Gifts for Cubans - ElectricalOutlets

Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 05:11 PM
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Gifts for Cubans - ElectricalOutlets

I'm leaving in a couple days for Havana and want to take some small gifts for maids/guides/etc (in addition to tips). School supplies have been suggested - but exactly what? Another other suggestions for useful items would be appreciated. Also are the electrical outlets the same as US plugs or do I need adaptors? Thank you
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Old Apr 23rd, 2013, 05:54 AM
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When we went to Cuba we first went to a dollar store and bought all kinds of items. For school supplies we brought pencils, pens, paper, duo-tang folders, erasers, pencil sharpeners, etc. We also brought toothbrushes, toothpaste, hygiene products. We brought ribbons and such for little girls hair. We brought toy trucks for boys. I also carried around ballons in my pocket that we would hand out to little kids. We also brought seeds (corn, carrots, onions, tomatoes, lettuce) so they could plant a garden and then re-use the seeds in subsequent years.

Can't recall if we needed an plug adaptor.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2013, 09:53 AM
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We leave in June and if you are from U.S, I do think you need an adaptor.
Our tour suggested bandaids,and other medical supplies,even left over antibotics in addition to what Dave mentioned. If questioned, we are told to say they are GIFTS.

Please write a trip report!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2013, 02:25 PM
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When we went to Cuba we brought all old clothing-- and as we wore it, we distributed it- shirts, pants, dresses- everything,
The seeds idea is great- be sure that you get organic ones, many commercial ones are sterile hybrids, and the seeds are not usable.
magazines, paperback books, any school supplies. pens, pencils, hotel-size soaps are great, small packets of shampoo
but please, don't just give them to your guides and your hotel staff- these tourist-based employees get tons of stuff, instead, take a walk and see who you meet.
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Old Apr 24th, 2013, 02:24 PM
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I was going to bring old (good linen but out of style)to wear and leave but then I got embarrased about giving clothes that I had worn. Did anyone seem to mind?
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Old Apr 25th, 2013, 10:43 AM
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One tip: bring ballpoint pens like Bic, and not the ones with gel type ink that smears in the humidity.

We were told to bring bars of soap (Dove) to leave for our hotel maids.

We had many other supplies but we were visiting specific places and bringing some things especially for the people there. I'm not sure how you would distribute school supplies if you weren't visiting a school.
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Old Apr 26th, 2013, 06:15 PM
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DO NOT BRING SEEDS!!!!! I can't stress this enough.

First off, if Aduana (Cuban customs) finds them, they will be confiscated and ALL luggage and carry-on is x-rayed upon entry. Also, if you're an American, and considering the past 50-year history of what US policy has tried to do to Cuban agriculture (think CIA) you might have some questions to answer.

Second, you cause a serious risk to the ecological balance of Cuban agriculture if you introduce non-approved and unknown genetic material (crops, seeds, etc) into their tropical environment. Cuban agriculture is not based upon massive use of pesticides such as in other countries. Instead, because of their system and lack of importable supplies, they have a well developed system of natural methods of pest control. Please in your efforts to be good.... don't introduce something that could accidentally cause great harm.

thanks
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Old Apr 27th, 2013, 01:59 AM
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Taking seeds from one country to another is normally prohibited. It beggars belief that people recommend taking seeds to Cuba or anywhere else and think it's a good idea.

Quite frankly the people of Havana looked well dressed & pretty fashionable and not sure they'd want other people's castoffs. When I went to Kenya, I was cautioned against giving gifts to hotel staff as many are searched before leaving the premises and could be accused of stealing and losing their job. Therefore I gave my gifts outside the hotel, which was left over toiletries etc. But Cuba is not Africa and people seem to have all they need, as they did during Communist times in Russia, contrary to popular belief.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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I just returned from Cuba earlier this week. I have been to Cuba a number of times times--as a US citizen on treasury dept approved trips. Things have changed a great deal since my first trip in 2003.

What I bring as gifts are what any women or many in the US would like as a gift. I do not bring soap, toothpaste, or old clothing. As Odin mention in the above post, the people of Havana are well dressed and fashionable--albeit maybe too sexy for US tastes--it suits them just fine. Where I can hardly navigate the potholed streets in Teva sandals, they are walking in platform heels that are at least four inches high! I don't think old American clothing will become anything except dish rags--at least in Havana.

I test things with the women and men in my own family--it they say "I love it", then I take it to Cuba. They are simple "gifts" not "offerings to the poor". So, for women I take good quality lip balm with clips on the end so they can clip it to their purse or belt loop. For men I bring solar powered LED flashlight key rings. Every person I have given them to smiled immediately. And of course, the ubiquitous pen is always a great idea. Everyone asks for pens. (and don't get insulted when they immediately write on their hand to see it is is working--it is a universal behavior).

Also, one thing that is easy to pack and hugely desired by Cubans are reusable bags--like the ones you can get at Whole Foods or Target. They LOVE these bags. There are no bags in Cuba. You can put a dozen or two at the bottom of your suitcase easily and they weigh almost nothing.

In the countryside, soap is more desired, so it you are going to spend time out of the city, then bring some soap. If you are staying in Havana most of the time, then take gifts that YOU would be happy if someone handed them to you. Then, you can't go wrong.

RE: Adapters. Most hotels use 110 (American) power. However, if you are staying in a European or Russian era hotel, then its 220. Check with the hotel. However EVEN if you are in a 110 power hotel, I always bring a polarized-->non polarized adapter as many of the buildings are old and cannot accept a polarized adapter (both prongs must be the same size and shape). Also, if you have a grounded plug, you might want to get a grounded to--->non grounded (three prong to two prong). Three pronged stuff is useless in Havana (for instance a grounded power strip for powering cameras and computers will not work unless you have the 3-->2 adapter) I always bring a power strip as there is usually only one reachable plug in a room (this is a universal rule--not just Cuba)

NB: If you KNOW a Cuban family, then more personal things like good quality bras (impossible to get decent ones in Cuba--TJ Max is a great place to get fabulous bras at cheap prices) or fresh children's clothing from Old Navy or similar store--I always keep the tags on so the kids know they are new.

Lastly, if you are a photographer, the best gift you can give is carrying a Polaroid printer with you. ( hooks up to your DSLR or other camera and prints directly from the camera port or off your computer). Giving a photo to a Cuban is pure gold to them. My printer is a Polaroid GL10-$90 on Amazon. The prints end of costing about $0.60 each.

Lastly 2: For the first time this trip Cuban Immigration stamped my passport--and all American passports on our flight. I hadn't even noticed, but a friend mentioned it and sure enough, I have a Jose Marti immigration stamp. I have no idea if this is going to give me issues in the future or not. I actually love having the stamp and I have Global Entry, so I don't even see US Immigration anymore, but it it interesting that they just started this. I was there less than a year ago, and no Americans received passport stamps. Maybe Cuba is trying to create more pressure on Americans to get rid of the embargo by possibly creating travel issues for them in the future? Who knows. But, I have a stamp and I'm happy : )

And seeds? It goes without saying: NO SEEDS. Ever.
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Old May 14th, 2013, 06:35 AM
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Boston Harbor,
We are going with Friendly Planet and they provided a list of suggested things to bring to people. I have about decided to forget gifts since there seems to be so much confusion concerning it all. Some posts say" they need" others say" they don't need or want." The reusable bags are a good idea also the pens.

I plan to buy art. Did anyone have any issues with bringing art back from Cuba? Any limit on number of pieces or price?
Have heard the art is excellent and the prices good. True or False?

Interesting concerning the stamping of the passports.
How do you qualify for a Global Entry if I may ask.
Certainly excited about the trip. Thanks!
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:32 AM
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Hi Southeastern,

Art is everywhere in Cuba-and I mean everywhere. Prices range from a few dollars to $25,000 and up depending on what you are looking for. I have found some remarkably good art on Saturdays/Sundays on the Prado (your hotel should be near the Prado). They have an art fair every weekend. Lots of junk, but always 3-4 remarkably good artists ($50-$200+). There is a massive arts and crafts warehouse in Old Havana (near Plaza las Armas) that has everything from T-shirts to watercolors. http://www.moon.com/destinations/cub...rts-and-crafts

Many artists work out of their homes and create wonderful art that sells between $150-$1000. Your tour guide should have a list and are glad to take you since, I'm sure, they get a small commission if you buy something. So, it's all about what you are looking for and your taste. Contemporary Cuban art is not for all tastes. There are of course, ubiquitous "paintings" of old cars and La Bodeguita del Medio (Hemmingway's favorite bar) .

If you are just looking for something fun, then the warehouse and the Prado are fine. If you are looking for unique art at reasonable prices (Under $500), then visiting some artists in their homes is the best bet. Mention to your tour guide on the first day that you would like to spend a couple of hours looking at art.

Regarding the suggestions from your tour organizer regarding bandaids etc are fine EXCEPT for "left over" antibiotics. Antibiotics are serious meds. You should never, ever give anyone antibiotics--old or new. Antibiotics should only be prescribed by professionals for a specific problem. Never randomly distributed. Over the counter Advil etc is fine. However, unless Friendly planet has a distribution plan, I would just bring small things that are light and easy--ribbons and bands for little girls' hair, toy trucks, pens, lip balm--fun little gifts.

Leave the old clothes at home. Cubans are very stylish in their specific Cuban way, and unless tube tops and short spandex skirts and leggings are in your closet, then your old clothes won't cut it. Sports T-shirts are an exception as are lightly used children's clothes. You will however, need to have distribution plan or know a family. Maybe Friendly Planet has an arrangement with a school or charity. Check with them--then bringing clothes and such will work. Otherwise you are going to just lug stuff that you will have to lug home or leave in your room on the last day. You can't stand on the street and hand out clothes--anymore than in the US. You would get the same looks in both places.

The best thing to leave for maids is money. Leave a nice tip (I leave $2 CUC/day). plus any unused personal supplies (unopened toothpaste, razors etc)

I simply love Cuba.

One personal tip. I now carry a light colored very small umbrella in my camera bag. Not for rain--for sun. Cuban women carry umbrellas to protect from the unforgiving sun all the time. I am very fair, and It has saved me on long walks. SPF doesn't always cut it. And, bring a pretty skirt, flowing for salsa dancing. : )

Re: Global Entry. The waiting list for an appointment is long--can be up to six months. http://www.globalentry.gov $100. They do a background check and then you have to go in for a personal interview at an airport TSA office and fingerprints. Probably not worth it unless you travel a lot.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 11:40 AM
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BostonHarbor,

I am so sorry for taking so long getting back to you with a big THANK YOU! You delivered exactly what I was looking for!I am printing you out and taking you with me plus the Moon website.

I have read several books, watched every utube video on Cuba... even went to ebay to look at the art. I love contempory and abstract art.

I would have loved to have gone with a photo group but I just dable in photography. Took a couple of courses in it long ago when folks used film and f stops. My university does a trip but it is for research and not crazy about the guy leading it. It didn't make this summer anyway.

I think Cuba is going to be very much like New Orleans, music and art on the street. I do have my dancing skirt and umbrella. Don't know about salsa but can definately second line it. (I'm from New Orleans)

Again, thank you for the wonderful information!

New Orleans doesn't have a Global Entry or would definately be doing it.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2013, 08:40 AM
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I think it is always good to give things to kids rather than adults. Just seems more graceful. I personally would not be comfortable wearing old clothes then giving them to local people. School supplies are just that... paper, notebooks, crayons, pencils, pens, etc.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 04:52 AM
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Boston Harbor,
I know to take crisp cleaan bills. Do the exchange places easily take 100.00 bills? I don't want to travel with a ton of 20's. I am also traveling with a mailing tube for the art in case they don't have proper containers. Any other suggestions? You have been so helpful!
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Old Jun 15th, 2013, 08:18 AM
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All exchanges take $100 bills. I however, take more $50's so that I don't end up with a lot of CUC at the end that I have to exchange back at the airport (and lose even more money). A mailing container is a good idea. One thing you want to check when you buy art on the street (and you are paying more than $40 or so. Inspect is closely. When things hang in the street they get dirty--leaded gas and no catalytic converters in Havana. Make sure it is clean--I've ended up at home with dirt and smudges I couldn't get off of the mat. They are usually prints/lithographs and there are more in a box behind them, so just ask if they have another one. If they don't have it with them, they will bring it to your hotel.

Last suggestion. singles and couples will come up to you on the street. Many will start to talk about how bad the Castro regime is relative to living conditions and saying that they need milk for their babies/children. They are con men and the one thing that has burgeoned in the ten years I have been going to Cuba. Just shake them. And don't make being worried about them stop you from talking with Cubans. Cubans are great. It won't take you long to figure out a con. Just remember, the government gives milk for all kids until they are in school. No one needs milk.
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Old Jun 15th, 2013, 09:55 AM
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Thanks for your wonderful advise. You have been my best source of information!

Have traveled enough so that hawkers,etc. are easy to ignore.

I'll check the art closely.Good advise

You can't imagine how excited I am. Have traveled many places but for some reason this trip has charm and magic attached to it. Your pictures have supoorted that image! Many thanks!
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Old Sep 26th, 2016, 10:49 AM
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I brought baseball caps from my home town team and they were received well. For women I brought a few cosmetic items. Brought some sets of earbuds. Lots of people (in Havana and Varadero, at least) have cell phones to use them with. I also noticed that the showers have plain wire hooks for the curtains, so maybe a fancier set (U$3.99 at Marshall's) might go over well the next time for the homes of the more fortunate ones who are running casas particulares. In the rural areas where people are poorer, pens and basics are in shorter supply.
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Old Sep 26th, 2016, 11:24 AM
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Oh, this post is 3 years old. I knew it seemed familiar...

My thoughts are still the same... I think the best things anyone can do when visiting a country that is economically poor, is to spend money in local businesses, with local people, and tip well. That will help the folks a lot more than leaving trinkets or used clothes behind.

If you want to make charitable contributions, go thru local agencies, churches, schools, etc. don't just try to hand things out willy-nilly on your own.
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 06:11 AM
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I made a typo and my comment is not three years old.
I think last year is ok for Americans sincerely
trying to help Cubans. Agencies are good, but sometimes
complicated, at the end of the day, the tourist is
free to hand out their donations in the way they choose
and circumstances might dictate.I have reposted my
comment. hm
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 06:13 AM
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Offer only new clothes.
Went to Cuba Holguin Playa Guardalavaca (Sept 2015, I made
an earlier typo and said 2013, sorry!)
Brisas Playa Guardalavaca Resort. Beautiful!
Once the embargo ends I hope Americans can get cheaper
vacations. I go again in Nov 2016 for about $750 US all in taxes inc.
to visit my adopted “ Cuban family” to whom I mail baby/kids clothes.
Will take a couple of toys this time and can hardly wait to show
Malibu Barbie Anniversary Doll in Gift Box to Cuban customs official
and look forward to drinking rum afterwards.

Was not prepared for extensive tipping so have plenty of coin hand.
Three lifeguards pegged me for my snazzy Nike running shoes on my visit
and on the third time I relented and gave them away. At 43 he had
saved a few lives and lost a couple, is this not worth a pair of running
shoes? If you have an extra pair you can live without maybe take them along
and leave them at the lifeguard office at your hotel, I’m sure they’ll
find a good home.

Bring toys, school supplies. Took school supplies year and was advised
by other tourists to drop off at local school so I did and rode out on a
bicycle from the hotel and the supplies were gratefully
received. Was chased by angry goat on the way back, so I cycled faster.

Yes, a printed photo is as good as gold to hand out. It’s probably odd to
persevere in a society where you can’t even take pictures of your kids to give as presents
because there’s nowhere to print them. I’ve sent family photos back
after returning last time. I agree with the other posts that says you should use common sense
and a senses of proportion when handing things out.

Most Cubans you will meet are warm, outgoing and hard working people.
I recently sent a little bit of cash taped into a kids book to “my” family which they
received and I include the thank you emails I received here for inspiration.

Hello my friend how have you been lately we been good thank gosh d and all saints i dont get emails from you like 1week ago are you ok?hey i bought my daughter's bed with the thing you gave me i'll send you a pic later take care my friend

Thank god and all saints you are fine I was very happy to hear from you we are all ok thank god and all saints!well here now is raining not lots of rain but you can get wet and yea i got the bed a good one made of good wood and i thank you for that if it weren't for you I wouldn't have had it

Have a safe trip and take bug spray and use it right away especially around the ankles, don’t wait.
Canada eh?
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