Sunday, 5 May 2013

Packing For Cuba

I am packing to go to Cuba. I leave this evening, placing the care of my home in the safe hands of my 22 year old son. There are a few things that  make me nervous about this trip, but at least that's not one of them. I am sure he will take care of things; plus, Rosa will be in on Friday to tidy up.

People give an awful lot of advice about packing for Cuba. The say "take extra clothes and give them away". Isn't that something I can do here at home? They say "take soap, toothpaste, aspirin and give them away"; apparently these kinds of things are tough to get in Cuba thanks to the US embargo. They say "take small toys and candy and give them away"; apparently the children get short-changed on toys and tooth decay.

The reality is that Cuba is a limited economy, where things that we take for granted each and every day are hard to come by. Car parts, a diverse food supply, over the counter medications; all these things and more cannot be easily gained in Cuba. This does not mean the people are poor. Nobody starves in Cuba, nobody lacks medical care in Cuba, nobody goes uneducated through lack of funding in Cuba.

As I understand it the limitations in Cuba are all based on access to markets, something the US had limited for Cuba. They simply cannot get supply in many things. On the other hand I am told there is ample housing, ample food though lacking in variety, ample schooling. People make very low incomes but have very little to pay for. Most of the basics of life are subsidized; the primary expenditures people make are for things above subsistence level.

There are some areas where I am concerned, mostly around wheelchair access and travelling alone in my condition. I know I will need to use cabs instead of buses. The tour operators assure me that the buildings are all accessible however they also say that none of the rooms is "wheelchair friendly". There are no grab bars in the bathrooms and no wheel-in showers. I am hoping I can get a chair for the shower at a minimum. It could be interesting.

Another area of concern is the simple fact of travelling alone. There are some areas where I need help, such as handling food trays and drinks. I am told that I can get help with these things from the hotel staff but my experience in the Caribbean and Mexico have taught me that the staff in most establishments are not highly motivated to help. It could be interesting.

On the other hand, I am travelling. It's supposed to be interesting. Now all I have to do is pack.


  1. You are a brave man Richard. I hope all goes well but I am sure you will get home so not to worry as you tell me. Have a great experience in Cuba.
    Love you

  2. Our friends invited us to take tours to Cuba with them and we are so excited! I love to travel and see new places. I have no idea what to take and I don't want to over pack, thanks so much for sharing!