Four Things Travelers Should Never Pack for a Trip to Cuba

Cuba street scene

While Obama seemingly threw open the doors for American travelers to Cuba, the country is still among the most restrictive in the Western hemisphere for what travelers can and cannot bring across its borders. Here are four items that you should never pack for a trip to Cuba under any circumstances.

GPS Devices and Mobile/Satellite Phones

GPS Devices and Mobile travel cuba

For Americans, some mobile phones and cellular-dependent tablets are a no-go in Cuba. This isn’t because they aren’t allowed, but rather that they simply won’t work inside the country. Sprint and Verizon customers will find limited roaming service. However, the island’s cellular infrastructure means that you won’t have access to phone calls or data via your mobile devices on any other carrier. Rental phones and/or SIM cards (if you have an unlocked, GSM-capable device) can be found at the airport and some hotels. You might think, “Why not pack a satellite phone?” Nice try, but the Cuban government will confiscate it, along with any GPS-enabled devices.

Drones of Any Kind

Drones cuba

Drones seem innocuous enough, plus they’re everywhere these days. So, why wouldn’t you take yours on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba? Unfortunately, it will be confiscated at the border as well. This applies to drones of any size and capability — with or without fixed a camera. This harrowing tale of an American who managed to sneak his drone into the country highlights just how seriously the Cuban military takes drone technology. He was held for 13 days in solitary confinement “on suspicion of espionage and terrorist activity.” Bottom line: don’t take the chance.

Pornography and Other “Adult” Materials

Magazine Cuba

We certainly won’t judge you for whatever smut you need to travel with. But, even though the Cuban people have grown far more liberal in the last decade or so, their government is still quite sensitive about “adult materials.” How that term is defined is open to the interpretation and vague whims of Cuban officials. Just know that, if you feel like any printed or digital adult-oriented material in your possession might be questionable, err on the side of leaving it at home. At the border, officials seem to be pretty lax about not thoroughly screening every foreign traveler. But, it’s still a touchy subject and one not worth dealing with in a foreign country.

Overly Political or Divisive Literature

stack of books

You’re allowed to talk trash about your family and friends. But, assuming you’re the loyal type, you’re going to be ready to fight if a stranger tries to do the same. Cubans are like that about their own country. They know it’s not perfect, but that’s for them to judge and rally against, not you. Technically, it’s not illegal to bring political, divisive, or otherwise critical literature into Cuba. But it’s strongly frowned upon and may be confiscated at the border. Again, you can probably get away with it, but why tempt fate?