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Bring only what you need, completely pack a week before you go, then in a couple of days open the luggage and really take a good look of what you are taking and remove half. Who needs 7 pair of shorts for seven days, mix and match. Lighten your luggage so you have space for all the bottles of rum and other goods you are bringing home. If you have anything that is new and in any type of wrapper leave all the wrapping and packing material at home for recycling. Cuba does not have recycling program. Bring a decent size (20 ounce) travel mug with you for your drinks. Use the glassware in the Al Cartes when going for a nice dinner.
Know your airline weight for luggage allowance, a small portable luggage scale is a great investment. Your luggage will be lighter going down but heavy coming back. The airport will charge you for every extra pound if you are over and if you have an issue with the check in at return airport , it will be your scale against what they say. Keep your scale in your carry on. No scale no defence.... scales can be purchased at luggage stores for about $16. Carry all your medications, electronics and if you have any jewelery in your carry on, remember to keep your passport and tickets with you. Don't pack valuables in your luggage. Remember some airlines also weigh your carry on and that counts as your total luggage weight.
Culture and Heritage
Appreciate the local culture and history. This is their country and traveller is a guest there and the last thing they ever want to hear is that is not the way we do it at home... it is their way, it is how they do things that's why you travelled outside of your home country. Discover the country - it is truly unique. Go off the beaten track to a local restaurant and eat the local food. Support the local economy buy from local artisans and crafters. If you are buying a piece of art or painting from a local art gallery ask for the tax paper to go with so you can clear customs without problems. Bargain with respect and don't get expect to get it for nothing. Hire a local interpreter / guide if needed, they will take you to places that are safe. Tell the local guide what you expect first, set a price and expect to pay for their meal where they take you to eat. Be fair and responsible.
Open Minded with Respect
Learn some basic words - hello, thank you, please. Use your manners the same way it is done at home, and mind colourful swearing. Appreciate their customs, dress appropriately - you would not go into a church in a bikini at home, do the same when travelling. Ask permission to take a picture of a local rolling cigars or other things, but be aware they may want to be paid for it. This is how some make their living. Research your vacation and resort. There is loads of information on Trip Advisor - use the forum, read the reviews of where you are going, look at the pictures, you will be surprised all the information that you can find without ever posting a question on the forum.
Safe Guarding the Environment
Respect the country, don't litter... you travelled to this country to see its beauty. Help save the beauty of the county for the next traveller and your grandchildren. When snorkeling or diving don't stand on the reef, coral is living and by standing on it you are contributing to the destruction of the reef. Don't pick the local flowers - they could be near extinction, or a flower that turns into a vegetable for a local. The locals will give you flowers that are good. Use the water and electricity like you are paying the bill at home and don't leave the air conditioning on all day if you are not in your room all day. Do you change your sheets at home every day or change your towels every day?Please conserve water. Turn off your lights when not needed.
Safety and Scams
Flaunting cash, cameras, jewelry (leave your jewelry at home) is in really bad taste, offensive and may attract the kind of attention you don't want. Use common sense, be protective and smart. Please read the scams article on the forum as it has very valuable advise and is too far in depth to go into detail here. If a deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. If someone giving your something for free there is usually a catch.
Know What You are Allowed to Bring Home
You may find goods that you have purchased while away may be confiscated by customs. Flowers, wood and coral may be confiscated from you for many reasons. They may have invasive bugs or eggs in them that could harm your native plants at home. Some may require special paperwork from your local government to bring them back into the country. Know what your local rules are to bring them back into your home country.
Use the local currency - don't tip with your home country coins, regardless what the tour guide will tell you on the tour bus. All coins (metal) are not allowed to be exchanged in any bank in the country. Locals can only get tourists to exchange them, otherwise they are useless.
Most of all enjoy your vacation.