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Gifts for Cubans

Gifts for Cubans

Old Mar 11, 14, 9:29 pm
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Gifts for Cubans

I have been looking for specific information about what gifts to take to Cubans and was pleased to find some very specific information about scarcities in one of your threads. I'm hoping someone can elaborate on items that are genuinely hard to get for ordinary Cubans. Taking gifts to Cubans is a tradition among Canadians, and one many of us would like to continue. But it has also become somewhat controversial -- the wrong people get the gifts, the items taken are not useful, etc., etc. So I would appreciate any informed advice I can get.
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Old Mar 12, 14, 12:05 am
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First of all I recommend to stay in a casa particular and give personally a tip to the staff working there. Everybody is in need of cash.
Cubans - old and young, men and women - are always happy with any kind of beauty products so shampoo, a good smelling soap, perfume, after shave is always appreciated. All electronics and especially smart phones, laptops - used or unused - are a "big gift". Textiles and sneakers from all the big brands are available now in dollarito shops for reasonable prices (that means prices like in the US or europe).

Sun glasses and flip flops (Havaianas) are for my taste a very nice gift.

Cubans will not beg for alms so better try to keep your face and the times that tourists were paying the jineteras with the shampoo stolen from the Habana Libre are over.

Last edited by carpetbagger; Mar 12, 14 at 12:22 am
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Old Mar 15, 14, 5:50 pm
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The above is good advice. The other thing Cubans appreciate is try to tip them in the convertible pesos as much as possible. With the CUC, Cubans are able to buy durable goods that can make a difference in their lives.
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Old Mar 16, 14, 10:25 pm
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I think soap and shampoo are too prosaic to give as gifts. Maybe if they are super special but those things are available in Cuba. Thumb drives are very much in demand, cheap is fine, as are thing like LED key chain lights that help in dark hallways, etc.

Money is the best gift for anyone who performs a service.
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Old Apr 5, 14, 6:16 pm
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Any gifts given are sold if they don't need it or find the gift repulsive. If it is really useful to them they keep it. Thats the tradition in Cuba. Instead of gifts, and if you are so generous bring a wad of cash and start distributing.
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Old Oct 13, 14, 9:30 am
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When I went to Cuba with a church group in 2011, our counterparts in Havana requested over the counter medications (especially ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen), vitamins, soap, shampoo, prayer books in Spanish, and Christmas decorations.

While we were waiting for the bus to take us to our church contacts, there was a woman emptying trash barrels in the Plaza, and she approached us asking for soap. I gave her one of the large bars of Ivory soap from my sack, and she acted as if this was the greatest gift ever.

After a while, I figured out that soap and shampoo are readily available with CUCs but either rationed or harder for people who have only moneda nacional to find.

For that reason, I always used CUCs to tip in restaurants or buy CDs from the musicians I encountered or to buy jewelry or books from street vendors.

The dual economy, typical of the Soviet Union and China in the old days, was one of the things that bothered me most about Cuba.
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Old Oct 16, 14, 12:25 pm
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Things we take for granted can be scarce and useful in Cuba.

But I was told by Cubans that some of the people begging for toiletries downtown are there every day and merely resell them.

I had to see a doctor. I gave her my US drugstore battery operated temple thermometer and she was extremely grateful. In her office they were using liquid-filled glass oral thermometers that are easily breakable, take some time to register and need alcohol disinfection.

It was also easy to find OTC meds like aspirin or ibuprofen / paracetamol, but not so easy to find useful antibiotics like ciprofloxacin to treat gastrointestinal infections. I had to visit three "farmacia international" pharmacies before I found some (nope, I didn't get a g.i. infection in Cuba; I actually got it in Miami the day before departing to Cuba.)

High quality Band-Aids / sticking plasters can be hard to find. (In Turkey the ones I found were made in Egypt, and they adhered very poorly) - similar issue in Cuba, cheap and low quality, can be found in the cheapest imported what-have-you.

The little LED torches / flashlights (as long as they use common AA or AAA batteries) are appreciated for the light they give and their miserliness at using up batteries. A solar G-Shock or similar watch would be a great gift - no batteries, very durable.

Rechargeable batteries and a charger make a lovely gift.

We visited a school where the teacher was suffering from a lotbof "water retention"; good compression socks or stockings would be a blessing for her or anyone in her condition. Try finding (and affording) those in Cuba.

I also had several The Economist magazines; they were eagerly accepted, given the paucity of information in Cuba. (If asked I'd merely say they were my reading material during rainy days or the flight.)

Last edited by JDiver; Oct 16, 14 at 12:32 pm
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