Cuba, gifts for the locals

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  • edited 4:12PM
    Hi Terry, great info! My family & I are headed to Gran Club Santa Lucia next week, and my kids have cleaned out their closets of all the clothes that they no longer wear/fit that are still in great shape,in hopes to pass them on to others that may need them. Any ideas where we can donate them locally, off the resort, where they are most needed? We faithfully donate&shop at our local Salvation Army thrift stores, but thought that if we could do a little good somewhere else this time, we would...
    Is this a good idea, or should we just swing by the Thrift shop on the way to the airport and drop it off?
    Thanks!
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hi there! I am going back to Holguin is April. I am going into Banes this time, to visit some friends. If we take a taxi from the hotel to Banes, will the taxi driver wait for us while we spend the afternoon there? Or will we have to call another taxi? Also, if our friends do not own a car, are they allowed to travel in the taxi with us?
  • edited 4:12PM
    Also, I am planning on taking some old cell phones of mine. With the charger i provide, will that work in their plugs? And/or do they have access to the voltage converters?
  • edited 4:12PM
    Terryy, you are quite amazing and very knowledgable, thank you for all your posts! You are amazing!
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hey Terry...this comment is directed to you. As I started reading the comments from the beginning I started to think, wow the resort staff must have a HUGE supply of toothpaste and pens!!LOL Common sense would tell you that they obviously must sell these items for extra bucks. Also, if there is a shortage of toothpaste and toothbrushes, why would we want to give the kids chocolate and candy?!!! The easiest thing would be to give money. However, if certain items are not easily purchased, then specific items would be nice to receive. But the last thing I would want to feel like is some dumnb a** tourist just handing out cheap dollar store crap, because we read on the internet that we should!
    Your advice seemed to make the most sense to me. I don't mean to critisize anyone that has gone out and purchased items to give staff. It is truly awesome that people want to give...we need more of that. However the confusion seems to be "what" and "how" the most effective way to give, would be. Would you agree...one way or another these items will reach some of the locals. Therefore, for those that have purchased gifts, go ahead and give to the staff (even though they are not truly the most needy). I think the "giving" aspect is what really matters. If it makes ya feel good, do it!!

    Personally...I will tip generously. And won't forget about the often "forgotten" staff memebers. I will pack 3 or 4 good quality care pkgs...alot of thought put into the items, not typical. We tend to venture out from the resort whenever we travel, stopping and having chats with locals. I am sure we will find someone worthy/needy on our daily walks that we wish to give these pkgs to

    Terry you have helped me to determine how I would like to approach "what to give, and how to". No real rules...whatever makes sense to the person

    Thank you for your opinions and knowledge
    Much appreciated
  • edited 4:12PM
    Going to Cuba for the first time and been told by everyone that gifts are a must. Thanks to the discussion from Terry, I have sorted it out a bit. I, too, had purchased gifts of paper, pencils, etc. Now what to do! I will do as we did in Africa, tip all those that are involved in serving us in hotels, restaurants and on tours. I will just leave the small stuff at a charity near our resort if that is possible. I never really felt comfortable with this gift idea. When we visited Africa, there were very poor people but they are also very proud people and I feel that it is the same pride in Cuba. Sure they don't have the same "stuff" like most North Americans but do they really need all the junk that is not recyclable. They probably don't have the same garbage problem that we do!
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hi terry. Going to Guardalavaca in May. Was going to take some crayons for the wee children, but now I'm not so sure where to take them or even if to take them. Obviously we will be tipping for good service in CUC but I would not like to offend. Should I leave the crayons at home for my grand kiddies?
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hi all, especially CheersTerry, who I hope is still reading these posts. It's a very interesting thread and it's wonderful to read that people do want to be generous and culturally sensitive at the same time.

    I will be visiting Cuba in a week and I plan to stay almost entirely in Habana. I live in the Caribbean, work at a small NGO, don't earn a lot, and I speak Spanish fluently. I would like to have as authentic and non-touristy experience as possible. I understand the challenges as a foreigner but I was hoping for some tips as how best to navigate Habana.

    I've got the Casa particulare info, the lowdown on the CUC and CUP (I hope I can use CUP some of the time), and some idea how best to get around, which areas in the city, etc.

    I would really like to know what gifts I could bring that would be appreciated, whether they be razors, deodorant, chocolate, gum, soaps, stationary. My gift budget is not large, but I would like to be able to bring things that will be appreciated by people I come into contact with. I certainly don't plan on throwing things around in an irresponsible manner, but I would like to be able to show my goodwill in a way that's appreciated. If gifts are the thing, that's fine. If it's inviting someone to a baseball game, also great. Any comments from those in the know are most appreciated.
  • edited 4:12PM
    We are returning for a second visit and will be spending most of our time in an all inclusive. Last time we brought a few things and after talking with the guest relations lady about what to do with a big bottle of Tylenol she said to leave it with her and she would get it to the on-site-clinic. Of course we have no way of knowing where it ended up. I have a sealed bottle of Tylenol One which contains a little codeine that I would like to take. Am I putting myself at risk because codeine is a narcotic? Thanks for your advice.
  • edited 4:12PM
    We are going to Holguin for a second time next and plan on taking some of the following items as gifts - baseball hats, toiletries, jewelry, hair clips, nail polish, assorted makeup, socks, ty beanie babies, hot wheel cars,... Also, medicine is really appreciated and I am also taking some small jars of peanut butter as the lady who ran the resort daycare had heard of it but never tried it so thought this was a great thing to bring also.
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hi Terry,

    It seems you have had the most knowledgeable input in regards to this topic. My husband and I are leaving in 5 days to Cuba - Santa Maria...to an all-inclusive resort. I, too, have purchased a few small toiletry items - from feedback I received from friends who have previously visited. We don't know how to go about tipping with these gifts/ or if just simply tipping with Canadian money is sufficient.
    I would love to bring these items - but how to go about ensuring they are given to someone who really needs them>? Some advice please....
  • edited March 2012
    This is all so fascinating to me. I was born in the Soviet Union- and while I was fairly young when it broke up and we moved to the US (9), I've always heard stories about what items were considered "hot commodities". A lot of this is so incredibly similar. We had almost no tourism though and the few tourists that came to Russia were closely watched and had very little local interaction, so in that sense Cuba is very different.

    The greatest items were:
    Cosmetics, jeans, glasses, magazines (my mom’s friend bought a US Spigel catalogue for a lot of money just to look at the fashion trends abroad). Anything that was cool- say shampoo in a very non standard bottle (the shampoo would be used up but the bottle would be kept for years).

    When my mom was little, a foreigner off of a tour bus came over her and gave her gum. She got so scared, ran to her mother and asked if it was poisoned.

    So stuff like that. While we had almost everything, things that were foreign made and out of the ordinary were the greatest- a lot of things could still be purchased but were VERY hard to come by if they were made outside the USSR- but no one went withouttoilet paper for example as Westerns tend to believe. No one ever needed anything nor would solicit anyone for handouts. But of course if you could get your hands on something then you’d really appreciate it.

    Anyway- we're going to Cuba in about 2 months so I'm doing some reasearch. A lot of posts here were very helpful, thank you.
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hi there! We are travelling to Cuba in 3 weeks! Cant´t wait!

    I´ve been giving a lot of thougts about "should we gift, what, how, to whom?". Great advice here, thanks a lot!

    I also found good advice on this web site http://www.cuba-junky.com/cuba/help.htm .

    There is the addresses of all sorts of charity places : Orphanage Houses , stray dogs and cats, Old Folk Homes, Hospitals, Catholic Churches & Communities. Very helpfull!
    I have also found out about a guy in trinidad who works to save horses from being overworked. The web page of his project: http://diana.trinidadphoto.com/index.htm

    Hope averyone manages to help in a responsible way!
  • edited April 2012
    Sorry I've been away so long from this forum, been travelling steady.

    Thanks to everyone for their kind comments. It's great to see people thinking about being a respectful guest in a foreign country and not simply running round like an out-of-control Santa Clause.

    All the best.

    Cheers,
    Terry from Havana
  • edited 4:12PM
    This site has been helpful. I leave for Cuba for the first time in a few days. I hope to find private rooms(nice rooms) for rent in Havana any suggestions?
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hey going to Cuba in 4 days thanx guys for all the great tips ;)
  • edited 4:12PM
    Have a gas, Cubanear98.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • JanJan
    edited 4:12PM
    So ballpoint pens are a good gift. Does it matter if they have American advertising on them?
  • edited 4:12PM
    Dear Jan,

    Thank for the chuckle.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 4:12PM
    I am not going to Cuba myself but my neighbors (originally from Cuba) are returning soon for a week with family & friends. They are delightful people and we feel we owe them for things they have done, but they will not accept $ from us. I was hoping I could get some things that they could gift to their families back home as a repayment to my dear neighbors. Tools were mentioned (Home Depot here I come) any other suggestions?
  • edited 4:12PM
    Matt, be very cautious about loading your neighbours up with items that are obviously not for personal use because that's a big red flag to Aduana (Cuban Customs) and they could start charging duty on the items.

    The second factor is that Cubans from abroad are HEAVILY targeted by Aduana for extra import duties.

    I would simply slip an envelope with some money into your friend's pocket with a note that says, "The pig roast and piss-up is on me! Have fun!"

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 4:12PM
    Last time I was in Cuba we stayed at the Hotal Villa Cuba and had a wonderful time there. I took along a box of reading glasses which were very welcomed by the locals and I can get them on Ebay and delivered to my house very cheap but they will be welcomed there because they are hard to get.
  • edited 4:12PM
    Reading glasses are easily available and cost less than $2.00 in Cuba.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 4:12PM
    Hi there!
    I am going to Cuba in January 2013, I would like to take some stuff really hardly reachable. I found scissors, laces as new ideas here among many others well known. How about some penknives,cutlery etc.
    Thanks for your advices;
  • edited 4:12PM
    Who are you planning to give these gifts to?

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 4:12PM
    I am going to travel as much as I can during my 2 week trip, staying in casas, so I thought maybe those families need that kind of stuff which can be used longer than a bar of soap.
    Greets;
  • edited December 2013
    Thank for sharing.
    I feel happy when are here.
  • edited 4:12PM
    Casa owners are among the most well off Cubans on the island. They do not need dollar store trinkets nor would they respect anyone leaving cheap junk as a tip/gift no matter how well your intentions were.

    The most important thing you can give is respect and good manners.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 4:12PM
    Fair enough. Althoug I am not gonna take "cheap junk". If we consider me - using this same toothpaste here and the same one I would like to take to Cuba in a case someone will need it, so maybe it is "junk" then.
    Anyway, I would like to leave some stuff (such as medicine ) before flying off home in Habana. Maybe some clothes or other things so any suggestion which organisation in the capital should I contact to ?
    And what medicine shall I bring that can be useful? Many people write about painkillers but what else ?
    Regrads;

    "The most important thing you can give is respect and good manners." - that is obvious, never travel without it.

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