The timba geek's guide to Havana
Part V: What to pack
Part V: What to pack
Obviously, it depends on the time of year. Although I have heard people say they have been there in February and not been cold, I have been there in March when it hit a less-than-tropical 13C (admittedly, this was at night). If you go between April-September though; you should be warm pretty much all the time (and probably quite hot in August) and this clothing guide refers to that period of the season.
My first bit of advice is: dress small. By this I mean take many different interchangeable tops and bottoms - with maybe a few lightweight frocks for the chicas. Many timba geeks will be wanting to go to more than one gig a day, or at least a gig and a dance class. And you will sweat at both. Unless you want to take an enormous bag with you; you're going to be doing lots of washing - probably by hand (unless there is someone in your casa who will do it for you). Take lots of pairs of undies (remember, you will possibly be changing them three times a day - OK, maybe you think that's excessive; but do a dance class in the afternoon there in August, then get back to me). Of course, if you're only going for two weeks, you can probably pack enough so that you don't need to worry about laundry. Any time longer, though and this dull subject will demand your attention.
[Tip: take a few pairs of undies in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage doesn't arrive when you do (as happened to me, last trip). You can buy clothes in Havana, but undies are rarer and ... ahem, not that great. Of course it depends on how fussy you are about your undies.]
I've pulled out this pic of Cristian and me yet again, because what we are both wearing is pretty much ideal daytime Havana wear: cotton (doesn't smell so bad when you sweat); skimpy (you'll sweat less and feel the breeze more) and plenty of pockets.
I usually take a variety of little skirts and tops; with a couple of pairs of lightweight trousers. I highly recommend anything with many deep pockets - if you can get away with packing all your stuff in (secure) pockets, you will be much better off 1) at the clubs, where they want every bag over a certain size to be put in the cloakroom; which means that a) you won't be able to take whatever it was that was in it inside with you anyway and b) that you get aplastado in the queue when you (and everyone else) want retrieve it afterwards; 2) in the shops, where the same often applies (except for the bit about afterwards) and 3) in the streets, where it is much easier for quick fingers to make off with a bag than it is for them to dig deeply into a pocket. (Especially a pocket with a buttoned flap.) Jeans are good if they're loose enough that you can get your camera and all your stuff into the pockets; and they are lightweight enough so that you don't come home dripping in (more) sweat.
Shorts or 3/4 length pants are practical though I personally never wear them because they're ugly and there is only so far I will go for practicality.
Cargo pants - not very chic, but better than shorts - are ideal (for both sexes). Como dice Pepito (below). [Though he might prefer not to see chicks in them ...]
A lightweight cardigan is useful for cooler nights and also for venues that have strong air-con - Casa de la Musica at Miramar in particular is cold, as is Teatro Karl Marx.
If I want to look a bit sexier when I go to a gig (after I've been there a month or so I get tired of looking dowdy); I'll leave the camera at home; shimmy into a frock; put my money in my bra and my house keys on a bit of stretchy cord around my wrist or neck; and step out just like that.
I take comfortable sandals for gadding about the streets during the day (Birkenstocks are great, but totally mark you as a tourist) and for dance classes (Birkenstocks not so good for dance classes). You probably need a pair of sneakers (and a couple of pairs of socks) for when it's rainy (also good for Casa de la Musica, Miramar, where the floor is super slippery). I take a pair of heels for when I want to look glam.
You can get almost everything (shampoo, deodorant, soap etc) in the dollar shops, so don't stress about leaving any of this stuff behind. But ladies, tampons are impossible to find (I tried), so I would definitely put them at the top of my list (sanitary pads are readily available). I usually takes razors, also.
Analgesics, vitamins and cold tablets don't appear to be readily available and as almost every turista I know usually comes down with a killer cold, the latter are good things to have with you. I also usually take antiseptic, bandaids and pawpaw ointment, which can be used for anything from chapped lips to burns to insect bites. Mosquito repellant is essential if you're there before they do the annual anti-dengue spray (buy it before you go), and I recommend you use a facial moisturiser with an SPF or take sunscreen (though you can buy this there). The chemist at the Habana Libre in Vedado has a number of things readily available for minor but not uncommon ailments like thrush.
Longlasting batteries can be hard to find - there are plenty of batteries in various sizes available in the shops on Belascoain and Galiano, but they can be weak, tired little things, that will power your gadget for a matter of days. Buy some before you leave.
You can buy blank CDs/DVDs in the shops but a flash drive can come in handy. It also makes a great present for someone there. Take plenty of pens - you'll probably misplace them and locals like them. But they are readily available in many bookshops, so no drama if you forget/the ink runs out.
Actually you can buy snackie things at various shops - there is actually quite a good one outside the Habana Libre. But selection is limited. And yummy biscuits make great gifts (if you can stop yourself from eating them).
What have I forgotten?