$100 In Cuban Cigars—What It Can Buy


News stories have abounded about Cuban cigars ever since President Barack Obama announced it was time to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba on December 17. Stories have begun to circulate about the dawn of "legal" Cuban cigars in the U.S., and the item that caught great attention among cigar aficionados is the new regulation that will allow travelers to Cuba to return to the U.S. with up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars. Current law prohibits any Cuban goods from coming in at all.

While the news is exciting to many, the reality is far more limited than some have made it appear. The changes—which have yet to go into effect, but are expected to occur sometime soon—will come with severe restrictions. First, the $100 worth of Cuban smokes only applies to those traveling on approved trips to Cuba from the U.S. It won't apply for third-party countries (so you won't be able to take a trip to, say, London or Paris and return legally to the U.S. with Cuban cigars) and it won't apply to buying cigars via mail order. The provision only will apply to trips between Cuba and the U.S.

Havana is filled with amazing cigar shops, each of which Cigar Aficionado has visited, and although they boast some of the world's lowest prices on Cuban cigars, $100 still doesn't buy you very much. All cigars in Cuba are priced in Cuban Convertible Pesos (known as CUCs). The CUC is pegged to the price of the U.S. dollar, but there's a 10 percent charge taken by the Cuban government when changing U.S. dollars into Cuban currency.

Cigar Prices in Cuba chart.

The standard size box of Cuban cigars contains 25 sticks, and most retail for more than 100 CUCs, including just about every robusto, Churchill and double corona made on the island. Partagás Serie D No. 4s, the most popular cigar made in Cuba, sell for about 174 CUC per box of 25, or about $7 per cigar. With the $100 limit, one could import 14 of them. Cabinets of 50 Partagás Lusitanias sell for nearly 600 CUC ($12 each), so only eight of those could come back.

Cohibas are more expensive than the average Cuban cigar, and even the diminutive Cohiba Siglo I (4 inches long by 40 ring gauge) sells for more than 100 CUC per box of 25. Big Siglo VI cigars sell for about $20 each, and Esplendidos are about $25 apiece. And Cohiba Behike BHK 56 cigars, one of the most expensive cigars in Cuba, are more than $30 apiece, leaving the buyer only able to bring back three. (We have always been more fond of the smaller, somewhat cheaper Behike 52, a former Cigar of the Year, which can be had for about $22 each.)

With the advent of smaller boxes, there are options for those seeking a full box that makes the $100 limit. The new Montecristo Double Edmundo (92 points, Cigar Aficionado's No. 15 cigar of 2014) can be had for just under 100 CUC for a box of 10. The Bolivar Libertadores runs about 110 CUC per box of 10, so you can bring back a box—as long as you smoke one of them first.

Any traveler to Cuba who is buying cigars should always be wary of buying outside of the proper channels. Fake cigars abound in Cuba, and a tourist walking around the city while smoking a cigar will likely be approached several times by people offering deep discounts on cigars, particularly Cohibas and Montecristos. Avoid the temptation, as what they have on offer is likely a counterfeit product, and virtually guaranteed to disappoint—no matter what the cost.

Obaid Omar CALGARY, Alberta, Canada, January 8, 2015 3:11pm ET
Less than you might think? Still better and far more than what I'd get in Canada
Alec Trevelyan United Kingdom, January 8, 2015 4:27pm ET
I'd need a slide ruler and a degree from M.I.T. to figure this out.
David Savona January 8, 2015 4:34pm ET
Obaid, Canada has some of the highest cigar taxes in the world, so in some cases you can only get one or two cigars for $100.
Rick Green Ballwin, MO, USA, January 8, 2015 11:08pm ET
I was amazed to see how inexpensive cigars were in Cuba when I was there since I've only been able to compare them to prices in Europe, Canada and Mexico. The prices were very similar to prices for the NCs in Missouri and Florida with very low cigar taxes.

I think the problem is going to be not so much taxes but the greed of the distributors thinking that they have gold and people are going to rush to buy at any price. American's are used to the NCs, no matter what you say, we think we have some great cigars out there at very reasonable prices. I believe if Cubans are the prices they are in the above mentioned places, they won't sell here.

I loved hearing David Savona's answer just after announcing this years cigar of the year when asked if we would ever have a cigar as good as the Cuban cigar. He pointed out that the best cigar of 2014 was not Cuban (actually, the top three were not Cuban). Those that think Cuban Cigars are all that can be enjoyed should do some blind taste testing on their own.
Simon Schmid Calgary, Alberta, Canada, January 9, 2015 9:52am ET
Yes, Canada does have the highest cost on Cuban cigars, especially in Alberta (with our additional Provincial tobacco tax). Hence why I don't buy Cubans and do all my shopping from the States.
Eric Schwenk January 9, 2015 12:31pm ET
As exciting as the announcement from Obama may have seemed, as David pointed out it does very little to change anything for the American Cuban cigar lover. Almost none of us will ever visit the island until those regulations change, so the announcement really just affects those on missionary trips (who would doubtfully be spending their time buying cigars) and those visiting family members on the island (also not too interested in the smokes). So we are still left sneaking them in our luggage or getting them in the mail and hoping we don't get caught. It remains to be seen if the penalties for those actions will be more loosely enforced and nothing as of now suggests they will.
Robert Peloquin Derby Line, Vermont, United States, January 10, 2015 11:29am ET
My wife and I (we are Canadian) are allowed to bring back 50 cigars each, duty free. We are planning a trip back soon, and hope to visit some cigar companies this time, is it possible to buy direct from them, and if so, would the cigars less expensive than at a retailer in Havana?
John Dodsworth Brantford, Ontario, Canada, January 11, 2015 10:57am ET
That would be 100CAD = 84.34 CUC or 100 CUC = $118.51CAD. As of January 9th, 2015..... Still pretty expensive with exchange rates.
Laki Gletsos Los Alamos, NM, USA, January 11, 2015 12:56pm ET
One question that I haven't seen answered anywhere. How exactly will customs determine "$100" worth of cigars? Declared value on the form you fill out as you come into the US? Will they have a chart (presumably with the most current prices of sticks in Cuba)? How will that go down?!?
Jermaine Cannon BOSTON, MA, USA, January 12, 2015 12:03am ET
Well that sucks
David Savona January 12, 2015 7:36am ET
Laki, good question. Details like that have not been finalized to my knowledge.
Curtis Morton Manchester, Tennessee, USA, January 13, 2015 3:34pm ET
I can wait, I am a patient man, I'll pay my little extra until they become available here, I just hope the prices are reasonable..
William Devine Murrieta, CA, United States, January 13, 2015 3:40pm ET
So is the $100 limit per person? If so and you are traveling with a significant other then they can buy $100 as well. So you each exchange $110 and receive 100 CUC and each buy 12 Montecristo #2 and you have 24 cigars for $220. Not quite a box but pretty close. And much cheaper that what it currently cost me, which is over $700. So I could take a short vacation with my wife and bring back almost a box of cigars.
Guy Lamoureux January 13, 2015 3:41pm ET
Is it $100 per person ? So you and your wife could bring $200 worth of cigars. You can also try to find fellow travelers who won't buy any cigars for themselves. They could get thru customs with some of your cigars.
jackson.shaw@gmail.com January 13, 2015 3:49pm ET
I get my Cubans shipped to me here in the US via the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. No taxes and they're authentic. Delivered to my door by my mailman. I recently got a box of Partagas Coronas Juniors ($220). When I'm up in their area I always stop by. They are declared as "native cultural sticks" on the customs form when shipped. ;)
Timmy Beylemans January 13, 2015 4:05pm ET
When my wife and I visited Cuba in 2013, I bought a box of Robustos in a Casa Del Habano and I got an official document for customs.
This document proves authenticity but it also mentions where u got the cigars from and what u paid.
So I imagine it will be quite easy to determine what "$100" of cigars is for customs.

I did however not get this document when purchasing cigars a piece or in 5-packs.
Tom Petersen Toronto, Ontario, Canada, January 13, 2015 5:37pm ET
Laki - When you buy from the gov't store, La Casa Del Habano, they give you official receipt. Sometimes security at the Cuban AP will ask to see it as they do not want fakes leaving the island.
Retail prices in Canada are brutal. 3 or 4 times the price in Cuba, and there's virtually no place left (Ontario) to light up and enjoy!
Paul Benson Keller, Tx, USA, January 13, 2015 10:11pm ET
I would imagine the Cuban industry would come up with some attractive and competitive $100 collections for Americans. They will want to expand their market.
Andres Castro Bronx, NY, USA, January 14, 2015 2:02pm ET
@Erik Schwenk
Why would you say that people visiting relatives on the island would not be interested in purchasing cigars? Are Cuban-Americans not cigar aficionados? I visit my grandparents every summer in Santiago de Cuba. One of my absolute favorite things to do on the island is smoke cigars with my grandfather (and, yes, I do smoke cigars in the USA regularly also). Now I can bring back a box of Bolivar Belicosos... legally.
Skeep January 15, 2015 8:58pm ET
Bizarre. A couple years ago, Cigar Afficiando said that Cuba has 8 million cigars in warehouses waiting for the end of the Embargo. Now, we're on the cusp of the end of the Embargo and all this talk of "Pricing." I guess the 8 million cigars have fallen prey to American Capitalistic greed as usual!
doug@rds.com January 27, 2015 11:13am ET
Just returned from Cuba to the U.S. I bought Montecristo #2 for CUC 9.65 each at a reputable retail store.
David Hull High Point, NC, United States, January 27, 2015 12:51pm ET
I have very mixed feelings about even considering buying Cuban cigars. I'm 63 and a USAF veteran, and feel bad enough about loving Nicaraguan cigars (I'm smoking a Nica Libre as we speak), as the gov't. is run by the same socialist-commie-pinko-like guys (Daniel Ortega's party) the Nicaraguan contras were fighting against. BUT, he was elected democratically, the country seems pretty stable, and the Ortega regime doesn't appear to be causing a whole lot of trouble, relative to some of the oppoisition in country, not to mention the Cubans and Venezualans. Alas, if I only liked more Dominicans, Hondourans, et al(although Fuentes, some Montecristos, a few Romeo & Juliettas, and Kismets are damned good!
It seems to me that Castro has caused more than a few people more than a little heartburn, to say the least, and previous presidents have opted not to improve relations. IMO, there's no telling what's in it for Obama for "opening up Cuba," but I needn't remind you that Eric Holder, our esteemed attorney general, was Clinton's bag man, err-- strike that!-- "facilitated" the pardon of fugitive multi-millionaire Mark Rich, who was, as I recall, on the FBI Most-Wanted List, in the waning days of the illustrious William Jeffferson Clinton's presidency.
As for me, I'll take my cues and support the preponderance of opinion of the Cuban-American community. For the time being, that sentiment, on the whole, is for continuing to have the Commie, dictatorial, anti-democracy Castros reside squarely in the deep freeze. I love a good cigar, but-- as you can tell by my smoking Nica Libres-- I don't need "the best," just ones that taste good IMO and are reasonably priced. (My other go-tos include Padron and Drew Estate Tabac Red Eyes, among others-- but hey-- have you tasted Carlos Torano's Master Maduro? Wow! Me gusta! Hard to get a good deal on them, though! Smoke well, my fellow aficionados!
BRIAN SINGER LOMBARD, IL, UNITED STATES, January 27, 2015 5:25pm ET
How does U.S. customs determine the cost a person actually paid for a cigar? What hinders a cigar merchant in Cuba to write a receipt showing you received a large discount? The cost reflects CUC conversion to $100 USD for what you may purchase.
Ad Ferrao Orangeville, Ontario, Canada, January 27, 2015 6:18pm ET
Just returned from a week in Cuba, the Canadian exchange was $1.31 for 1 CUC at the bank outlets called CADECAs. Given that LCDH raised the prices of Cuban cigars in 2014, some brands dramatically... I was taken to the cleaners in purchasing my allowed 50 sticks this time around. Also, I checked several cigar shops only to find empty shelves. Spent a day on a bus going from shop to shop to find brands I was looking for with disappointment at most shops. This was my 5th time to Cuba in 4 years, and the 'lack of stock' situation was shocking. I was told that cigar shops will place orders from Havana and only small amounts of the 5 global brands arrive, heard that recently China has been importing record amounts of Cuban cigars almost like they're stockpiling????? Rumour? and stock in Cuba is very limited, only the larger LCDH outlets in larger tourist areas will carry a good selection. Hence the reason I could find nothing but Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas, Romeos. I even went to an LCDH store and they were a bit better stocked, but barely... Again, not a single Limited Edition box of anything, not one LCDH Release box, lots of the 5 main brands, very little (one or two boxes) of Ramon Allones, Trinidad, Bolivar, San Cristobal, Hoyo, etc and not a single box of Juan Lopez or Vegueros or other Cuban niche brands. At the airport, there were 4 cigar shops! Same situation, only the main 5 brands stocked (and poorly at that, no Behikes at all).
Chris White February 2, 2015 2:55am ET
@Ad Ferrao--I am an expat living in China and it is true, it is hard to find a non-cuban cigar here. They dominate every shop. And, with import taxes and VAT's they are stupefyingly expensive. However, with all the new money in China, and the attitude that the more expensive the product the better it must be, they disappear off the shelves in no time. I love cigars, but I just can't bring myself to pay their prices even though I really want a Cuban cigars. I just bring back 25-50 with me when I travel to the states.
Chris White February 2, 2015 2:55am ET
@Ad Ferrao--I am an expat living in China and it is true, it is hard to find a non-cuban cigar here. They dominate every shop. And, with import taxes and VAT's they are stupefyingly expensive. However, with all the new money in China, and the attitude that the more expensive the product the better it must be, they disappear off the shelves in no time. I love cigars, but I just can't bring myself to pay their prices even though I really want a Cuban cigars. I just bring back 25-50 with me when I travel to the states.
Chris White February 2, 2015 2:55am ET
@Ad Ferrao--I am an expat living in China and it is true, it is hard to find a non-cuban cigar here. They dominate every shop. And, with import taxes and VAT's they are stupefyingly expensive. However, with all the new money in China, and the attitude that the more expensive the product the better it must be, they disappear off the shelves in no time. I love cigars, but I just can't bring myself to pay their prices even though I really want a Cuban cigars. I just bring back 25-50 with me when I travel to the states.
Saša Josipović Croatia, September 4, 2015 1:22pm ET
David Hull — High Point, NC, United States wake up bud, this is discussion about cigars not politics and you like it or not, that island has perfect climate and soil for some of the best tobacco on this planet! Now back to cigars, my pref is Montecristo # 3, simple and likely one of those cigars for everyones tastebuds. At the end, cigars are like wine, there is not a best one, there is just those you like or not, since each person has a different taste and tastes are hard to discuss or argue, however our (so called not corrupt) politicians could let us enjoy it and not act like they are protecting got knows what while they get hands on anything they want and when ever they want! what do you think they smoke at golf fields ????!! We should be allowed to bring at least box of 25 cigars no matter the value, same as we have for a bottle of alcohol when returning from a foreign travel !
Hector Santaella Las Vegas, Nevada, Usa, March 20, 2016 7:16am ET
I'm currently deployed and will be bringing back a box of Montecristo No.#2. A coworker of mine return to the states with a box of 25 Montes No.#2 and declared it at customs, he was able to bring them home... It now sits in my humidor. I think if you play it smart and just buy a box, you should be fine. I'm going to try to bring back a bottle of the 7 year old Cuban rum as well.

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