Questions about Cuban Cash
May 3, 2011 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Tips on tipping in Cuba, please!

We're traveling to Cuba on Thursday, but are trying to decide how much money to bring with us. We're staying at an all-inclusive resort at Cayo Santa Maria for a week and don't plan to venture far from the beach, much less the resorts.

How does tipping work in Cuba? Who do we tip, how much, and how often? Also, is it true that the staff will appreciate toiletries et cetera that we can leave as "gifts" upon our departure? If so, what should we bring? We've heard nylons are in demand, and things like deodorant et cetera. Any other tips?
posted by synecdoche to Travel & Transportation around Cuba (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
TripAdvisor is often a good source of information on topics like this
posted by Neiltupper at 2:22 PM on May 3, 2011

I give at least about 1 convertible peso a day to the person who cleans my hotel room, one a day to the waiter who handles my table at the dining hall, and one after every few drinks to the bartender. You might want to have an extra few peso's on-hand for the person who runs the coffee area, if that's separate from the bar. So for a one week trip, about 30 pesos, which is about 30 dollars.
posted by Paquda at 2:25 PM on May 3, 2011

Average monthly wage in Cuba is $20 US.

So there are few places where you tip can make as much difference; unless teh service is just terrible, I'd tip heavily just for that reason. (Of course, workers are resorts for foreigners will be doing much better than the average Cuban, precisly for this reason, and so your tip won't really go as far.)
posted by orthogonality at 2:37 PM on May 3, 2011

We were novices and I think we spent about $70 a week. It might depend how the resort is set up. You're likely to go to different food areas throughout the day so at each meal, the person who clears your table or fetches coffee will likely expect a tip. If there's a meat carving carver or waffle chef, you'll probably tip them a few times during the week, too. I'd tip the cappuccino bar guy in the morning.

People down there can find a use for just about anything you bring. My wife ended up giving a lot of her clothes away. She left aspirin, motrin, etc.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:10 PM on May 3, 2011

You Should See the Other Guy wrote a great response about tipping in Cuba to a similar question. If you have the means, it seems like a good way to go.
posted by rube goldberg at 3:23 PM on May 3, 2011

So there are few places where you tip can make as much difference; unless teh service is just terrible, I'd tip heavily just for that reason

This logic is why taxi drivers and prostitutes earn more than doctors and teachers in Cuba. Sure as a tourist you are helping the economy, but it might be worth looking into ways to contribute in a broader way.
posted by iotic at 3:26 PM on May 3, 2011

I don't think pantihose are all that popular, but aspirin, Neosporin, most OTC meds are very welcome. As someone who had relatives in Cuba (who escaped on a raft), I'd say let the party members worry about what doctors get paid and tip as much as you can--the maid is probably supporting 5 other people.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:00 PM on May 3, 2011

I agree with Paquda & Ideefixe on tipping. Also, depending on the hotel or restaurant, there is sometimes a bathroom attendant to tip (but if there's no attendant, don't count on there being toilet paper, make sure to bring some with you if you do venture off the resort). And, yeah, the maids will definitely be happy if you leave them your toiletries when you check out. I just buy the giant overpriced shampoos & whatnot in the Miami airport once I'm past the security checkpoint so that I can put them in my carry-on rather than packing them in my checked luggage to comply with the stupid TSA no-liquids rules and then having to worry about them leaking in my suitcase, and then I leave all the leftovers in the hotel room for the maids to divvy up.

I've been to Cuba 3 times now; some things I've brought with me to leave behind were: OTC meds like aspirin & ibuprofen, bags of safety pins accumulated from the dry cleaners, $10 solar-powered waterproof watches from the Miami airport (both for my own use during the trip and to give away as a gift or tip), extra clothes, little kits of baby stuff from the dollar store, plastic bags, etc. Also, a lot of the folks begging from tourists in Havana were asking for pens or soap, so, you could certainly bring a box of pens and some travel-size soaps/shampoos for giveaways. Most Cubans do not have the access to or money for much in the way of material goods, so, whatever you can leave behind will be put to use by someone.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:29 PM on May 3, 2011

When I went to Cuba I brought some packs of nylon guitar strings and they loved them
they where also asking for picks.
Another guy told children's cloths was also appreciated
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 12:44 PM on May 5, 2011

It's probably too late now for the original poster, but I wanted to add something to my answer in case anyone else uses this info. I had been staying in 2-star hotels and that affected the amounts I gave. I just got back from staying in a 4-star for the first time and ended up tipping more. I felt the need to leave at least a peso on the table after every meal. The meals are in different 'restaurants' throughout the grounds. So at least 3 peso's a day just for the waiters. It's too bad about the whole system: everything is kind of mysterious and you never know what's appropriate. The only ones who get the tips are people in customer-facing positions, not all the many people who do the other jobs. I don't know how the Cubans think of the tips or what effect it's having on their society.
posted by Paquda at 8:12 AM on May 24, 2011

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