Ultimate Female Packing List for Cuba (in a 30L backpack)

packing list for cuba

The following female packing list for Cuba was submitted by Osereme. See all packing lists.

I vacationed in Cuba for 2 weeks and completely fell in love with the Caribbean nation. Cuba is a country that has expansive coastlines with beautiful, turquoise waters, an abundance of fresh seafood, and lively outdoor markets filled with traditional handicrafts and beautiful Cuban music.

I stayed in a resort called Iberostar Playa Alamenda, located in Varadero, Cuba, but I also visited Havana (or as the locals call the vibrant capital, La Habana), and Cayo Blanco, a pristine island just 1 hour off the coast of Varadero. Most of my days were spent lounging by the beach, sipping virgin Pina Coladas in cute swimwear, and walking the streets while learning about Cuba’s checkered past with the Spanish and the Americans.

In every activity, my clothing was light and airy because around late July, it can get sweltering hot in Cuba. This female packing list for Cuba, all of which fits into a 30L backpack, will work for any time of the year.

female packing list for Cuba beach
Relaxing on the beach in Varadero, Cuba

Clothing

  • 3 dresses – I love dresses because you can wear them as a swimsuit cover up or for a nice dinner.
  • 4 tops – I brought only tank tops, but you can bring short sleeves if you like.
  • 2 shorts – Avoid bringing jean shorts because Cuba is hot and humid. Choose linen or athletic shorts to keep yourself comfortable.
  • 1 maxi skirt/pant – These are great for cooler evenings.
  • 1 pair of spandex shorts – Ladies, don’t go on vacation without spandex shorts!! Otherwise, the heat and humidity will make your thighs suction together underneath your dresses and skirts. Gross!
  • 1 sleeping clothes set
  • 1 flannel/light cardigan – When travelling by tour bus, the AC was always on full blast. I was thankful to have my light flannel to keep me warm. Plus, I could wear the flannel as a swimsuit cover up.
  • 2-3 bras – If you’re going to be active, make sure to bring a sports bra in addition to your everyday bras.
  • 6-7 underwear – I like to bring more underwear than usual because Cuba is humid, so it can take longer for items to dry after you wash them.
  • 1 big scarf – You can use this as a blanket or pillow on the plane, a beach towel, or even a sarong.
  • 1 hat

Bags

  • 1 small carry-on sized suitcase/30L backpack – All of my items fit into a 30L school backpack from High Sierra.
  • 1 foldable tote/backpack – Because I was spending less time at the beach and pool compared to going on excursions, I brought a foldable backpack. However, if you’re going to be spending most of your time near the water, I would recommend bringing a foldable tote as your beach bag.
  • 1 cross body bag – Bring a small bag that will hold essential items like your phone, wallet, etc.

>>Read reviews of the best travel backpacks for women.

female packing list for Cuba luggage
Osereme with the bags she brought on her trip to Cuba

Shoes

  • 1 pair of walking sandals/shoes – If you’re going to be doing some physical activity or participating in walking tours, then pack a good sandal or walking shoe that will support your foot all day long. If your vacation will mostly consist of relaxing on the beach, you can leave these at home.
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 pair of cute sandals/flats – These are great if you want to dress up for outfit for an evening out.

Toiletries

Note: I stayed in a resort and used the toiletries provided, so the following list is quite limited. If you’re staying in a private house, a Casa Particular, I would recommend bringing your own toiletries or Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap as I didn’t see many places to purchase toiletries in non-resort towns.

  • Toothpaste & Toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Travel sized perfume
  • Sunscreen – You’re going to go through a bunch of it, so bring as much as you can fit in your quart-sized bag. My family didn’t bring enough and we ended spending 25 USD on just ONE BOTTLE OF SUNSCREEN!
  • Bug Spray
  • Lip Balm
  • Diva Cup/Tampons
  • Panty Liners – To keep you fresh and dry in the hot and humid climate.

>>Check out the best toiletries for carry-on travel.

female packing list for Cuba architecture
Beautiful architecture in the Plaza de San Francisco in Havana, Cuba

Entertainment

  • Smartphone & Charger – The only technology I brought on my vacation was my iPhone 7 and I was not disappointed. I took excellent photos and downloaded audio books on my phone, instead of bringing a Kindle and a camera.
  • Headphones
  • External Battery & Charger – This is nice luxury item to have if you’re going on an all day excursion.
  • Cards/board game – It’s great to have an alternative to your technology. I didn’t bring any with me and I really regretted it when I was waiting around between dinner and my resort’s night show.

Others

  • Gifts for the locals – The Cuban locals really appreciate gifts like toiletries, school supplies, or anything that you use daily.
  • Spare cash for internet and tips – Make sure to bring extra paper money (foreign coins cannot be exchanged in Cuba) to exchange into CUC for tips and to buy internet (1.50 CUC/hour). Note: If you have the opportunity, exchange your money at a Cuban bank instead of at your resort to get a better rate.)
  • Plastic sandwich bags – I love to put my phone in one of these to protect it from the water and sand.
  • Toilet paper – In most restrooms, there is no toilet paper so make sure to bring your own from home or take some from your hotel room to put in a plastic sandwich bag.
  • First Aid Kit – My kit included Band-Aids, polysporin, anti-itch cream, Tylenol/Advil, and motion sickness medication.
  • Hair accessories – Hair bands, hair elastics, bobby pins, etc.
  • A couple pieces of cheap jewelry – Bring some cute pieces to dress up an outfit for evening time.
  • Basic makeup – I don’t wear makeup, but if you do, just bring the essentials that won’t melt off your face like BB cream or waterproof mascara.
  • Prescriptions

And that’s all folks! Cuba is certainly a great country to explore and with the right gear, you’ll have an excellent time. In the comment section below, tell us anything else you would recommend adding to this packing list for Cuba!

About the author: Osereme Omosun is a first year business student who absolutely loves to travel! When she’s not trying new foods, planning to study abroad, or running, Osereme is posting new travel DIY’s to her blog, Etana Travels, or running her Etsy store that sells travel scarves. You can also find her on Instagram.

what to pack for a trip to cuba
female packing list for cuba

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. K Waller says

    Although it appears you had a nice time, Cuba is much more than the resorts that are just like most other tourist traps. To live there is very different from visiting there and seeing both the beauty and the struggle. Travelers should consider having a true cultural exchange that supports the local residents and stay in a casa particular (apartment, rent room, or entire house) through reservascuba or other Cuban-owned websites, not airbnb. That is true solidarity with the Cuban people.

  2. Joanna says

    Great list! I am going to Cuba at the end of the month for the first time and am also staying in Varadero. I am not checking any bags and am worried about bringing enough sunscreen…25USD for a bottle is insane! (esp since I’m Canadian)

  3. Wendy says

    I just got back from Havana and it was beautiful. Setting aside the cosmetics and focusing on the people was the most humbling experiences. The folks there are genuine. Truest inspirational. I did hit tourist highlights but our taxi driver/tour guide took us off the beaten path and the trip took an even better turn. I have his info in case anyone is interested he is trustworthy and professional. It was just us 3 women and we felt comfortable at all times. javiergherra7@nauta.cu highly recommended tell him Wendy sent you

    • Karen Björk Eythorsdottir says

      Hey Wendy!
      I am going to Cuba in 2 weeks and would love to get more info on this great taxi driver you had! Did he drive you around Havana for a day? Is it better to drive through Havana than walking on foot?
      Would love to hear your comment on it.

      All my best,
      Karen

    • Erin says

      Hi Wendy and Karen,

      I’m heading to Cuba next week and would also love more info about this driver. Any info you can share would be great, as well as any extra ‘must-see’ things that either of you loved!

      Thanks,
      Erin

  4. Catherine says

    Great list! The reusable resealing sandwich bags for keeping electronic dry and sand free is a great idea. We do that often and add a tiny packet of silica (the type that comes in shoe boxes etc) to keep the phone or whatever from sweating in the bag.

  5. Belinda says

    Can u recommend some tours and restaurants in Havana? One night we would like to spurge for dinner.
    Thank You.

  6. theresa says

    thankyou! this was very helpful, im going to cuba for 22 days in summer and this has given me great ideas on what to bring, thanks for sharing!

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