Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
Until last month, I had yet to visit Cuba — ever. I’d done the all-inclusive vacation package type trip before, but Cuba was a new destination for me. The moment I began to ask around about where to stay, what to do, and so on, I was quickly flooded with the following tidbit of advice, “Bring lots of dollar store stuff to give the staff.”
That turned out to be a solid piece of advice, but in the weeks leading up to my departure, it wasn’t nearly specific enough. So I started looking online to see if I could find any more information about what kind of things to bring to Cuba, who I should be giving it to when I get there, how often, how much, etc.
Surprisingly, I didn’t find very much info on the subject at all. A few bits and pieces here and there after hours of research didn’t really give me what I was looking for — a quick ‘n dirty list of what to bring to Cuba. So here it is, look no further, your “things to bring to Cuba to give away as gifts” list:
- Kids tooth brushes (fun stuff like Superman or Dora)
- Tooth paste, mouthwash, floss
- Deodorant, antiperspirants
- Hair scrunchies — a lot of them. I took a bag of scrunchies and gave them to our housekeeper on day one, along with the Spiderman tooth-brush and tooth paste. She was so happy she was nearly in tears, as if she’d hit the jackpot. That’s when I realized I probably could have shared the wealth of those scrunchies around a bit more!
- Feminine hygiene products
- Vitamins — both adult and for kids
- Reading glasses, sunglasses
- Toys for kids (crayons, colouring books, yo-yos, anything really!)
- Flip flops or Crocs — bring down some shoes you’ll use while you’re down there, but leave them behind when you go.
- Bubba mugs! This is a fun one I didn’t realize until I arrived. All the Canadians at the pool had Bubba mugs — which they used for the entire week then left behind for staff. What a great idea!
- Soap, shampoo, conditioner — again, bring down small bottles you can give away, but also bring down larger bottles you’ll use while you’re there, then leave it all behind.
- Gardening/utility gloves. The landscaping staff is often forgotten, and they were oh so grateful when we gave them all clean, heavy-duty gloves to work with. We saw them all week with bright (maybe not so bright by the end of the week) white new gloves.
These seems like everyday little items to us, but to most of the locals in Cuba, these are highly coveted items. In the greater scope of our wallets, it’s really nothing for us to spend $50 to $100 at a dollar store buying things to bring to Cuba. But it can really mean the world to hard-working Cubans, who just don’t have access to the things you and I take for granted.
Aside from gifts to bring for the locals, we’ve created a list of what to bring to Cuba to include documents, clothing, and more.
Now it’s your turn — what have I forgotten? Please feel free to share your thoughts and add to the list of things to bring to Cuba!
Check out the Government of Canada website for more information on Cuba travel.
Other tripcental.ca Resources
School supplies are great, too. Pens, pencils, pads of paper, etc. are greatly appreciated, too.
Going to santa clara..gonna bring baseball glove n balls,not sure where to go or who to give to. Want it to go to any kid who will appreciate.any advice.
There is an excursion you can do to go into a town and watch a baseball game. It is truly amazing. It would be hard to pick just one child to give it to though 🙂 Enjoy your trip.
Just give them to any of the staff at the resort that you are staying at that have kids..
I usually give staff something but remember by Cuban standards they already make a decent living,tips,food etc.i rather give to someone who doesn’t work in the tourism industry they need help much more,
Ive been there many times. That.s good advice.
Great advice from Tony. Readers need to read TRIP ADVISORS about gifting in Cuba. Many of these comments, while well-meaning are not helpful. Give to reputable Cuban organizations. Hotel/resort workers, by comparison to others are generally doing just fine.
Yes! Totally true! I once gave a makeup pouch full of makeup to a lady who appeared to be about 60 years old. Her job was to sweep the parking lot all day with a broom made out of palm leaves. It was priceless to see her immediately sit and put on some lipstick while beaming with happiness as she looked in the compact mirror 🙂
Giving to staff at reaorts helps them as most are supporting their Parents and other siblings
What a out candy for the kids .
You shouldn’t have any issues bringing candy. Just ensure it is bagged and sealed.
Staff at the resorts get a lot of presents and things. They sale them to the poorest people. You can give it to locals around the resorts or town.
You can give them to kids in any school , they will go crazy with joy! or if you venture in Plaza de la Revolucion (Che Guevara Monument) kids are always around looking for gifts. Thanks for giving.
Just be respectful when sharing with school kids. A couple sites I looked at mentioned that some schools near resorts have started posting guards to keep tourists from disrupting classes to give supplies.
HOW MANY LAP TOP. TABLETS AND OHONE CAN I BRING WITH ME.
I’ve been visiting Cuba for a number of years… after really getting to know a few Cuban
folks.. I soon found out that they love denim… Please be careful if you hand them out in
the towns or cities as kids get fairly aggressive.
Thank you for that denim tip. We have learned that powdered milk is very much appreciated.
Hi. I am going to Cuba in jan 2015 and would love to take some school supplies to local schools. Can anybody tellme how I would go about organising this?
Our resort had an organized trip through our tour company that stopped at a local school. Several other tourists like myself had school supplies and we were able to deliver them in person. If there isn’t an set trip, just ask your hotel staff, or your hotel tour coordinator how you can help. It’s a pretty common (and appreciated) donation.
they also like our outdated computer items, especially an old laptop with a copy of windows on it. it must be stated for use at the school when donated or it may be classed at a private donation to that person who takes it.
colouring books, little stuffed toys, baby items clothes, school supplies can be given if you go on a tour or give them to your rep at the hotel they know where it is needed NO candy as dental health is an issue.
Tylenol and childrens Tylenol is also very welcome. feminine products are expensive so very welcome.
I won’t recomend give anything to hotel staff or management, because they will take it for thenself or sell it at the blackmarket for high prices and will not help any needy person or child. Try to pay attention and look around outside de tourist area, real needy people with no access to torist can benefit from your gifts.
I agree. The hotel staff earn tip money and receive gifts from guests. It is the regular people walking down the street who can use the gift. In my experience the people are very appreciative.
if you are by brisas (guardalavaca) go outside the hotels after 7pm when the fishermen are coming home
We give items to the gardeners and the people serving food as the maids usually get everything when we went last year I gave my newish trainer’s to the guy serving food he told me in confidence he only had 1 pair of shoes and he worked in them and went out in them he really appreciated them so gave him shirts shorts joggers and when he finished work he put his new trainers on and shouted (hey England ) he was so appreciated it plus to our advantage the pasta he served next day we excellent
We just came home from Cuba, took loads of stuff, sunglasses and gloves for the gardeners, we got to know a couple of the girls, one was a maid, the other worked at the pool, we talked a lot with them and found out that kids and adults clothes are in need, as well as personal hygiene products. Their kids love peanut butter, but very seldom ever get it. And staff at the resorts do not make any more money, other then if they are lucky to receive tips. We tipped the maids, bar tenders, and everyone because they all work hard together to make our vacations special. Definitely going back.
Cubans need:(They cannot buy these items in their country)
Fishing line 30lb and simple hooks
good quality work shoes-they are mostly wearing 2nd hand shoes left behind by tourists that are ill fitting-I met a few waiters and waitresses that had cheap old shoes. They had VERY sore feet.
small flashlights- and extra AA batteries-this is a dollar store item and much prized by the cubans. They have LOTS of power outages.
This is true we need batteries and emergency candles and medications for pain and inflammatory muscle diseases .
Hi Teresa, My wife and I are taking a trip to Cuba soon and are bringing some small flashlights, kids toys as gifts. When would it be appropriate to and where would we offer these gifts? Also, I am a police officer and would like to visit a Cuban police station and trade some patches and other police memorabilia, any suggestions? Thanks
You can email me directly at Doug.Robinson@Vermont.Gov
How was your trip to cuba did you exchange patches I am a firefighter and I was hoping on trading shirts or any rescue gear they could use gloves or flashlights…
someone mentioned that k.d was a welcomed gift.
I gave some 30 lb test fishing line and package of hooks to a guy that was a fisherman and he almost cried he was so happy. Also gave his wife a sewing kit which she loved.
This is a great suggestion. We have seen the same gardener at our resort for about 10 years and always give him some gardening gloves, fishing lures, weights and line. He is so appreciative. I had read once that there are no tackle shops on the island.
Also if your at s resort bring pantyhose for the ladies. This is a very big ticket wanted item which costs next to nothing at the dollar store..
Take anything! I go almost every year to a different location. Rural, smaller resorts with lots of local population. I take my family stuff to a any local church an the school/kid stuff to the local school. I always have lots for the resort staff.
Jack knives, multi head screw drivers, duct tape, nail care items, candy, chocolate, make up, panty hose, bike pumps, fishing stuff, fish net stockings, OTC medications… anything!!! I have lots of Cuban families that tell me even if they have some money, things just are not available. The pastor and his wife cried when they received the donations we brought last visit. If you use it, Cubans use it.
Where would you recommend staying? TIA
I can’t seem to post my own post so I will add to yours….I’m going for a 2nd time to cayo coco Guillermo. The first time I brought used jewelry, 10k used jewelry ,underwear( my wife owns a bra store) clothes, tools, fishing reels , and much more . We went to the poorest part of Moron and gave it out at a cost of about $150.00 in taxi fare. It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Some were on their knees ,crying to thank us I swear. I’m going back and I’m out of good, used good stuff so this year I’m bringing cash. With an average of $50.00 a month Canadian earnings… I’m sure they can figure out what they really need…baby formula, toys, food etc. I hope I make the right decision,?
I brought my sons to Varadero on multiple occasions & we always brought gently used shoes, jeans, light jackets & such. Went to an orphanage and left everything for the boys there. Also brought school supplies & handed them out after school in Havana. Great experience for them.
When traveling to countries such as Cuba – not only are the little items of great need, but bigger things like medical supplies are as well. A fabulous group – Not Just For Tourists – shows you how and what you can do to help. Here is their website: http://njt-pqt.org/english/view.asp?x=1
Dropped off donations and supplies for the disabled schools and other areas the church was on the route of hop on hop off bus. Across from small market. The priest was super happy we thought of them. Use the side wooden door for drop offs. Enjoy you vacations knowing you helped a little.
TARPS TARPS TARPS… with the hurricane again devastating so much of Cuba, and hotel staff generally having family all over Cuba, we will again bring simple lightweight tarps. The last time Ike hit we were there about 3 months after; we brought 6 tarps and should have brought about 60. We went through the hotel manager to give them away to needed staff and were flooded afterwards with requests for more. When a family only has a shell of a building 3 months after, a tarp can be a life saver.
Great post and looking forward to more!!
i hope some day i will be lucky and win a trip to cuba i have been playing trip trivia for some time . GOD BLESS bye for now love faye brawn
Rural doctors often have to send people all the way to a hospital for routine tests, which can be a days travel each way for a farmer. We take blood glucose meters and test strips as well as other medical supplies for the doctors.
School supplies such as coloured pencils, paper, rulers, etc. are also needed in rural schools.
After bite and bug dope is appreciated!
Maternity clothes were very appreciated as well as baby items . Disposable diapers were a big hit. Also, dish clothes and tea towels.
Let’s not help destroy our planet by supplying disposable diapers. It’s a small country and you have to wonder where all their garbage goes, especially plastic bottles. I’m sure modern cloth diapers would be most welcomed.
Yes taking disposable diapers will also be a waste of space and weight..diaper rash cream..pacifiers and baby bottles much needed
I agree as Cuba is environmentally friendly and I have seen when the people have to dump on the back roads to get rid of extra garbage. Cloth is the way to go. They don’t pay for water.
while cloth diapers are appreciated my Cuban friend with a baby reminded me that they are difficult to handle. Cuba has a fairly long rainy season AND no dryers so disposables are welcomed for during rainy season. They do not have clothes dryers because power is expensive and in short supply.
bicycle repair kits are also good idea
Yes! Or go to a garage sale and buy a bike, tune it up and buy extra tubes. Take it with you to ride on your holiday and leave it for a Cuban.
Great ideas, G H & Mary Lynne! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I go to Cuba ( playa Del Ore) every year and bring base balls, hygine for women, pain pills, baby clothes,nail polish and lip stick,tooth paste and tooth brushes,Fishing tackel even fishing poles and reels with line, assortment of toys,guitar strings, school supplies,panty hose,beach towels, I wish I could find some place to buy soccer ball that are not inflated so I could bring them,wrist watches, These are some of the gifts I have brought to Cuba to give away and the Cubans are very very happy to recieve them. Other things you can bring are tools like tape measures, screw divers, pliers,etc…
I want to do this as well but tell me how are airline dealing with the extra weight? As i’m certain they don’t care if it’s for charity or not…
I’M afraid of having to pay a lot for overweight luggage.
Can you share your thoughts on this?
Airlines do charge for extra weight. The restrictions depend on the airline itself and your specific flight.
I suggest researching the checked baggage allowance online, packing accordingly, and weighing in to see if you could add gifts fee-free. It would be ideal if the gifts could be stored within the weight requirements (or as additional baggage at a low charge). Anything you could fit would be appreciated. On a positive note- you would only have to pay a fee on the way there!
Two years ago I went to Cuba with my kids, ages 6 months and 4 years. Brought all the dollar store stuff you could think of. Some light weight items are band aids, small books, party pack toys (multiple toys in a bag for birthday parties). Honestly it was the stuff that I didn’t even think about that a person in Cuba was willing barter art with me for. The quarter used shampoo, conditioners, soaps from our vacation. My kids clothing, bathing suits and shoes that we had packed multiple pairs of. The reality is even the brand new pair of socks that you didn’t get around to wearing is much appreciated as a gift. If you have kids…pack the clothes from last summer…give them one last wear and then give them away! If you are a single man…pack stuff that you won’t mind giving away the last day of vacation. It is amazing what the people in Cuba appreciate, and teach you to appreciate! Happy Vacationing!
Take Cubana Air they allow You to take 2×23 kg plus 10 kg hand luggage from Toronto.
My friend just came back from Cuba and had to pay extra..she was told by the airlines that she should have requested a letter..so before u fly request a letter from the airline indicating that u are bringing extra luggage for the Cuban people and u will not be charged. But keep is all in a separate suitcase.
toileteries can be bought online and collected after bag scan, at AIRSIDE branch so carried in hand luggage, UK has Boots Chemist you book and pay on line and collect after bag scan before you board. ***ALL GOOD***
WestJet (out of Canada) allows a second bag free provided it’s classed as humanitarian aid. Check their website for further details.
I spoke to thomas cook about this, and the said they could arrange free 5kg
well done them
speek to them direct before booking to make sure
This is the best post I’ve seen. Every thing is relevant. This will be my 3rd time to cuba and we will be bringing baseballs,gloves,cleats,baseball cards for kids. Tylenol nail polish,workgloves,tape measures, any sewing related items,tinted safety glasses. Sheet music is also coveted and easy to pack. Anything written in Spanish the mother tongue they crave. Fishing tackle and line doesn’t take up much room. My son boxes so we will be taking some boxing gear. Hand wraps,bag gloves, headgear ,etc. The Cubans really care about there self image so any personal grooming products are like gold. Cologne, perfume, makeup. Pretty much all we take for granted they would love to have. The people are relly fantastic. I spend time talking to them ànd ask about their families. This goes a long way. Cheers.
Claw hammer and water level tarps as shade caps woman should hygiene products
Get a air needle for filling soccer balls and basket balls they also allow you to defate them they are less than 2bucks
CHEAPER THAN THAT ON EBAY XXXX
I am a little confused, I am going to cuba and will only stay at the resort for the week just due to what we plan on doing, but i would love to bring items to give around to the maids, gardeners, etc. Would that be weird or considered maybe rude to do..
When you give this stuff, who do you give it too
Hi there, everyday we put 2 gifts and a few dollars and a choc.bar or a pack of gum as a treat on the bed for the maid. Chocolate bars are always a hit as we buy the big pack at Costco and give them here and there as our chocolates are so good. I often buy t-shirts for the ground workers workers and give them a pack of gum. As there are lots who fish we do give a few items out.
i also go into the rear of the kitchen and give to the washing up staff and under chefs
why dont you deflate the soccer balls and bring a cheap lightweight pump with you…
You can take the air out of balls
I bought soccer balls at wallmart and deflated it with the blow up pin then bought a small pump to blow up when I went to cuba baseballs and gloves from Canadian tire then took a horse buggy ride into the country the driver was fantastic on were to go and handed stuff out also school supplies and coors light footballs they were also playing an old game of marbles which I will take some on the next trip and musical things like guitar strings and reeds
I am taking 8 soccer balls down this time – i just bought inflated ones and deflated them for the trip and have brought hand pumps for all of them as well.
Buy a cheap hand pump with an inflation pin for the soccer balls. Deflate the the balls for travel then reflate them there. We usually give the pump with the last ball.
I think the little thing that they don’t need but liked to have is chocolate,gummy Baers and gum stuff we get but they don’t get is nice
Absolutely correct post!! The Cubans do not need $store items, it’s a myth made up by tourists too cheap to tip!! They have totally free medical care,(and a good one) free university education, etc., tons of professional Doctors, most driving taxis. What they do not have is spending money other than the monthly supplement provided to all by the Cuban government. They work their butts off to facilitate us! They deserve tips in the manner/proportion mentioned in this great post! Don’t be so cheap!!
where will they spend this money? Have you seen their stores? The black market? You’re right they have the basic neccessities, but usually poor quality, by our standards. We bring small luxuries, last time a large suitcase stuffed full with plush toys for kids. We ent into the villages nearby and gave them out. You had to see the faces of these kids, priceless! We ALSO tip.
Hi. We are going to Varadero and we’re wondering what villages we could go to hand stuff out to the kids. Any suggestions of places not that far???
But understand one thing. They do not have access to stuff that we have access to. Simple things for us, they can not get or is too expensive. Yes they have free medicare… Getting a simple pair of reading glasses can take up to 6 months for them to get. Medication: they are limited or is too expensive to get tylenol or vitamens. Yes money is good, but they love gifts. Last year they guy at the buffet wanted our sunglasses. People are NOT CHEAP because they buy stuff at the dollar store. The soap and shampoo are oderless, so when you give them a lovely scented bar of soap or shampoo or a simple smelly candle, then WOW you made their day ! You can give them money, but if they don’t have access to what we have then ???
^^ This is true-but if you google Cuban hospitals and look at the pictures and read the stories, you will find that they are absolutely filthy and they don’t have food or medicine for patients. Also the rationed food they buy is only enough to supply them until mid month. It may only be rice and sugar. Their stores have empty shelves most of the time.
Heather, your post is very correct. I have travelled extensively within Cuba, and have visited many towns and villages, the food is rationed, I actually found a ration book belonging to someone in a village, so I went to the “store”, to hand it in as I knew it belonged to someone, and it had the rations/portions (rice) and person’s name/date on it. Inside the “store” (you can’t even imagine what this “store” looked like unless you had seen it for yourself), I can’t even find the words to describe it, nothing like I have ever seen before, but it shook me to the core of my being. This wasn’t in Habana, but in another coastal village, let me tell everyone, bring what you can, honestly…the store shelves are empty, or else what they have, the Cuban people (in the small villages/towns) cannot afford to buy it. Do the best you can, as these folks in Cuba need it…, what would you do if it were you that lived there, walk a mile in their shoes (and some don’t even have a good pair at that)! Have some compassion…Cuban people are beautiful people, and most thankful, it is a humbling experience to give to them and then they turn around and also give back to you, it may be a slice of pineapple, or some other fruit, but it gives them a chance to show their appreciation, go and give…because you can! Remember…walk a mile in their shoes! Someone who’s been there and experienced it.
You absolutely right. I was raised in Soviet Union and I understand they system very well. You can have money but u can’t buy much at the store. For pair of jeans I paid 2 of my paychecks on black market..so when we bring them stuff what hard to buy -it’s a best gift ever. Every time we go I bring extra suitcase of gifts..450 bucks at least..I would not say it’s cheap..I know Cuban people will give it to their friends and family and so on
I thought that they cannot spend the currency that we use when we are there?
They can exchange our cucs for cuban pesos. The value of a cuc is much more. They can definitely exchange any other currency for there own. If you want to bring up something that is priceless in cuba bring a bunch mp3 players filled with raggaton and our music. I brought 4 up last year. Its the greatest gift I have ever given. Seeing them walk around bobbing there heads singing our music. Priceless. You can buy them very cheaply in geek or eBay or amazon
It is true that they can exchange cucs for their own currency, the Cuban peso. However, I was told by a Cuban friend that when they go to trade the cucs in, the government takes a huge percentage of that as a fee, so they end up with only a portion of what you intended them to have. I have been to Cuba numerous times and I learned that some of the most coveted items are things like flashlights and batteries (they suffer from many power outages and blackouts), Tylenol etc., denim jeans, fishing line etc. We also tip with cash: the maid, food servers, bar servers, desk staff, gardeners (who seem especially grateful!!)
You absolutely right. I was raised in Soviet Union and I understand they system very well. You can have money but u can’t buy much at the store. For pair of jeans I paid 2 of my paychecks on black market..so when we bring them stuff what hard to buy -it’s a best gift ever. Every time we go I bring extra suitcase of gifts..450 bucks at least..I would not say it’s cheap..I know Cuban people will give it to their friends and family and so on
I have been to Cuba over 15 times and have families that I’m very connected to. If you leave money for a Cuban it has to be turned in. At the end of the month 49% of it is split up amongst the staff the other 51% is given to the government. Cash is not a good idea. It’s not being cheap giving gifts. Their tooth paste they buy is very expensive and is like sand. A bar of soap is luxury to them. The government does supply them with mandatory things, such as rice and eggs, milk is only given to families with children under 7. Spices are a big hit. Shoes and colorful things. Cubans love orange yellow pink. Sports clothing is a very special gift..hope this helps
we went last April and are going again next week. Last year we took a ton of clothes, toiletries including toothbrushes, shampoos, soap and razors. We also took a load of crayons, pencil crayons, colouring books, ruled note books, candy, gum, hair items (the glittery the better) and special “blinged out” hair combs for our maid and some of the female entertainers.
This year I am taking clothes, clothes and more clothes. My full checked bag allowance is clothes which my kids have grown out of, but mostly gently used items from Salvation Army. I go to the “fill a bag” section – $5 for a full bag of clothes – this time I got 3. I have them all in 2 vacuum sealed bags and along with a few school supplies (ruled books and pencil crayons), this makes up my 40+ lbs. Other than a towel, my personal toiletries and 2 changes of clothes in my suitcase, all my personal items are in my carry on so I can take as much as possible. I will also load my daughter up to her weight limit (after she finishes packing) with toiletries again as they were so appreciated.
Hi..I am going to Cuba in June with my partner… can’t wait…I have read a lot of threads and can’t wait to take things over for the children..I don’t know which I’m .more excited about….what do children need the most..
running shoes all sizes all colours. I have been going to Cuba for 31 years now and I have always brought give-away items. I always try to pick one family and go from there. Other items for children, socks, underwear, toys, etc. I am not big on $store items. Last year, I brought butter knives, forks and spoons. Many Cubans only have spoons to eat with. These were bought at WalMart for the same price as the $store but better quality. Towels, (bath size) hand towels, dishcloths, both to wash and dry. Many small items can be put in a wash basin for added room. As for tools, one screwdriver with different heads in the handle is best. Keep in mind that tools will be heavier than clothes. Candles are golden! I always book a first class seat which allows 2 checked bags. My first visit to Cuba was in 1986 so you can imagine I have seen many things. As far as who to give to, don’t give to the hotel staff, find a church and offer it to them. You don’t have to be a church member or even a believer. The only bribe you need give to the church official is a brand new pair of black shoes. Enjoy your trip and take it from me, Cuba is very safe. During my travels I have been alone and have never had problems.
I once was told if you are taking items for the people you are allowed an extra bag but must be for them. Does anyone know about this?
Interesting question, Beth. Has anyone else heard of this? I would think each airline has their own policy on this sort of thing, but I’m not aware of any specifics around this type of situation. Curious to hear what others have to say, though!
One piece of baggage may be permitted at no charge on flights departing from Canada only (on a space-available basis). Humanitarian aid supplies will not be permitted on flights to Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago where a baggage restriction is in place.
Some countries have restrictions on the types of aid permitted. If you plan to bring humanitarian aid, you must contact the country’s consulate or embassy to verify which items are permitted, as well as the guidelines and procedures for importing the item(s).
Baggage must not exceed the standard size and weight allowances and must be packed separately from your belongings.
Additional fees may apply for excess size and/or weight.
I just booked my trip to Cuba and asked my agent about this. She had never heard of it, but contacted the airline to request it for me. My airline is allowing an extra bag (20kgs/40lbs) free of charge for “humanitarian reasons”. They warn, however, that there may possibly be a fee at Customs, even though transportation of these goods is free. 🙂
We are leaving for Cuba on Saturday and I’m planning to pack things to give to the staff. All of these suggestions are GREAT, but can anyone give out any thoughts on how/when it’s appropriate? Should I be leaving these things in the room on my pillow, passing them out at the bars and leaving them on the table at the restaurants?? Help!
I’d say do what you’re comfortable with… I left some things for our housekeeper every day, gave away the bubba mugs to the bar tenders, left flip-flops at the pool, etc.
Last year I left bag loads of items for our maid, just because I did not know when to give them out otherwise.
I did end up giving one of the entertainers (female) a bag of items on the last night, as she had been so good with my daughter….I really did not have a lot for the men, which I have remedied this year.
My suggestion is to always have a few items with you in your beach bag, handbag, wherever. This way, you can give them away as and when you see people you want to give them to. Gloves for the gardener that is always sweeping up / tending the beds of your area, hair stuff or “girly” things for the receptionists, baseball hats to the bar staff or entertainers, sunglasses to people on the beach, beads and craft supplies to the people selling their creations, etc. I also took a load of school supplies and Children’s Tylenol to the local nursery school. The teacher that toured us through was almost crying with gratitude. As was the tour guide on our bus when I gave her Children’s Tylenol, gum and other child items for her little boy.
Strike up conversations, find out a bit about your hosts, as give out accordingly.
This time (we leave tomorrow at 7am) I want to ensure I give a little, to more, than just leaving the motherload for our maid who already gets a lot. Think of people other than the maids, bartenders and servers who are likely to get tips. Locals you see on the beach or who you go to for that amazing lobster dinner, entertainment crew, gardeners, general cleaners, receptionists, the shop assistants, bus drivers, taxi drivers, horse and cart drivers. All of these people also appreciate the generosity of tourists. Have a great trip!
Leave some in the room as the chamber maids will collect during the week and then they will disperse among themselves according to their needs. Your chamber maids gather everything together and every one who works there in that department will receive a share. That has been my experience as we asked our chamber maid the first time we went. Hand some out to whomever you please but just show some discretion and don’t make a display of it in front of a lot of people. The right opportunity always comes along. The best thing is to talk to the people and you will get a sense of what their life is like and what they could use.
Don’t forget about all the people in town that would reallllly appreciate any gift. So take that tour and buy their merchandise at the small markets and leave a gift as well! 🙂
Excellent point, Tammy!
To pick up on Tammy’s point – I can imagine that hotel staff get a ton of stuff compared to other locals not in close contact with tourists. From my work in Sierra Leone, I saw that often donated gifts were sometimes horded and then sold on the side to other locals. Cuba may be different, but I would like to avoid this all the same. I’ve been searching the internet for local NGOs in Havana or near Varadero that know what people are in need of – I’ve had no success.
Can anyone shed some light on a) if there are NGO groups we could coordinate with; and b) whether there are central locations to bring supplies in non-tourist areas?
There are 15 of us so we could potentially bring a lot of supplies.
(PS: The NJT link in the thread above won’t be an option for my group as we leave in a week’s time)
Me and my family and friends have been Helping out Families in Cuba going on two years .
We have been helping them by bringing them money ,clothing and other things they may need .
Average person makes 20 Dollars a month that equals 12 cents per hour this is based on a 160 hour month.This is crazy
I will be holding a fundraiser in support of the cuban families for a better life in the next while.
I am looking for some donations for a flea market and other fundraisers. If interested in helping out please contact me though Facebook.
I have a meeting with the Festival Director of Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council august 14 Thank you very much
is there anyone interested in donating anything help with a fundraiser .please let me know
Matazas is a very poor town compared to Veradaro.We sang for an orphanage there but they wanted any gifts we had for the children to be given to the head of the orphanage..We walked around town and helped some of the local with gifts.We also went to the hospital and gave them wipes, tylenol ,band aids etc .it was very appreciated..
Please do not use abbreviations – some of us do not know what they stand for! NJT? Not helpful!
Dianne: I understand your frustration. The reference to NJT comes from an earlier comment in the thread by Lee-Ann, who shares a link to Not Just For Tourists (NJT).
Never mind NJT, what’s NGO????
Non governmental organization. Usually charities in this case.
I am going to Havana this Thursday and was wondering where I could take baseballs, baseball pants, socks and maybe a glove or two? Also a bit of topic but where do I go for that fabulous lobster dinner. Looking for a paladares.
Go to La Gruta in Josone Park in the town of Varadero. See on tripadvisor.
Small so may need reservations. Can get front desk to call.
I brought folding hand fans one year and they were a great hit amonst the ladies. Apparently they are very much appreciated during the hot summers. Locally they are very expensive (about 10 covertable pesos). I picked them up at the Dollar Store or in a China town store for about $1 to $2.
I’m going to Cuba (Habana city) in two months from now, I visiting the small town where I grew up called La Fortuna, in municipio Boyeros. All the tips given were very good.. But I personally bring all the stuff to the small town people who I know are in great need, something that they also appreciate a lot is underwear(females & men), socks.
I have always brought down all the things people mention in the way of toiletries, colouring book etc. The best reaction I ever got was when I brought down a couple of good quality baseball gloves my kids had outgrown. Even bartenders who are used to the daily tips were emotional when they received this. Just a thought.
Last time I went to Cuba I have rented scooter from my hotel, put on my big and full backpack of “goodies” and went for one day on a “cruise” on the scooter towards interior of the island. I stopped any time I saw people walking and distributed gifts for them. At some point I stopped in the village and gave some items (i.e. Barby dolls, calculators) to people sitting in the center square. And there I was invited to their house for lunch! After that I stopped at the rural school, and gave plenty of school supplies to the teacher. They called all kids to the school yard, and distributed this stuff equally…and I was treated as a celebrity in a very nice and humble way…My advice is to bring the bulk of your gifts to the people outside of the resort, they need them much more than maids or bartenders…btw. these two professions are considered the best to become very rich in Cuba(!?).
And enjoy Cuban culture, music, and people, they re all great.
Yes they may be the more wealthy of the jobs within Cuba. But the resort staff share/trade the gifts amongst their family, friends and neighbours.
i have done 50% of donations to just one family and that too works, then the other 50% spread thinly to others people, my family clubbed it together and bought a cow from selling my used clothes and gifted items, then they can have milk and make cheese which is not on their basic ration from government. only young kids and pregnant women are allowed milk,
I’ve found several on this thread mentioning that milk is only rationed out to young kids and pregnant women. We could learn a lot from Cuba in terms of preventative medicine. Milk is not needed for the human body except for those lactating or about to and young children. The mucus produced by milk for all other humans makes it at best, non-beneficial. Remember also, calcium is added to milk, and can be found much more readily in leafy greens. Though we spend billions in health care, our longevity rates are pretty similar in comparison to theirs. Let’s give what’s needed, but also be willing to learn…
We have found even dollar store Sippy cups were a big hit with the moms, fishing gear, bicycle repair kits, flashlights and batteries, Dora books from the dollar store because they contain spanish, number flash cards, decks of cards, I also took toilet paper and paper towel, ketchup, tylenol, bandaids and left behind any left over pepto or imodium, pain meds shampoos and stuff that I didn’t use. The children were thrilled when I took out bubbles, and dont forget the cats and dogs they are around and could use a treat. At the end of one excursion I had given everything away and at the end gave one lady the carry bag I had used to carry the gifts into the community. Fishing gear was a big hit as well as knee pads for working in gardens. It was so much fun and they are so appreciative.
That is so awesome Kathy! I’m sure your gifts were greatly appreciated. Great ideas for others to bring too.
Thanks for all the great ideas guys. I’m leaving for Cayo Coco in a month with my family and some friends and was very interested in taking some items with us for the locals. I have always loved striking up conversations with the local people wherever we travel and find it the most rewarding part of every one of my trips. One comment I’ve heard a few times is that Cayo Coco is an island that is strictly inhabited by resorts; no local towns, etc. If this is so, is it easy to get to a neighboring island where I could explore some of the smaller towns and make contact with the locals that I’m reading could use the supplies a little more than the on resort staff? Any comments would be very helpful. Thanks.
WOW! we’re just planning a trip to Cuba in a few weeks and we were planning on travelling light!……. not anymore! going to be full bags and more! Thanks for the advice guys!
Great advice here – with regards to Not Just Tourists – they can often get a suitcase or backpack ready on very short notice (at least here in Edmonton.) Taking our suitcases to the hospital in Cardena (about 45 from our hotel in Varadero) was one of the highlights of our Vacation. We will definitely do this again. The director of the hospital hardly spoke any English but he did say “It feels like Christmas today” when he open our bulging suitcases stuffed full of medical supplies. NJT gives you a letter for the airlines explaining your mission and also translated into Spanish for the hospital.
Speaking of Spanish, if you’re thinking of leaving Tylenol or anything like that you can usually go online and get the directions in Spanish. If you print them off it would be useful for them. Tylenol is probably common but something like Imodium or Pepto might be new to them so knowing how to use it could be helpful. Also, some kids vitamins look like candy so having instructions might encourage parents to put them up high so kids can’t eat too many thinking they are candy.
Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions regarding what to bring as gifts on my first vacation to Cuba. I remembered a Spanish teacher years ago advising us to bring gifts with us if we went traveling in countries like Cuba, and her advice has stuck with me all of these years; I fell on this forum while doing a search on what type of items to bring. I have already been going through my closet and setting aside gently used items, so now I will make sure I get a bunch of gifts for kids, as well as some feminine items,medication, etc, and pack mine and my boyfriend’s suitcase with these necessities. Thanks again for all of the suggestions, I wouldn’t have thought of most of these necessities otherwise.
I make cloth diapers as it is useless to bring the.disposables as they try to reuse them by drying them out…I supply diaper pins and waterproof wraps…plus I supply onesies, baby clothes,….I make diapers for Canadian mothers also…so have seen the need for…I try to think beyond the lipstick and mascara and supply items that are useful beyond making one look pretty…I wish there was an organization that I could deliver this stuff to so that it would be evenly distributed.
I am going to Jamaica next month. A friend of mine told me to bring little dollar store stuff with me to leave for the maid. Dose anyone do that in Jamaica, or just Cuba?
My experience in Jamaica is that they would accept whatever you bring them, but since they can get most things there, unlike Cuba, its best to give them tips (cash). Which is a lot easier and time consuming.
Have a wonderful time!
everywhere i even left stuff in tunisia, i now like africa and cape verde where the govenment do not subsidice its people and its every man for himself. i prefer to take and wear then donate so im not over weight allowance in return airport.
I did do that in Jamaica, but I left $tips mostly.
Going to santa clara, not sure where to go with baseballs n glove or who to give to.
Other items to consider: all kinds of tape – duct, electrical, scotch, etc. Also any all-weather adhesives or superglues, work gloves, small tools, scissors… anything they can use to repair what they have. And don’t forget craft supplies! Sequins, glitter glue, acrylics, fake feathers, coloured foam – many local artisans use these for the crafts they sell. Clothes too: underwear (particularly women’s), t-shirts, ankle socks.
that is a good idea.
If you choose to read the article listed by Shoo on March 18, 2014, please read the comments that go along with it as well. There are as many opinions on this issue as there are tourists. Personally, as a regular tourist to Cuba, I do tip and I do give gifts, and I have always been met with noting but sincere gratitude. To say that gifting encourages expectations can be true of ANY country. I generally always tip in Canada, even when the service is not that great, and I have seen far less gratitude for a tip here (not always, but some wait staff are very unappreciative) than I have ever seen in Cuba. My bottom line is that I treat others how I would like to be treated – with kindness, respect, and appreciation. Give whatever makes you feel you have met that.
I do not agree with the article about not gifting…I am going to Cuba in March next year because of a recommendation by friends that visited before.
I used to work in the service industry her in Canada, and like the people working on resorts, I relied on tips to feed my family! I will always tip (weather in moneatry value or other) when service is good! This isn’t a matter of these people making a lot of money….there are many organizations people can give money to for helping the underprivileged. Are people forgetting the purpose of tipping? If some are so concerned about the money they make….then they should move there and try to live without it!!!
I don’t think you understand Cuba, and its embargos. Working in service anywhere outside Cuba is different.
I do not want to sound mean because they are all in need kinda but… when I go I ask a local driver to take us far from resort, somewhere the tourists don’t go. we drove for an hour or so and turned up this cow path to a small farming village and went to a very very small school. when we left we were told that not one tourist has ever gone there and probably wont again. the paper they wrote on was so grey from being erased that you could hardly see the pencil on it. I know it sounds strange but bring screws and tools they are very hard to come across, flashlights are a hit and sewing kits, buttons, modeling clay, pencil crayons (markers dry out fast and crayons melt) remember when you go how little clothing you actually use and bring as much as you can! oh and toy tractors and dollies are big hits!!! it is very safe in cuba venture out there see it all! peace and love
Please remember that the people who work in the hotels are the rich people. The real people are the ones who do without. Taking supplies to a school or a clinic makes much more sense if you want to spread it around.
I do not understand your comment: Yes, those who work at the resorts, receive more money-if they receive tips, then those who do not work at the resorts. So via your philosophy, hard work, and kissing up, should not be rewarded. Wow! Sounds like an old philosophy, even for Cuba!
Please take a good long think on what you are doing. I just read the most incredible article here: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g147270-c129786/Cuba:Caribbean:Think.Before.You.Gift.html
We are looking at this country as if they are a part of OURS which is somehow LACKING. THIS IS TRUE! They are NOT like us in their culture, which is WHY we find them SO REFRESHING! Stop and think about the people from other cultures who come to Canada and bring their own cultures with them. We are slowly changing to become more like the culture they chose to flee from, and less the desirable place we were that they chose to run to in their escape. Giving too much garbage to a small island like Cuba is inviting larger plastic islands to form. Stop spreading the poisons from our culture and remember why you enjoy the idea of pristine beaches. They are there because there are not extra flip flops everywhere. Toothbrushes that are expensive because they will last for many years are to be desired. Do you really think ANYONE is suffering lack if they do not own sponge bob square pants? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read the article http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g147270-c129786/Cuba:Caribbean:Think.Before.You.Gift.html written by a very realistic perspective. Give all your tourist treasure allotment to Haiti et al.. AND STOP BRINGING STUFF!!!! GIVE THEM MONEY and trust the people who administer to the needy. Go through your church or find a charity that works in your country of choice. You have NO IDEA how exasperating it is for them to deal with sell-meaning givers who WASTE so much in resources simply through ignorance and not taking time to find out. STOP LISTENING to what other tourists THINK they found. If you don’t know a charity, let me know. I am acquainted with several people who have worked with the poor in Guatemala for many years, and come home to Canada for 6 months to work for our big bucks, then go back with whatever the churches can round up for them. One of their efforts has been bringing water reservoirs to within a few hundred feet of every locals’ hut so they have more time to spend making their living.
Wondering if you know of any charitable organizations around the Guardalavaca area, Banes, Rafael Freyre (sp?). We passed a worker village (cement apartment buildings and few houses) coming back from Gibara cross-country by way of heavily rutted dirt roads. It didn’t look like a small town as we did not see any sign of shops, government or otherwise. It was an eye-opening experience.
I read this, too. THANKYOU for posting it again and again and again. We are not seeing the world the way it is. We see it through our throw-away sunglasses and assume having one of each color flip flops is desirable. Let’s look at what made these people happy BEFORE WE EVER SHOWED UP and realize that WE ARE CHANGING THEM. EEEKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All you well-meaning people: STOP! Let’s instead try to figure out how to use FEWER “Western” products and UNbuild some plastic islands that are polluting our oceans. I am on my way to Cuba in a few weeks, and it would be WONDERFUL to find out that the reason tourists are re-using cups is because there are NO plastic water bottles for sale. Ye Haw! Hopefully my grandkids can get TRULY educated by some real Cubans.
Thanks for the link to Cuba/Caribbean Think Before You Go. Some very helpful information there. A maid may make as much as 600 CUC a month working at a resort. I am going to Cuba for the first time this December and my friends said to bring “gifts” for the staff and locals. Now I am thinking twice about it. I may follow what “sarah” wrote about taking a long trip far from the resort and bringing school supplies and gifts to those people. Thanks for the advice.
I have been to Cuba many times and I always bring additional things to give. But you are right I don’t give out all the gifts at the hotel. We go out into the village and give out things. We found the school in town and brought pens and pencils they asked us to bring erasers, calculators, English dictionaries the next time we came as they are hard to get there. We actually paid extra this year to bring the additional weight as we have so much here and its so nice to see a smile on someone’s face when you give them a tshirt etc. These are some of the things I bring: reader glasses for all different distances, (a friend of mine owns a eyeglass store) clothing for kids and adults, tennis balls, tools, reusable grocery bags (they are a hit), tylenol (I go on the internet and translate into Spanish and put on the container, make up, pantyhose, socks. A lot of the stuff I like to buy new to give out.
We also found a small doctors office off the beaten track and gave her band aids, antiseptic cream, gauze, elastic bandages etc. They are very appreciate of anything you give them.
Hope this helps – Sarah Jane
just remember any thing left on your bed when you leave for the day is now property of the cleaning lady it is one of their rules so don’t leave anything on your bed except that you want her to have
This is the most helpful piece of advice so far! I am leaving in 2 days, and I was wondering how the maids know what you mean to leave for them! Thank you!!
no, the maids are like a busy bee, magnet, they will even take tampons out of an open box, heard several people running out. cant buy them there. not saying they all do it but its happened to us several times, i also hair clip my drawers and they are often opened, makes me wonder how much cleaning they actually do. we also had new 3 pack razors taken, as if we would not notice… hacked off, but now count tampons and clip drawers for fun. not been to cuba for about 3 years, go cape verde instead they actually wet mop your floor everyday and do up to 1 hour cleaning. and will not open your drawers.
That is ridiculour SKC!! After more than 30 years all over Cuba, Not once have there been something taken from my room. My floors have always been moped every day, bed made and bathroom thoroughly clean. By the way, it’s called costa verde. If something is taken you must inform the front desk and the cleaning person will be lucky if she is kept on. The only time I had something go missing it was $20cad and I reported it. I have not seen that person since. This was 5 years ago and probably due to my negligence, went to lunch and left my wallet in plain view.
Going to Cuba in a week and just read the Trip Advisor article – FANTASTIC! I was already feeling uncomfortable about bringing over a bunch of crap that nobody actually needs or wants and this article confirmed that it really should be avoided. The best thing we can all do is respect the culture of a people who take care of their own, in their own way. No one in Cuba is homeless or starving, which is more than we can say for many living just a little to the north.
I just read an article from Trip Advisor called Cuba: Think Before You Gift. It is an interesting read and puts everything in perspective. We have a lot of misconceptions about Cuba and we may be doing more harm than good by giving gifts.
We always bring gifts truly appreciated by the people.last time I brought a claw hammer water level and masonry string tarps from tsc look for sales or ask store manager for a discount for Humanitarian aid.Some will help you out.hot wheels from wallm art for kids I was told woman’s hygiene products lite to Pack.We typically go outside of the resort local villagers don’t get gifts like bartenders or maids Don’t forget grounds keeper gloves hat etc.Or just buy him a cold pop from gift shop they really enjoy that.simple little gifts go a long way and make the people very happy it helps us to look inward to see how very lucky we are
Thanks, I packed a suitcase for my wife as extra baggage. She will leave it all. Small cost for a great feeling. If only I could send them some snow…
How about finding a church and leaving stuff with the pastor to be distributed to those who need it?
Good idea the minister will distribute to the most needy, When i was a child living in the orphanage a couple came in to deliver a donation to the superior mother and they did it on condition that they personally hand out candies to the orphans,the nuns acquiesced and i remember the fun these people were having tossing the candies from a balcony to a screaming squealing flock of orphans. As I stood from afar watching it reminded me of a flock of pigeons fighting over each other for a piece of food, that is the sordid spectacle these people were watching and enjoying and it donned to me that their generosity was nothing but a lie, self gratification was their only motivation and that I would certainly preserve my dignity by not taking part in this sordid spectacle.
The true gift is anonymous and the giver without gratification.
We gave the maintenance/gardeners multi-bit screwdrivers.
Why does everybody think these people want to clutter their lives with all this worthless litter from China. They are likely happier than you .They have free medical care and
free education. What do you have? How about sending money to Haiti or Nicaragua instead. Giving junk to people just so you can bask in the glow of their perceived gratitude is only a gift to yourself.
You are basing opinions on a whole country. I donate enough in canada. Are you telling me when I give a child soccer ball to keep that it isn’t apppreciated and I shouldn’t give them anything? Shame on you. I have been to cuba 12 times and they people up there are very gracious for the things I bring up there. If I want to to bring son soccer balls and some fishing rods to put some smiles on peoples faces I will. Stop trolling. Your tinting s great feed into poison. Vamoose
i will be leaving to Santiago de Cuba in a week. I emailed the hotel representative to hook me up with a local school so we can distribute school supplies. This thread has been very helpful. I cant believe how much stuff I have in my garage that are still with tags and am glad it can be put to a good use. I am excited for the trip!
This is not Haiti, don’t embarrass them with trivial stuff from the dollar store. The maid has a store at home where her brother sells all the junk she gets every week. If you bring a gift it should be as welcome in Italy or Greece as it is in Cuba. Just good stuff and only to people you meet and spend time with other than the maid. Handing out stuff on the street creates begging which is not good for the Country nor for the next tourist. Give them your respect and friendliness as you would in any Country. 4 time visitor.
I just came back from Cuba. My brother and sister in law brought soccer balls and soccer jerseys which were very appreciated by everyone they gave them to. They chose to give them to the resort staff who had kids. Toothpaste and lipstick were also very appreciated.
It’s bigger than u think…. My last stay was in Santa Maria at the Melia Las Dunas , aka the Palace. Let’s do some math…. 925 rooms with two people equal 1850 tourists. Leaving 1 peso a day is $ 1850 ( a month at that rate is $55,500) But we tip more at a 5 Star ….2 peso breakfast,2 peso lunch , 2 peso bar , 2 peso dinner. 1850 people tip 10 peso a day, this equals $18,500 a day ( a month is $555,000 ) Tip and enjoy yourself , the peso is the best gift of all , they can buy what they want too. Just go and enjoy yourself …
I just got back and agree, the locals love tips and they see a tip as a way of appreciation. They can use the money as EVERYTHING is expensive. Also, ladies, please bring feminine hygiene products, as with other paper products, they are super expensive and not very good. I found this out from talking to a woman at the front desk and left the few travel liners I had. If I would have know I would have brought an entire box.
This is all well and good at your fancy 5* resort but what about other Cubans that don’t have the luxury of working at a resort earning tips? What about the fisherman in a village 100 miles from the nearest resort? Where will he get his tips from?
I went the last week of November, 2015. People asked me for candy. So I would say Snickers. I brought a bunch of stuff (dictionary, toothpaste, etc.) and I think it was passed around, but people ASKED me for candy. I did have a few Snickers Almond….and they were most appreciated.
Most posters indicate either a complete lack of knowledge about Cuba and their great people, or are merely indicating that they are too cheap to tip!! How many tooth brushes does a Cuban need? Their Education up to and including University level is free, their Health care is free, (and pretty good quality at that). Lets think about this for a moment. They bust their buts off to make your trip most enjoyable, for a small universal wage that none of you would ever work for, and offer the same service whether you tip or not. Shake your cheap heads: In most of the civilized World, certainly here in Canada, patrons tip for good service. You dont give your waitress, room service, gardener, bar tender, a box of crayons or hair gel or a tooth brush that you bought at the $ Store. You give them Cuban CUCs so they can find, with limited opportunity, some new shoes or clothes” Don’t be so cheap. The Germans and the British are the worst at being cheap. Pity.
After reading ALL the comments in this section on this topic, this is the first INTELLIGENT comment I have read. You are completely right about everything. What I find hard to understand is why people think that giving away “dollarstore” items and “their used clothing” really make that much of an improvement in the Cuban way of life. And by the way, a person can give those “things” to organizations in their own country that can make a difference to their citizens. As far as I am concerned, these people just give this items away so they can feel a “self gratification”, nothing more — the “Oh I just gave them something, it will improve their life” feeling.
OK so I know I’m rambling, but I give tips for good service etc. no matter where I am and it’s not to make me feel better but to thank someone for taking the time and effort to make me feel my experience or whatever was special.
“Tip when someone makes you feel special not so you feel good”.
I find it hard to believe that people feel Cubans have it so bad — in some ways they have it better than in other countries, and being a Canadian I feel honoured to be a citizen here but don’t think we have it “right” yet. In Canada, we have homelessness, people still wait for healthcare, and lots of kids who want to have a higher education can’t afford it and other issues as well.
Bring “stuff” to Cuba because you want your experience to be great not because you think you can change the country.
Poverty, Cuban-Style | National Review
You need to read more than one article about cubs. My girlfriend lives in cuba. I find the latter part of this post very insulting. Read more. They are very poor. Call it self gratitudr all you want. It does make me feel good when I can make someone’s life a little better. This is ridiculous
Hi Jamie I am heading to Cuba on Thursday. What do YOU suggest I bring that would be helpful for people?
the British only get 15 -20kg hold allowance/per person( not 40kg like Canadians,) so thats hard for us, also per 5kg extra its average £40UK cost, our luggage empty is 3-6kg empty, dont leave much free space for much. please also remember used shoes still have a use over there. I have cuban friends and she tells me everything has a value. over the years she has made improvements to her small home, and now has an inside toilet. so i must be doing something right.
We just got back Saturday. i always bring Dove soap, soap scrunch and toiletries but the most accepted items are fishing line and hooks. I give them to the locals off the resort grounds and the people are so thankful. I also give cards that are used from casinos. I usually include something nice like special candles and a saran wrap for the ladies. All was well received.
Darlene, I know absolutely nothing about fishing. How much line (100 feet? 1000 feet?), what pound, what kind of hooks? Leave for Cuba in two months, can’t wait!
Stop by any sports section in hardware stores, walmart and ask what a good starter kit would be. Fishing line comes on small spools. Don’t forget a small pair of pliers to remove the hook safely from the fish (safe for the person not the fish ;0}) and something to cut the line.
This thread has been super useful. I will predominantly be in casas and the odd hotel and will probably steer clear of gift giving there as you are correct, they are the wealthy ones.
However, despite being reasonably well cared for by their government Cubans are deprived of many necessities because of decades of trade restriction.
I will bring school supplies, medical supplies, sport stuff and gloves and towels as these seem to be some of the most needed items from what everyone is saying – which makes sense in an economy restricted for many years.
I certainly agree we should think before we gift, but perhaps rather than gifting because we perceive people as being poor – we can gift because we know these things are hard to come by no matter how much money they make because of the way the economy is and has been for decades. Also, gift to those who have had a positive impact on our trips as a gesture of gratitude rather than sympathy. I think its gifting out of a false sense of sympathy that is damaging, rather than gifting practically because you understand the trade restrictions of the Cuban economy or you’re simply grateful to someone amazing.
I’ve found during my last few trips to Havana there are a few things that are requested most:
Tampons – imagine buying yours at Dollar-rama
rechargeable batteries (and a cheap charger)
Data sticks/flash drives – the underground music/movie movement is dependent on them.
Barbies for the girls – ethnic if you can find them and a ballerina Barbie will be a treasured item as they take dance VERY seriously there.
Clothing – anything with a sports logo is gold to them
Good quality make-up and scents/deodorants (highly sought after)
Guitar strings are good for the tip hat when it’s passed around.
Good quality hard candy (Riesen, Werther’s, Campinos, etc) may not have spelled them correctly….
I’m in agreement with the “walk around” method, just put stuff in a backpack and pass out to people, but be careful and do it on the sly or you’ll be swarmed if spotted in a busy place. My last trip I took some dog and cat treats for the strays….made a lot of 4-legged friends but the locals thought I’d lost my mind.
The other thing I noticed is professional women had a thing for black stockings with patterns, every woman behind a desk wore them, so just another idea.
This is a great list. We’ve become friends with many in Cuba & they just don’t have availability of some of these things – children’s needs, medicine & personal care.
Thank you so much for this. I’m going alone, last minute, no money, spontaneous, gonna get in trouble, but w mom loss, dad new woman, would-be four year anniversary w a *boyfriend* ahem, yeah…..I’m being irresponsible, plus I can’t even drink at this first ever all-inclusive!!! I REALLY hope they understand this, I can’t be pushed to drink all week….one person got staff laughing asking for NOjitos, I’m hoping that will work for me. Despite my financial situation, I want to bring stuff, and I have clothing of my mom I’ve been unable to let go of, I assume winter clothing is useless? Also, are we really allowed TWO checked bags to Cuba? I keep double checking this, and wondered if this is the reason?! Thanks to all you folks for looking this up pre-travel, too. Good people. Now, on a selfish note, can we bring coffee BACK? Cheers.
Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!
oh man… poor kid. But so funny too.
Do you hand out gifts to people on the streets back home? Do you leave soaps and nail polish for hotel staff back home? Why would you do this in another country? For the past few years the goal is: Cash for great service, Gifts for real friends and Donations to a charity. You may want to read this article. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g147270-c114818/Cuba:Caribbean:Tipping.At.The.All.Inclusive.Resorts.html
Have you ever been to cuba Lisa? Is this affecting your life whatsoever? So what donate 200 too Haiti when charitable organizations only legally have to give 20 percent to the organization? People in cuba are poor. Your comments are pure uneducated ignorance at its finest.
actually lisa yes I do my 6 children and I make up care packages and go out to the homeless every sunday and hand them out. my son has even started it with his own son. No matter what country you are from there is always needy….. ty from Canada
I have lived and worked in Havana for 7 years. I support groups of elderly people and many with special needs. I recommend that you fill up your suitcases with good things you dont need anymore when coming to Cuba. There were many good examples to pick from here. Bring useful things and give them to people outside the tourist trail. If possibe. Be careful with churches and really all officials because unfortunately so many are corrupt. I have worked in churches and orphanages where all the donations were stolen by the people working, including the priest. Give it directly to people. If possible. Give to those who dont ask and any old person is OK. Pensions are just awfully low. Never give to children begging. We are working with the authorities to stop children from begging in the streets. They should concentrate on other things and it will escalate. In a familysituation it is different as I too love seing their faces. You can contact me if coming to Havana and go with me to donate to people in need if you like. Especially after hurricane Irma the situation is worse, so fill up your suitcases!
Several years ago we visited a resort in the Santa Lucia (Cuba) area and there was a school in a nearby village. We were told by a couple of Cubans that tourist gave gifts to the school–but it was the school staff that took them and never gave any of them to students. Supposedly some were fired. Unfortunately, when you give to ANY organization, you have to check it out and make sure that your donations will really go to the needy.
Kristin, I would love to contact you. We are planning to visit Cuba next month and I would like to bring several suitcases of items. Is there a way I can connect with you?
Hey kristin I work for Trip central and I am going on a dam at the end of the Sept! Tell me what is most needed and where I can deliver it to? I will be in Varadero and Havana! My email is email@example.com I am reading so many conflicting posts but I am determined to bring gifts! Thanks so much!!
Kristen, are you still in the area? I am coming there next week and would love to get an idea of where items would be best delivered to. Thank you for your time and assistance. ?
Please let me know if you’re still there, would love to meet up so I ensure I give to the proper people who actually need the items.
The dollar store sells spices. I understand the food in Cuba is kind of lacking, would they appreciate spices?
When I was a Travel Agent I travelled to the islands quite often but it was Cuba I took things they needed. One trip I decided to take a small cooler bag to use on the beach for myself which held drinks, sun creams etc., at the end of my trip I filled it with all different items even a reading book. My last day I met one the Reps. in the Hotel next to my Melia for an Inspection and gave her the bag. The best thing they loved was the cooler bag to hold her babies items in like food, drinks and creams.
What i don’t understood is in fact how you are no longer actually much more neatly-liked than you might be
right now. You are very intelligent. You already know thus considerably in the case of this subject, made me
personally believe it from so many various angles.
Its like men and women aren’t involved unless it is one thing to do
with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs outstanding. Always deal with it up!
Sunglasses. And SPF 15 or 30 chapstick and lotion. I gave these to the beach security guards as well as the staff from beach and water activities rental. They sure appreciate it.
I was told to bring small sample packages of laundry detergent and soaps. Is this something that would be appreciated?
Hi! Great question! Yes, I bring small packets of detergent and small hotel soaps that I have accumulated. This is when travelling with only a carry on. For the most part most of the larger (liquid filled) items will be packed in your checked bag. Safe travels!
A lot of great suggestions – I, myself, bring toothpastes, toothbrushes for kids, crayons, coloring books … my friend brings knee highs for ladies, toiletries, even tampons. In addition, we bring clothing (barely used and new) and give tips. Any of these are greatly appreciated either at the resort or if you get a chance, in small towns where many (if not all) locals will greatly appreciate such generous gifts.
Please don’t forget the people beyond the servers and cleaning staff. They tend to get all of the gifts because they are most visible.
Pretty much everything I packed I left. I brought clothes I rarely wore so still were in excellent condition (but like others have said, most things other than produce are hard to come by and expensive there so anything is appreciated — especially by the local street vendor or others making money in local currency rather than people benefiting from tourism); the average income is $25 per month, while a taxi driver could easily make a few hundred a day driving tourists (during tourist season). So think of the folks who aren’t in tourism, who are selling plantains, who are selling food at the local grocery store. Also, keep in mind that while produce is cheap (in CUPs), many other things are not — or are hard to find. So, bring those extra clothes, new socks and underwear, those old electronics you never use or that may need some fixing (radios, cell phones, mp3 players, universal remote controls, etc.), those extension cords, backpacks and other bags (much more durable than weaved palm), Ziplock bags, trash bags, toiletries (especially toothbrushes and paste and shampoo), over-the-counter drugs and vitamins, towels and sheets, LED light bulbs, maybe a Life straw… They will have a use! Well, maybe not winter gear, but most other things, including books and bicycles (maybe buy someone a bike while you’re there). And if you want to bring foods they don’t have that don’t break Customs’ rules, think of things like packaged protein bars or nuts, oatmeal, protein powder. You won’t see those kinds of items in stores, more just produce and meat on the streets, baked goods, and lots of Italian food. Good pots and pans are also a great idea. Laundry detergent (powder). Notebooks and pens. Art supplies. And spices! Everyone had salt and sugar and flour and oil, but I didn’t see pepper for example. Just look around your home in every room; everything you use they could use… so bring it if it fits and leave it behind. Even your reusable water bottle. Come back with an empty bag or bag filled with art instead.
I live in Cuba going on 3 years now. Best thing to do is pack all your (gift) stuff in old beer coolers. They are worth 40 US to resell there. Then fill it with caramels, chocolate, lotion, deodorant, garage sale tools, etc. etc. Then you don’t have to fly back with an empty suitcase.
Or cancel my post if not.
Hi there, I’ve removed your post. Please feel free to resubmit an edited comment if you wish.
I happened upon some small bicycle tire repair kits at Dollarama one year that had patches, some cement, spoke wrenches etc. in them that were very well received. Two girls doubling on a bike in downtown Varadero got a set and were jumping up and down when they realized what it was.
This thread has been extremely informative and full of good ideas. For those touting the Trip Advisor article, it does not appear to have been written by someone familiar with Cuba outside of an all inclusive resort. I would take the word of those who have posted who actually lived in the country and know the people and the system above this.
This thread has been extremely informative and full of good ideas. For those touting the Trip Advisor article, it does not appear to have been written by someone familiar with Cuba outside of an all inclusive resort. I would take the word of those who have posted who actually lived in the country and know the people and the system above this. Thank you!
I didn’t visit Cuba for last 5 years and wonder what would Cubans would appreciate as a gratitude now. I packed lots of new or almost new clothes, but what else? Would really appreciate if someone can change latest experience.
Sunscreen for the pool people, it’s almost impossible to get for them. Leave a new one or whatever is left. Bring a couple of new ones and hand back what you don’t use or the new ones to the lifeguards!
I always bring an umbrella. Which I use if it rains and I leave it there.