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Cuba, gifts for the locals

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  • edited 12:37AM
    We just got back from a week in cuba and were generous tippers and had amazing service and we also took all sorts of medican that we might have needed and in the end we gave it to a server we got to know know well, he was greatful and even if he turns around and sells it all, oh well it will help someone!
  • edited 12:37AM
    The reason I'm against giving any medications away to anyone other than a health professional is there is too great a risk of the medication being improperly used. The language difference is a really big issue - most Cubans can't read the English labels - and there's a bad habit among many Cubans for treating foreign medicine as being very special and way better than the local medications, so if one pill is good then three must be even better... Abuse is common...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Read the comments last year before we went to Varadero and brought various items for the children at St. Elvira's. The staff were very appreciative for these as we dropped the items off at their office. One lady was very close to tears. We are heading off to the lovely island again in a few weeks and this time with school supplies, sport equipment and will again donate them to St. Elvira's. Thank you Terry, for the informative notes. We also tipped with the CUCs and left Swiss chocolates for our room attendants. I wouldn't dream of handing out over-the-counter drugs willy-nilly. Although I might leave the sunscreen and bug spray for the attendants. I am sure someone could use that. One thing I noticed was the many roaming dogs in Havana and Matanzas. Is there any humane society there to look after strays?
  • edited 12:37AM
    This guy does great work with animals in Cuba. First class...

    http://www.spankyproject.org/cubaprojectframe.html

    http://spankyproject.blogspot.com.ar/

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    I thank you all so very much for your what and what not to do's. we are leaving for Varadero Cuba in 4 day for the first time and I like the idea of St. Elvira's.

    Talley.
  • edited 12:37AM
    Have fun Talley and thanks for being a responsible/respectful visitor to the Island...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Back from our first trip to Cuba 8 hours ago! What an experience!
    According to Terry's advice, I did all the wrong things by bringing lots of gifts, (focus on Tylenol, first aid kits with bandaids, toothpaste and chocolates). However I brought all the items with the best of intentions.

    I had opportunity to speak with some well educated, Cuban workers - hospitality and University of Matanzas - who indicated that very often they cannot get things like toothpaste as many resorts will sell their wares only to tourists and not Cubans. They also advised that it is hit and miss for local shops to have in stock for them for stretches of time.

    I have befriended a young family in Cuba I would like to send a few things to my new friends (i.e. baseball mitts, baby clothes, a few necessities that are difficult for them to acquire) ... can anyone tell me if there is a safe/legal way to send items to them as gifts, without them incurring taxes and getting a reasonable amount of assurance they will be delivered? Is my only option to ask a fellow Canadian to take along an extra backpack with them? I have proper address, contact info for my friends, but I have been told that delivery is not assured due to the nature of the Cuban postal system and DHL will incur large costs and tax burdens on my friends. Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
  • edited 12:37AM
    "... who indicated that very often they cannot get things like toothpaste as many resorts will sell their wares only to tourists and not Cubans..."

    That's a very typical line of complete BS... you were being gently scammed like countless other first time tourists. In any case no one except resort guests can shop in resort shops so it's a moot point anyway. The only thing that's important to know is that there is no such thing as "tourist only" shops in Cuba where Cubans themselves aren't allowed.

    Secondly, please don't put words in my mouth... I have never said it's bad to bring gifts to Cuba, only that it's bad to hand them out irresponsibly.

    Lastly, the Cuban postal system is indeed undependable and foreign courier services are crazy expensive so gifts to friends are much more likely to be delivered when muled to the Island by a fellow tourist. Good luck.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Hi Terry,
    Great advice !
    We are heading back to Cuba in a few weeks and would like to bring a trumpet for an exceptional musician we met last time we visited. He told us he does not own his instrument, the hotel does and it would be "as hard as lassoing the moon" to get his own trumpet. I would appreciate your advice on the following;
    Is it difficult to bring a musical instrument into the country?
    Is what the musician told us likely true?
    Thank you kindly for your advice.
  • edited 12:37AM
    It'll be easy to bring it into the country, if you're questioned simply tell them it's yours and you're learning to play it - hopefully Aduana (Customs) won't ask for a song or two!

    That said, I can't believe your pal doesn't own his own instrument. I have NEVER met a Cuban musician who didn't own his own, but who knows what the deal is at a resort... that's another world... but honestly, that sounds fishy, but I won't say anything more...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    We are heading out to Varadero on Sunday and are just discussing what gifts to bring. I went to Varadero 7 years ago and I realize from reading some of these posts (I didn't get through all 5 pages, Terry! lol) that I left waaaayyyyy too much for our maid every single day. We went to the dollar store and ended up leaving pens. pencils, coloring books, gum, toothpaste, toothbrushes, kids hair barrettes, stickers, gum etc - but seriously like 5 or 6 items every single day. Then one day my maid told me she was missing a towel from my room and that if I didn't replace it she would be charged. I had never taken a towel from the room because we used beach towels, so I think she may have been "playing" me since I left so much stuff every day she must have thought I was rich! I ended up taking a towel from my friends room and leaving it in mine. Everything was fine after that and he never got asked to replace his "missing towel" At the end of my stay I left whatever I had left in my gift bag and my full sized bottle of purfume.

    Having said all that, and I'm sorry for not reading through eveything first, what would be the best items to bring. I did read somewhere that tampons were not available in Cuba. Is that true? So maybe one itme per day would be better or a couple every other day as opposed to the obsessive amounts I left daily last time?

    I'm not sure I'll get an opportunity to go into a local church or school, so I'm concentrating on staff at the hotel here.

    Thanks for any advice!
  • edited 12:37AM
    Ok, well in case Terry doesn't respond back before I leave, just wanted you to know I took the time to read through the other pages and now I won't waste my money on the stuff I thought I would bring. Although, I am curious about the tampons - someone somewhere else said a cuban woman would LOVE them........although I guess it would be a tease, since once they're done, they're done.

    We will take your advice and tip for good service. Thanks!
  • edited 12:37AM
    Have a nice time leahhi, and leave all your gifts for resort staff at home. Tip in CUC for excellent service (not to get good service) and have fun.

    Tranquilo!

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Yikes...I went to the dollar store and bought about $75 worth of stuff to take. I am going to Cayo Coco. Do you know of somewhere to drop things off there? I also wanted to ask about staff selling things on the black market. Is that such a terrible thing? Isn't it still supporting Cubans?
  • edited 12:37AM
    Cayo Coco is a tourist enclave off the north coast of Cuba separated from the mainland by a 27 km long causeway. There is a security checkpoint protecting the island. There are no Cuban towns or villages on the island. In fact until a few years ago normal Cubans weren't even allowed on Cayo Coco!

    So no, there are no churches or charitable institutions on the island, all there is are all-inclusive resorts for foreigners. The closest town is Moron, about a 1.5 hour round trip by taxi.

    As for your $75 worth of dollar store junk somehow enriching or helping "normal" Cubans I've made my opinion clear ad nauseum throughout this thread. You can make up your own mind, to each their own.

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Thanks...I have been grappling with this. I was saying to a friend that I think it is sometimes about people wanting to think that they are being benificent in giving out stuff...it is more about them feeling good than what is good for the Cubans.
  • edited 12:37AM
    "... it is more about them feeling good than what is good for the Cubans..."

    Bullseye.

    Truer words were never spoken.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Travelling to Varadero for the first time on the 27th. As for gifts I've got crayons, pencils, candy, coloring books (a few of each) , but also infant-adult tylenol, baby shampoo & penaten, spectro gel bodywash etc in larger quanities, just wondering what I should be doing with this (distribution wise) & is meds such as tylenol needed greatly? Any input would be appreciated!
  • edited 12:37AM
    Kail, you should read this thread, starting with my reply on Feb. 18, 2011.

    If you don't want to read the thread then at least read this:

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

    If you still insist on bringing donations then drop them off in Varadero at 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.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Tomorrow will be my second trip to Cuba. The people we met at the resort were wonderful. We stayed in contact with 1 employee throughout the year and consider him out adopted son... he said they would like shoes for the children, clothes, and they do not have to be new ones.... I am also taking ... toothbrushes, toothpaste, tylenol, ibuprofen, peroxide, body lotion, bandaids, shampoo, body soap, razors, toys for the children, pencils, erasers, ..... I am also taking them a laptop computer as I have a new one and am sure someone there will get use off my old one. I am looking forward to going to his house this trip to meet all off his family and it will give me a better idea of what to take on my next trip. They appreciate anything you have for them...it is not just the people that work on the resorts as most that work there also take care off their parents and other family.
  • edited 12:37AM
    "... Tomorrow will be my second trip to Cuba. The people we met at the resort were wonderful. We stayed in contact with 1 employee throughout the year and consider him out adopted son..."

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

    So long as you don't mind sharing him with countless other foreign, "parents." ;-)

    Jejeje...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    thanks for the tips LornaM & Terry, we are staying at Memories Varadero, is anyone familiar with this resort & its distance into "town"?
  • edited 12:37AM
    Memories is at the east end of the penninsula. There's only a half dozen resorts that are out even further.

    To get back to the far eastern edge of "downtown" is 12+ km.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Alright Terry,

    I'm from Manchester, I'm a trade unionist and have been on delegations before organised by the Cuba Solidarity campaign. I am going to guardalavaca in June-so it's the first proper holiday in Cuba.

    Before I have helped give educational materials directly to schools and Cuban teaching trade unionists as part of a delegation, but am unsure about the practice as an individual.

    I was thinking of asking the hotel to contact the committee for the defence of the revolution because it would be great to meet them, but also to give some small tokens of friendship and solidarity. Do you reckon that's a goer?

    Thanks for your patience in responding to people's questions and your efforts to stop well-intentioned idiots from embarrassing themselves too much.

    Cheers,

    George
  • edited 12:37AM
    Personally George I'd forget about passing anything on to a CDR representative but that's just me, your motivations are much different. (I've dealt with too many corrupt and petty CDR officials to waste any time with one who I didn't know personally.)

    Follow your heart/convictions... but really... you might want to have just a holiday and leave it at that. Your call of course, either way works.

    Have a great holiday.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Thanks a lot Terry I'm increasingly coming to that conclusion myself. Besides my Missis is going to want to have a good time not messing around talking politics...etc

    Cheers,

    George
  • edited 12:37AM
    Have a great time, George.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Hi, I just got back from my first trip to Cuba, and since I had read your posts and similar, I didn't leave any "junk", just tipped nicely. I had veiled asks for my daughter's backpack and girls or woman's clothes, but just played dumb. I wonder what the effect is on a local Cuban elementary school if one student shows up with a new looking Reebok backpack, and the other students have old green backpacks or plastic bags? Seems to me that is going to promote bullying and jealousy. Thanks Terry.
  • edited 12:37AM
    Hope you enjoyed your trip, Snowbound.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited 12:37AM
    Hi Terry

    I've just finished reading every single one of the preceding posts and am very appreciative of your excellent, down to earth, tell it like it is, advice. Your TripAdvisor references were also a big help.

    We visited Veradero once several years ago and are going again in a couple of weeks. We are happy to show our appreciation for good service, or good advice or help if needed but do not want to do so in an inappropriate manner.

    A friend vacationed there a couple of months ago and said he gave the porter CDN $5 for carrying his bags to his room and left the maid the same amount ever day (plus some "gifts"). According to what I have read, that amount is about a week's pay! Not a lot of money for a Canadian to tip but is it appropriate, or does it just make you look like a dumb tourist?

    Being a guest in another country is a privilege, in my opinion, and even if your heart is in the right place, I think it behooves a person to educate himself a bit about what tips, or gifts, or behavior in general is appropriate and acceptable and what is not before heading off willy-nilly with a bunch of preconceived ideas.

    Thanks again!

    - Winter-weary Canuck.
  • edited 12:37AM
    All the best to you T8, I wish more tourists were as rational, level headed and respectful.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • I CANNOT understand, for the life of me, why everyone is taking what Terry says as "Gospel" He sure spends a heck of alot of time on this board. While I know it may sound paraniod or "conspiracy-theorist-ish" I have to wonder what he has invested in this discussion. He is totally mocking everyone on this board. And for the most part, hardly anyone said to give these gifts to the maid. It was very clear to me by the 2nd page that these gifts are to be given to people whom you have formed a type of relationship. I do not care how ungrateful or conniving he is making these resort workers out to be, unless they are sociopaths, there is NO mistaking the human emotion and connection when you have provided someone with something they truly need and could not get otherwise. Unless you are emotionally handicapped, you know when someone has been touched.  And to call items from the dollar store "junk" im sorry, but I use these items in my home for my family, where our standard of living is much greater (Canada) so Im sure the locals of Cuba will like them. Not sure what dollar stores you shop at, but the ones in Canada have items that are usually found in department stores that have gone out of business. As well, my husband has been to Cayo Coca 5 times and each time he goes off the resort (Cayo Coco Melia) across the lagoon to the village that isn't anymore than a 30 minute wade through the water, (although when he came back too late one night he was met with the military, who reminded him to come back before night fall next time) He supplied many, many dollar store items to thirty or more children that were kicking a "soccer ball" made of dozens of tied up and woven groceries bags, around on the ground. So who where these children that he came across? Just more con artists that were set up to look like they were underprivileged? Also, the father of one of the children was rebuilding the school that was destroyed (cant remember how) and was greatly appreciative of the infamous pens, pencils and paper. He was so ungrateful that he invited my spouse to a local wedding and celebration. The locals there are sooooooooooo PROTECTIVE of tourists and are nothing like the way you are leading people to believe. Shame on you for deterring many people (who just want to help out the only way they know how) from bringing these gifts!!!!!!!!!
  • The ONLY point I've tried to make in this thread is to gift responsibly. That's all.



    If you have a problem with being a respectful guest in a foreign country
    then I'm glad you keep yourself safely sequestered in a tourist enclave
    like Cayo Coco and not in the real Cuba.



    Carry on.



    Cheers,

    Terry
  • Guest is correct; Cubans appreciate toiletries and school supplies.   Also, I bring one suitcase full of my used clothes which they greatly appreciate, because clothes cost is expensive in Cuba.  

    I also bring candies and snacks that I prepackage myself from big variety bags.   

    The irony of giving toiletries to maids in the hotel is that they earn more money than most professionals in Cuba from tips.   We usually don't give extras to maids, because their earnings is much better than the average income in Cuba.  The average income in Cuba is $20/month.  


  • I want to bring fishing gear to Cuba.
    What strength of fishing line and what size hooks should I bring?
  • Requirements vary wildly. It depends entirely on what kind of fishing you are planning on doing.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • I apologize if this posts appears twice - I think I accidentally posted it in a different thread.  My in-laws are traveling to Cuba and will be visiting an orphanage.  They wanted to know if I had any old DVDs to donate (I am a Spanish teacher in the US).  I was concerned the orphanage might not have a TV or DVD player and that something else might be more appropriate.  Any advice?
    Thank you!

  • Since you don't know the orphanage, where it's located and no one has ever had any contact with them then it's impossible to say what their situation is. DVDs might be very well received, who knows...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Well, i understand the need for gifting, and so tip generously, however - take this into account:
    http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g147270-c129786/Cuba:Caribbean:Think.Before.You.Gift.html
  • That's an excellent article written by a long time Cuban veteran.

    Cheers,
    Terry
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