What are typical things to purchase as gifts to bring back?
Cuban rum: The famous Havana club or Santiago.
Cuban Cigars: Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo and more.
Hand-made arts and crafts
Can I bring back Cigars and Rum? Is there a limit to how much I can bring back?
Yes, Americans traveling abroad can buy Cuban cigars and rum as long as it is for personal consumption only. Normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply. For more information on limits on duty and tax exemptions, please visit: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/customs-duty-info.
On October 17, 2016, the Office of Foreign Asset Control relaxed restrictions so authorized travelers, arriving direct from Cuba, are now able to bring Cuban merchandise for personal use back to the United States and qualify for the U.S. Resident exemption (HTSUS 9804.00.65, which allows up to $800 total in goods, and adults 21 and older may include 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars).
Watch out for the common cigar "scam"!
Lots of folks want to bring home Cuban cigars, supposedly the finest in the world. One of the most common scams is to be approached by strangers offering to sell you cigars at a discount. They will usually start with something like “The factory workers are all off on holiday today, and are having a special sale out their house” or “Wow, you are very lucky to be in town during our cigar festival.” If you get sucked in, you’ll reportedly end up in someone’s home, looking at a variety of cigars and being pushed to buy some. The problem is that you won’t really be able to assess their quality. It’s rumored that in many cases these are cigars that did not make final inspection at the factory.
Can I bring Artwork home?
Understand the rules for exporting artwork. I bought a piece of art in Havana from a local, less-touristy gallery. And lots of folks take advantage of bringing home beautiful pieces, which are insanely affordable by American standards. However, it’s important to get a receipt and, ideally, a certificate from the artist who sells you the painting. If you don’t get this certificate, you will be charged at the airport, and this could cause some headache. For instance, they will likely charge between 5-10 CUC, but you may have spent all your CUC, and they may then ask for even more in USD. There have been reports online of people having their art held at customs, but this seems less likely.