It can be easy to spot tourists. Not only do many of them stare up at street signs and then stare down at a street map (or these days, at a map app on their smartphone), but you can often tell by their style of clothing.
It’s not like you should dress exactly like the locals when you go somewhere, but you should acknowledge that they know what works. Tourists can often be dressed improperly for the weather, or might be wearing a sweater that carries the name of a sports team you’ve never heard of (or some sport you’ve never heard of).
Cubans have a certain style with what they wear, and no, it’s not just about dressing like you’re about to go to/have just come back from the beach. So when it comes to dressing up on your Cuban holiday, what are some things you need to be aware of?
Yeah, it gets hot, even in the winter months. Depending on where in the world you come from, the Cuban idea of winter might have you sweating out that mojito within minutes. Cuba is not a particularly formal society, so it’s certainly fine to dress for the heat when you’re out and about.
Shorts, vests, tank tops, these are all perfect in terms of being both practical for the heat, and are much like how the locals would dress. You can’t expect to go straight from the beach to the stores though, so it’s not as though you should stroll around central Havana in a pair of swimming shorts with no shoes. It’s a casual place, but it’s not that casual.
It rarely gets cold in Cuba, but there can be a little bit of a breeze coming in from the ocean on a winter’s evening. Your heavy jacket should stay at home, since it really doesn’t get that cold. As mentioned, the Cuban winter might be your idea of summer.
A lightweight jacket will be all that you need, and women might want to take a pashmina-style of scarf that can be unfolded and wrapped around their shoulders, just in case. Seriously though, the Cuban winter is really mild, so if you find that you’ve forgotten your lightweight jacket, then you really don’t need to worry.
Cuba does have a rainy season, although this is in the summer months. It can rain quite heavily in the evenings, but this is a beautiful, typical summer storm. It will rain intensively for a very short time, and then the rain disappears.
Some type of rain protection can be smart, so that lightweight jacket should have a rain hood. You can also bring a few of those plastic ponchos that fold up into a small bag—the kind that are popular at music festivals.
While you can get away with a casual style of clothing most of the time, there are still a number of stylish places to visit, particularly in the cities. You should bring a pair of pants and a dress shirt, or a skirt/dress in case you want to go to any of the fancy restaurants that are popping up all over the country (seriously, the restaurant scene in Cuba is exploding).
Casual wear is not appropriate for many of these upmarket venues. Bring clothing that is light (cotton or even silk is ideal), since while you want to be a bit dressed up, you want to wear lightweight clothing that allows your skin to breathe (don’t forget about that heat!). Maybe you will be spending most of your time on or by the beach, but you should always have a few style options when it comes to clothes to wear in Cuba.
The Things to Leave at Home
If you bring a set of stylish clothes to Cuba, you will need a pair of shoes as well. Be mindful about wearing high heels, though and if you do bring these, make sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes too.
There are a lot of beautiful cobbled streets in Cuba and it can be very easy to snap your heel off if you’re not careful… and you’re not going to be watching the ground when there is so much to see. You should also leave anything with an army camouflage pattern at home. Dressing up in a military fashion is something that is not really appropriate in Cuba and it might attract a few curious glances.