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hike in Viñales Valley

Cuba Packing List and General Info

Some of this information may change due to Cuban government regulations regarding  health protocols, if something changes we’ll let you know ASAP.

 

*At the moment Pre-travel COVID-19 tests and vaccination certificates are no longer required to enter Cuba from the US. 

 

*Random COVID-19 tests may still be administered at the airport but there’s no mandatory quarantine unless you test positive.

 

*All arriving travelers must fill out an online D’Viajeros form containing information relating to public health and immigration.  You’re also required to take out medical insurance that includes cover for COVID-19; This is included in the cost of your air ticket from the US. It is not included if you are traveling from another country.  You will be able to fill out the online form 24 hours prior our departure not earlier. 

 

Cuba Tourist Card & Certification of Travel to Cuba: 

 

It is mandatory for foreign visitors to have a Cuba Tourist Card while traveling in Cuba. The airline on which you fly will have specific instructions on how to purchase one of these. The card will cost between $50-$100 depending on the airline and when you purchase the card. It may be possible to purchase this card in advance through https://cubavisaservices.com/product/touristvisa-card/ . Otherwise, Airlines will sell the card at the departure gate for your international flight. 

For U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, a Certification of Travel to Cuba form is also required. This serves as proof that you are visiting Cuba under an approved travel category.  (SUPPORT FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE) and includes the general license number applicable to your tour. Please keep a copy for yourself. 

 

Document Retention:

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations require that travelers maintain clear records of travels throughout Cuba even with a license.  Travelers are required to retain possession of these documents for up to 5 years in the unlikely event that the OFAC solicits them.  Therefore, keep your Certification of Travel to Cuba form, as well as documents regarding purchases or transactions relating to your Cuba travels, such as your reservation materials, invoices, flight records, etc. as evidence for travel purposes.

CERTIFICATION OF TRAVEL FORM (Affidavit of Travel)

 DOWNLOAD HERE

Travel Insurance:

 

 All U.S. commercial airlines include the required amount of insurance with the purchase of a round-trip ticket to Cuba ( Only for flights from the US) however we also recommend verifying this when booking your flight to Cuba.

If the airline on which you are flying does not provide this insurance, your own private medical insurance may adequately cover you while you are in Cuba. We ask that you verify international coverage with your insurance provider prior to your trip (of at least $25,000 USD for medical expenses due to illness and accidents; and at least $7,000 USD for repatriation and transport) and verify that it is specifically valid while traveling in Cuba. Also, please bring a copy of your insurance card or confirmation of benefits with you on the tour.  

We recommend https://www.travelinsured.com/

 

 

In Summary: 

 

• Passports are REQUIRED for all travel to Cuba. (we highly recommend your passport be valid for 6 months past the end of your trip.)

• Cuba Tourist Cards are REQUIRED for all travel to Cuba.

• A Certification of Travel to Cuba form is REQUIRED for all U.S. citizens visiting Cuba.  

• Medical Travel Insurance is REQUIRED for all travel to Cuba.  The airline on which you are flying will provide the minimum required amount with your ticket. 

  

PACKING GUIDE & RECOMMENDATIONS

 

The packing guide outlined below is meant to help you plan, prepare and outfit yourself for your upcoming travels.  We have provided our best recommendations and suggestions, but we want to be clear: it is only a guide.  Our recommendations are based on the itinerary, our knowledge of Cuba, and our personal experiences.  However, each traveler will have his or her own preferences and favorite travel items.   We hope you find this resource helpful – minimize as much as you feel comfortable within these guidelines, and feel free to amend it with your favorite travel items too!

 

General: for use during hiking excursions, we recommend packing clothes that are made from synthetic materials, not cotton.  Synthetics are ideal for hiking and touring in warmer climates (you can typically expect daytime highs of 75-80 deg F in Cuba, with varying humidity) as they wick away moisture and dry quickly.  There will be opportunities to snorkel during this tour,  we highly recommend you bring your own snorkel gear, at least your mask and snorkel ( it could be available for rent in the bay of Pigs, the price is around 10 USD, but in Cuba nothing is for sure) Wetsuits most likely will not be necessary, as the water in the Caribbean is quite warm year-round.

 

Luggage Recommendations: 

 

We think it is wise to avoid checking any luggage.  We highly recommend NOT checking bags to Havana. The airport is often very busy, with multiple flights coming in at once and limited baggage carousels in some terminals. Some of our guests have waited up to 2 hours for their checked bags, which can adversely impact your Day 1 schedule, not to mention test your own patience. One thing that still might make carrying on all luggage difficult: the standard TSA limitations on liquids and gels. As many of these items are not so readily available in Cuba, if you need larger volumes of any such items, one idea is to purchase them at the your departure airport after you pass through security. If you check bags, be sure to carry everything that is either essential or would be hard to replace in your day pack/carry-on bag (medications, travel documents, important personal items/essentials).  

 

Whether you are carrying on your luggage or checking a bag, we recommend bringing TWO bags on this tour:

 

1. One roll-on suitcase or duffle/backpack – This will serve as your main piece of luggage during your tour.  If you are planning to carry this bag on your flight(s), the total dimensions should meet standard carry-on size of 45 inches or less (22 x 14 x 9 in.).  During your tour in Cuba, we will transport this bag for you between Casas Particulares ( Cuban bed and breakfast) each day, and you will have access to it each evening when we check into our accommodations.  *Also, depending on your shopping plans, you may consider packing an extra soft-sided compressible duffle inside your main luggage – to use for anticipated souvenir purchases in Cuba or extra space on your return flight.

 

2. Hiking/hydration daypack – this dual-purposed pack can serve as your personal item during your flights, as well as your daypack each day during your tour.  A hydration pack with a removable hydration bladder (1.5 – 2 liters should be adequate) will allow you to carry a larger amount of water vs. a water bottle, and will minimize your need to refill.  Common brands of hydration packs include Camelbak, Osprey, and Salomon, although several others are available.  Ultimately, the choice of daypack and size is your own; however we find that smaller packs generally make for a more enjoyable trip.  However, consider the items you’ll want to have with you during walks/hikes and daily tour activities (camera, clothing layers, sunscreen, water bottle, hat, etc.) as well as how easily accessible and organized your pack allows those items to be.     

 

Essentials:

 

• Passport – valid for at least the duration of your trip

• Cuba Travel Documents: 1) Cuba Tourist card; 2) Flight tickets/confirmation; 3) Certification of Travel to Cuba (The Certification of Travel to Cuba will be provided to ALL Cuba Unbound guests)

• A photocopy of your passport, inside a ziplock bag and stowed elsewhere in your luggage (as an additional precautionary measure, consider leaving a photocopy with family or friends at home as well)

• Copy of your air tickets with ticket numbers, placed elsewhere in your luggage.

• Adequate cash for the length of your trip (*plan to exclusively use cash for all purchases and gratuities)

• Watch or small travel clock with alarm (if you are taking a phone for use as a camera, this can serve as your alarm clock as well)

• Money belt or concealed passport carrier to carry your passport, travel documents and money, hidden under your clothing

• TSA-accessible lock for luggage security when not on your person (optional- can buy these at any travel or outdoor store)

 

Hiking Clothes (again, we recommend that only synthetic or quick-dry materials be worn during hiking excursions):

• One pair sturdy hiking/trail shoes (*Make sure to wear them several times prior to your trip – broken in well-fitting shoes are critical)

• Three –four pairs light synthetic or merino-wool socks (consider best fit with your choice of hiking shoe)

• One pair long, lightweight, nylon hiking pants with zipper pockets (Zip off legs give you more options)

• One - two pair hiking shorts

• Swimsuit

• One quick-dry sport dress (optional for easy over the swimsuit/hiking)

• Sarong (optional but very handy for changing clothes, laying on the ground, etc.)

• Three – four short sleeve button-up shirt(s) or t-shirt(s) (synthetic is best)

• One long sleeve shirt for sun protection (You can buy tight-weave nylon shirts with SPF protection made by companies such as Columbia, Patagonia, Exofficio or REI etc. Sun protection is essential)

• Hat – wide-brimmed hats are great in Cuba for sun protection (nylon variety is ideal, as it packs well.)

• One lightweight raincoat (a windbreaker that has some waterproof qualities will work as well)  

• One bandana or Buff for sun protection & cooling off (optional)

• One pair sandals with ankle straps to wear while walking on the beaches, around town, etc. (Chaco, Keens or Tevas are preferred but there are many other brands that are suitable)

 

Casual Clothing (in general, clothing in Cuba should be informal):

• Two – three other comfortable pairs of pants/shorts/dresses (lightweight dresses pack small and make great travel options for women)

• One – two short or long sleeve and/or button up shirt(s) for town

• One – two t-shirt(s) or tank top(s)

• One light-weight packable fleece, vest, or sweater, or light jacket for warmth in the evenings and mornings (optional for spring tours)

• One pair light-weight pajamas

• Underwear (Consider total # of days on the trip and pack accordingly)

• Three pair light nylon or cotton socks

• One pair casual shoes for evening outings (optional)

 

Gear and Other Essentials:

• Hiking poles (optional – most airlines will require these in checked luggage)

• Daypack per above

• Snorkeling gear: snorkel, mask, & fins (fins optional – consider packing space & weight)

• One water bottle, 1 liter or larger (A bottle that fits in a daypack pocket or clips to the outside is ideal)

• Quick-drying camping towel (ideally packs down well and fits in your daypack- you can get them at most outdoor stores)

• Camera/film/batteries/battery charger

• Universal electrical plug adapter (most outlets in Cuba will match U.S.  outlets and plug types, but in some locations, other types may be present)

• Binoculars (Optional but nice for bird and wildlife watching)

• Sunglasses, polarized are highly recommended for sun protection and enhanced clarity

• Retaining strap for glasses and sunglasses (Chums, Croakies or similar item)

• Extra pair of sunglasses and glasses/contacts

• Three to four kitchen garbage can liners – for wet clothes, dirty laundry, soiled shoes, etc.  

• A few quart-size or 1-gallon ziplock bags for packing sunscreens, lotions or anything that might make a mess

• Book(s) or E-reader, pen and note pad, pocket Spanish-English dictionary, deck of playing cards or other games, etc.

• iPod/small portable music player with headphones

• Inflatable travel pillow/nightshade/earplugs (optional, and should pack down very small)

• Headlamp or small LED flashlight

• Electrolyte tablets/mix, Hammer Gels, Clif bars/blocks, etc. for fuel replenishment while hiking (hard to impossible to find in Cuba)

• Additional before & after-activity snacks (Optional – granola bars, candy bars, etc. Fruits, seeds, and veggies are not permissible)

 

Toilet Kit/First Aid (most, if not all, of the products listed below are nearly impossible to find in Cuba – please plan accordingly.  *Also, liquids/gels in carry-on luggage must be under 3.38 oz/100ml  (another reason that checking bags may be necessary):

• Standard toiletry kit including general hygiene products, toothbrush/toothpaste, etc.

• Sunscreen – at least 30 SPF recommended

• Lip balm with SPF 15-30

• Pre-moistened towelette packets or disposable shower wipes to refresh

• Personal medicines/prescriptions (Dramamine-motion sickness, Benadryl -allergic reactions, Advil or Aspirin, etc.).  Make sure that any prescription drugs include your doctor’s/pharmacist’s identification label on the outside of the container.

• Insect repellent- we recommend repellent with DEET or Picaridin Insect Repellent (Picaridin is less toxic and less harsh on gear/clothing than DEET.  Here is one example of a Picaridin-based repellent: sawyer.com/products/picaridin-insect-repellent/

• Anti-itch medication and/or topical cream (e.g. Benadryl)

• Heavy duty skin lotion for dry, sun-baked and salted skin

• 3 Small squeeze bottle of hand-sanitizer gel

• Shampoo and body wash (one small travel flask of each - these items can also be scarce in Cuba and casas particulares will not always provide them)

• One roll (or partial roll) of toilet paper ( TRUST ME ON THIS ONE)

• Feminine hygiene products

PACKING LIST PRINTABLE VERSION

 

• Bring a  supply of face masks and hand sanitiser  😷 Cubans are no longer obliged to wear masks in public places.  However, many still do and there will be places where you’re expected to wear one ( the airport, some transportation for example )  You will be expected to sanitise your hands every time you enter a shop or restaurant. Bring your own supply of masks and hand sanitiser, Cuba isn’t a rich country and you won’t be able to buy any in Cuba.

 

 

  • Additional notes regarding luggage limitations for travel to/from Cuba

  • Gifts for individuals or organizations are allowed with some limitations.  

  • Electronic items for personal use are often screened carefully upon arrival in Cuba – as long as you bring only what is reasonable for your trip (one camera, one cell phone, one e-reader, etc.), you should not have any issues.

Below are some guidelines on how much cash you may want to bring.  Although it is slowly changing, virtually all U.S. bank credit/debit cards still do not work in Cuba, so bring more cash than you think you'll need - if you run out, there is likely no way to get more.   

 

 

• Gifts/Souvenirs - $ 100 - 150 per person (or more if you are thinking to buy cigars) a box of 25 cigars cost between 100 CUC to 250 USD depending the brand and the quality  (as of October 2016, $400 USD per person is still the maximum allowed through customs when you return to the US 

• Incidental personal expenses - $200 USD per person.  Plan on unexpected needs along the way, such as laundry, tips for service outside the scope of the tour, etc. 

•The amount that we recommend for tips at meals is 2- 3 USD per person per meal 

•Plan having change for public bathrooms ( Your Tour Leader will help you getting Cuban currency small bills and coins for bathroom tips etc.

•Casas Particulares 2 USD per night per person 

• Beverages/entertainment not included in your tour $ 100 - 150 USD per person.  

Coffee, tea and juice come with breakfast.  In addition, restaurants on your tour will include one beverage depending the restaurant’s drink policy ( could be juice , sodas ,beer  Mojito or wine etc) with lunch and dinner.  However, additional beverages will need to be paid separately.  In many places, you may take an evening stroll and enjoy some live music in a local bar.  At the Casas we stay in along the way, you can buy beer and perhaps other drinks.  Drinks range from $2-$4 at most locations.

 

• Guide gratuities (see specifics below) - we recommend approximately 10 - 15 %  for your guide and staff team ( that includes the different guides you’ll meet the 10 days of your tour, driver, staff that helped with reservations and logistics etc.) Keep in mind that tipping is a very personal decision, and we encourage you to adjust this up or down as you see based on your experience. It's best to plan on tipping in USD or Euros.

 

In summary, we recommend a total of $800 - 1,000 per person.  If this seems high, we again remind you that it's best to bring more than you think you may need, as you cannot get more cash in Cuba.  You can always take home what you don't spend 

 

Currency 

 

From 1 January 2021 the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) – previously the currency used by visitors – was removed from circulation as part of the Cuban government’s currency reform. Thereafter, the Cuban National Peso (CUP known as ‘moneda nacional’) is the only legal cash currency in Cuba, although private hotels, bars and restaurants usually accept cash payments in dollars or euros.

Your Tour Leader will help you exchange some cash into the local currency if needed. 

 

Gratuities

While the amount of gratuity is absolutely your decision, we suggest approximately 10 - 15 % per guest. Please give this gratuity in either, USD or Euros, to your Tour Leader at the end of the trip. He will in turn divide it according to the number of days they worked and distributing it appropriately and in a transparent way among the local Cuban guides, driver, office staff and suppliers. 

 

Other Miscellaneous Information

 

• Unplug- we encourage you to embrace your week in Cuba as a chance to disconnect!  Although you might take your smart phone for the camera, alarm function, etc., most U.S. carriers still don't have reliable service in Cuba (feel free to check with your provider of course).  On top of that, you will likely need to purchase an internet card, and WiFi in Cuba (even in most hotels) is spotty at best.  So any time spent trying to connect is likely to be inefficient, and more importantly, will be time taken away from your authentic Cuban experience. Having said that, there are other options if you absolutely must stay connected. 

 

• Snacks- if you are someone who likes to snack between meals, or if you need a regular blood sugar bump during an active trip such as this, pack some small, non-perishable, packaged food items from home: think granola bars, nuts, etc.  There are small markets in the cities and villages of Cuba, but they do not sell what we consider snack food.

 

• Food Restrictions- Vegetarian/vegan guests (or those with other food allergies as noted on your trip application) can expect our guides and operating partners to do their very best to accommodate your needs.  If you are a "pescatarian" and enjoy seafood, you will have plenty.  However, strict vegetarian and vegan options are less common in Cuba.  Plan on rice and beans, basic veggie, and local fruits when and where available.  You might want to bring your own supply of nuts or other protein substitutes.

 

• Gifts for Cuban friends you meet along the way- many visitors to Cuba like to bring small items to give away to locals they meet on their trip.  Please know that there is absolutely no obligation to do so, and our tour doesn't afford opportunities to visit organizations specifically for this purpose.  However, we visit many of our friends along the way, and you will undoubtedly meet new friends of your own.  It's worth noting that Cubans often appreciate any basic medical supplies and over-the-counter medications for kids and adults such as Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, band-aids, gauzes, Neosporin, etc. These items can be of significant help to them. If you wish to bring any gifts, these essentials can be thoughtful contributions to the communities we visit. Lastly, consider where you pack liquid/gels or any other gifts that are subject to standard airline luggage restrictions.

This is a great time to remind you that Cuba is likely unlike any other place you've been.  After 60 years of a trade embargo and an economy that has been fraught with struggles, infrastructure is generally not well maintained.  Buildings are in need of repair, Air conditioning often breaks down.  Hot water and water pressure can be minimal.  Things happen more slowly than in many parts of the world.  Internet access is sporadic and hard to find.  All that said, you will find warm, friendly people, fantastic scenery and natural landscapes, and a culture rich in music and history.  Please leave your usual expectations at home, beware of things such as loose cobblestone, and bring an attitude of flexibility and understanding.  If you do that, we are more than confident you will have an incredible Cuban experience!

 

 

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