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Cuba, gifts for the locals

245

Comments

  • edited 4:43PM
    Cheers Terry.....what do they say?
  • edited 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    Cindy, where will you be in Cuba?

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    Mi Casita, Presencia de Lenin, Filial Artemisa, Lu-Sin, Hogar para Ni
  • edited 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    Seems like tipping for good service in CUCs is the answer! The End! :)
  • edited 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    You Cuban, Terry?
  • edited 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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
  • edited 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    Terryy, you are quite amazing and very knowledgable, thank you for all your posts! You are amazing!
  • edited 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    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 4:43PM
    Hey going to Cuba in 4 days thanx guys for all the great tips ;)
  • edited 4:43PM
    Have a gas, Cubanear98.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • JanJan
    edited 4:43PM
    So ballpoint pens are a good gift. Does it matter if they have American advertising on them?
  • edited 4:43PM
    Dear Jan,

    Thank for the chuckle.

    Cheers,
    Terry
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