Gifts for the cuban people, Cuban people street scene 

Gifts for the Cuban People

By globedrifters Uncategorized

Gifts for the Cuban People 

Want to know what gifts for the Cuban people you can bring on your trip to help them? In Cuba, most people lack access to a lot of the things that we would consider basic necessities. Most of you, including travelers on our 9-day trip, will visit Cuba under the OFAC category “Support for the Cuban People”. Your trip is a great opportunity to bring some small things that could make a big difference and help the Cuban people. Below is a list of some ideas for gifts for the Cuban people you can bring.


Why Bring Gifts for the Cuban People?

There is an embargo placed on Cuba by the U.S. and Cuba’s government tightly controls the distribution of goods to the people. A combination of these two things (as well as many other political, economic and social factors) makes getting items that most consider basic necessities very difficult in Cuba. For example, many of us wouldn’t think twice about running to the local pharmacy to pick up some Ibuprofen or Aspirin if we had a headache. This simple task isn’t so easy in Cuba because shortages of over-the-counter medicines as well as prescription medications are common, especially these days.

Due to shortages of everything from cooking oil to antihistamines and everything in between, we always recommend that travelers to Cuba who want to help bring gifts for the Cuban people to donate to those in need. You don’t have to pack your suitcase full of donations, but if you have some spare space in your luggage, basic items to help the people of Cuba are a great way to do some good while traveling. 

Cuba embargo billboard, Gifts for the Cuban People

The embargo is just one factor that makes getting basic goods very difficult in Cuba.


What Gifts to Bring for the Cuban People?

Any gift for the Cuban people you bring will usually be appreciated as there are shortages of pretty much everything you could imagine. However, there are three main things that are extremely hard to come by in Cuba: medicine, clothing and toiletries.

Medicine

Most over-the-counter medicines, ointments, vitamins, supplements, etc. are next to impossible to find in Cuba. These are probably the most necessary things that are hardest to come by for the Cuban people. Below is a list of ideas of medicines and medical supplies you could bring:

  • Ibuprofen/Aspirin/Paracetamol
  • Antihistamines
  • Antacids
  • Antibacterial ointment/cream
  • Vicks Vaporub 
  • Bandages
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Anti-itch creams for children

Toiletries

Anything related to personal hygiene is hard to obtain in Cuba. When you can find it, the supply is very low or it’s very expensive for the average Cuban person. Here is a list of things that don’t take up much space in your suitcase and would make great gifts for the Cuban people:

  • Bars of soap
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Sponges/Loofahs
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Baby powder
  • Disposable razors

PRO TIP: If you bring shampoo, conditioner and shower gel for your trip, you can just leave them behind for the cleaning lady at your casa and even if they’re just half full, they’ll make great gifts for the Cuban people. And as a bonus, your suitcase will be much lighter on the way back home!

Clothes

Clothing of any kind can also be difficult to find for many Cuban people. When you can find it, it’s expensive, very low-quality and often in poor condition. For this reason, we always suggest bringing clothes as gifts for the Cuban people. They don’t have to be brand new or high fashion; even lightly used, but in good condition is alright. 

PRO TIP: We recommend children’s clothing because these are often the most expensive and difficult to find in Cuba.

Miscellaneous

Pretty much everything under the sun in Cuba is hard to find so any little extras that you would like to bring will be great gifts for the Cuban people. If you bring bottles of any liquids or creams, even half-full bottles are OK! The items below are not essential, but are still hard to get. Here is a list of miscellaneous items that you can bring to help out the Cuban people:

  • Rechargeable batteries and lightbulbs (due to the recent power outages)
  • Perfumes/Colognes 
  • Lotions/Beauty creams
  • Makeup
  • Deflated soccer/basket-/kickballs
  • Small, handheld ball pump
  • Children’s backpacks
  • Hair accessories (i.e. brushes, combs, hair ties, bobby pins, etc.)
  • USB cables (for phone chargers)
  • AA or AAA batteries
  • Pens/markers
  • Small candies or lollipops
Cuban musicians, Gifts for the Cuban People

Any gifts, big or small, will be greatly appreciated by the Cuban people.


Who do I Give my Gifts for the Cuban People to?

Most travelers on our small group trips have told us that they weren’t sure who to give their gifts for the Cuban people to. It can be hard or awkward to decide who to offer them to. We understand that giving them to a random person on the street can be uncomfortable. We recommend giving your gifts to the cleaning ladies at your casa particular. They are often part-time hires by the casa owners and make less than the average Cuban so they are great recipients of these gifts. You can give them the gifts in person or leave them in your room with a little note at the end of your stay. 

PRO TIP: The casa particular owners are often in better economic situations than many other Cubans as they have family in the US or overseas that often help them with goods and money. They’ll be appreciative of any gifts you may have for them, but we recommend giving your gifts to the cleaning ladies as they typically earn less and have access to less.

Plaza de la Revolucion Havana, Gifts for the Cuban People

Traveling to Cuba is an experience of a lifetime so why not do some good while you’re there?


Pretty much any Cuban person you encounter on the island will usually be happy to receive a gift in any form as long as it is offered with a warm smile. Gifts for the Cuban people are not mandatory, but can make a big difference. Whatever you decide to bring and whoever you decide to give it to will be very much appreciated. Happy travels!

Havana, Cuba streets 

Food in Cuba

By globedrifters Amazing trips around the world | Cuba

Food in Cuba

Updated March 14, 2022

Food in Cuba is delicious, but tends to be very simple. Many travelers to Cuba are pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. There typically isn’t as much variety as most you might be used to, but it is generally fresh, in season and organic as Cuba doesn’t rely as heavily on pesticides and GMOs as other countries. When it comes to food in Cuba, it’s best to have the correct expectations as food may not be as plentiful or great in variety as where you’re from.


Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner in Cuba

A standard Cuban meal is basic and is composed of what is in season. Seasonings and condiments are also basic and dishes are typically not heavy on the sauce. It’s important to keep in mind that there are food shortages on the island so the quantity and what’s available will vary depending on this as well as what’s in season. Please be mindful of the amount of food you waste.

Breakfast in Cuba is plentiful and fresh! It is included every morning at the casa particular on our trips and usually is made up of eggs and bread, seasonal fruit, fresh fruit juice (i.e. guava, papaya, mango, etc.), coffee and tea. (What is a casa particular? Read our blog about accommodation in Cuba!)

Fresh fruit in Cuba

Fresh and in-season fruit is commonly served at breakfast in Cuba.

A typical lunch and dinner in Cuba consist of white rice or beans and rice, a salad made up of vegetables that are in season (i.e. cucumber, tomato, cabbage, avocados, etc.), some type of grilled, fried or stewed meat and sometimes fish and a root vegetable or banana in some form (i.e. cassava, taro, potatoes, plantains, etc.) You may also see the occasional seafood dish (i.e. shrimp or lobster).

PRO TIP: If you like your meals to be seasoned or with lots of spice, then we recommend that you bring your own spices and condiments such as hot sauce or whatever you prefer.

Vinales organic farm and restaurant

Locally sourced produce is a large part of Cuban food…Truly farm-to-table!

Traditional Cuban dishes

Below are a few of our favorite typical Cuban dishes to try while you’re traveling in Cuba:

  • Ropa vieja: This is one of Cuba’s most famous dishes and literally translated, means “old clothes”. It’s shredded beef slow-cooked in its own juices and stock along with tomato sauce, onions and bell peppers.
  • Pollo fricasse: Chicken simmered in a tomato-based sauce with onions and sometimes other in-season vegetables.
  • Moros y cristianos: Most will know it as “rice and beans” and you’ll find it at almost every Cuban restaurant. Literally translated, it means “Moors and Christians”. Black beans and rice are boiled in the same water and other ingredients are sometimes added for more flavor (i.e. garlic, pepper, oregano, etc.).
  • Platanos: They’re known around the world as plantains or cooking bananas and are less sweet than bananas. In their unripened state, you’ll see them sliced thin and fried (chicharritas/mariquitas), flattened and double fried (tostones/chatinos). Or when they’re ripe, they’re sliced up and fried as a sweet, gooey treat.

Vegetarian & Vegan Food in Cuba

Vegetarian and vegan food in Cuba is available and Cubans are gradually becoming more aware of vegetarianism and veganism though neither are all that common there. More and more, you’ll find vegetarian and vegan options on menus and restaurants specializing in cuisines catering to the needs of these diets, especially in Havana.

Understand that while it may not be difficult to get a vegetarian or vegan meal in Cuba, you generally won’t find much variety and you may very well get tired of being offered the same thing at every meal (i.e. rice, beans, salad, fruit, etc.) If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, we suggest bringing some of your own snacks on the trip to supplement your diet.

Those who travel with us to Cuba will be able to provide us with your dietary restrictions when you sign up for the trip. Our guide will make sure all the restaurants during your stay in Cuba have adequate offerings to match your dietary needs.

Organic vegetables in Cuba

Vegetarians and vegans will delight in the organic, non-GMO produce of Cuba.


Drinks in Cuba

Drinks in Cuba are iconic worldwide. The mojito and daiquiri immediately come to mind, but Cuba is full of wonderfully refreshing drinks.

Traditional Cuban drinks

Below is a list of a few of our favorite non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails that you may not have heard of:

  • Canchanchara: Some consider it a forerunner of the mojito and daiquiri. This drink is made up of a mix aguardiente (very strong liquor distilled from sugar cane), honey and lime juice.
  • Habana especial: A lovely, fruity cocktail with 3-year-old Havana Club rum, fresh orange or pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.
  • Limonada frapeada/frappée: It’s a frozen daiquiri minus the rum and is equally refreshing under the scorching Cuban sun!
  • Guarapo: The juice of sugarcane poured over a cup of ice to satisfy your thirst and your sweet tooth.
Daiquiri at el Floridita

The daiquiri: An icon of Cuba and made famous by Hemingway.


Food in Cuba still manages to be delicious despite the lack of access to food and appliances to cook it with. Dishes are always made by hand and with lots of love. Although it might not be as great in variety as you are used to, there’s something for everyone! Happy travels!