You sometimes need to be a little bit restrained when you’re shopping while on vacation.
Your carefully packed suitcase can suddenly become very difficult to close.
When thinking what to buy in Cuba, there are the usual suspects.
You will probably want to take home at least a small selection of all the types of rum and cigars on offer, but there’s so much more on the island that you will want to take back with you.
There is a financial limit (as is common in most countries), and you are not permitted to take goods that are valued at more than USD $1000 out of Cuba, even if they’re souvenirs.
There’s an easy way to keep track of this.
Just remember that the Cuban convertible peso is pegged to the US dollar, so just as long as the goods come to 1000 Cuban convertible pesos or less, you will be just fine. In addition to the utterly amazing cigars and rum, what else might you want to pick up while in Cuba?
Cigars (Of Course)
Cigars will feature on a lot of people’s lists when it comes to what to buy in Cuba.
While most cigars in Cuba are of a very high standard, there are a few street vendors who sell counterfeit products.
These might be the vendors themselves, or touts who approach tourists and offer to source cigars for them.
It’s wise to avoid buying cigars this way.
Did you know that French authorities will often confiscate fake designer goods when you arrive in France?
This is designed to protect the authenticity of French designer brands, even if you just have a fake wallet or bag for your personal use.
There’s a similar scheme in Cuba, but it operates when you leave.
Cuban authorities have been known to confiscate fake cigars from tourists when they leave the country to protect the international reputation of the Cuban cigar.
You can avoid this by buying cigars from a factory or boutique.
There are a lot of variety in prices from dealer to dealer, so don’t be afraid to shop around.
It’s certainly possible to get authentic cigars at a great price.
Remember that you are only able to take a maximum of 50 cigars out of Cuba, and you also need to check the regulations at your final destination, as there might be a different limit regarding how many cigars you can bring with you.
What to Buy in Cuba (and Also Drink)
Cuban rum is another popular item when thinking about what to buy in Cuba.
It’s totally a matter of personal preference, but you might want to try one of the many boutique rums that are on offer around the island nation.
Many of the popular brands can be bought in other countries, which kind of makes them less exciting.
Alcoholic spirits in Cuba are sold in milliliters, and a standard bottle will be either 700ml or 750ml, depending on the manufacturer.
You can bring 5 of these bottles out of Cuba with you.
You are technically supposed to show the receipt, so it can be smart to hold onto this when you make the purchase.
This receipt checking is not rigorously enforced, but still it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Cuba is paradise for antique book lovers.
The trade restrictions with Cuba means that you’re unlikely to find any bestsellers from the last few decades, since they could not be found in the country.
So there’s a vastly different range than second hand bookstores in most parts of the world (unless you happen to find a trashy romance novel left behind by another tourist that made its way to a book stand).
You will need to hunt around, but you can find a small English language selection at some of the antique book stands.
And even if not, a beautiful antique Spanish language book can be a lovely reminder of your time in Cuba (and you don’t have to speak Spanish to appreciate the look of the book).
Perhaps try to find a vintage copy of a Hemingway novel, since the great man is forever linked with Cuba.
There’s a wonderful book market on the Plaza de Armas in Havana’s Old Town.
If an antique book is on your list of what to buy in Cuba, please check the publication date.
Any book published before 1940 is viewed as culturally significant, and cannot be removed from the country (even if you bought it legally).
Honey as a Gifts
Honey is one of the lesser-known delights of Cuba.
There are an estimated 160,000 honey-producing hives across Cuba and this honey is then sent to government owned plants to be packaged.
The honey is delicate and delicious, and some of it is exported across the world.
Be prepared to pay for it though, unless you’re lucky enough to buy it in Cuba itself.
The natural, additive-free honey is prized by foodies across Europe and the US who are willing to pay top dollar for this environmentally friendly boutique honey. So the trick is to track it down while you’re in Cuba.
You might need to visit a few different supermarkets before you can find a few jars of it, since Cuban supermarkets are not always so well stocked.
If you’re lucky enough to find a store that stocks it, then buy up!
It won’t cost more than a couple of dollars, and even if you can find the own brand in your own neck of the woods, the cost will be astounding once it goes on sale in a different country.
Please remember that honey is something that will need to be declared once you arrive home.
A Souvenir for Your Wall
It might be a little difficult to transport home (so you need to think about size of any potential purchases), but there’s a one stop shop in Havana where you can find some local art.
Actually, it’s many shops within the same stop, and you will find it all on the Callejon de Hamel (Hamel Alley).
This small, brightly painted alley in Old Havana is home to many artist’s workshops.
There are a number of galleries and workshops and you can visit the artists to watch them at work.
You will find a wide range of pieces on offer, from modern art to more traditional Cuban landscapes.
Just remember that you will possibly need to pay an excess baggage fee if you take any large pieces home.
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