Havana shopping

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Habana Vieja
Centro Habana
Playa & Marianao


If shopping is one of your favorite vacation pastimes, don’t make a special trip to Habana.
To the relief of many and the disappointment of a few, Western-style consumerism hasn’t
yet reached the time-warp streets of Cuba’s austere capital. That’s not to say you have to
walk away empty-handed. Cuba’s tourist industry has upped the ante considerably in recent
years and specialist shops are spreading fast.
The holy grail for most foreign souvenir hunters is a box of Cuban cigars, closely followed
by a bottle of Cuban rum, both of which are significantly cheaper than in stores overseas.
Another often overlooked bargain is a bag of Cuban coffee, a potent and aromatic brew
made from organically grown beans and best served espresso style with a dash of sugar.
Elsewhere memorabilia is thin on the ground. Aimed strictly at the tourist market, there
are cheap dolls, flimsy trinkets, mediocre wood carvings and low-quality leather goods, but
Cuba is a world leader in none of these things. Far better as long-lasting souvenirs are salsa
CDs, arty movie posters, musical instruments or strings of Santería beads.
In the realm of books you’ll find plenty of erudite exposes of Che, Fidel and José Martí in
a number of different languages plus a plethora of glossy coffee-table books. Look out in particular for cheap books at the famous secondhand book market (p152) in Plaza de Armas.
Painting is another of Cuba’s fortes, and local artists are both numerous and talented. If
you buy an original painting, print or sculpture, be sure to ask for a receipt to prove you
bought it at an official sales outlet; otherwise, it could be confiscated by customs upon
departure (see Exporting Artwork, below).
In a country where clothes were – until recently – rationed, and lycra is still considered
to be the height of cool, finding the latest pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans could prove a little
difficult. Incurable fashion junkies can spend their convertibles on guayaberas (pleated,
buttoned men’s shirts) or a yawningly predictable Che Guevara T-shirt. Take your pick.


Opening Hours

Consumer Taxes

Most stores list their prices with the tax included. The price you see displayed is thus
the price you pay at the till.


Although bargaining is almost nonexistent
in shops in Habana, you can try out your
haggling skills at open-air markets that sell
souvenirs to ...
Habana Vieja 151
Centro Habana 153
Vedado 153
Playa & Marianao 154
© Lonely Planet Publications
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