a death wish. Throw in some Aloe Vera too for the inevitable burns.
This is the one destination I recommend OVER-packing.
Not just for all your perfect photo ops, but for the Cuban people.
Many areas, specifically in the southeastern cities of the island, are suffering from a serious supply shortage. Grocery stores shelves are left bare and items that remain are marked up to as much as 10 times what they cost in the US. This leaves the Cuban people struggling to pay for basic everyday essentials like toiletries, milk, and cheese.
The good news is…travelers can help. It doesn’t matter whether you’re bringing a backpack or a whole set of suitcases it’s easy to throw in even a few small items from the list below.
List of Items you can contribute
Vitamins ( A, B, C, Iron, Daily Vitamin)
Painkillers like Ibuprophen and Tylonel
Topical Pain Relievers like Bengay
Feminine Hygiene Products
School Supplies and etc.
Sewing Kits (Cubans reuse everything)
Reusable tote bags
Old cell phones and chargers
Spices (Spices in Cuba are very limited)
Got clothes laying around you have been meaning to donate? Take them with you!!! I got asked for clothing more than anything else (yes, even money).
Shoes, shirts, dresses..you name it. If it’s something you wore at one point then why not someone else?
Donations are just the beginning of it. There are tons of other easy ways you can directly Support the Cuban People (livin’ up to what your Visa claims 😉 ).
Support of the Cuban People
Stay in Casa Particulares
This is an easy way to put some extra moolah in the pockets of Cuban locals. Think of Casa Particulares like an Airbnb without the app. Basically, you’re renting a room in the home of a local. Those who participate have a handy blue symbol located outside their door and you can literally walk up and ask on the spot if they have a room. Normally 20-30 USD is standard throughout the country and Casa owners can even set you up with another Casa in your next city.
Eat at your Casa!
Want the most authentic and tastiest local cuisine possible? Eat at your Casa. Meals are HUGE and only cost you 5USD(breakfast)- 10USD (dinner) a person.
Eat at restaurants in the Private Sector instead of the government-owned spots.
Reason one-The food is better. Reason two- You’re supporting a local business.
Donate to or Purchase items from other local businesses, artists, musicians, street performers, etc.
All entrepreneurs need to make a living, right??
It’s okay it be excited about the 1950’s cars and the simple less-developed cities that seem frozen in time. But don’t forget that people live here. Remember that you get to go home to your everyday conveniences of reliable internet, clean water, and stocked grocery shelves. You get to return to a country where everything imaginable can be ordered to your doorstep at the click of a button. (I’m talking to you, Amazon)
The Cuban locals remain frozen in time.
Existing here day to day is hard work. And the country shouldn’t be treated like a 1950’s theme park.
Comprehensive destination guides for Viñales and Trinidad. My two favorite Cuban cities.
And if you’re just looking for some inspiration and a glimpse at what you may be in for…check out the blog post about my 3-week trip to Cuba.
A few fellow female creatives helped to curate the perfect donations list and advice above. You can check out their websites for more tips on Cuban Travel or follow them on Instagram to see some beautiful photos of thier adventures.
Another expert on Cuba. Her love for Cuba started after several 2-3 month backpacking trips and now she leads group tours in Cuba that focus on getting off the beaten path, engaging with locals, and supporting Cuban entrepreneurs.