History is filled with moments in time when nothing that was will ever be the same again, and it appears Cuba is now at one of those pivotal moments. Ever since the sweeping changes in U.S.-Cuba relations that President Barack Obama announced last year took effect in January, the island has been on the mind of many Americans eager to visit.
Questions remain, though, regarding how a person exactly handles booking a vacation to Havana. What constitutes legal travel? What should I expect from the hotels? Are the restaurants any good? What’s the best way to purchase Cuban cigars? Fortunately, Cigar Aficionado has been going to Cuba for more than 22 years and has the answers.
Before you schedule your visit to Cuba, check out the June issue of the magazine where we bring you the ultimate travel guide to the largest island in the Caribbean. For a preview of the expert advice in the issue, look below.
Five Cigar Shopping Tips
Flip Your Boxes—All Cuban cigar boxes are stamped with a date, and much of the shelf space will be taken up by recent smokes. In February, the lion’s share of cigars were from 2014. But patience is rewarded. Things can linger in Cuba, and a little searching can pay dividends. It’s typically easy to find something with four or five years of age, and sometimes if you check lesser-known brands and sizes you can find something even older.
Shop Around—Just because one shop is out of your favorite smoke doesn’t mean another won’t have it. While prices are the same from shop to shop, you won’t necessarily find the same cigars in every shop. Keep foraging.
Open The Box—You won’t buy a car without a test drive, so why buy a box of cigars without examining the merchandise? Ask the staff to open the box and take a look.
Never Buy On The Street—Everyone has a story, and most of those stories are false. Sure, it’s possible you just may have run into someone who knows the Castro family personally, or has an inside deal at a factory. But is it likely? No. More likely you are looking at cigars rolled in someone’s home using inferior tobacco. Cuba abounds with fake cigars, and everyone is looking to make a quick buck from a tourist.
Try The House Cigar—No, they won’t be the same as a well-aged Montecristo No. 2, but everyone should experience trying a freshly rolled cigar. If you see a cigarmaker at work, give one a shot. You might be pleased.
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For much more on traveling to Cuba and navigating all the island has to offer, pick up a copy of the June issue of Cigar Aficionado, on newsstands now.