Gift ideas

What gifts are most appreciated in Cuba?
Canadians, in general, are genuinely generous people. One of the first questions many people planning trips to Cuba ask is “What can we take as gifts?” Canadian travelers truly want to know what’s most needed or wanted by the Cuban people.

I’ve created the list below by blending gift suggestion lists I’ve found on other sites and tossing in a few of my own ideas. For instance, I took some solar-powered yard lights on a trip a few years ago and they were a big hit. One friend told me his family uses them in the house when the power goes out, which is a frequent occurrence in Cuba.

I’ve tried to organize my list in categories, roughly in order of importance. During previous trips to Cuba, I asked a variety of locals about what is most appreciated. Clothing needs predominate. Much of the clothing and footwear available in Cuba is often pricey or poorly made.

Drugstore items are also right up there on "most wanted" lists, although some people are too proud or shy to ask, I’ve learned. What Canadians would consider common, necessary medicine-cabinet supplies are out of financial reach for many Cubans, or simply unavailable. So, hit the dollar store before you pack!

More recently, I've added USB devices or "flash drives" to the list because I learned these inexpensive bits of technology are vital for sharing information and news of the world, as well as entertainment. They're also key educational tools for students.

An even more recent addition to this evolving list is cell phones. I've been receiving more and more requests from Cuban friends for phones they can use to stay in touch with their families, friends and the world beyond Cuba. Email is now available for Cuban cell phone users, which is an important communication tool for them too. In most parts of Cuba, land lines are not readily available, so I see cell phones as a necessity rather than a luxury item for them. Please note that phones should have a slot for a SIM card and should be unlocked for international use.

During my last update, I added a few things in the "HEALTH CARE/HOUSEHOLD" section - toilet paper and towels, in particular. I've been taking T.P. for several years now, partly because it's a cheap, lightweight item to stuff into the nooks and crannies of my suitcase. Also, when visiting Cuban homes, it is an appreciated "hostess gift" because T.P. can be hard to get and, for the average household budget, it's a costly item. Some people recycle newspaper (or other forms of paper) for bathroom use & only bring out the "good" T.P. when tourist friends visit. Towels (for both bath and kitchen use, as well as dish cloths and "scrubbies") are very much appreciated too. Interestingly, Cubans don't generally use washcloths but do like bath "buff puffs" and such things!

Here's the short list of most useful gift ideas:

- Clothing of all types & sizes (even light jackets)
- Shoes, socks & underwear (for adults & children)
- Any basic drugstore or medicine-cabinet supplies  
     [Please check expiry dates on consumables!] 
- Toiletries like deodorant, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes/paste, etc.
- Feminine products (tampons & pads) & razors
- Paper, pens, pencils, etc. (school supplies & for adults too)
- Cell phones (must have a SIM card slot & be unlocked)
- USB devices (can be loaded with movies, music, etc.)
- Solar yard lights (can be used indoors during power outages)
- Wind-up flashlights (batteries can be hard to get)
- Flint igniters or lighters for gas stoves (not matches)
- Sewing kits (assorted threads, needles, buttons, etc.)
- Bicycle tire patching kits (26" or 24" tubes too)

This is my more comprehensive, prioritized list:

- Clothing of any types, all sizes
- Shoes of all kinds, laces & sports socks
- Hats, baseball caps, bandanas
- Pretty scarves, jewelry, hair accessories

[Please check expiry date on pills or any health items.]
- Aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, other pain relief products
- Vitamins, antacids, antibiotics, anti-diuretics, etc.
- Gravol, Imodium, Pepto Bismol & such
- Deodorant & other toiletries
- Soap/shower gel, shampoo/conditioner
- Toothbrushes & toothpaste
- Toiletpaper & bath towels
- Tea towels, dish cloths & pot scrubbers
- Spices such as cumin & pepper (in original, unopened containers)
- Tampons, pads or other feminine products
- Condoms (for medical personnel to distribute)
- Thermometers, Band Aids, Q-Tips & razors
- Used prescription or reading glasses
- Lipstick, nail polish & clippers

- Notebooks & other paper products
- Pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners
- Spanish/English dictionaries to use & leave
- Tape, glue, scissors, markers, etc.
- Coloring books, crayons, colored pencils
- Agendas, daybooks, calendars, etc.

- Soccer/tennis/baseballs, etc.
- Frisbees, skipping ropes, kites, etc.
- Ping-pong paddles, balls, nets
- Volleyballs, nets

- USB devices (can be loaded with movies, music, etc.)
- Solar yard lights (helpful indoors in power outages)
- Wind-up flashlights (batteries can be hard to get)
- Spark (flint) igniters or lighters for gas stoves
- Nails, screws & simple hand tools
- Bicycle tire patching kits (26" or 24" tubes too)
- Sewing kits (assorted threads, needles, buttons, etc.)
- Plastic containers or bags (Ziploc style)
- Insulated bags for food or beverages
- Umbrellas for rain or sun
- CDs for dancing & to leave at hotel
- Simple games for kids like jacks, puzzles
- Toys, dolls, stuffed animals
- Balloons, glow bracelets, etc.
- Gum & candy, especially chocolate
- Maple syrup – a nice Canadian touch!