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Tipping/Gifting thread

I was just on another forum and read this thread topic. So I thought, geez I could use a new camera so I decided to post a new thread. Then I thought - no use, we don’t have enough malcontents to make me a contender.

Stirring up trouble, but is anyone here a die hard Dollar Store shopper? Do you bring the trinkets to give to total strangers? Do you tip in CUCs only? Do you do a combination? Do you know the people and culture you are ‘donating’ to?

Thoughts please.

When I didn’t know any better, I used to bring all kinds of stuff an leave it for the maids, bartenders, etc. i thought that i had to do this, which i sort of got from my travel agent. This was in addition to tipping with money.

After a trip or two, I found it to be a real pain in the rear to come up with stuff to bring, so I stopped. What a relief. No stress, no worries about over packing.

Although I’ve been to Cuba 20+ times, I don’t know anybody well enough that I would ever feel the need that I would have to give something to them.

I.ve visited some facebook pages for different resorts and am kind of perplexed to see people almost competing as to who is bringing the nicest, the most quantity, or most expensive gifts. Some people almost salivate when discussing certain employees and their personal lives. Which to me is another matter for discussion altogether. Talk about lack of privacy. Sometimes I think i could make a few bucks by making trading cards to sell to fellow tourists with the employee’s picture, and various stats about his family, age, # of kids, length of service, favorite gifts, schedule, likes, dislikes, etc.

But people can do what they want, in the end it’s none of my business.

Sad but true. If you need a partner in the “Trading Card” business, send me a note.

I don’t gift, but only because I discovered TA before my first trip. I tip only in cash.

I’ve only been once, and I’m shy, so I never really developed any sort of relationship with any particular staff at the hotel (Breezes Varadero). I’m trying another hotel altogether next week (!!), so I’ll be starting fresh…but I’m also muling things down for others. I guess I’ll have ready-made friends?

I can sort of understand wanting to gift to staff members one’s known a long time, but not willy-nilly gifting. I’m FB friends with a lot of waiters I’ve met over and over in Mexico–even then, even though I “know” them, I still wouldn’t buy them presents. A hug and a kiss on the cheek? Sure! Gifts? Not so much. Tips? Of course.

We used to be strictly cash tippers. Last 3 or 4 years, my wife has been leaving gifts for the maid instead. Judging solely by the notes left for us (her) by the maids, the gifts have been more appreciated than the cash. We have never received a note saying thanks for the pesos. I play no part in the selection of the gifts, so I can add very little as to what she has been leaving, but I do recall seeing earrings, grooming type stuff, and the occasional bag of fancy candies.

This is a difficult subject for many. I started off taking nothing, then read the forums (including this one) and discovered it was “expected”, so I started loading up with stuff to take. Most of the “gifting” discussion on forums at that time was what to bring, whether “dollar store crap” was acceptable, and how much one should reasonably tip. There was some outrageous advice, e.g. don’t pawn off your used clothing, but buy something new and nice to gift with, don’t take dollar store items, but buy new, more expensive things (I remember someone suggesting gifting with items you would give to family and friends, no less!. At that point I thought to myself, well I shop at the dollar store for myself, WTF? And of course the current perceived wisdom is no gifting, except to established friends (read: people who have been playing you for years, rather than the ones you have just met who will begin the game starting now). Yeah, I have become cynical. The argument that gifts promote a culture of begging and entitlement has some validity, IMO. However, things are not always black & white.

Some of the people (sailors, with me it is always sailors!) I knew from my first visit certainly enjoyed the gifts that I gave them over the years. Between my husband and myself, we pretty much equipped all the nautical staff at Sol Cayo Santa Maria with backpacks…in appreciation for some wonderful sailing. (I do know these were appreciated and used, since I saw them often on subsequent visits). As a result, our tips were no longer accepted, pretty much forcing us into gifting mode if we wished to express our thanks. Then, some of the guys started gifting us back! See what I mean? Not so simple in practice. But we moved on to other resorts, and gradually stopped the gifting habit, although I still take chocolate with me. I enjoy it, and share it with both staff and other guests.

An observation: my friend brought lightly used children’s clothing on a trip we took together. I brought chocolate. We both left these items for the maid, along with the customary tip. Guess who got a note of appreciation? To my great surprise, I did and my friend did not. Same maid. Go figure. Guess she liked chocolate. :slight_smile:

Hi I’m bergerman and I’m gift free for over 10 years. Took gifts our first trip then became educated by some very knowledgeable members. I now tip in CUC ONLY for service if warranted. I gift only to a friend we met a few years ago and keep in touch with. Hes never asked for anything. That is a real friend.


I take lots of (hard to find) stuff to people I know. I’m also one of several sponsors for a music school and orphanage in Havana. If I get killer service I’m generally an over tipper no matter where I am in the world. I try to act like a responsible traveller and valued guest no matter where I am. The Facebook battles of who brought the resort workers more cool stuff is eye rollingly hilarious. The throw-candy-from-the-bus crowd should have their Passports shredded.


[quote=@eeeefarm]This is a difficult subject for many. The argument that gifts promote a culture of begging and entitlement has some validity, IMO. However, things are not always black & white.


It sure is difficult!!

I, like many others, have changed my habits over the years. I’d have to say my tipping habits are closer to what sssnakes does.

I learned my gifting lesson the hard way though. After many trips to the same resort where we were usually served by the same waiter, I received a request for an automobile part. I know little about car repairs but agreed I would do my best to get the car part. Since I travelled to Europe a lot, especially eastern Europe I figured it should be easy to get the Russian made part he needed. Well it wasn’t!! Long story short, another forum member who also travelled to this resort regularly was able to help get the auto part (and at great expense- $200+). We split the cost and they delivered it. Next trip for us a few months later, we find the waiter had sold that car, bought another and asked for some more parts. I politely told him no, sorry but it’s not possible this time. He ignored us for the rest of our vacation! What is it they say about “frens” and friends!

The luggage weight restrictions imposed by the charter airlines also changed my habits. I was not willing to pay excess luggage fees, so money was light weight and easier to take. Although our snorkel/dive equipment was transported no charge, I refused to stuff my sports equipment bag with gifts. To me that would be cheating and exploiting the generosity of the airline.

The begging culture was also an alarming experience. We like to explore on foot away from the resort. By our 6th trip to Breezes Jibacoa, there were numerous locals waiting outside the resort gates asking for hand-outs. This was completely new to us. The police regularly patrolled to round up or disperse the crowd of beggars. I could see how this had started though as two of the nearby farmers, whose properties were used for the lookout hike done by the resort animation staff, were benefiting from the tourists gifts/tips while the people further down the road were not. The animation staff encouraged people to bring gifts or leave tips for these two farmers and word got out. If the tourists don’t come to you, then you go to the tourists!

While I’m all for charity and donate to various charities at home, I live too far away from Ontario to give any stuff to the Dubois Foundation. I’m happy for, and laud those Debbie’s members who are able to give hands-on help to Dubois. I almost made it to one of the container packings because I had a layover in Toronto, but the packing date changed. Those of us who can’t be there to help Dubois in person are however no less generous because we chose to take our donations to Cuban churches or orphanages for distribution.

Things are definitely not always black and white! I too get very annoyed with some posters (mostly in other forums) who belittle and lecture members because they chose to do things differently. It doesn’t have to be a case of “my way or the highway”!

For DR, our Beyond the Beach group partner with local service clubs to try to get our charitable items directly to the orphanages and schools we sponsor.
For years, I’ve given info and directed letters to airlines to get extra baggage weight in support of the cause.
All in all, I’m most impressed with travellers who take the time and try to help.
Whether it works out or not, Good Intentions count with me.
Maybe the airline couldn’t accommodate this time, maybe next?
Thank you for trying.

Spunky, is there a Beyond the Beach in Varadero area?
Terry, is there a music school u know of in Varadero area (or Matanzas)?

Sorry Zendudette, not a clue…


No, Zen, just DR. Others may have more info about Cuban charities.

The only thing I pick up at the dollar store are about $20 worth of pantyhose when I go to Cayo Largo as there are two waitresses there that I like to bring gifts to. The rest of my tips are CUCs.

I always bring shoes for all ages, clothes from 1-15 years. I bought those from local churches for 50cents to $2.00 in excellent conditions. I found shoes are very expensive over there compared with the price that I paid. I give them to gardeners,lobby cleaning staff and front desk people. I tip others with CUC about 40-50CUC for a trip.