Cuba is not only famous for its quality medical products, but also known to international visitors as one of the best Caribbean destinations. The way that Cuban creating their own beauty is very special. Especially because the country of Cuba is heavily embargoed by the US. But to visitors, no one sees here in the slightest bit of ruin or difficulty that embargo countries often face. They create for tourists a sense of security and safety to relax, a fresh air to breathe, an interesting atmosphere enough make they want to explore from the moment of arrival until the time of leaving. Cuba has an extremely rich, vibrant and vivid culture. You must have heard of Salsa dance, Mojito cocktails, Cuban rum… but Cuba is much more than that, especially souvenirs that you can only find here. So, what is special in Cuba for shopping, what to buy in Cuba for gifts and what to buy in Cuba? Let’s check out our Cuba shopping guide with the suggested list of +11 must buy Cuba souvenirs (Cuban souvenirs), Cuban gifts, best things to buy in Cuba, famous things to buy in Cuba, what to buy in Havana as well as best places to buy in Cuba to buy them to find the answer!
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What to buy in Cuba: Rum
Another gift you should consider to buy is Cuban rum. Cuba is not only famous for its tasty rum, but also a place where the world’s best rums are produced. This is not only confirmed by rum brands, but the taste of Cuban rum is also completely different, delicious and much more attractive.
Cuba is also known as the rum cellar of the world, so coming to Havana, you will easily see bars, nightclubs and pubs with full of cocktails with the main ingredient of rum. In particular, Cubans also think of many ways to make cocktails to increase the attractiveness of rum, which is worth a try. Rum is a sweet, aromatic liqueur, the strong flavor and aroma, leaving behind with flavors of cocoa, coffee and even the bitter taste of oak wood.
During the period when Cuba was a colony of Spain, it was considered the best rum producer in the world. The rising name and quality makes Cuban rum always have a position in the liquor international market as well as based on its advantages in the field of sugar cane production and esoteric distillation methods make Cuban rum more and more popular. Cuban rum has many varieties with different flavors and concentrations, prices range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars serving from popular to high-end market. Cuban rum is used to neat drink at parties or make attractive cocktails and other drinks.
One of the famous drinks that you should try if you come to Cuba called Mojito, made with Cuban white rum combined with lime juice, sugar, soda water, ice and mint. A national drink of Cuba.
Common rum products are sold throughout supermarkets including: Añejo blanco, Añejo especial, Añejo 3 años, Añejo Reserva, Ritual, Añejo 7 años, Selección Maestros, Cubay…
If it comes to the best rum, it must be the Bacardi Carta Oro Gold. Thanks to its excellent quality, Bacardi Gold is chosen to make a variety of fine cocktails, mixed with soda or used as a baking ingredient, as a condiment. They possess a very characteristic amber color, with unique flavors of vanilla, banana, caramel and oak wood.
What to buy in Cuba for gifts: Cuban domestic drugs
Despite being a poor country and heavily embargoed, Cuba is one of the world’s leading medicines. Cuban drugs is the essence and quintessence of that advanced medicine. Many visitors are worried because they think that Cuba subsidizes the price almost absolutely for the people, so foreigners will not be able to buy its drugs. But you can rest assured, Cuba divides its pharmacy system into 2 types: state-owned and international drug stores, so tourists having certain difficulties to buy at state-owned stores. So, if you want to buy Cuban drugs, tourists should spend a little more money to choose the necessary Cuban-specific drugs in international pharmacies. Below, we suggest some good Cuban domestic drugs as follows:
What to buy in Cuba: PPG (Cuban natural anti-cholesterol drug)
This is a treatment drug, not a dietary supplement, so when tourists go to the state-owned pharmacy to buy it, no one sells it. They only sell it to Cuban people, it’s very cheaply, there are 10 pesos for 1 capsule blister pack / 10 tablets (25 pesos is about $1). But when it came to my hand, the price increased more than 10 times.
Vidatox 30CH (Medicine to support cancer treatment)
Vidatox has 2 types: Brown color for export (even with user guide in some foreign language), this type is easy to buy but expensive, so not discussed. The blue type is for the domestic market which only sold to Cubans and each person can only buy maximum of 3 bottles. Therefore, to buy and bring this type out of Cuba is not easy.
The blue scorpion is a scorpion found only in Cuba. The venom of this scorpion is not only good for health, helps reduce pain, reduces inflammation, but according to many studies it can also fight cancer cells in the body and Vidatox is extracted from blue scorpion venom. Therefore, Vidatox alternative cancer treatment and medicine is also a meaningful gift you should consider buying for your loved ones. In particular, this Vidatox is a benign dietary supplement, without any side effects, so you can rest assured to buy and use.
The ultimate organic vegan nutritional supplement. How good is the use of spirulina algae, most everyone knows that Cuba is a country surrounded by the sea, so algae products are always hot items in pharmacies.
What to buy in Cuba: Placenta Cream
To buy this beauty cream, I had to find it everywhere. Finally, I found it in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, you can come here to buy. There are many placenta cream brands for you to choose from such as: Carelina, Costar, Crema Dermotrófica (Bioactive Placenta Cream)… but the most famous and best one is Alicia.
In addition, you can also buy Melagenina Plus Lotion for vitiligo treatment.
Best things to buy in Cuba: Paintings
To answer the question what to buy as a beautiful and meaningful gift in Cuba, the paintings is a perfect suggestion. Because this country is famous for the appearance of many talented artists, wall paintings, murals, street arts and artworks are appear and sold everywhere. And you can walk around the streets of Havana and you will feel like you are immersed in a colorful space of beautiful paintings. You can choose your own favorite paintings, or ask street artists to paint your own pictures to make a very impressive souvenir.
No exaggeration, Cuba is a country of artists, because Cuba has a large number of talented artists that few Latin countries can keep up with. To prove that, walking around Havana Vieja streets (Old Havana), you will be surprised as if you were lost in a colorful heaven with gentle to brilliant paintings. If you love this art, you can easily buy valuable paintings in the old town or ask the artist to paint your own.
Many Cubans living in the US, when they return to this island nation, what they choose to buy is not rum, but paintings. They say that these paintings here can cost from a few tens of dollars to a few hundred, but it can sell for a few thousand in the US.
Best things to buy in Cuba: Coffee
Vietnam although is one of the countries with the largest coffee production in the world, but if you have the opportunity to come to Cuba, don’t miss this aromatic gift. Because you may not know: It was Cuba who taught Vietnam the initial experience in cultivating, harvesting, and producing coffee. And that should suffice to know how great is the quality of coffee in Cuba, right?!
Some best Cuban coffee brands you can refer to such as Café La Llave, Bustelo, Mayorga , Cubita, Serrano, Pilon…
Best things to buy in Cuba: T-shirts, hats, mugs
The T-shirts, hats or mugs printed with image of Che Guevara, I love Cuba, or the image of the country and people, famous landmarks, tourist attractions of Cuba are what tourists buy the most when coming to Cuba.
The Guayaberas shirts are comfortable and casual but full of Latin style. Guayaberas are shirts with pockets on the front over two vertical folds. The shirt does not distinguish the wearer, from popular to high-class. In Cuba, it is easy to see images of this shirt from street artists to restaurant and hotel managers and even high-ranking officials.
Top Cuban souvenirs: Other souvenirs, handicrafts
Handicraft intricate items such as: Bracelets, necklaces, jewelry boxes… or traditional Cuban costumes are also interesting gifts that should be bought. Because these jewelry and decorations will remind you of interesting things, unforgettable moments, and traditional cultural beauties of the Cuban people.
From bracelets, boxes to colorful classic car models. From salsa dancers figurines to African-style hand drums, all are elaborately carved by Cuban artisans, imbued their spirit into each item.
For those who love wine, an advice given is to buy unique wooden wine racks, wooden wine bottle holders in hand-shaped, or feet-shaped and even weird skull-shaped.
Handicrafted souvenirs will help you remind and keep memorable moments in this sunny and windy land.
Best Cuban souvenirs: Cosmetics, perfumes
When it comes to beauty products, you should consider cosmetics, essential oils or perfumes. Because these industries in Cuba are also quite developed, not inferior to other countries. These products are highly rated for safety and effectiveness. Therefore, buying these products as gifts would be a great suggestion. Some cosmetic suggestions, you should choose Alicia lotion or beauty creams made from animal placenta as we introduced above. Most of these items are often sell very well, if you’re not lucky, they may even be sold out and can’t be bought.
The Cuban medical and pharmaceutical industry is quite developed, thanks to that, the cosmetic industry has also achieved certain results.
Shampoos, conditioners and cosmetics are manufactured from animal placenta are also worth to buy. Some Cuban cosmetic brands you can refer to Alamar Cosmetics, luju Urban Cuban Cosmetics, Mia Del Mar…
Cuban perfume is fragrant and keeps the scent for a long time, not too expensive like other well-known brands in the world and affordable which is also suitable for tourists to buy as gifts for relatives and friends.
In addition to above must have and meaningful Cuban souvenirs and gifts, specialties… you can also buy other gifts to bring back such as T-shirts, keychains, refrigerator magnets, postcards, Cuban traditional clothes, handicrafts…
Cuba shopping guide: Where to buy souvenir items and gifts in Cuba?
Almacenes San José Artisans’ Market
Address: Havana, Cuba
Hours: 10AM–6PM/Monday: Closed
The first place to shop for souvenirs in Havana that we would like to recommend is the Almacenes San José Artisans’ Market. Although it is not a big market, with only 2 floors, it also sells all the items you are looking for. From art paintings, handmade crafts, traditional costumes, jewelry… One note when shopping here, items do not have listed prices, so don’t forget to bargain to get the best price. Indeed, this is a great shopping destination that you must definitely visit when you come to Havana.
For art lovers, Almacenes is the perfect place to shop. The market has a large two-story warehouse. Going deep inside the market, you will be overwhelmed by the colorful colors of the paintings on sale, the smell of paints or the noisy negotiation between buyers and sellers. The stalls here are mostly rented by local artists to sell their paintings. At this market, visitors can rest assured to buy quality original paintings, crafts and jewelry. This really is a great place to find a unique souvenir, as well as a way to support indigenous Cuban artists.
The Obispo Street (Spanish: Calle Obispo)
Another shopping place for souvenirs in Havana is Obispo Street (Spanish: Calle Obispo) – The street that cuts through the Old Havana. Here, shops and boutiques lying close together, with a variety of items, from souvenirs, bookstores, or handicrafts… all for sale. In addition, on this Calle Obispo street, there are many famous tourist attractions around, you can take advantage of your shopping time in this boulevard to visit. Some attractive places of interest you should know such as: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Numismatic Museum, Bookstore “Fayad Jamís”, House of “Mayorazgo Recio”, Bookstore La Moderna Poesía…
Plaza de Armas Secondhand Book Market
If you are a book lover, then make time to visit Plaza De Armas. This place is known as a famous place for the secondhand book market, visitors can find any book here for sale. From books on history, Cuban revolution, books on society, life, love stories… are all available. Besides, this second-hand book market also sells many impressive posters, stamps and beer brands. Plaza De Armas Book Market is open from Monday to Saturday and closed on Sunday.
Used books are a unique souvenir in Cuba. Cubans are famous for their love of books, coming to Plaza de Armas, you will find stalls full of old books. Here you’ll find books about Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, as well as books by the great writer Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba for nearly 20 years. Along with books, you can also find old posters, stamps and beer labels.
When it comes to specialties in Cuba, rum is an indispensable thing and this is also a great product that you can buy to use or give as a gift to relatives and friends after a very meaningful trip to Cuba. This liquor is quite famous, so you can buy them anywhere, at the souvenir shops or go to the rum factory, Havana Club, to see the process of making rum is also very interesting. Also, the shops at the airport are good places you can go to buy rum.
Cuba is famous for its great rum, and it’s a great souvenir to take home and share with friends. There are many places to buy rum, like at the souvenir shop or at the Havana Club factory, where you can watch how they make rum. Alternatively, you can also buy rum at the airport in Havana, where there is a wide range of rum at competitive prices. If purchased at the airport, you will be allowed to take it on the plane with you.
Cuban coffee beans are also famous foods around the world, because of their delicious, rich taste and difference compared to other types of coffee. So buying coffee beans as a gift is also an ideal suggestion. For coffee in Cuba, there are 2 most famous brands you should choose, which are Cubita coffee and Serrano coffee. To buy coffee of these two brands is not too difficult, because they are sold in almost all grocery stores or coffee shops. Besides, the stalls at the airport or souvenir shops are also available.
The Paseo del Prado
The Paseo del Prado (or Paseo de Martí) is a large pedestrian street that connects Parque Central with El Malecon, running along the bay. The street is packed with people selling arts, crafts and food. On weekends, you can come here to listen to young artists sing live music or interact with needlework, knitting clubs, buy products they make. This is not only a great place to buy souvenirs, but also a great place for a leisurely walk every afternoon.
Paseo Del Prado is known as a famous pedestrian street and an ideal place to visit and hanging out for tourists. It is also a shopping place for souvenirs in Havana you should not miss. There are many different items on sale here, and mainly art products, handicrafts and Cuban specialties (Dry food). If you come here on a weekend, after shopping, you can find a place to rest and listen to the music and melodies of street artists, bringing a very lively and vibrant atmosphere. In addition, on weekends, there are many interesting programs on this pedestrian street for you to experience.
Cuba shopping guide: Some useful shopping tips before you go
Currency & exchange money
Before sharing about shopping experiences in Cuba, you need to understand the currency used in this country. As far as I know, in Cuba, two currencies are used in parallel: Cuban Peso – CUP (domestic currency for Cubans) and Cuban convertible pesos – CUC (Currency for foreign visitors). In which, 1 CUC ~ 1 USD ~ 25 Cuban Pesos (CUP). Cuban Peso has a low value, often paying for low-priced items such as snacks, coffee… while CUC is a high value, often used to pay for large sums of money such as hotel fees, amusement parks, etc.
Note: In Cuba, they do not exchange USD, only Euros are accepted. So, the best way is exchange to Euro first then exchange to Peso here.
Tips: Many people believe that, when coming to Cuba, you will have to use CUC currency and only their people can use CUP currency. But in fact, at the currency exchange counter always gives you 2 choices. So, to save money in spending, according to shopping experience in Cuba, you should exchange CUC currency and continue to exchange money for the second time to Cuban Peso (CUP).
However, when exchanging to CUP, don’t forget to keep some CUC. Because of convenient services such as: Shopping in big shopping malls, buses, hotel rooms, government restaurants, etc., you must pay in CUC currency. As for local services such as buying and selling at small shops, you can use CUP to save a lot.
In Cuba, you can easily exchange them at the airport, state banks or currency exchange systems. However, because the USD rate here is quite low, you should exchange USD to EUR first, then to bring to Cuba to exchange for Cuban currencies.
One more thing you need to pay attention to is that in Cuba, ATM cards are accepted but extremely rare, if so, you must include it with your passport. Therefore, it is best to bring cash with you.
The long lines of people waiting to exchange money in Cuba are the perfect opportunity for some people to take advantage. If you are impatient, visitors may be rushed to be asked by a stranger to exchange money on the spot at a much more attractive rate.
Although it seems that you will save time, save money with such a flash transaction, but in many cases, tourists will exchange for fake and completely worthless money. Therefore, you are advised to be absolutely wary of scams and queue like everyone else.
Just like in Vietnam and in other Asian countries, items in markets and small shops do not have listed prices, you should able to bargain. However, each market has a different challenge price, so you can bargain from 60% of original price and gradually increase.
Or the best way, follow local customers to see how they bargain and then imitate. It is the most practical Cuban shopping experience. However, to do follow this you need to have a good vocabulary, to understand what they say.
Watch out for some petty thieves
Some people with bad intentions notice some valuable items of tourists with the intention of receiving ransom. If unfortunately, tourists lose their bags in public areas or in an unconscious state leading to lost belongings, it is likely that the bad guys will set up a scene and say that they can help tourists find them back.
These guys will say that they know the person who took your belongings and describe how this person wants to return it because however he is very honest, but has a difficult economic situation causing them to need financial help. This hero can be a single mother whose daughter is seriously ill in the hospital, or an old man in a wheelchair, or any other heartbreaking situation.
Tip: Please take care of your belongings at all times, even in the common areas of the hotel, and do not bring anything of value if you plan to drink alcohol or beer.
Read more Havana guide here and Cuba travel guide here.