The world of tourist souvenirs is a strange one. Pretty much any French city has stores selling black berets for tourists to wear, with the vague idea that this is what the locals wear.
Of course, the locals certainly do not wear berets made in China that have the word “Paris” stitched into them in big, bold letters.
You won’t have to look hard to find tourist-targeted stores in Australia that sell boomerangs, despite the fact that the average Aussie home most definitely does not have one of these throwing sticks just laying around.
But what about when you’re looking for a gift to actually bring to a travel destination, whether it’s something for your hosts, or if you want to have something to give to anyone kind who you might meet along the way.
When it comes to gifts to bring to Cuba, there are a number of things that will be very much appreciated by the locals.
Some of these items are rather obvious, and others might seem a bit strange; not something that you would ordinarily consider to be a gift.
So what is an appropriate gift for your Cuban hosts and new friends?
Sheets and Towels
Things such as a set of bed sheets or a few towels are considered to be quite luxurious.
It’s not as though these items are unavailable in Cuba, but the selection is very limited and is generally of fairly low quality.
A few towels or a high thread count set of bed sheets will be welcomed, and your hosts might end up keeping them for formal occasions, such as when honored guests (such as yourself) come to visit.
Even something like a nice set of dishcloths (tea towels) makes for an inexpensive, although highly appreciated inclusion on a list of gifts to bring to Cuba.
Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, and so the written word is very much cherished on the island nation.
There are a number of awesome book markets in Cuba (particularly in Havana), but these vintage books seem to go in circles around the island.
There are very few new books on offer, and the latest releases by popular writers are hard to find. While English is spoken and understood by a small proportion of the population, Spanish language books are best.
You can find reasonably priced Spanish translations of the latest bestsellers online at a reasonable price. You might also want to get an eBook reader, and then load it with the latest titles.
Most homes have a television, and some even have a DVD player.
There’s an interesting underground movement in Cuba where the latest films and TV shows are downloaded to a USB stick and then delivered to someone’s home.
Having said that, DVDs are a wonderful gift, and even a small portable DVD player (which isn’t so expensive these days) would be one of the most beloved gifts to bring to Cuba. If you’re bringing books of DVDs, please choose wisely.
Don’t select anything that the Cuban authorities might find to be offensive or subversive. Just use your best judgement.
The So-Called Luxury Gifts to Bring to Cuba
It’s very easy to take things for granted in this day and age. You might think of your underarm deodorant to be just another uninteresting thing to add to your grocery list.
This is not the case in Cuba, and even the humble underarm deodorant can be considered to be a luxury item, particularly a foreign-made deodorant manufactured by a major company.
So what are some basic items that would make an ideal gift?
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste. These things can of course be found in Cuba, but there’s not a lot of variety. Novelty children’s toothbrushes make a nice choice.
- Female hygiene products. Again, these are available in Cuba but without a huge amount of variety.
- Shampoo and conditioner.
- Beauty products such as moisturizer and even makeup.
You might want to bring small travel-sized bottles of some of these items in order to give them away, or you might have a larger bottle for personal use that you can simply leave behind when you go.
Don’t Forget the Kids
The kids of Cuba certainly have toys to play with, but the gigantic toy store stuffed with all those brightly-colored temptations don’t really exist in the country.
Kids are kids, and so action figures and dolls will be met with a lot of enthusiasm, even toys that feature characters from movies and TV shows that they’ve never seen.
Cuba is baseball mad, and like most of the Spanish speaking world, soccer (or football) is also extremely popular.
Bringing sporting toys to Cuba will ensure that all the kids will love you. Sporting toys can be a bit bulky and difficult to transport, so inflatable toys (stuff for the beach) can be smart.
You can also bring deflated footballs with a small, lightweight hand pump.
A brand new toy from the English speaking world is really quite rare in Cuba, and it will make any child the envy of all their friends.
This is why sporting toys (which encourage sharing) are an excellent choice when it comes to gifts to bring to Cuba.
It’s not as though you need to go to Cuba with a suitcase stuffed with gifts to give to any potential new friends.
But Cuba is such a hospitable society that will make you feel welcome, and so you will certainly want to return their kindness.
Do you need tips on what gifts you should take to Cuba? Just send us an email and we are more than happy to help.