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Coming to Havana and want to do some shopping?

Even mundane functional objects can be irritatingly elusive – don’t forget to pack your insect repellent, shower gel, and tampons. And unless you’re a fan of Che Guevara T-shirts, macramé boob tubes and maracas, shopping in Havana is not the point (and to be honest it’s a blessed relief to be free of the eat-itself excesses of consumer culture for a bit).

Having said that, you should know that if you are willing to think outside the box in regards to a ‘shopping experience’, there are wonderful purchases to be found. Please see below some of our recommendations:

Note: If shopping for cigars or rum, please follow the recommendations of your private concierge on land. Also, if interested in Vinyl records: a private tour to be arranged with your concierge


Eating out


Giving back

Often, our clients want to give back to the Cuban people and we can arrange this for you, either anonymously or meeting with some our partners who contribute to different community projects and special groups of the Cuban population.

Small amounts of first aids and medical supplies.

Small amounts of school supplies.

Volunteer opportunities.

Donations to the Oncology Pediatric Ward in Havana´s largest pediatric hospital; orphanages; senior citizen centers, schools for autistic children and various animal rescue projects/shelters.

Donations list/needs for vulnerable groups (our partner organization Cubalibro take photos, do inventory and follow up):

For animals (all legal in small amounts):

  • - Leashes and collars for dogs medium size
  • - Medicated shampoo
  • - Ear and eye drops
  • - Injectable B vitamin complex
  • - Tetracyclin and amoxicillin
  • - Antiparasite treatment
  • - Gloves (examination and surgical size 6 1/2 to 8)
  • - Syringes 0.5, 1 and 3
  • - Gauze (sterile and non-sterile)
  • - Surgical masks
  • - Flea and tick medicine
  • - Formula for puppies and kittens

For Orphanage:

  • - White socks (mid-calf length)
  • - Washcloths or scrubs (caregivers cannot have skin to skin contact with children)
  • - Clothing for girls and boys (3 to 12-year-old)
  • - Toys (sharing toys like kites, jump ropes, balls)
  • - Didactic games in Spanish (like puzzles)

Senior Citizens:

  • - Adult diapers any size
  • - Pajamas female and male
  • - Gloves
  • - Baby wipes
  • - Connectors for catheters and colostomy bags
  • - Colostomy bags
  • - Catheters
  • - Checker and chess sets
  • - Playing cards

For Therapeutic Clowns of Cuba:

  • - Art supplies (anything from construction paper to paints, crayons)
  • - Coloring books
  • - Stickers
  • - Small playing balls
  • - Whiteboard or Glass Markers (to draw on the glass of ICU patients)

Pre-travel advice


It is recommended that your passport be valid for at least six months prior to your planned return. Please make note of the expiration date and renew your passport accordingly if it is near expiration. As a general travel rule, it is a good idea to make a photocopy of your passport. Bring it with you and store it separately from your actual passport.

Flight Information

During peak travel season flights leaving the island can experience longer than normal delays due to the unprecedented number of travelers to Cuba. Flight delays are not uncommon.

Final Itinerary

A significant portion of your Cuba program is customized to maximize your cultural experience. Many of the places we visit are not tourist destinations and your particular itinerary will take advantage of what’s happening during your stay. Upon arrival in Cuba, you’ll meet with your Cuban concierge to review the details of your journey.

Arriving Into Cuba

Upon arrival, our VIP service will meet you at the airplane ramp holding a sign with your name. If this does not happen, please let anyone in a uniform know that you have VIP service under your name. They will escort you to customs to beat the sometimes-lengthy Immigration lines. When passing through Cuban immigration, an official will review your visa (tourist card) and take your photo. Keep your visa in a safe place as you will need it again when you depart immigration. After immigration, you'll proceed through customs and go through security. Once you have retrieved your luggage and exit customs, our airport representative will be waiting to meet you, and escort you to your vehicle where your Cuban guide or guide/driver awaits.

From time to time, Cuban Customs and Immigration officials may ask you or someone from your group additional questions as you enter Cuba. Please note this is standard operating procedure is nothing to be concerned about. They will typically ask to see your passport and will record your passport number. They may also inquire about your profession, who you are traveling with, what state you are from, why you are in Cuba and ask other basic questions. Simply answer all questions truthfully.

Packing Tips

Cuba has no clothing taboos! You typically find people are wearing very casual, colorful and Caribbean-style clothing. Very few venues in Cuba require formal wear. Pack light and very comfortable clothing, particularly comfortable walking shoes. If your itinerary includes hiking or a day in the mountains, you might want to bring boots.

Shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, sundresses, and skirts are all acceptable. A wrap, sweater or light jacket is recommended for the evenings. Some clubs and live music venues have very low AC.

Though hotels will have toiletries and may have a hairdryer, we recommend bringing your own. The voltage in Cuba is 110, though most hotels have 220 plugs. Bring a multi-adaptor.

Staying connected

Until recently, most travelers to Cuba took it for granted that there would be no Internet access and therefore this would be their opportunity to enjoy themselves and put their phones away. This has certainly changed. Most of the best hotels have Wi-Fi access and will provide you with a login and password at check-in. WiFi is not always included in all hotels. A few of the BnBs also have Wi-Fi, access to be purchased from staff.

There are also over 80 Wi-Fi hotspots all over Cuba. Your concierge and guide can help you purchase the Wi-Fi cards with login and password (cost between 2-3 CUC per hour), and indicate how/where to use them.

Alternatively, Cuba Private Travel offers clients the use of a cell phone with data, in which your concierge will instruct you how to create a mobile hotspot so you can use your own phone.

Do not expect much: Band-width is limited and navigation is slow.

Money while in Cuba

As credit cards, ATM cards, bank cards and traveler's checks affiliated to a US bank are not accepted in Cuba, bring enough cash to last your entire trip. The exchange rate is 1 CUC – 0.87 US dollars. Note that for other currencies such as Euros or Pounds this exchange fee is usually a bit less than the fee for converting U.S. Dollars.

Cards that are not denominated to a USA Bank normally will work at ATM machines, most hotels, and at the Bank Counter.

In Cuba, you can exchange your money at the airport, at a CADECA exchange kiosk, in a bank, or at your hotel. CADECA is an official money exchange agency in Cuba. Do not exchange money on the street.

We recommend 100 per person per day for meals. If you like to indulge in art, souvenirs, and evening outings, you may consider bringing more: $150-$250 per person per day.

Sample Costs

  • Taxi to Old Havana 10-15 CUC
  • Crafts 20+ CUC
  • Night club entrance fees 10-25 CUC
  • Cabaret (Tropicana, the Nacional, Ballet) 30-100 CUC
  • Drinks 2 - 5 CUC
  • Shopping - Simple gifts 2 - 50 CUC
  • Cigars 200 CUC a box


Tipping is customary in Cuba and is perceived as a gesture of acknowledgement of satisfaction with a good or excellent service. For Cubans who work directly with visitors from abroad, such as hotel staff, the gratuities they receive are an important supplement to their income. In restaurants, 10% is the general rule. Your specialized guides are well paid in general, so tipping them should be based on your personal satisfaction with the level of service received.

For your private guide and driver, we recommend 20-40 CUC per day, each, if you feel their work was excellent. You may also leave a discretionary 5 to 10 CUC per day for your concierge and Clients Services Manager.

Packing Checklist

  • - Passport (original and photocopy packed separately)
  • - Print Final itinerary (sent 1 week before departure)
  • - Prescription medications (in original bottles)
  • - Over-the-counter medications for common ailments
  • - Basic first-aid items
  • - Toiletries (we recommend bringing your own)
  • - Hairdryer (hotels may have them but we recommend bringing your own)
  • - Adaptor
  • - Feminine hygiene products
  • - Toilet paper or small packets of tissues
  • - Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • - Insect repellent
  • - Flashlight
  • - Sun hat
  • - Sunglasses
  • - Sunblock
  • - Comfortable walking shoes
  • - Light rain jacket
  • - Small umbrella
  • - Cigarette lighters (packed in your checked luggage)
  • - Snacks (granola bars, mixed nuts, crackers, pretzels)
  • - Cuba Guidebook

Travel Protection Plan

Since April 2010, the Cuban government requires all travelers to Cuba to have medical care and evacuation coverage under an approved plan. In the case of US traveler, as a result of this requirement, your flight package includes this basic medical insurance.

If you need to seek medical treatment while you are in Cuba and it is not an emergency, it is your responsibility to pay up to CUC $100 directly to the health practitioner. Once you are home, you can then file a claim under your travel protection plan.

Before You Go Checklist

- Check that the expiration date on your passport is 6 months after the completion of your stay abroad.

- Make a photocopy of your passport and store it separately. Leave a copy with friends or family back home.

- Pack medications and other valuables in your carry-on bag.

- When you receive your final itinerary and emergency contact numbers, print it out and include with the documents you bring on your journey.