Cat on the beach in RioAnyone who knows me, also knows that I plan my travel and have extensive documents filled with suggestions, maps, metro tips, plus just all the basics like how am I getting there.  I even have an extensive packing list that includes how and where items will be packed. I like to say that the research part of my travel planning is because I am a librarian and I’m all about the research.  The packing list that is colour-coded and even maps out the various outfits I can have with the clothes selected … I think that started because I was trying to cut down my packing from needing sherpas to cross the airport to being more efficient and using carry-on as much as possible. It may also be my weird Aquarius need for strange organizational schemes. All of the documents I create as part of my planning, including any e-Tickets and travel vouchers, are organized into a pdf file that I can access via my computer, Kobo, smartphone or now my tablet. One place for all the documentation I need!

So, when I started planning for my trip to Cuba, I started the same way — researching, organizing and figuring out what to pack (like do I really need 3 cameras because each one does something different???). And, like all places, Cuba has some unique things to know before you go. Being Canadian, I can travel solo with no restrictions, however here are some of the things unique to planning for my next adventure to Cuba!

Entering Cuba
The Cuba Customs web page is a good place to find out what to expect when you enter Cuba for the first time. Some of the things include

  • Passport, of course, along with proof of health insurance
  • Information on the Tourist Visa. All tourists to Cuba need to have this.  It is usually provided by the airline, however if it is not provided, it costs $27 CUC and you can get it when you arrive (leaving costs $25 CUC — so I need to remember to tuck this aside!).
  • Foreign money exchange — there are two types of money used in Cuba. Visitors need to exchange money to CUC. It is easier to exchange cash — Canadian or Euros preferred, although there will be changes as travel from the US increases.
  • There are few ATMs and currently none accept credit cards issued from US banks, although this is quickly changing.
  • Lists and description of what is considered “personal items” that may be brought into Cuba. for example, I’m opting to not take my smartphone, but I am taking my computer, as there is WiFi in my hotel and I want to be able to store and share photos.

A bit on Health  and Health Insurance
This is the first time I’ve been required to show proof of health insurance when I traveled. I have travel health insurance from my credit card, so I called the credit card insurance provider and requested a letter of proof that I had the coverage required.  I also travel with a booklet from the insurance agency that describes the coverage and includes emergency phone numbers.

A visit to a travel health doctor is a good thing. They can advise you on any health concerns when travelling.  In this case, it was recommended that I do a two-dose of Dukorol. In Ontario, you can get this from your pharmacist and it is easy to take — but I think it really activated my allergies after the first dose. I’m better now!

Register with the Canadian government
This is a habit I’ve done for most of my traveling aboard. There is a web site allows you to register your trip and will send you advisories, if needed.  You can also register an emergency contact. While I have never needed this when I traveled, I think it is nice to be prepared.

So, what am I taking?

  • 2 dresses (one will also work as a beach over-up)
  • 2 skirts (may cut this down to one)
  • 3 pants / shorts
  • 6 tops
  • 2 swimsuits
  • 2 sandals
  • 1 walking shoes
  • hat (folds-up)
  • Scarf / sarong
  • 2 cameras (one that I don’t mind handing to someone to take a picture of me)
  • tablet (which also functions as an e-book, photo storage, and entertainment on the plane)
  • suntan lotion (travel size acquired!)

And, if my planning works, it should all go easily in a carry-on!

Where am I going?

  • Havana for my first two days
  • Cuba Cruise on the Louis Cristal
  • Hologuin
  • Santiago de Cuba
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Cienfuegos & Trinidad, Cuba
  • Punta Francis on the Isle of Youth

Can you tell I’m really excited!