Shopping in Cuba

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Cigars, rum, coffee, and honey are some of the items most sought-after by tourists to Cuba, and rightfully so - these locally-produced products make for perfect gifts and souvenirs and are often a great bargain to purchase in their land of origin. Products of the non-edible variety range from wood handicrafts, Cuban art, music paraphernalia, and records.

For serious antiques and vintage shopping, it might be worth planning a trip to Havana, the capital, where you will find a range of rare jewelry to books and magazines.

Cuba is no shopping paradise, quite important to note, the assortment in the shops is limited, although some large hotels like Havana Libre and Melia Cohiba have modern clothing shops.

For almost six decades, the tightly state-controlled and embargoed Cuban economy meant that all businesses, from department stores to shoe-shiners, were in the hands of the state which limited stock movement and availability on the island.

Today, though, Cuba is slowly evolving; new economic rules on private ownership are allowing ordinary Cubans to open their own stores and businesses.

For travelers, the most important items to get are cigars, rum, coffee, music CDs, and some paintings or craftwork. For T-shirts, wooden handcraft, ceramics, and gadgets (often made of empty beer cans) go to the outdoor market on Tacon Avenue just outside Plaza de la Cathedral.

In the smaller shops like the ones on Obispo Street, there is only limited access, and as a security measure, you have to wait at the entrance until any clients that are inside finish shopping and clear up.

RocApply Tips:

  • As with other facets of life in Cuban, food, and grocery are also sold in their local currency, so ensure to make all the necessary conversions and move around with a little local cash on you. Many of the establishments accept the Peso.
  • The market is a very popular and crowded place, so it is important to watch your wallet.
  • As a newcomer, some of the names of the items might confuse you, please use any online translator services to check the correct Spanish word for whatever you are searching for.
  • Always ask for help or directions from fellow students and if you can't find any around you then ask even the locals they are always happy to assist foreigners and visitors.

"I enjoy shopping and I found it affordable but some of the clothes are definitely not of the highest quality." - Hassan from Turkey

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