From February 24 to 28, Habanos—the official government marketing agency for Cuban cigars—will be hosting the 22nd Habanos Festival, an annual celebration of Cuban cigars that attracts ardent lovers of the leaf from all over the world.
During this five-day event, three of the island’s most celebrated cigars will be spotlighted: opening night festivities will be dedicated to Bolivar; midweek the 85th anniversary of Montecristo will be celebrated; and at the black-tie closing dinner—which will include charity auctions for one-of-a-kind handcrafted humidors and boxes of cigars—the 145th anniversary of Romeo y Julieta will be commemorated.
Scheduled activities will include visits to tobacco plantations in the Partido region of the island, tours of the famous La Corona and Partagás factories and seminars. Other highlights will be evenings of live music from international musicians, fine Cuban cuisine and the opportunity to smoke some of the newest shapes from Cuba’s most prestigious cigar brands while sipping various cocktails and some of Cuba’s finest rums. All events are priced individually, but an entire five-day package will run you $1,575 (bank transfers or Euros only; no US dollars are accepted). Reservations for the festival must be made through the official travel agency, Havanatur.
Although travel to Cuba by United States citizens has become more restricted under the current administration’s tightened guidelines, it is still possible to visit this cigar-making mecca for individuals who meet certain criteria, which includes journalistic assignments, professional research and educational activities. The former “people to people” humanitarian and cultural sharing categories have largely been eliminated. For a full listing of who may legally travel to Cuba, go to: travel.state.gov. In general, US credit and debit cards don’t always work there, and you will probably need to exchange cash in US dollars into Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and then, before leaving Cuba, exchange your leftover CUCs back into dollars, as it is illegal to take Cuban currency out of the country.
But the good news is that as an American citizen, you can bring back any number of Cuban cigars (up to $800 worth) without paying duty on them, as long as they are for your personal use and not for resale. But be sure to keep your receipts, just in case.