Shopping in Havana
Shopping in Cuba means top cigars and rum, world-class art, and unique handicrafts. As buildings and storefronts get restored and occupied by entrepreneurs, Old Havana is becoming a hive of shopping activity, with everything from artisan chocolates and perfume to sterling silver and hand-sewn dresses. Additionally, every hotel has a souvenir shop. Souvenirs are sold in Convertible Pesos (CUC). Visitors should note that Cuba is a cash-based economy: credit cards are rarely accepted and no cards issued by US banks can be used.
Long acknowledged as producing the best in the world, Cuban cigars (known as habanos or puros) are expensive internationally but much cheaper on home soil. The city is peppered with stores where good-quality cigars can be bought; try Casa del Tabaco, Calle Oficios 53, in Habana Vieja or the Casa del Habano on the corner of 5ta Avenida and Calle 16 in Miramar; rum and coffee are also good buys and travel well. Cuban music CDs pack the shelves of music and souvenir stores and wandering minstrels are always peddling their recordings in bars around town.
The city’s sprawling Almacenes de San José is a hangar-sized, seaside souvenir market at Avenida del Puerto and San Ignacio, open daily 1000-1800. In Vedado, there’s a smaller market selling similar wares on Calle 23 between Calles M & N open daily 1000-1700.
Shopping malls have arrived in Havana; Tiendas Carlos III (Avenida Salvador Allende), is stuffed with clothes, shoes and beauty products, as is the multi-storied mall, Galerías Paseo, at Paseo and 1ra Avenida in Vedado.
Shops open daily 1000-1800 including Sundays 1000-1300, although this may not always be the case.
Leather shoes and handbags, hand carved wooden boxes, and everything from aprons to ashtrays with Che's likeness are the bread and butter of most Cuban souvenir stalls. Items emblazoned with Cuba – hats, baseball jerseys, backpacks – are also popular.