Fine cigars are one of Cuba's largest exports and one of the most popular items for
tourists to take with them when they leave the island. This, coupled with the fact
that some of the best Cuban cigars can be very expensive, even in Cuba, has cre-
ated a huge black market for contraband and knockoff cigars.
If you look at all like a tourist, there is a 100% chance that at some point during
your travels through Cuba, you will be approached by a local offering to sell you
“authentic” Cuban cigars at a discount price. This happens very frequently on re-
sorts, and the sellers are usually either Cuban hustlers ( jineteros ) walking along
the beach, or members of the hotel staff at the resort. You can be almost certain
that these cigars are fake . No matter what guarantees the seller will offer you, or
how authentic the packaging, government stamps, or purchase receipts may look;
the actual cigars are not genuine.
If you are not a cigar aficionado, or simply want to buy a cheap souvenir to bring
back home, then these cigars might be a good deal (if you can get them cheaply
enough). But if you are serious about your purchase, I would suggest that you skip
the trouble and buy your cigars from legitimate state tobacco stores.
State-run tobacco shops are located on most large resorts and are scattered
around popular tourist destinations and cities. The stores usually have an antique
look with a large, yellow sign in front reading “La Casa del Habano.” Authentic ci-
gars are also sold in other high end state stores, many hotel souvenir shops and
airport terminals. Always make sure that the cigar boxes are perfectly sealed and
have government issued, holographic labels all around the edges. Always get an
official purchase receipt with your order. If you are planning on leaving Cuba with
more than 50 cigars, make sure to keep this purchase receipt, as you might be
asked to show it at the customs checkpoint when you leave Cuba. The laws on ci-
gar exportation will be discussed in detail in the following section.
Interesting Fact: While some of the most popular cigars sold in official tobacco
shops can cost up to 20 CUC per unit, the run of the mill cigars, which are very
popular with local Cubans, usually cost only 1 peso (MN) each. They are sold at al-
most all cafeterias and small state shops. The most popular brand name is Reloba .
You can understand now how lucrative it can be to spend the effort to re-brand and
repackage these cheap cigars, and then sell them to unknowing foreigners at a