Is the taking of gifts to Cuba still relevant?


El Presidente
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Many of us when travelling to Cuba in the past have taken gifts to give to the people we stay with or friends there...or just people we come across and have a need. From teabags to medicines. 

i am leading (and I use that term loosely) a fairly strong FOH contingent to Cuba in November. i am being asked what gifts to bring. 

While I have brought gifts in the past, I am more of an ilk these days to budget a % of cash to hand out where the need becomes apparent. 

Have I got that right? Cuba is changing...but not for all. For every new micro entrepreneur there are others who provide sublime service but are locked into the old system. Is a little cash better than perfume/teabags/kids toys/fishing equipment. 

I only ask because the question is is being asked of me currently

Would love regular travellers (to Cuba's) input. I am limited these days to  trip a year at most. I am hardly an authority to give advice in a changing landscape.  :ok:

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El Presidente, have never been to Cuba (hope to go in the Spring) but I have travelled a lot in countries where gifts are often exchanged.  Money is ALWAYS the right size and right color.  Recommend you get some of those nice cash envelopes and they make for a nice presentation as well as not being pretentious in handing out green.  Just my .02 and hope that you have a great time!

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I still bring duty free wine/whiskey to friends. Always appreciated. If anyone is thinking of bringing wine, bring Bordeaux, Burgundy, decent Italian or decent Californian. There are good enough Spanish, Chilean and Argentinian wines available in Cuba.

Milk chocolate always goes down well. Every kid I've seen loves Wrigley gum.

It could be handy to get some feedback from someone you know in Cuba regarding what to bring. There are still shortages of everything for most people but requests can be very specific. I've brought out everything in the past from Superglue to iPad batteries to phenylbutazone (anti-inflammatory medicine for horses), none of this stuff was either expensive or difficult to bring but not available in Cuba, regardless of money. But also not the kinds of things that everyone needs.

Hector Luis sponsors the local school where he lives. There will be a big contingent visiting him. A little organising (so not everybody buys pencils) could make a big difference to that school for a small enough amount of money.

The "Paquete" is very popular at the moment. Very simply, organised sharing of media content in Cuba from outside Cuba. 16gB, 32gB and 64gB memory sticks are very popular with anyone for this reason, hard enough to get in Cuba and expensive there. They're also very easy to carry over of course.

Having said all that, of course cash is always useful to everyone.

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Had been in Cuba in February/March.

We brought a lot of stuff with us, mostly for the kiddos and of course women stuff.

For the kiddos - > pencils, clothes, toothbrush, sunscreen 50+, Toblerone. And than we found out in Cuba is a lack of toothpaste. Yes toothpaste, sounds ridicolous, its absolutley horrendous expensive and hard to find.

For the women -> we brought great joy with tweezer, soap, shampoo, body lotion, sunscreen 30+ and women sanitary products.

Is cash king? It helps, but sometimes you can offend the Cubans. Just keep in mind they are very proud and have a very high self esteem. Money cant buy everything. Sometimes it the gesture that counts.

My 2cents

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I'm Cuban and going back for the first time in 48 years. Talking to my Cuban friends.

1. Cash is king and most appreciated

2. USB sticks 32gb 64gb 128gb are great as they can put "El Paquete " on them as mention before.

3 for kids I'm bringing 6 pro baseballs to give away and a couple of Barbie dolls for my nieces.

4. A couple of La Llave Espresso cubes as well.


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Saxman

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6 hours ago, Ryan said:

It could be handy to get some feedback from someone you know in Cuba regarding what to bring. There are still shortages of everything for most people but requests can be very specific.

Hector Luis sponsors the local school where he lives. There will be a big contingent visiting him. A little organising (so not everybody buys pencils) could make a big difference to that school for a small enough amount of money.

 

Yes, indeed, get in touch with your Cuban friends and get to know what specifics to bring or help with.

Cash will not buy stuff that is not available ( try finding a 1982 Mitsubishi Corolla water pump in Cuba or a prescription medicine ... :-)  but it will mitigate things.

Another idea is to top-up your Cuban friend's mobile phone from abroad ( Google: Recargas a Cuba comes to my mind here ).

Hector has many staff and they badly need long-sleeved work shirts, work gloves, sun protection, hats etc....

For additional contributions please contact Keith "CanuckSARTech" or John Reiner - they will be happy to let you know what the Lung Kong Cuba-China society of the elderly in HAV just behind the old Partagas factory might need.

They'd be happy for a visit, never mind some badly needed stuff for their elderly.

 

 

 

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I just got back from Cuba with the Minister of Finance last week and did a people to people visit with several elementary schools. My Minister (wife btw :P)is a elementary school teacher so we brought (literally) 50lbs worth of school supplies for the kids. (Extra suit case).  This was funny fuzzy pencils, erasers, stickers and at least 25lbs of super balls!  (That was a big hit).  We also traveled to some of the poorest communities and walked the streets handing out goodies.  The looks on the kids faces getting these treasured gifts jumping up and down will last a lifetime! 

The coolest thing for me was throwing down super balls from the balcony of our hotel in Old Havana which over looked a small park. I would yell down hola Nino or Nina when they would walk by and bounce the balls sky high!  Went down to the park on many occasions to also hang out with youngsters there and also hand out goodies.

I plan on going to Cuba again next March and several times throughout the year. Special place for us...

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1 hour ago, Perla said:

Had been in Cuba in February/March.

We brought a lot of stuff with us, mostly for the kiddos and of course women stuff.

For the kiddos - > pencils, clothes, toothbrush, sunscreen 50+, Toblerone. And than we found out in Cuba is a lack of toothpaste. Yes toothpaste, sounds ridicolous, its absolutley horrendous expensive and hard to find.

For the women -> we brought great joy with tweezer, soap, shampoo, body lotion, sunscreen 30+ and women sanitary products.

Is cash king? It helps, but sometimes you can offend the Cubans. Just keep in mind they are very proud and have a very high self esteem. Money cant buy everything. Sometimes it the gesture that counts.

My 2cents

Can't agree more here with this statement.

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It has been a couple years since I went to Cuba. The last two times I went I brought a gift. But it was for somebody who took the time to show me his art of rolling cigars. It was Alfonso who makes the custom rolled cigars at La Casa del Habano on 63rd Street in Varadero. What I brought him was a medium quality jet lighter each time. He was very appreciative of both lighters and I was very appreciative of what he did for me. I do agree with giving to charities but I also agree with giving gifts to people who I've done something nice for me.

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Last time I was there  just over two years and I had a long chat with a LCDH salesperson.  This gave me an idea as to how hard their life is there.  They have trouble finding everything from household items to everyday things.  For example, he told me that he had to drive from Santaclara to Holguin to get a fan for his house, I forgot how much he paid for it but I remember the price was crazy.  I brought him a bunch of stuff as I have spoken with him on several occasions in the past.  In the package I gave him I had some good quality chocolate as recommended by one of the members here and he was very happy about that because he has a daughter just under 10 years old.  Furthermore, after speaking to some guests at the resort I stayed at they seem to be concentrating on bringing things for the children of the people that work at these resorts.  Cool school supplies etc.  Cash is good too, things are crazy expensive for them.

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Nice post @chris12381! Can you expand on the issues of giving things in the streets? In Haiti it kind of creates a rush like someone won the lottery. Can be a dangerous situation. How is it different in Cuba?

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Last time down the maids at the Nacional asked if I had any old clothes I could leave behind. Ropa vieja may be just the thing! Saves doing laundry and leaves room in the suitcase for all those sticks. Bear with me if I look a little threadbare this time down, rather give to them than the local Goodwill.....

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@Ethernut  Not dangerous.  Never in Cuba have I felt like I was in danger.  And frankly, in my younger and more vulnerable years, I've staggered around Havana in states where I probably should have been in danger.  But I digress.  :rolleyes:  

But the rush you describe is on point.  And it's made worse when there's no way the person who starts handing out "stuff" will ever have enough for everyone.  

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3 hours ago, Saxman said:

I'm going in December. Do they take stuff away when you land? I'm taking small stuff for family.


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Saxman

They will take away ( or heavily tax ) stuff from Cuban passport holders.
Foreigners/Tourists can basically bring in anything with no problems.

If asked, declare it as "obsequios" - presents.
If you are not travelling on a Cuban passport you should have no problem.

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Good topic and suggestions on items such as clothes, medicine, chocolate, batteries, school supplies,  etc. I have a good friend in Vedado who has been generous to me and though I ask him what he needs I really have to twist his arm sometimes. This time he did indicate he really needs razor blades and toothpaste as both are hard for him to find. So easy for me to get, and such small things are important to our friendship.

 

 

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