Going Light: Our Packing List For Bike Touring In Cuba

We’ve been planning for months and now it’s almost here: departure day for our flight to Cuba!

With less than a week to go, we spent yesterday packing our bags. Thankfully – for once in our lives – we have plenty of room to spare. It helps that we’re going on a ‘credit card’ bike tour: staying in hotels and leaving all the camping, cooking and cold-weather gear at home.

Normally we love camping but on this trip we have to contend with a couple factors. The first is a limited luggage capacity. When we booked our flights, we were quoted €800 to fly two full-sized touring bikes to Cuba and back with KLM (it seems this fee has now dropped by half but that’s not what we were told at the time). This was a great incentive to use folding bikes and work within standard baggage limits. The restless sleeping habits of a young baby were also a good reason to go for hotels and B&Bs instead of camping. After years of budget bike touring, it’s time to splurge a little!

That said, you could easily camp in Cuba if you wanted to.

Our full packing list is below. The luggage weighs about 22kg (including the weight of the panniers). All of this will go as carry on (we’re each entitled to a bag of 10kg as carry on luggage). Note:

  • About a quarter of the weight in our bags consists of diapers and food for Luke (rice crackers, dried fruit). Our bags will either be considerably lighter on the return flight, or full of rum and cigars.
  • Electronics such as our laptop and iPad also account for a lot of weight. These sorts of things aren’t necessary for everyone but they are something we like to take along.
  • There are no toys or books for baby. There will be plenty of entertainment from the two jokers this kid has as parents, not to mention the adventures that Cuba itself will bring.
  • The clothes we’ll wear on the plane are not included in the weight but are mentioned in the packing list.
  • We think this list is complete but – as always – we’re human and sometimes we forget stuff. If you think something’s missing let us know and we’ll update the list if necessary.

Put together, our collection of “stuff” looks something like this:

Our stuff for Cuba All packed up in 3 neat bags

The bikes and the bags they’ll fly in total about 30kg (Brompton – 12kg; Speed TR – 15kg; bike bags – 1.2kg each). Luke’s Chariot Cougar 1 trailer weighs 11kg but technically it’s a stroller, not a bike trailer. We can gate check this and it doesn’t count in our luggage allowance.

Want the full details? Read on!

Dahon Speed TRThe Bikes & Bags:

Bike Parts, Tools & Accessories

Electronics

  • 1 Panasonic Lumix GF1 camera
  • 1 iPad 3, plus case
  • 1 13″ Macbook Pro laptop, plus case
  • 1 Kodak Zi8 video camera (a few years old but fine for our purposes)
  • 1 Gorillapod tripod ($80 from REI)
  • 2 USB sticks (for back-up of photos)
  • 1 cellphone (very old; not a smartphone; only for emergencies)

Clothes for Friedel

Clothing (Friedel)

  • 3 pairs socks
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 3 pairs trousers (3/4 length, lightweight, zip-off)
  • 3 lightweight tops (2 long sleeved)
  • 1 bra
  • 1 large, lightweight scarf (for breastfeeding cover, as a picnic blanket, etc.)
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 pair Teva sandals
  • 1 pair cycling shoes
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 Gore-tex paclite jacket (£188.09 from Wiggle)
  • 1 merino wool hoodie
Andrew's clothes.

Clothing (Andrew)

  • 3 pairs socks
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 2 pairs trousers (1 pair zips off into shorts)
  • 3 lightweight tops (2 long sleeved)
  • 1 merino wool t-shirt
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 pair Teva sandals
  • 1 pair cycling shoes
  • 1 pair swimming trunks
  • 1 Gore-tex paclite jacket

Baby clothes!

Clothing (baby)

  • 4 shirts
  • 1 hoodie
  • 2 pairs light pants
  • 1 pair heavier pants
  • 2 pairs shorts
  • 2 onesies (to be used as light, summer PJs)
  • 3 pairs socks
  • 1 pair sandals
  • 1 pair normal shoes
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 swim diaper (not something we’d normally use but it was given to us, so…)
  • 1 sippy cup

Toiletries

  • 150 disposable diapers
  • 2 packs baby wipes
  • 2 cloth diapers (just in case!)
  • 2 tubes toothpaste (one for kids, one for adults)
  • 2 bottles 50 SPF sunscreen (one for kids, one for adults)
  • 1 First Aid Kit with medicines (paracetamol, sinus medication)
  • 1 toiletry kit (shampoo, soap, dental floss etc…)
  • 1 travel towel
  • 1 Mooncup

Maps and Books

Emergency baby food.

Miscellaneous

  • A variety of snack food, mostly for baby (dried fruit, rice crackers)
  • 1 notebook with pen
  • 3 pairs sunglasses
  • 1 Eagle Creek Pack-It cube
  • 1 MSR Miniworks EX water filter ($89.95 from REI)

Comments

  1. Rich
    12th December 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Can you elaborate on your communications (cell, laptop)? I use an iPhone and a laptop, but cell costs in Europe were crazy expensive.

    • friedel
      12th December 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      It’s pretty simple: in Cuba, there will be no communication 🙂

      It will cost us something in the range of 5 euros a minute (yes, a minute) to use our mobile phone. We’re only taking it for emergencies, and so that we can turn it on every 2-3 days and see if anyone’s sent us a text message of importance.

      We’ll check email but maybe only once every 7-10 days at internet cafes. The laptop is coming because I want to edit photos on the road, and work a bit on a book I’m writing.

      • Rich
        15th December 2012 at 12:55 pm #

        Sounds like what I was charged. 1 month, $800. Anyway, how do you navigate? I use a Mac Laptop and Garmin Basecamp to plug routes into my GPS. Ya it’s technical, but I’m only restarting touring.

        Would love to hear how you get around.

  2. Anna
    12th December 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    You do realize that the majority of the hotels in Cuba are foreign owned, right? So you are consciously choosing not to support the Cuban people by staying there? You must have educated yourself enough to realize that the casas that are Cuban owned are the essentially B&Bs, but often nicer? That way you are contributing to the people of the country you are visiting. The food you will get in hotels will also be horrible.

    Good luck with your trip designed not to have any cultural interactions.

    • jennhouston
      12th December 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      To Anna,
      2 friends and I cycle toured cuba 5 years ago staying in a mix of casas, hotels, and campismos. Definitely the casas were a great experience and a small insight into the cuban way of life. But! our best interactions came from the cycling: meeting locals along the road, buying fresh cheese pizza from vendors in small towns, chatting with children on their way to school, riding with local bike racers near Santiago. We had way more personal interactions while on the road than we ever did at any of our accomodations. Friedel and Andrew, You will have a great experience no matter where you stay, the Cubans are friendly, fun people- enjoy!

    • friedel
      12th December 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Anna, next time you could simply ask us what we meant by ‘hotels’ instead of making so many assumptions. We meant hotels in the more generic sense – paid, indoor accommodation rather than camping. Yes, we’ll mostly be staying in casas (where available).

    • Rich
      12th December 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      Anna, you think they’re flying into Cuba, and because they’ll be staying at hotels that they won’t interact with people? Time for you to get out of your padded room and get on a bike.

    • Ashley Cartmel
      13th December 2012 at 5:41 am #

      Woah, Anna, I would suggest taking a deep breath there. Have you read AT ALL about Friedal and Andrew’s previous travels before becoming accusatory and making assumptions? If you HAD, you would know that meeting local people – AND supporting the local economy – is at the heart of their travel philosophy. Perhaps it’s best to ask for clarification first before jumping to conclusions.

  3. Katrien
    12th December 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    How do you actually get your folding bike accepted as normal luggage by the company? Do you pack this in a special way? just stuff it in a duffel bag? I also payed already a lot to have my bike transported, and am considering a folding bike.

    • friedel
      13th December 2012 at 11:49 am #

      Well, in theory it should be fine. The bikes + luggage come within our luggage limit. We are each allowed one carry on bag (10kg each for a total of 30kg). As check-in we can have 2 bags of 23kg each (these will be the bikes), plus one 10kg bag for Luke. The bikes are small enough that they fit within the standard luggage sizes for a suitcase.

      • Katrien
        13th December 2012 at 10:36 pm #

        Thank you Friedel. The question is answered in your new post. Very interesting! Awaiting already the follow-up post on this after your trip. Enjoy Cuba!!

  4. Nif
    12th December 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    150 diapers!! I was wondering about the logistics of that 🙂 Maybe this Spring I’ll try a long weekend with the ~2 year old.

  5. froze
    14th December 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Cuba? How exciting!! Never even thought of going there. Being a very restricted area for getting products, I wonder what the chances are of getting a odd size spare tire if the need arose? I guess you could always have one DHL’d (FedEx nor UPS goes to Cuba). Have you considered taking along a Park Boot patch? Why so many diapers? They sell them in Cuba. I hope you guys have lots of fun and look forward to reading about your adventure afterwards.

    • friedel
      14th December 2012 at 7:19 pm #

      We thought about the boot patch but the tires are new, so we won’t have any troubles (we hope!) and we figure the Cubans are good at repairing tires. As for diapers, we’ve heard they’re expensive, not always available in all sizes and sometimes not available at all.

  6. Richard Heywood
    14th December 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi,

    I find these updates of where you are off to next completely unhelpful and, well frankly frustrating! It is distracting me from my work and causing me to daydream 🙂 If you could kindly write about something slightly less inspirational I would find it easier to read at work, and my over-brewed tea and slightly stale biscuit would regain its position as the highlight of my afternoon thus far 🙂

    The thought of flying off for an adventure on the other side of the world sounds utterly incredible and I hope to be able to do it one day.

    I hope you all have an amazing time and I thoroughly look forward to being distracted and inspired to daydream by your next post.

    Merry Christmas

    Richard

    • friedel
      14th December 2012 at 8:18 pm #

      Ha! I think the only cure is for you to jump on the plane with us and come along 🙂

  7. Ingrid
    14th December 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    I left the ‘3 pairs of – rule’ a few years ago. I’ve found out that it’s better to wash the first pair immediately and get them dry while wearing the second pair. There is no need to carry an extra pair of stinky socks or shirts. So we follow a 2 pairs rule, which gives as extra space for electronic gadgets. 😉 Happy packing! It’s exciting, isn’t it?

  8. Glen Aldridge
    14th December 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    What a wonderful way to spend the Winter months. I’m not jealous, really. I’m not! (If I say it enough times I might believe it too.) Just curious why you are taking warm clothing to Cuba? Hoodie, long sleeve wooly shirts etc. As far as I know Cuba is about 30 degrees C. this time of year as opposed to my 3 degrees & rain. I’m not jealous, really I’m not. Thoroughly enjoy your posts & useful information. Thank you, Glen

    • friedel
      14th December 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      Well, we do have to get from home to the airport, so a little warm-ish clothing is required. Also, some people have told us that evenings in Cuba could be chilly so we want at least one semi-warm outfit. Finally, the long-sleeve shirts are actually very light and cool. We’ve chosen long-sleeve shirts to protect from the sun, rather than for warmth.

  9. Paul -- Uncle
    15th December 2012 at 2:50 am #

    Hi,, Wish You all Well , good trip just read these comments, enjoy the Casas, People , and Country, wish I could also drive along – behind ,
    no book in mail today, 14 Dec , but one week to go yet,
    tnx PR

  10. Marco
    15th December 2012 at 3:00 am #

    Bringing two full sized touring bikes with KLM now costs 200 euros back and forth per person instead of 400 euros. KLM changed his policy for the better. Perhaps you would like to reconsider leaving the Brompton in the Netherlands and taking your trusted full sized touring bike?

    • friedel
      15th December 2012 at 8:10 am #

      That’s interesting! Not what we were told a few months ago….

      Oh well. We will push ahead with the foldies. It’s also an interesting experiment to try a trip with folding bikes, and the bags + bikes are already packed 🙂

      • Marco
        15th December 2012 at 9:59 am #

        Would love to read your experiences with the folded bikes.
        One other thing: I have purchased some road maps of Cuba, which might be interesting for you guys. I could send you a map (for free, as appreciation for the nice things you write on cycling), but will it arrive in time? I don’t know when you will be leaving.

        • friedel
          15th December 2012 at 6:43 pm #

          I’ve just sent you an email 🙂

    • Stephen Jones
      15th December 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      I had to pay MUCH more than that on my KLM flight this summer.
      They are charging far more! and I was only carrying a lightweight road bike not my touring bike. They are now charging A LOT!

      • Marco
        15th December 2012 at 12:47 pm #

        I know Stephen. But their policy has changed now. Happily enough for the better! You still pay enough, but rate has been lowered 50%.
        I know, because I own travel agency for cycling holidays (outbound from Netherlands). I normally do not like to work with KLM for cycling holidays due to their ridiculous prices they charge. But now their prices have lowered KLM sometimes has better rates than other airlines. I always take the price of taking your bike with you into consideration.

      • Ingrid
        15th December 2012 at 12:48 pm #

        Why don’t you say how much? Is it kind of secret?

      • Rich
        15th December 2012 at 1:04 pm #

        This whole KLM thing is interesting. I flew over (from Toronto) to Madrid through Amsterdam and had to pay a lot for the bike, then more for two checked bags (hence my need for a bag system for the bike, and bags). I flew home from Amsterdam and paid…nothing.

        And yes, packing in a box is a real PITA. I’m seriously interested in 2 of these large bags. One for the bike/wheels, and another for my bags. Two lowriders, one handlebar bag, two panniers, one big-ass trunk bag (big duffel dry bag should be great). One pannier as carry-on.

      • Marco
        15th December 2012 at 1:04 pm #

        Ingrid, please read earlier posts, before you ask the things already posted!

      • Ingrid
        15th December 2012 at 1:35 pm #

        Stephen Jones never mentioned how much he had to pay. He only says “MUCH more than that”. I answered his entry, not your reply.

  11. Kate Savage
    15th December 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Can’t wait to read about your trip, very jealous. Travel, bike and cuba ticks everything on my list. Definitely will be in my pile of possible next trip. Hope you have a wanderfull time.

  12. Glen Aldridge
    15th December 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Travel & Touring by Folding Bike seems to be another growing segment in the cycling world. Especially in Asia where there are many Folding Bike Clubs. This might be due to crowding, high fuel costs or rediculous airline fees. If anyone is interested I can provide links where you can find some odd looking bikes for riding around Manila or Kuala Lampur.

  13. yvesmar
    15th December 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    How do proceed babys in Cuba to not use diapers? 150 disposable diapers is a lot of voulume in your luggage.

    • friedel
      17th December 2012 at 7:12 am #

      Babies in Cuba likely use cloth, but washing diapers every night (or negotiating for the B&B to wash them) and carrying dirty ones around by bike is not on our list of nice things to do on a holiday… and even with all the diapers, we still have loads of room!

  14. Mel
    16th December 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Any thoughts about using cloth/washable diapers? There might be some “ewh” factor to that, but given how reasonably cheap laundry was in South-East Asia, maybe it’s not a bad way to go.

    Also would love to see a picture of your bikes fully loaded. I’ve been trying to decide on paniers on my Brompton. I have a front bag already but having trouble deciding what would make the best rear luggage for touring with my Brommie.

    • friedel
      16th December 2012 at 8:18 pm #

      We use cloth at home and debated it for this trip. In the end, we decided that we didn’t want to spend our holiday hauling around dirty diapers and washing them at night (or negotiating for laundry). Also, cloth diapers (for us at least) means a lot more soiled clothes, which adds an extra layer of complications. Instead, we’ve chosen disposables for this trip. We bought the best, biodegradable nappies we could.

    • friedel
      17th December 2012 at 7:04 am #

      Pics and a full report on Dahon vs Brompton will follow when we return. We won’t help with your pannier decision though. The “luggage” for the Brompton in our case consists entirely of Luke and his trailer! The rest of the luggage is going on the Dahon.

  15. ebrompton alfred
    29th December 2012 at 8:01 am #

    congratulations!! Both the Dahon And particularly the Brompton are both bikes i have owned and an excellent choice.
    This is an exciting trip and i am expectantly looking forward to your emails

  16. Bertha
    6th January 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Hi Friedel, Andrew and Luke,

    It was so nice to meet you In Cuba and to share dinner in Cienfuegos. I am back in Toronto after a wonderful 2 weeks of solo cycling in Cuba…2 weeks was not enough.

    I have a great picture of Luke and Andrew to share.

    Enjoy the rest of your visit to Cuba-stay in touch.

    Bertha

    • Rich
      7th January 2013 at 12:55 am #

      Heh. Welcome back. -9 tonight. How was your trip? I got the bug and not sure where to go.

  17. Harvey
    22nd February 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Hi

    How difficult is it for you to get to London (Gatwick). Virgin fly to Cuba from there. 23 kg of free sporting baggage. They even helped me pack my bike in plastic bags that they provide.

    I’ll always fly Virgin with a bike providing they go to the right place.

    Harvey

  18. gregory chauvet
    10th March 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Hi you must have come back from Cuba now? We’re going in one month
    Any tips on the packing list? things you forget?

    • friedel
      11th March 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Extra food not needed; we found enough to eat on the road. Water filter invaluable, both to save the environment and money!

  19. David
    1st April 2015 at 4:27 am #

    Hi:

    I’ve followed your blog in anticipation of biking Cuba for a few months this winter and my wife and I will be taking our Bike Friday’s. Can you comment on your experience with folding bikes and do you have road maps that can be emailed? Much appreciate your help.

    David

  20. Maureen Scott
    10th September 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    Hello, My husband and I plan on biking in Cuba for a month in April. There has not been much mention of the language barrier. I do plan on sprucing up my Spanish. Are you both fluent?

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