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Gifts, Tips and New Items Needed V.2012


Hi friends, members and guests. We know we’ve been down this road before :o but I think it’s time to open it up again. Especially about new items needed or shortages our old friends or new acquaintances might appreciate this season.
To kick it off, I’d like to suggest that no items should be excluded and all giving/tipping practices be respected. :wink:
This past trip, 2GB and 4 GB Flash drives were a big hit. Super inexpensive or promotional give-aways here, our friends loved them.
In Cuba few people own a computer but everyone I met carried around flash drives with their music, books, photos and many transferred files back and forth from their cellphones.

Good used teen size blue-jeans picked up through KIJIJI and a couple of the light coloured Gent’s summer hats with black bands were very well received.

The Rationing System called Libreta was changed again so toothpaste and soap were often scarce. :frowning:

Thanks in advance to all suggestions and stories. :sunglasses:


Important to add to this is that …Gifting is NOT at all necessary. Can items be used…absolutely …but it is not a requirement of happy travels to take a case full of gifts with you to Cuba to have good service or a good experience.

I still maintain after 13 years of travel to Cuba

  • Tip if you receive good service (NOT to get service)
  • Gift to friends

Resort workers are above the most advantaged in the country. The trickle down effect seldom occurs. If I give a watch to the chamber maid and she does not need it she will share it - not so, most often it is sold. This is not necessarily a bad thing…but awareness of it is important. Shoes also…a big “like” for many Cubans. I laughed as one day I saw front desk workers 3 times taking a package to one of the resort workers with yet another pair of shoes someone had sent to her. I laughed as I thought her shoe closet must be huge :slight_smile: …3 pairs one day.

I am not saying don’t respect their needs, but think about how best to share… look for organizations that specifically distribute to the needy, such as The Dubois Foundation or spankyproject.


If you have made friends in Cuba, you will know what they most need. (if you don’t know, you can ask). People I know in Cuba will tell me what things they find unobtainable and will generally offer to pay for the item if I bring it. Whether they are counting on me to “donate” it once I have obtained it is another question. :wink: If it is small and inexpensive, obviously that would be my impulse. But for anything expensive, I need to know I will be reimbursed before I put it on my shopping list.

There is no question arriving with bags of goodies will give you an “advantage”. I have seen instant room upgrades, among other things, so if you don’t mind resorting to bribery this strategy can definitely work. As far as the need, it will vary depending on the region and the current shortages.

Being thanked profusely doesn’t necessarily mean anything. While hanging out with one of my Cuban friends, I have often seen him receive items, dutifully thank the gifter for them, then hand them off to someone else, sometimes within five minutes or less of receiving them. He has told me what things are currently in demand, and he is happy to receive them. While he doesn’t specifically “black market” the goods, he does trade them off to others for items of more use to him, or future favours down the road.

One thing to keep in mind: a gift once given is no longer under your control. I have seen people mightily offended when they have discovered their generous gift has been traded off or sold. Once you have given it, let go of “ownership”. Regifting happens here as well. Despite best efforts, sometimes feelings are hurt, but really, why should someone feel obliged to hang onto something they have no use for? ;D


Interesting choice of a topic. Will be interested to see the replies.


[quote=@canuks]Important to add to this is that …Gifting is NOT at all necessary. Can items be used…absolutely …but it is not a requirement of happy travels to take a case full of gifts with you to Cuba to have good service or a good experience.

I still maintain after 13 years of travel to Cuba

  • Tip if you receive good service (NOT to get service)
  • Gift to friends

My thoughts, exactly! So often, when friends, family or acquaintances book their first trip to Cuba the first thing they ask me is about “gifts”. I tell they to not weigh themselves down with “gifts” but to tip appropriately (as noted by canucks) and have a good time. The money from tips filters down through Cuban society far more effectively than little gifts to resort workers. IF they decide to return to Cuba and have connected with anyone there, then they are in a position to make intellegent decisions on taking gifts and exactly what would be most appreciated. I can tell you, from my experiences, that giving money, in the form of a tip, to workers around the resort (not just waitstaff/maids) results in eyes lighting up and I know that money isn’t going to be sluffed off onto someone else ;). There’s a sweet man who wanders the beach, at Breezes Jibacoa, cleaning up butts and plastic drink glasses, etc (guests can be such pigs >:(). We started tipping him, each visit, and the first time we did I almost started to cry at his reaction. He was so thrilled. I just didn’t expect the reaction and it set me back and I was happy because I’d been able to make someone else happy.

Just wanted to add one more comment…thanks, Spunky, for starting this thread from comments made on another thread. We all know how quickly things change in Cuba. Case in point, we were there in February and now we learn that security measures at the airports have been changed. Topics that may have been discussed in years past are always welcome to be revisisted because, odds are, what was true back then may not be so anymore.


What were the libreta shortages in Jibacoa this year, Steffie?


Sorry, can’t really speak to that question, Spunky. Our last visit wasn’t the same as previous and, due to a various circumstances, we did not interact with locals as we have in the past. In general, I think the area near the two Jibacoa resorts would not be a true reflection of shortages in Cuba in general. Due to the isolation, I think locals do quite well from guests at both Breezes Jibacoa and Villa Jibacoa, or whatever it’s called today. Many of them work for one of these resorts. Our friends, who live in Santa Cruz del Norte and do not work for either resort, are fine because they have family living outside of Cuba who make sure they are okay. Their daughter has just been accepted to University so we’ll be taking down a gift that help her out.


Canuks wrote, “I am not saying don’t respect their needs, but think about how best to share… look for organizations that specifically distribute to the needy, such as The Dubois Foundation or spankyproject.”

It is important to see that items that are needed get to where the need is. Despite best intentions at times this is not achieved. Contacting groups that have people on the ground is an excellent option. This most certainly would include religious organization in addition to the two mentioned above.

Think about this …
A 50mL bottle of 1% Injectable Ivermectine costs $40.00 or less.
That 50mL will deparsitize 125 dogs with an average weight of 40 lbs
For that $40.00 … 5 horses weighing 1100 pounds could be dewormed. Think about how happy a Campesino would be with a gift like this. Not to mention the horses. I would recommend that these be given under the direction of a Veterinarian.

So you can see a small but thoughtful “gift” can go a long way.


When you do make friends, (you go to their house, you know Mama, sister, niece, nephew, and Santero patron, and the best friend), you will know what they need. I have brought vitamins for child(ren), diabetic strips, polysporin (which holds price of place on the shelf, because in the tropics cuts can get nasty fast), as well as fun stuff, like baseball bats. I also enjoy taking them grocery shopping so they don’t have to worry about food as much. I would do this for friends in Canada as well (and have done so).

My guideline is would I do this at home? I have never given a Cdn friend a DVD, iPod, cellphone, etc.

Tip for good service, and take your time making friends. Life is long. :wink:


DOH. It just registered with me. There is a whole section entitled, “General Cuba Information and Frequently Asked Questions.” Is this not the best place for the oft-asked, “What type of gifts should I take ?” , etc. by newbies? The information can be updated as needed AND when the questions arise on the regular board, one of us can refer the new member to that site. It would lessen the volume of threads on the subject which occur on the general forum. Your thoughts? :slight_smile:


One of the problems we had when the site was updated a few years ago was dividing information up and putting it in different spots.
That thread hasn’t been updated in a couple of years.
Maybe a better idea is to post where the people are looking, LOL


I hadn’t really noticed the dates in that area. Maybe it should just be deleted if it’s not serving its purpose. It had occurred to me that it would be the ideal spot for newbies to get updated and accurate info in one specific and obvious spot from the well-travelled. I guess that would make too much sense. LOL :slight_smile:


I prefer to give gently used clothes than money. Last May gave a gardener a pair of Nike basketball short that I bought at a garage sale or $2.00. The next day he came back and said it cost him two months salary to buy that.


“… The next day he came back and said it cost him two months salary to buy that…”


With all due respect if you believe that I have some timeshares in Havana to sell you. :wink:

Seriously though, any name brand ballcap can be bought for 1 or 2 CUC (at most) at any black market tienda near a tourist centre…


Most new marchandises are faked with low quality.


Because we return to the same resort, every year, we’ve come to know a number of employees on a more personal level. Three years ago, we took down a pair of runners for one of the gardeners…it wasn’t easy tracking down a pair of size 14’s on sale :P. Why did we decide to take him runners? We’d visited with him off resort and seen his footwear. It was a no brainer…big guy like that needs some decent footwear! He was over the moon when we gave them to him and, no he didn’t flog them for money. The next year, when we went up for a visit and birthday party, he was proudly wearing them.


I may have seen them runners, yes a very tall man…with big feet…lol


Yep, biggest guy in that neck of the woods ;D


Last time down I brought packages of crazy glue from the dollar store. The ones that have 4 tiny droppers in each pill-vial-like container. I had to explain what it was. They loved the thought of being able to repair something that broke. We also gave away 4 gig flash sticks and our old cell phones and chargers but I do not know if that is useful. There are many things we have here and yes I am aware to tip good service that you have RECEIVED and not to GET good service but after a few trips to the Sol Club in Cayo Largo, we never have to ask for coffee in the morning and many other little perks. If all I have to do is give a $ 5 thing to a person that works their butt off to make me happy , then that is a good thing in anyones world.
Shoes , meds, soaps, clothes in any size, etc. etc. , I do this happily, and yes perhaps some resort workers may milk it a bit but so what ? If you can call a person that earns $ 25 CDN a month a rich scammer , then you live in a very protected world .
I read all the thoughts from everyone on these posts to get ideas for a nice gift for the hardest working people I know.
God, if I could just get my own workers a lesson from them on how to give 100 %.

Remember, your true value in this world is not THAT you are alive, it is HOW you impact those that have less than you!!


Hear, hear!

One thing hubby always takes down is fishing line and hooks. He’ll hand it out to local fishermen heading down the beach and has, even, handed it out to fishermen on the Malecon in Havana.