Many visitors to Cuba like to bring donations for schools or health clinics or daycares or local community centers, etc. It’s best to keep these simple and light. Here are some suggestions: pens and pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, notebooks, agendas (the kind you note appointments in; Cuban professionals love these!), calendars (the ones that banks and real estate agents sometimes give away free, that have pictures for each month), crayons (even used ones are much appreciated; non?toxic is best), colored pencils, paints, coloring books, soft balls, simple little games for kids such as jacks, pickup sticks, puzzles, bats and baseballs, Frisbees, etc. Also used clothing and shoes, in all sizes, in good condition. And simple tools as well as nails and screws.
If you bring medications as a donation, make them non?prescription and make sure they still have an active date: aspirin, Tylenol, vitamin tablets, anti?diuretics, band aids, thermometers, anti-stress, tablets for aches and pains, etc. Used prescription glasses are also good.
In general, it’s best to give the above donations to institutions and organizations rather than to individuals, as this guarantees that they get where they’re most needed and benefit the greatest number of people possible.
For home stay gifts or individual “thank you” gifts for people you meet along the way who have shown a special kindness, some of the above will do as well. Or perhaps have some nice scarves or lipstick or nail polish (the latter two being very popular in Cuba) on hand for the women). Or shoelaces, razor blades and razors (both somewhat difficult to get in Cuba) for the men. If you’re coming from Canada, a little jar of maple syrup or maple candy makes a thoughtful and unusual gift.