Bringing back souvenirs is one of the best bits about going on holiday – whether it’s a gift to yourself or to let friends and family know you missed them (who are we kidding, we’re just bragging). Here are the traditional Cuban gifts you shouldn’t board the plane without…
Of course we were going to mention cigars, with them being one of Cuba’s most iconic exports. Keep an eye out for Cohiba and Montecristo, Cuba’s best cigars. Make sure you get yours at a legal cigar store as you’ll have your receipt checked at the airport and your cigars will be taken off you if they’re fake. In short, it’s worth shelling out for the real deal.
Cuban rum might be stocked on the supermarket shelves at home, but it’s still worth bringing back the authentic stuff. Some brands to look out for are Santiago de Cuba Añejo and Legandario Elixir de Cuba. Remember, if you’re bringing back more than one litre of spirits then you need to declare it at customs. If you need any cocktail inspiration, check out our top five rum-based cocktails.
Many tourists swear by locally-produced Cuban honey – it’s even been known to convert honey-haters. Cuban honey is offered in its pure, natural state so it’s not only tasty, but free from nasty chemicals too. You can grab a pot for 1.50 cuc (around 97p) from the local farmers markets.
Coconut Monkeys are another one of Cuba’s national treasures. These little guys – hand-carved from coconuts – are on every street corner and cost around £3 each. You can also collect rare coconut carvings of famous figures, such as Fidel Castro, while you’re there. New office mascot anyone?
How about a copy of famous writer Ernest Hemingway’s books For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and The Sea or A Moveable Feast – all of which were written in Cuba? You can head to Hemingway’s favourite bars in Havana and order one of his favourite tipples – a mojito in La Bodeguita del Medio, or a daiquiri in La Floridita – he claimed it was the best daiquiri in the world.
The national flower of Cuba is the Mariposa, also known as the white ginger or butterfly jasmine. This flower is native to India, but grows well in Cuba’s tropical climate. You can bring back a taste of Cuba by buying Mariposa lotion or perfume – slather it on to help those holiday memories linger long after you’ve returned to grey, soggy UK.
For gifts for your more fashionable pals, some handmade jewellery should hit the spot. At Cuban markets you can find all sorts of trinkets, but necklaces made from black watermelon seeds, red cornilla seeds and black jaboncilla seeds are always popular. Not only one of a kind, but because they’re made from natural materials, they’re kind to the planet too.
If any of your friends and family are self-confessed culture vultures, why not take them a little slice of arty Cuba back? You’ll be able to find reasonably-priced canvas paintings and handmade ceramic bowls from local artists at the markets. You can also pick up wooden sculptures, but a word of advice – make sure they’re varnished and don’t have any holes that bugs can burrow their way into, or else customs won’t be letting you take them home.