Welcome to The Takeaway, a series highlighting the best goods a destination has to offer. Every week, we’ll showcase seven gifts every traveler should consider in terms of quality and value.
Visiting Cuba as a U.S. citizen isn’t easy, but it’s worth the challenge. American travelers aside, Cuba’s tourism industry has steadily grown for two decades.
If you can get there, Cuba has plenty of goods to bring back to anyone who may live through you vicariously during your trip. Cuba is obviously famous for rum and top-notch cigars, but the island nation also has a strong handicrafts scene. Lesser known treasures include environmentally-friendly Cuban honey, handmade toys and antique books.
In October 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Public Affairs removed monetary limits on personal goods brought back from Cuba, including tobacco and alcohol. However, there are still restrictions on the quantity of tobacco products). One U.S. dollar currently exchanges to 26.5000 Cuban pesos.
Cigar photo by Alex Brown, CC BY 2.0
Coffee photo by Y’amal, CC BY 2.0
Honey photo by Lindsey Bieda, CC BY-SA 2.0
Sarra Sedghi is Paste Food’s and Paste Science’s assistant editor.
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Antique books: Cuban bookstands and stores older books you might miss elsewhere due to trade restrictions. Most books are in Spanish (and many are biased towards the government), but a number of exceptions remain.
Photo: Phil Clarke Hill/Getty
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Cigars: Be wary of cheap Cuban cigars - there's a reason they're inexpensive. Additionally, any cigar without a government seal may be confiscated.
Photo by Alex Brown, CC BY 2.0
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Coffee: Coffee had a huge impact on Cuba's history, and today coffee provides a vehicle for a strong cultural tradition. Search for brands that haven't made it to the U.S. here at Cuban markets.
Photo by Y'amal, CC BY 2.0
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Handicrafts: Cuba boasts a realm of excellent handicrafts, particularly crochet, wooden housewares and sculptures and repurposed jewelry. Outdoor markets like Havana's Almacenes San José Artisans' Market are your best bet for locating them.
Photo: Education Images/Getty
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Rum: As with its surrounding nations, Cuba is famous for the quality of its rum. Look for aged rum by brands like Havana Club, Ron Santera and Santiago de Cuba.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty
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Honey: Cuban honey, which is generally additive-free and environmentally-friendly, is immensely popular in Europe, but far cheaper at the source. Sift through supermarkets and open-air markets to find it.
Photo by Lindsey Bieda, CC BY-SA 2.0
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Traditional toys: Traditional Cuban toys are handmade and built to last as a result of limited access to certain resources. You'll find them at gift shops or markets.
Photo: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images