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.
I am curious about accommodations. Is there an easy way to connect with a local family and bring them 600 count sheets and kids toothpaste/brush kits and cool toys in exchange for a room and meals? The new flight out of Orlando is convenient for me, and it would be better than hotels. I don’t speak Spanish, unfortunately.
Airbnb.com has MANY inexpensive options for your stay and will directly support private sector of Cuban people. Toys and gifts are great but many people just work to put food on the table. By spending $20-$50 a night stay (on average) you will not only help the family that is hosting you, you will make great life long friendships and learn absolutely AMAZING Cuban culture. Bringing presents for Cuban people in addition to supporting their life will be well received and largely appreciated. You can truly change people’s life’s by showing them you care and give them hope for brighter future for them and their kids. I grew up in USSR and very much remember the Soviet years and how excited we were as kids when USA delegation would visit our school as they always brought small presents like bubble gum, mini parfumes, makeup, hair accessories and etc. .. Small tokens that made us feel loved and cared for by Americans during Reagan administration (which was not the best time between mother Russia and the States)
BTW- many hosts speak enough English to be able to communicate with you and make your stay in Cuba the greatest experience of your life :)) Peace ✌️
I prefer a typical product from your country…Why to appreciate something that I can buy at any store? A toothbrush? That cost 0.4 USD in Cuba Really? Anything else in your country?
What is something you can’t find in Cuba that you might like?
if you are from Switzerland I will really appreciate a Swiss chocolate… If you are from Germany I will really appreciate a good German Beer in a cute Box…from Belgium… uhmmm I love waffles… Any traditional product from your country will be really appreciate by your Cubans friends or host…
If the “national” product from your country is a toothbrush… I think… You really need to replanting your country… (I’m joking)
Hah alright. I’ll bring a bunch of mini maple syrup bottles. Canadian eh!
Im confused by this comment. So may people have advised that getting simple things like a toothbrush or toothpaste is a cost that often can be a burden. Is this not the case? I am better off to bring Chocolate??
Donald J. Leske Sr.
Hola Amigos! We will arrive in Havana March 21st to the 29th. We wish to help the people of Cuba with gifts, BUT we are not sure what to bring that will be permissible and most needed, maybe medical supplies or new sheets. but we do not want to break any laws. I am a master auto mechanic and realtor. I am also a Martial Arts student and scuba diver. We Amor Cuba…the salsa and Celia Cruz music.
Of course you can gift in the streets. But many people will find it rare… I think the best ways are to contact with ICAP or a Religious Association… That is the best way because they know what is needed more… In medical supplies for example there are very specific supplies that Cuba can’t buy due to the US Embargo… However if you are under the US jurisdiction it can be a problem for you…
Donald J. Leske Sr.
…maybe flash drive sticks, or an external hard drive or a used laptop PC? Do you have American style 110volt electric?
Thumb drives are very welcome, and easy to stuff in your suitcase without taking up any room. Tampons and pads are welcome; I donated them to a girls’ home. Pencils and pens were very welcomed by teachers; again, not bulky. I took new baseballs which are small (but a little heavy). I left a nice baseball mitt- very welcome. Big bottles of aspirin, ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea pills, I donated to a children’s clinic. Vet supplies are in great need: check out spankyproject.org- they can send you a box of supplies to take with you or a list of supplies you can beg for donations from your local vet.
Can I gift a tablet to one of the workers on a resort?
THANK YOU RYAN for great recommendations!! I have done exactly as you have suggested and asked for donations of several local shops. It is amazing how many people are willing to help!!! Look forward to my trip and making new friends :))
I was told toilet paper was appreciated. Is that true?
Yes. And bring some for yourself to use as well
Can I bring a tablet as a gift
yes as long as you take just one tablet per traveler.you can give it to anyone you like
Cubans love to cook. I have friends there and they ask me to bring seasonings: cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg, shredded Parmesan cheese, Goya products, etc.
If possible could you please send me a list of gifts i could or should bring to Cuba.
Hola! I know some things have changed recently, and none of these responses are dated. I’ll be visiting Cuba at the end of January 2018. I would like to take some items that would be useful and appreciated, but not get me in any trouble. This is my first trip to Cuba so I’m a bit nervous about compliance. When I got to Central America it’s easy – Soccer Balls and Ibuprofen are a big hit. When I go to Greece, Cat food and cat meds. I’d like to help children, elderly, and animals in particular but of course, I want to help anyone who needs something. Thanks for any advice.
How does one distribute these gifts, especially when traveling with a tour group with a packed itinerary?
This is our very first time traveling to Cuba we are going to Varadero. We really want to bring gifts for the resort staff where we are staying and their kids, what is the best things to bring ?
https://njt.net/ – not just tourists will pack a bag for you to drop off to places that need it
http://www.cubalibrohavana.com/donations – in havana will let you know what to bring and where to drop off
I’m going to Cayo Coco in May for a fishing trip. I will be staying at the hotel, what would be suitable “gifts” to bring for the staff and the local fishing guides.?
There are 9 of us travelling from the UK to Havana & Varadero in August.
Last time (10 years ago) we brought children pens, pencils etc. What can we bring this time?
(We would prefer to donate lots of small things rather than a few more expensive ones.)