Living in Cuba: Shopping

Shopping in Cuba ain´t easy. Cuba still doesn´t have supermarkets and shops we´re use to. A lot of people would say for sure that is good and with all the western stuff Cuba would loose it charm. Would it really? Would the ability of buying everything you need for you family destroy Cuba?

This is how it works now. Every family has so called Libreta which is a small book used for rationing food. Cubans call the food they buy for Libreta – los mandados (the sent goods). This food is not free of course but really cheap so everybody can afford it. The problem? It just finishes so fast. Each person has a right to 2.5 kg of rice, small package of cofee, 5 eggs (per month). The family of 6 also has a right for 2.5 kg of sugar, 750 ml of oil per house.

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The other day we went with Fidel to buy mandados and we paid 12.50 CUP for a bag full or rice, beans, sugar and oil. That´s about 0.50 EUR and will last for some time.

What to do when the mandados are over? Well there are few shops similar to the supermarkets where you´ll find some more stuff like pasta, rice, jam, sometimes some sweets, sometimes some beer, alcohol and some basic cosmetics. The problem? Prices in CUC so 25 x more expensive. For us foreigners it doesn´t matter that much. For Cubans, very difficult to pay for. Oil and pasta are more expensive than in Europe.

What about the green stuff? Well those you´ll find only on the street and the price will depend. If I go to buy something the price will rise because they know I can pay it. Just for example 4 small tomatoes can cost 1.50 EUR. Not cheap so being vegetarian in Cuba means starving.

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The other things you need you have to travel to Havana or wait for people who sell stuff to show up in the barrio.
For clothes, shoes etc you have to go to the bigger cities or wait for somebody to bring it from abroad.

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