What Are the Best Gifts And Donations To Bring To Cuba?
This question has been asked more times on message boards than any other. Everybody visiting Cuba wants to know if they should bring some gifts to hand out, and especially, which gifts are best. Well, I will tell you my opinion.
Surprisingly enough, many message boards and forums are mentioning bras and panties and great gifts to bring to Cuba. I say, NO. You have to understand that Cubans can buy these items for about $1 each in any local store (not large state stores, but the smaller ones). The government buys them from China at a few cents per unit and, if you ever go into one of these stores, there are hundreds of panties everywhere. So… it’s not hard to get.
Toilet paper and soaps? There might be day to day shortages as stockpiles run out, but there only last a few days at most. Usually there are more than enough basic items to go around.
Sewing kits, first aid stuff, chocolate bars, perfumes, razors, nail polish… They are nice little things, but the average person has tons of this stuff. If they are asking for it, it’s probably just because they want to resell it, not because they need it. These things really don’t cost a lot in Cuba, for the basic, generic brands, so they are not in “high demand.” Cuban’s also rarely do their own sewing or bike repairs. They have no time… And they can bring clothes to a seamstress who will do alterations for almost nothing. Bike repairs of all kinds can get done by a ponchero (repairman) for a few pesos…
Top Ten Gifts And Donations To Bring To Cuba
Honestly, the best gifts you can bring are the household-use ones. These will be both needed and easy to give out to almost anyone.
- Bed sheets are very needed and wanted.
- Towels.. a nice towel will be cherished more than anything.
- Knives.. A good cutting knife, or a set of sharp dollar store ones will but used, 100% guarantee.
- Same goes for forks and spoons.
- I know glassware is hard to transport, but you would be surprised at how much a nice set of cups or glasses would be for the average Cuban family.
- Shoes and clothing are good too. But you have to know that shoes are not so expensive in Cuba.. Maybe $10 for a nice new pair (good quality too). And shoes are tough to give away, because it depends on style and size.
- You are better off bringing some jeans or work gloves.
- Or kids clothes. Kids clothes is in high demand.
- Book. All books are hard to find, but foreign books in different languages (English, French Italian and German) are most prized.
- Old cell phones. You probably have a box of old phones at home. Giving away an old GSM type cell phone (One that uses a SIM card) and you will make somebody very happy.
The #1 best Cuban donation.
The easiest items to give as gifts are toys. Now, I know what you are thinking… Toys??? But, yes, TOYS. The average Cuban might have 1 toy.. only 1… And it’s probably old and broken. And Cuban parents don’t buy toys because they are expensive and cheaply made. And foreigners don’t give toys because they are busy giving things that Cuban’s really need (like soaps and toilet paper… insert sarcasm…) So, basically, there are no toys in Cuba…. Go to a park in Havana or any town/city on a Sunday and you will see 20 little boys all rushing after 1 worn out soccer ball, and on the other side, you will see 20 little girls, all standing in line to touch 1 old Barbie doll.
BRING TOYS AND SPORTS EQUIPMENT (Like tennis balls and soccer balls). The kids will love you, the parents will love you, and toys are easy gifts to give to anybody. Every Cuban either has kids, siblings, or knows a kid who wants a toy. So… dolls, soccer balls, tennis balls, baseball (but those are heavy), action figures, die-cast cars, and inflatable toys, like inflatable beach balls and inflatable hammers/airplanes/dolls (the kind of things you sometimes get at sporting events or for free if you sign up for credit cards.)
Visit a garage sale or your local Value Village and buy $10 of toys before going to Cuba. They are among the rarest items on the island, and everybody will love you.
Get More Donation Ideas in the Best Cuba and Havana Guide book
Discover what items local Cuban really need and prize the most in the Real Havana Guide.