Cuba, gifts for the locals

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  • edited 9:46AM
    Does anybody know an efficient way to send packages to Cuba. Letters get opened and DHL costs more than the airfare to fly there. I wish to send my friends household items that they lack cuz they lack everything. Please let me know........blondepeter@yahoo.com
  • edited 9:46AM
    Thank you everyone for all the wonderful comments - We are travelling there at Christmas and I was trying to figure out what to take and now I have some ideas! All those small tubes of toothpaste from the Dentist will be going to a new home!! I was thinking of taking some chocolate as Christmas presents - is this a good idea? How do make sure that everyone receives these gifts?
    Thank you for your comments!!
  • edited 9:46AM
    Hi Ladyburgh
    Take as much chocolate as possible because Cuba does not have it really. Toothpaste is fine but consider anything that is beyond the very basics such as light material underwear for the ladies/girls and briefs for the guys as well. Memory sticks are good but don't bother with games or software. Shoes/sandals are really good so are sunglasses. Medicines, powdered baby milk, nappies, toilet paper, anything that we take for granted is most useful. I want to take a stethescope and pump up blood pressure thing but my wife says they are too heavy and the weight is better used for clothes. Baseball bats, balls and gloves for a predetermined school, they love baseball. The list is endless, I am English and my wife is Cuban, I was married in Cuba and I love the place. We take as much as possible and I hope you do too because they really need assistance, the biggest problem is to give to the right people. A catholic priest is a good contact, also if you know a local person who is genuine, and they do exsist, just play it cool and keep back your presents until you find a truly worthy recipient. It is too easy to give everything to someone who works in the tourist trade when really you should be looking for someone that does not have tourist connections. Hope this helps you to give skillfully.
  • edited 9:46AM
    Thank you Guest for your wonderful help - I will definitely take what I can but I do worry about giving it to the right people. Should we not give to the people who work at the hotels? Or is it better to give them cash? This is my family's first visit to Cuba and we are very excited and want to enjoy our visit. Thank you again for the helpful comments!
  • edited 9:46AM
    There are some great posts here and a few that contain outdated information or erroneous assumptions. I just launched a website - it's still in the early stages, but I'm hoping it will help to answer this very question - which gets asked frequently on travel forums, and often receives very inaccurate information. Hope my site helps to correct some misconceptions. www.giftsforcubans.com
  • edited 9:46AM
    There is an astounding amount of naivete and misinformation on this thread.

    The Cubans you meet on the resorts are among the richest Cubans on the island and they don't need to be buried under a constant avalanche of shampoo and toothpaste. The maids take home bags and bags of stuff constantly, it simply feeds the black market tiendas that are all over Varadero and other town close to resorts.

    Giving out treats/candy/etc. to kids on the street?! Are you crazy?! That's the most irresponsible action imaginable. If you saw strangers giving your kids candy without permission you'd likely call the police! Cuba is no different so please act with the same respect as you would at home.

    1.) Tip generously in CUC for good service. 2.) Gift to Cubans with whom you've developed a personal relationship. 3.) Direct your much needed generosity through the proper charitable organizations that will ensure your donations reach the people in most need.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    Dear Nancy,

    Just had a quick look through your website. Very disappointed to see that you don't mention any charitable organizations where donates can be properly distributed. That's your choice of course - different strokes for different folks - but continuing to avalanche resort workers with more stuff for the black market is (in my opinion) counter productive and you're not helping the social fabric of a foreign country by perpetuating these actions.

    What you must change is to edit your support of illegally importing meat, fruit, seeds, etc. These kinds of products aren't only illegal to bring into Cuba, they're illegal to import into almost ALL countries.

    The import regulations in Cuba are very clear. Start your research by having a look at these links:

    1.) http://www.sld.cu/sitios/med-veterinaria/temas.php?idv=20627
    2.) http://www.aduana.co.cu/

    All the best to you.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    Hoala

    This is our 7th year going to Cuba and we love the people and the country. It doesn't matter what you give them, they appreciate it all . But don't forget the ones that take care of the grounds.

    Gracias

    A & J
  • edited 9:46AM
    "... It doesn't matter what you give them, they appreciate it all..."

    ================================

    Doesn't matter what you give them?! LOL

    If you could hear what the resort workers say behind your back you'd have a heart attack...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    Cheers Terry.....what do they say?
  • edited 9:46AM
    To sum it up in one word for the mountains of cheap dollar store crap and other junk that naive or just plain dumb tourists think the "poor" resort workers appreciate: SCORN.

    Complete and utter scorn for yet another load of stuff to sell on the black market.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    ok so much mixed information it's hard to know what is acurate...we are heading to Cuba in Dec 2011 fo rthe first time and I just bought a whole bunch of school supplies...are they are are they not needed????? There are plenty of needy families I can donate to locally if there is not truly a need in Cuba specifically by the maids and grounds keepers and tour guides as we are going to be in Caya coco not the cities and will mostly be doing water/snorkeling excursions
  • edited 9:46AM
    realtorlady44,

    Coya Coco is small island tourist enclave off the north coast of Cuba. There is no Cuban town or village on the island, in fact until recently "normal" Cubans weren't even allowed to step foot on Cayo Coyo - it was tourist apartheid at its worst.

    So unless you take a long excursion to the mainland you'll never meet a "normal" Cuban on your vacation, the only locals you'll meet are resort workers. They will gladly accept your donation and if you find the right person maybe they'll even properly direct it to a school... chances are though that it'll simply be sold on the black market.

    Your call.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    Dear Terry,

    a few post ago you write on trustworthy charitable organizations that can distribute goods.

    Can you please give names/ locations? I will be travelling in 2 weeks and plan to bring some childrensclothes.

    would be nice to have a good adress to bring them to.

    Thanks, Cindy
  • edited 9:46AM
    Cindy, where will you be in Cuba?

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    Hi Terry,

    we will go from Havana to Vinales and then off to Santiago with some stops ( have not planned them yet..). We will be travelling by Viazul, so we will go where it will take us.

    Kind regards, Cindy
  • edited 9:46AM
    Mi Casita, Presencia de Lenin, Filial Artemisa, Lu-Sin, Hogar para Ni
  • edited 9:46AM
    Dear Terry,

    Thanks!! I have googled the adresses already. Will pack some small toys as well ( travelling with backpack so limited space...). I am already looking forward to see some happy faces!!

    Kind regadrs, Cindy
  • edited 9:46AM
    Don't get too excited about seeing happy faces, Cindy... unless you make arrangements in advance many places won't allow you into the school proper, they don't want outsiders disrupting classes. (There are of course exceptions, especially in places far from the tourist centres.)

    Schools in particular can be very strict with this. Some schools near tourist centres have put up fences to keep foreigners off the playgrounds (some idiots actually try to give candy/gifts directly to the kids) and they have banned ALL foreigners from entering the schools under any circumstances.

    You can see why I've been quite hard on some of the posters above... irresponsible gift giving is out-of-control in Cuba...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    Hi Terry,

    I have met a Cuban family on our visit last year. She has undergone surgery. They have written to ask me to send Vitamin E and Tylenol. Unfortunately, we do not plan to go to Cuba this year. Is there any way someone might be going to Holguin - Guardalavaca?

    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated...thanks.

    Catherine
  • edited 9:46AM
    I've struggled with the resort/gift giving thing. I understand Cuba is socialist, and therefore tipping throws off the balance of income between resort workers and the rest of the country -and even within the resort itself between waitstaff & maids vs. all other workers. But yet, every guide book or forum I've read says it's customary to tip waitstaff and maids, as you would in North America, so I still feel obligated. I found this article and intend to follow up on it with locals on my next trip. http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=34470

    Last time I was at a Casa Particulares, the man of the house used his headlamp a lot, but needed batteries. So I'm taking down a couple of battery chargers, rechargable batteries, and headlamps to people I've made friends with.

    I understand what Cheers Terry is saying, esp. in regards to cheap dollar store items -but then do you not tip service workers, as you assume they are wealthy compared to others? That doesn't seem right either.
  • edited 9:46AM
    Jenny, in general here's the 3 rules I follow... there's always exceptions, of course...

    1.) Tip generously in CUC for good service.

    2.) Gift only to people with whom you've developed a personal relationship.

    3.) Direct your much needed anonymous generosity through the proper charitable channels.

    In other words don't run around like an insane Santa Clause giving gifts to strangers, especially children. That's incredibly thoughtless and shows no common sense or respect for a foreign culture. Any decent Cuban who sees this sort of behaviour from idiotic foreigners is appalled.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    No, I wouldn't expect to give random people gifts. That seems awkward and inappropriate. I agree that it's important to sensitive to the existing culture.

    Idiotic foreigners? That's harsh. I think a lot of people are well intentioned, but misinformed, or don't realize the impact of their actions.

    I've read a few of your posts Terry. It's great that you take the time to educate people. It seems that you could have a lot to offer in the way of information. But I think if you dropped the cynicism and sarcasm, it would be much more effective.

    http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g147270-c114818/Cuba:Caribbean:Tipping.For.Service.In.Cuba.html
  • edited 9:46AM
    In my humble opinion it's not being harsh at all, Jenny.

    Idiotic, out-of-control gift giving has already ripped apart one segment of Cuba's society. Irresponsible, thoughtless actions by foreigners with Santa Clause complex have completely upset Cuba's social fabric amongst locals who work within the tourist industry and it has been perfectly demonstrated by this thread - I've received two private messages from morons desperately trying to justify their, "throw candy from the bus" to Cuban children.

    That's absolutely despicable behaviour and in my Havana neighbourhood of Park Central the local CDR (Committee for the Defence of the Revolution) has drafted a proposal asking the police to ticket and fine foreigners who continue to gift in an irresponsible manner. Yes, it's THAT BAD.

    Your link to tipping was written by my friend CubaJack. It's a very good outline how to tip properly in an all-inclusive resort environment. Here's another link for you... I'd be very curious as to your opinion:

    http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g147270-c129786/Cuba:Caribbean:Think.Before.You.Gift.html

    (Go into Article History and read version #27. It's a much better read from the original author before the Trip Advisor Moderators butchered the post into political correct oblivion.)

    All the best to you.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
    Seems like tipping for good service in CUCs is the answer! The End! :)
  • edited 9:46AM
    For a first time visitor with no experience and no friends/acquaintances/connections then yes, that's a safe, common sense solution to a complicated situation.

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 9:46AM
  • edited 9:46AM
    Hi Terry -

    I'm heading to Varadero on Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011 and (I admit) loaded up at the dollar store today - school supplies, glasses, kids toys and art supplies, mostly.

    I read about an orphanage in Matanzas, a short drive outside of Varadero. Is this the kind of place I should take my stuff? I'm travelling with my seven year old daughter and I'd like her to see that other children live differently than we do here (in Canada). Its also Christmas so it would be nice to share some things with kids. The all inclusive package was in our budget this year but I'm usually a more "live as they do" traveller.

    If there are better places or other ways, I'd appreciate hearing them. We'll also do a daytrip into Havana, I'm sure.

    Cheers,

    Janice in Saskatoon, Canada
  • edited 9:46AM
    1.) Don: Nope, I'm not Cuban. I'm a yuma from Canada but I spend a fair amount of time living/working in Cuba.

    2.) Janice: Since you're in Varadero the best/easiest place for donations is the St. Elvira’s Church on 1st Avenue. Any taxi driver will know it. The priests name is Fr. Jesús Marcoleta. The best time to drop off donations is 9:00am - 12:00pm weekdays.

    I would only go to the orphanage if you make prior arrangements with the Director. They are quite sensitive to, "being on display" for foreigners so it's poor manners to simply show up. Your concierge or someone as your resort should be able to arrange this. (The school in Varadero had to put up a fence if you can believe it just to keep stupid foreigners off the property, handing out stuff to kids. Unbelievable!)

    On another note, here`s a few thoughts regarding a trip from Varadero into Havana:

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g147271-c156379/Havana:Cuba:Visiting.Havana.From.Varadero..html

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry

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