Let’s face it, shopping mecca is not the first word that comes to mind when you think about the Cuban capital. But there are shops in Cuba, so don’t panic.
Supermarkets in Havana Cuba are not like supermarkets anywhere else, and the malls are not like malls either. Or shops, or shopping in any form.
I have even been in a queue for around 4 hours straight to get toilet paper in Havana during the pandemic! Things are hard to get..!
So Havana is not your city if your main travel objective is full days of shopping. But that does not mean that shopping is impossible!
Shops In Cuba
You can absolutely go shopping in Cuba for new outfits and accessories, at least in the larger cities like Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and Cienfuegos.
However, shopping in the sense of spending the day in streets full of stores, looking for bargains on elegant outfits, shoes, bags, make-up, and all that is not really a realistic option.
The kind of shopping you can do in Havana is mainly the touristy stuff, Cuban cigars, and bottles of local rum.
Also artwork by one of Cuba’s very skilled artists which are sold in the myriad of showrooms or little shops throughout Havana.
Endless long streets with clothes and accessories shops are not what you find in Havana. BUT!
There are clothing stores in Cuba if you want something to bring home or suddenly need something special.
So as to whether it is possible to go shopping in Havana? Well, YES, it is. Allow me to show you where you can find what you need!
Don’t forget Havana adventures!
If you like a few done-for-you adventures or just getting the most out of your time, one of the organized tours in Havana will give you a lot of experience for the buck.
Here are 5 of the top-rated tours of Havana you will love!
- Iconic Havana Photo Tour
- Cuban Dance Class in Havana
- Classic Sidecar Motorcycle Tour of Havana
- Private Classic Car Beach Day Trip
- The Famous Havana Private Classic Car Tour
Shopping In Havana Cuba
Galeria De Tiendas At Manzana Kempinski Hotel
In the same building as the stylish Hotel Manzana, there is a high-end 1st-floor shopping mall.
The hotel and mall are situated right between the end of Obispo Street and Parque Central and are easy to find.
Most of the stores here are on the super pricey end of the spectrum. You can find designer brands of clothing, shoes, and accessories, as well as cosmetics and jewelry.
One positive thing about this mall is that there are hardly ever any queues – unless the coffee store has got new shipments of the golden brown coffee (which in the spring of 2022 was “impossible” to get in the whole of Cuba – now it is better).
One thing to be aware of is that these shops only accept credit cards.
Any shop in Cuba that is owned by the Cuban government that is called an MLC store only accept credit card, and not cash, as payment.
You can read a bit more about money in Cuba and shopping in Cuba, in particular for American nationals, at the end of the article.
Also read: 42 Legendary Things To Do In Havana!
Also read: The Havana Art Scene & Galleries
Brands Range From Armani To Mango
The shops you will find here range from high-end designer brand clothing like Armani and Versace to more mainstream clothing like Mango.
Also, you will find lingerie, travel accessories, a whole L’Occitane brand shop, and an exclusive coffee shop called D’Cuba Coffee.
You can also get jewelry, watches, perfumes, cosmetics, and of course, rum and cigars!
Also read: 19+ Best Things To Do In Varadero Cuba!
Shopping In Havana Obispo Street
The main street of Old Havana is a pedestrian street for the most part and is normally buzzing with life.
Here you will find ice cream, street vendors, music and dancers, small kiosks, and bigger restaurants.
You can get a sandwich and a beer to go to or have a seat for a meal.
Most of the shops you find on Obispo street are touristy places where you can buy Cuban rum, cigars, flip-flops, and t-shirts stating CUBA for your post-holiday summer outfits.
However, there are some nice stores in Obispo as well.
Sports stores in Obispo offer shoes and sporty outfits of good quality, and some clothing stores have nice clothes and shoes of good quality.
One of my favorite clothes- and accessories stores are also in Obispo, called Unico.
Also read: 10 Perfect Day Trips From Havana Cuba!
Unico is the most “Western” shop I have found in Old Havana, with a cool and diverse range of items at a decent price.
The shop looks modest and closed from the outside, although they just recently started opening up window displays of clothes, which are not very common in Cuba.
You may expect some queue to get in though, but it will be worth it.
Check out the photos below for an impression of strolling down Obispo, and notice the Etecsa store is also here – where you need to go to get wifi cards!
Carlos III Shopping Mall
The Plaza de Carlos III Shopping Mall is a four-story shopping mall situated in the border area between Centro Havana and Vedado on Avenida Salvador Allende.
It is named after the old name of the plaza where it was constructed.
When this mall opened in the late 90ès, it was the largest shopping complex in Cuba, with lots of different shops, fast food outlets, a bank, a food market, and more.
During the pandemic, all the malls were closed, but now things are all back to normal.
Prices, however, are a lot higher than two years ago because of a combination of the consequences of the pandemic, the trade situation, and the domestic reforms in Cuba in the last couple of years.
Pro Tip: Get yourself a water bottle with a filter before your Cuba holiday, and you can drink water from anywhere!
Avenida San Rafael Across From Parque Central
The Avenida San Rafael starts just across Parque Central from Manzana Hotel, with Hotel Inglaterra on one side and Gran Teatro on the other.
The start of the avenue is easily recognizable by the statue of the couple embraced in a kiss right in the middle of the street.
Outside of the entrance of the Hotel Inglaterra, there normally is a vibrant music scene along with restaurants serving drinks and meals under the stylish palisades.
A lot of little shops with everything from home decor to clothes to sweets to art to liquor stores surround the wide pedestrian zone in Avenida San Rafael that goes on for four long blocks.
The ambiance of Avenida San Rafael is a little more high-endìsh than Obispo Street – which has more of the tourist in slippers-vibe.
Also read: Sensational 7 Days In Cuba Itinerary!
The dress above: from a Cuban particular (private) store in Ave. San Rafael, location: restaurant La Guarida in Central Havana, pose Queen’ish!
Regardless of whether you have shopping goals or not, a stroll down San Rafael is a nice experience.
The pedestrian Avenida San Rafael ends up in a little park area where there sometimes are markets, and you can rest on a park bench and connect to the wifi that is available there.
Shopping In Plaza Vieja Old Havana
In Plaza Vieja in Old Havana on the corner of street Teniente Rey and Mercaderes, you find two incredibly discretely placed clothes shops.
The thing about Cuba and shopping is that there are never any large signs or windows letting you know that there is a shop inside (or what kind of shop for that matter).
The first one is a United Colors of Benetton, and the other one is called Boutique Plaza Vieja.
If you go up close outside, you might just get a glimpse of what is inside!
Clandestina In Calle Villegas
Clandestina is a small, almost invisible, cool little shop in Calle (street) Villegas 403 in Havana Vieja, Old Havana.
Just beside Parque Cristo, between scruffy buildings that look super run down and neglected, are a bright sign and a wall painted in bright colors hiding the Cuban contemporary design shop named Clandestina.
Inside are trendy t-shirts and hats and little bags with prints and, of course, also designer face masks these days.
Here is what they say about themselves in the Clandestina shop!
“Founded by young Cuban artists and entrepreneurs, Clandestina is Cubas first desing store – providing both tourists and residents with contemporary products that are uniquely designed and manufactured in Cuba. The Clandestina name is inspired by the Cuban film Clandestinos. A masterpiece about young and subversive revolutionaries. Clandestian means Cuan-made, progressive, contemporary, youthful, resourcefulness, playful humor and Carribean Happiness”.
The Vedado By Hotel Tryp Habana Libre
Around the open square plaza surrounding the entrance to Hotel Tryp Habana Libre, you also find a selection of shops.
They have a slightly touristy ambiance but sell light summer clothes and accessories like t-shirts, hats, shorts, and skirts.
You also find a liquor store on the corner of Calle (street) 23 and Calle L, just across from the Coppelia Ice Cream Bar!
Shopping, Money And Credit Cards In Cuba
As every kind of American credit card (or debit card) is not accepted in Cuba due to the ongoing sanction, that means that US citizens can not go shopping in the MLC stores.
Also, the United States has set a regulation on where US citizens can spend their money in Cuba.
This includes facilities owned by the Cuban government, which also regulates where American nationals can shop and also stay in Cuba.
These regulations do not apply to a Canadian citizen or any other nationality.
I have a comprehensive article about money in Cuba that explains it all, and how you spend your money helping the Cuban people.
Requirements For Traveling To Cuba
There are formally two kinds of travelers going to Cuba on a Cuba tourist visa. The first one is Americans, and the second one is everyone else.
Due to the ongoing sanctions, US citizens need to make sure they travel to Cuba within the regulations set by the US government.
All other nationalities travel as normal to Cuba, with the travel documents required by Cuban authorities.
American nationals can not legally travel to Cuba as tourists, BUT, the US Government has set a list of 12 preapproved reasons to travel to Cuba that does not require any paperwork or application process in the US.
The most popular and widely used one is “travel to help the Cuban people”. That is just a reason you decide for yourself, and state if anyone asks.
Getting The Cuban Tourist Card
The exception is for anyone traveling via the US, and a US airport is the last airport before you land in Cuba.
Travelers having the last leg of the journey from a US airport also need the pink tourist card or visa.
You can buy a Cuban tourist visa from the Cuban consulate or embassy in your country and from selected airlines and travel agencies.
Buying a Cuban tourist card via the Cuban consulate or embassy normally will include filling out an application form, which is merely a formality.
The tourist card is valid for one single entry into Cuba, and you can stay in Cuba for 90+90 days, a total of 180 days, with one tourist card.
Other Visas For Cuba
If you want to travel to Cuba for other reasons, there are a variety of special visas you can apply for.
US nationals who would like assistance in planning their Cuba travel can contact a US travel agency or tour operator specializing in Cuba travel, which will make sure you travel within the regulations.
Cuban citizens, or Cubans with other citizenships, will still be considered Cuban nationals when entering Cuba and showing their Cuban passport.
Entry Requirements To Cuba
In addition to having a tourist card, whether one of the green cards or the pink card, there are a few more entry requirements for traveling to Cuba.
The first thing is that you need to register your entry beforehand on the d’viajeros page online form. And you need a valid passport.
You also need valid travel insurance, which includes health insurance coverage, when you enter Cuba.
The maximum quantity of cash you can bring into Cuba without disclosing anything in customs is $5000.
This is nice to know for US citizens who will not be able to use US credit cards in Cuba.
American Airlines and Delta Airlines have daily departures for direct flights from Miami International Airport to Cuba.
FAQs Cuba Travel
Why are US citizens not allowed to travel to Cuba?
This is NOT correct. US citizens ARE ALLOWED to travel to Cuba.
Americans can choose a reason for Cuba travel among 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba, determined by the US Government.
Can US citizens travel to Cuba as a tourist?
Technically, US citizens are NOT allowed to travel to Cuba as a tourist. Americans choose between 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel, among which the most common one is “to help the Cuban people”.
What are the 12 requirements to travel to Cuba?
You can read about the 12 pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba for US citizens here.
The easiest and most common reason for Cuba travel is “to help the Cuban people”. There is no paperwork or application process connected to this, you just choose your reason and state that reason if anyone asks.
What happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba?
Nothing happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba, apart from hopefully, the US citizen will have a fabulous holiday and encounter with Cuban culture.
US citizens need to choose one of the pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba and need to buy the PINK Cuban tourist card, also called a tourist visa.
Selected airlines sell this visa/tourist card, or you can buy one online.
What documents do I need to travel to Cuba?
You need the following documents to travel to Cuba:
- Passport valid for 6 months after date of entry
- Cuban tourist card / tourist visa
- Proof of travel insurance, including health insurance
- Fill out the d’viajero.cu digital document before your journey
Do Americans need to be vaccinated to enter Cuba?
No, there is no requirement for specific vaccines prior to entering Cuba. Your country’s health department probably has recommendations for what vaccines you should consider before entering Cuba.
How Do I get a tourist card for Cuba?
You can buy a tourist card online from Easy Tourist Card, or from the Cuban embassy in your country.
You might also be able to buy a Cuban tourist card from your airline or at the airport prior to departure.
It is possible to buy a Cuban tourist card at Miami International Airport at the check-in counter with American Airlines and Delta Airlines.
How Do I Get A Tourist Visa For Cuba?
A tourist visa is the same as a tourist card for Cuba. You can buy it from the following places:
- Buy one online from Easy Tourist Card
- Buy one from your airline if they offer this
- Buy one at the airport of departure if they offer this
- Buy one from the Cuban Embassy in your country
Is Travel To Cuba Allowed Right Now?
Yes, Cuba travel is allowed right now. There are no COVID or health restraints from entering Cuba right now.
There are no political constraints from entering Cuba right now for most international travelers.
American citizens need to, in addition, choose one of the 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba (Americans can not travel as “tourists”) and follow some simple guidelines for traveling in Cuba.
Wrap-Up Shops In Cuba!
Although Havana is not a shopping mecca, you can find nice places to buy what you might need in the different districts of Havana.
My advice is still to lower your shopping expectations for this otherwise vibrant city, which is no real bother as there are so many other interesting things to do!
Shopping you can do anywhere; Havana offers you a whole lot of something different!
I really advise you to do your research before traveling to Cuba and Havana.
If you have limited time in the Cuban capital, consider going on one or a few organized tours to get the best of the city during your visit.
Compare Flight Prices To Cuba Here!
Found This Article Helpful? Pin It For Later!
My Resource Go-To List For Best Travel Booking Deals!
Travel Insurance: IMG Medical Travel Insurance
VPN Secure Internet: ExpressVPN
Cuba Visa Online: Easy Tourist Card
Car Rentals Online: Discover Cars
Do you have any questions about Cuba? Leave a comment, or send me an e-mail! Happy to help!