Kit list – cycling Cuba
What to bring on a bike-packing trip to Cuba?
Cycling Cuba – What should I pack?
It’s always the same old question before every holiday trip. In most cases the best advise is ‘Less is more’. This applies especially when bike-packing Cuba since you will have to carry every single item you bring for most of the day – every day. But, and that makes it a bit more tricky, unlike most other holiday destinations, you can not expect your credit card to save you in case you forgot something at home. To be prepared for your bike-packing Cuba adventure it’s important to have a well-planned packing list. As an inspiration we are happy to share our kit list and packing list with you.
We split our packing in 2 lists. The bike kit list including spare part and the philosophy ‘Just in case – better safe than sorry’
And the rest of things you need to bring which you should pack with the motto ‘Less is more’.
The Kit list for bike-packing Cuba
For this trip we brought our own bikes to Cuba and sold them at the end of the trip. We choose old but reliable and well maintained hybrid bikes. Rachel originally had bought them second hand to start a bike rental business in her home town Ballina. Since we were about to upgrade for new models it was the perfect timing to take two of the Raleigh Pioneer 2 bikes away with us to show them a different world.
Remember there is no bike equipment shop in Cuba and the only place where you can maybe find spares is Havana. So you want to be prepared. We got incredibly lucky on our old Raleigh bikes and didn’t need any of the spare parts we took. We didn’t even have a puncture. Listening to the stories of other cyclists we met along the way, it reassured us that we got it right and we would bring the same things again.
Here is what we packed:
- 5 Spare tubes
- 1 spare tire
- 2 spare break pads
- Puncture repair kit
- Chain repair tool
- Spare chain links
- Cable ties
- Bike multi-tool
The packing list for bike-packing in Cuba
Ask yourself the question ‘What do I really need every day?’ Cuba’s climate is warm and most of the days you’ll be cycling so you should really try to bring only things that you will definitely need every day.
What you need for cycling in Cuba
- 2 pairs of cycling shorts – We brought 1 good pair and one spare each
- 2 tops for cycling
Cycling jerseys are handy for the pockets but more importantly make sure you bring a top that protects you from the sun and is breathable. Choose light and sun proof materials that are easy to clean and dry quickly. Rachel loves her sleeveless Columbia montrail top.
- Cycling gloves – 1 pair
- Superlight wind jacket – Early mornings in the mountain can be a little cool
- Cycling shoes
Very optional and it took us a while to decide if we need them or if we should spare the weight. We brought them and where happy we did. We were much more efficient going up hills and to us they feel like a safety belt in some situations.
- Helmet – Protect your brain!
- Sunglasses – Protect your sight!
If you want a map of Cuba buy it or download it before you come to Cuba. We didn’t bring a physical map and sometimes wished we had. It’s just more fun to look at it and plan your next day
- 1 set of high quality waterproof rear panniers
We love our Ortlieb panniers. The are completely waterproof and last a lifetime.
All of our clothes, spares etc. would fit into one pannier set so we could fill up the second set with food and water for the day.
- Small front pannier for phone / camera / snacks etc.
Clothes for adventures ‘off’ the bike
So that’s it for the cycling gear but what about for the many stops along the way? Pack everything you think is absolutely necessary and then leave half of what you packed at home. The two of us could fit our entire belongings including spare parts in one pannier set. In this way, Rachel was able to carry everything we brought and my panniers could be filled up with food and water. And we still carried stuff we didn’t even need once. Packing cubes helped us to stay organised and to keep the volume of our packed clothes small.
Here is what we think one person needs:
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1 pair of leggings or 1 pair of other light long pants
- 2 tops/t-shirts
We didn’t make a difference between cycling and other tops and just brought 4 tops each.
- 1 long sleeve shirt
For cool evenings: Rachel likes her multi-functional Columbia montrail long sleeve top and I like the old check shirt that travelled all over the world with me.
If you wear cycling shoes bring runners in case you want to go hiking etc.
We love flip-flops because they are light and water proof but some people prefer sandals etc. for more comfort on longer walks.
- 2-3 pairs of socks
you need less than you think
- 3-4 pairs of underwear
Cycling shorts don’t need underwear and you will need to get your laundry done anyway
- Swim wear
- Lightweight beach towel or sarong
- 1 buff or bandana
We shared a small wash bag between two girls so you can downsize too!
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
- Small piece of natural soap (every Casa particular we stayed at had soap in the bathroom)
- Natural Shampoo soap bar
- Conditioner (Or the curly hear goes dreadlock style…)
- Face cream with UV protection
- Coconut oil
- Sunscreen, sun protection lip balm
One of the things you should bring in a bigger amount because it’s almost impossible to buy in Cuba)
We fit everything in a compact toiletry bag except for the 3 bottles of sunscreen we brought 🙂
There are many doctors in Cuba and healthcare is for free for Cubans. However there is a severe lack of medication. So be prepared! Get in touch with your doctor or pharmacist and bring what you need in emergency amounts.
- Pain killers
- Cure of a stomach bug
- First aid kit
- Baby bum cream
- Plasters and bandages
- Scissors and tweezers
Other things to bring on your bike-packing trip in Cuba
- Your smartphone
For less than €1 per hour you can buy code cards to use the public wifi spots that are mostly located around parks. Don’t bother bringing your laptop, tablet etc. It’s too bulky and doesn’t it sound nice to limit your screen time to a minimum for a change.
- GPS tracking device
We brought a Garmin to keep track of distance and time.
- Book, e-reader
I can’t go without my e-reader but what’s a necessity for me might not be for you. Buying or exchanging books in Cuba might be a little tricky though.
- Spanish phrase book
If you don’t speak Spanish yet consider learning at least the basics before you go and use the chance to improve your skills there. The best way to explore Cuba is to engage with the locals and they mostly don’t speak English.
- Your travel journal
I wrote it on my phone but some people might prefer paper and pen. This trip was actually the first time I was consistent enough to keep writing down at least a little bit about every day. A bit difficult at the time but I’m so happy now I made the effort and it pays off in life long vivid memories.
Besides your bike and your gear, there are a few things you shouldn’t forget to bring to Cuba.
- Tourist card
There are obviously different visa restrictions for different countries. As an EU citizen before you board your plane to Cuba you have to make sure you will either get it on the plane or you have to buy it at the airport. Otherwise you will not be allowed to board.
- Travel health insurance
You need to have your travel health insurance printed out with you. You could be asked for it at the airport you arrive to in Cuba and you will need it if you want to extend your 30 day tourist card in Cuba.
The obvious one but I know quite a few people who showed up at the airport without their passport or with an expired one or with one that will expire in less than 6 months. Make sure in time everything goes right.
There are ATMs in Cuba but not as many as we are used too. And sometimes they are simply empty. Cambios (Money exchange places) can be found almost everywhere and are happy to see Euro (Extra charges for US Dollar!). So bring a bit of cash just in case to avoid being stuck.