Shopping in Cuba

Havana hardware store window display

A dismal hardware store window display in Havana

Shopping in Cuba involves buying what is available, not what one desires. Stores have limited variety, especially those aimed at Cubans. An extreme example of this was the bakery Rocío and I saw selling only one line of bread.

Cuba has a planned economy where government controls production and imports. Thus, supply of agricultural and manufactured goods is based more on government whim than demand. The US embargo against Cuba also limits product availability.

An official Puma Cuba sports top in a sparse Havana sports shop

An official Puma Cuba sports top in a sparse Havana sports shop; selling for a hefty 61.60 CUC (US$61.60), it is likely targeted at expatriate Cubans and other foreigners

Cuba has two parallel retail economies:

  1. Cheap basics aimed at sustaining locals, often subsidised; priced in Cuban pesos (abbreviated as CUP or MN)
  2. Expensive, often imported, goods for earning revenue from foreigners; priced in convertible pesos (CUC; 1 CUC = 25 CUP)

Some of the subsidised products are restricted to Cubans only such as pharmaceuticals whereas foreigners can buy from other local markets like restaurants and grocers. However, much of the food served in local restaurants is dire.

Pizza restaurant selling bad pizza in Havana Centro

Pizza restaurant selling bad pizza in Havana Centro

Shop selling rum from the barrel in Old Havana at 20 CUP (US$0.80) for a 750ml bottle

Shop selling rum from the barrel in Old Havana at 20 CUP (US$0.80) for a 750ml bottle

Rum in Havana shop not for sale during Fidel Castro's official mourning period

More expensive, branded rum in a Havana shop; the sign states the sale of alcoholic drinks is prohibited as it was during Fidel Castro’s official mourning period

Cuba has very few modern shopping centres with the largest being Havana’s Centro Comercial Plaza Carlos III. Even here, the shops contained limited variety.

Centro Comercial Plaza Carlos III, Cuba's largest shopping centre in Havana Centro

Cuba’s largest shopping centre, Centro Comercial Plaza Carlos III  in Havana Centro

Havana cafe aimed at Cubans

Havana café aimed at Cubans

Havana shop producing and selling baby, maternity and other fabric products

Havana shop producing and selling baby-wear, maternity-wear and other fabric products for the domestic market

Coffee, gas lighter refill and miscellaneous services stall in Havana

Coffee, gas lighter refill and miscellaneous services stall in Havana; the writing translated states “neither with the devil nor with god”

General store in Havana with Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer team symbols

General store in Havana with Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer team symbols

Havana butcher "Porkys"

Havana butcher “Porkys”

Cuban newsagent and post office booth in Vedado, Havana, near Plaza de la Revolucion

Cuban newsagent and post office booth in Vedado, Havana, near Plaza de la Revolucion

Pharmacy in an old Santiago de Cuba building

Pharmacy in an old Santiago de Cuba building; this building has probably been used as a pharmacy since it was constructed

Fruit and vegetable stalls at a market in Old Havana

Fruit and vegetable stalls at a market in Old Havana; note the geared contraption in the right foreground used to peel oranges and the resulting peeled fruit in the blue container

Santiago de Cuba produce market price list on wall

Santiago de Cuba produce market price list on wall; note the pounds abbreviation “lb” which actually represents 500 grams. Papaya costs 2.40 CUP (~US$0.10) per half kilo, a half kilo of carrots is 3 CUP while pineapples are 7 to 9 CUP per fruit.

Baracoa general store items

Baracoa general store items priced in CUP (1 CUP = US$0.04)

1 thought on “Shopping in Cuba

  1. Pingback: Cuban Ingenuity and Repurposing | Where is Joe.in?

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