Looking to come home from your trip to Cuba with some souvenirs to wow your friends and family? I want to help you come home with the best Cuban souvenirs possible. When it comes to what to buy in Cuba for souvenirs, it can sometimes to difficult to find authentic souvenirs, but not if you’re looking in the right places. So here are 5 authentic souvenirs you should bring home starting off with a few tips on where to go to get them.
Where to buy Souvenirs from Cuba
When it comes to where to buy souvenirs from Cuba my best advice is to go as local as possible, yes this even goes for cigars. Unless you want the branded cigars, but more on that later! I’m not telling you to follow someone down a sketchy alley to get souvenirs. What I’m saying is to get off the beaten track a little bit. Yes, the main square of almost any small Cuban town will have souvenirs, but try to walk away from the high-traffic areas. The shops you’ll find will have a smaller selection, but the prices will be better and you’re more likely to get something authentic.
Here are a few ideas of where to look for Cuban Souvenirs:
- Walking through markets big and small: In my opinion the smaller the better. Some market stalls will have a lot fo the same items, but you can find those gems to take home to your loved ones if you’re looking hard enough.
- Ask a local: Yes, some people might point you toward their cousin’s shop, especially if you ask a random person on the street, but I’ve found that hosts at Casa Particulars are kind and honest. They genuinely want to help you in any way they can, and as locals, they know the spots visitors don’t (or can’t find!).
- Find the art hot spot: Most towns and cities in Cuba have neighborhoods housing tons of artists. Go there! They’ll give the best deals and you’ll find art you won’t see in the main tourist areas.
- Go to the source: I’m talking tobacco farms, rum distilleries, and artist’s shops. The closer you get to the source of a product in Cuba the more authentic it is and the better adventure you’ll have while looking!
When visiting Cuba, Cuban cigars are the ultimate gift to bring back from Cuba.
You can pick up Cuban cigars at government stores across Cuba. However, the best place to get cigars is right from a tobacco farm. Since the Cuban government gets 90% of the tobacco grown on a farm, buying cigars from the farm you visit ensures the money stays with people that work on and at the farm. They often sell honey as well to dip the ends of the cigars in, which I LOVE! If you’re not in Cuba (or you’re really missing it like I am right now) Check out the Havana Candle from Waypoint Goods. It makes my house smell like the sweet honey I tasted in Cuba.
Before purchasing cigars check how many you can legally bring back home. Each country has different policies on how many you can bring home. Make sure you check your country’s guidelines before bringing home cigars, as they can be taken away by customs.
UPDATE: Sadly, as of September 24, 2020, US citizens can no longer bring Cuban cigars back home from Cuba. The goes for alcohol. For more information read this statement from US Customs and Border Protection.
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Handmade Cuban Souvenirs made from Recycled Materials
Cubans are resourceful in all aspects of their lives, and that goes for homemade souvenirs as well!
No matter where you go in Cuba you can find some really interesting souvenirs made by locals. A few of these souvenirs include:
- Baseball hats made out of Coke and beer cans
- Sandals made from scrap leather
- Handmade domino sets
- Toy cars and trucks made from Coke cans
If you have a friend or family member that loved handmade items or is super eco-friendly you’ve found what to buy in Cuba as a gift for them!
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Hand Embroidered Homegoods and Clothes
I’m not a huge souvenir person, but when I do get souvenirs they’re usually clothes and things I can display at home.
My personal favorite Cuban Souvenirs are hand-stitched tablecloths and crocheted clothes. Women take so much time and energy to make these gorgeous items.
The table clothes range in size from little table runners to large tablecloths for dining rooms. The prices are reasonable too. I bought a small tablecloth for a square side table for only $10! It’s green, the only green tablecloth I saw, and is hand stiched with white thread.
If you’re looking to get some great Instagram shots, get a Cuban hat early on during your trip. They’re a bit touristy, but can be really fun.
The hats range in size, shape, and color. They can be purchased in shops and in street markets everywhere. Before buying a hat make sure you try them all. They come in different sizes, so make sure you get the right fit.
The size of the brim is different too depending on the hat. These hats are all made of straw and range from the fashionable fedora to a wide-brimmed hat to protect you from the sun.
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Turnabout Dolls make great gifts for the young people in your lives.
The story I was told while in Cuba was the African women slaves that took care of children on the sugarcane plantations would make these dolls. On one side the doll was white and on the other the doll was black. The children would play with the black doll, but when their mothers were around they would play with the white doll.
I see this souvenir as a way to start having a conversation about slavery with children. Conversations like this are difficult, but the earlier children learn about the horrors of the past the earlier they’ll start making positive changes for the future.