Places to Go and Things to Do

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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Havana is by no means a great shopping city, it is the best in Cuba. Given the reality of the Cuban economy, all shops selling any goods above and beyond the basic necessities are by default geared completely toward tourists, a small community of foreign diplomats and workers, and an even smaller community of Cubans earning enough hard currency to afford such luxuries.

For the time being, shopaholics will be disappointed if they expect to find areas like Beverley Hill's Rodeo drive or large U.S. or Canadian style malls in Cuba. Havana does have its share of open-air markets, cigar stores, souvenir shops, art galleries and upscale jewelery stores. Cuban Export-Import Corporation (Cimex) operates stores all over Havana which sell all kinds of Western products. Galerías de Paseo in Vedado also has imported goods.

Cuba’s capita gross domestic product is roughly equal to that of Sri Lanka and Swaziland. About three-quarters of Cubans work for the state, earning meager salaries — a doctor there makes about $75 a month or less. For the average Cuban, access to Western goods is almost nonexistent except on the black market or by those who are lucky enough to travel abroad. Run-down department stores that accepted only pesos, the local currency, offer low-quality Cuban-made merchandise.

For now most tourists and shoppers will have to settle for arts and crafts, souvenirs, rums, cigars, and liquors and other local products.

 So you can forget U.S. style shopping in Cuba for now. Someday there may be large malls, shopping centers and chain stores as the country opens up to the rest of the world and relaxes its rules, which is only a question of time. In the future there may be a whole slew of opportunities for entrepreneurs who want import clothing and new products to the.

Shopping options

The Cigar And Rum Shops

Casa de Habano Partagas Industria Street, Nº 520, between Dragones and Barcelona streets, Havana Centro. Factory tour and complete cigar shop.

La Casa de Tabacco y Ron Corner Obispo and Monserate Streets, Old Havana 

Havana Club offers an extensive collection of rums, including the Solera San Cristobal, their most exclusive brand, created to celebrate Havana's 480th anniversary.

Museo del Ron Rum Museum. Guided tours possible in English and Spanish. Warning: The guide that we had spoke unintelligible English.

At La Casa del Cafe or at Cafe Habano, you can buy ground coffee or the beans by the kilo and enjoy a delicious cup while you wait for your order.

Malls

Plaza Carlos Tercero at Avenida Salvador Allende between Arbol Seco and Retiro streets, Havana Centro is a large shopping mall with 3 floors, always crowded with people, sometimes with long lines at the shop entrances. It is probably the closest thing Cuba has to a shopping center at this time. The plaza fast-food outlets are around a central atrium and there are clothes, electronic consumer products, (VCR, TV etc.), and peso shops where you can buy all items for a fixed price of one or five peso. The plaza is a typical Cuban shopping experience.

Galerías de Paseo is an upscale shopping center catering to wealthy Cubans, Europeans and Americans. Complejo Comercial Comodoro, in Vedado has has a few stores next to the Hotel Comodoro in Miramar has outlets for a few brand names of clothing. There are also Adidas, Nike and Benetton stores in la Habana. La Puntilla Centro Comercial, located on the other side of the tunnel in Miramar, offers furniture and electronics products

Ferreteria TRASVAL Tel: 781-6612, is a new big modern shopping mall situated at the square near San Rafael and Galino streets. Many things for the “Do it your self',” paints, bicycles, tools, construction materials, barbecues, toys, HiFi, kitchenware etc. For the average Cuban it is a real shopper’s paradise.

Supermarkets FOTO

The biggest and best-stocked supermarkets and shopping malls are located in the residential Miramar District, where you find all the embassies and the diplomats’ residences.

Supermercado 70 at 3rd Avenue and 70th Street, Miramar is one of the biggest supermarkets. It carries a variety of choices by Cuban standards, with a well-stocked food department and clothing shops.

Supermercado Flores at 176th Street between 1st and 3rd Avenue, Miramar is another large food store, well stocked by Cuban standards.

La Puntilla at corner Street A and 1st Avenue, Miramar is a large mall selling a wide variety of clothes, food, perfume and electronic consumer products.

 Mercado CUBALSE at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, Miramar is a mall with food and clothing departments.

Centro Comercial Paco at 5th Avenue and 188th Street, Miramar is one of the best-stocked supermarkets in the city, with more expensive and higher quality food items. For example, among their cheese products range you’ll find Italian Parmesan and French Roquefort (1.4 kg at 125 CUC). It’s a place where the average Cuban never shops: it’s too expensive. The orders and the buyers come from the embassies and the diplomatic corps.

La Maison at 16th Street Nº 701, between 7th and 9th Avenues is a nice store, with clothing, perfume and jewel shops, a swimming pool and an excellent restaurant where you can admire models showing off the latest clothes. This is a rather expensive place designed for tourists and business people. 

Public Markets in the city

  • Mercado de la Catedral, Tacon Avenue (near plaza de la Catedral) Old Havana 
  • Feria del Malecon, between C and D streets, Hotel Riviera, Vedado 
  • Mercado de la Rampa, at La Rampa between M and N Streets, Vedado 
  • Mercado de Cuatro Caminos, Maximo Gomez 256, Havana Centro 

 As the country enters the world market things are bound to change. More and more foreign goods are available in Cuba today. As you know, one of the advantages of living in Cuba is its proximity to the United States. Eventually shopping will be almost as convenient as living on the Mexican or Canadian borders where foreigners cross frequently to shop. On a short shopping trip to Miami you will be able to buy essentials as sundries, medicines, clothing and other products you can't live without or which can't be purchased in Cuba.

 While shopping in the states or a neighboring country it will be a good idea to stock up on cotton clothing. The more cotton clothing you have the more comfortable you will be. In tropical areas cotton is the coolest type of clothing you can wear. We also recommend hats if you intend to walk under the hot tropical sun. Don't forget to have several pairs of cool walking shoes. You might think about waterproofing them for the rainy season. Don't forget a good umbrella, since tropical rain is warm and raincoats will keep you dry but make you sweat like crazy.

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