Buying fresh produce in Havana

If you’re staying in a beautiful family villa in Havana, you may not want to dine out every night since you will have a fully equipped kitchen at your disposal. As such, you may wish to try whipping up your own meals using fresh Cuban produce. So where is the best place to shop for fresh food?

Where to Buy Fresh Fruit

Although you may be able to walk from your vacation rental in Havana to a local grocery store for fresh Caribbean food, things are a little different in Cuba’s outskirts. In fact, most grocery stores don’t sell fresh produce at all! Instead, you’ll need to visit one of the island’s agropecuarios, or agros.

There are two types of stores: the standard agro, which sells fruits, vegetables, and meats, and which is often state-run with a price cap on goods. You’ll get a great price here, but selection may be limited. Organopónicos often have a better selection, but are privately run with prices dictated by supply/demand.

How it Works

If you’re staying in a casa particular in Havana, you may wish to accompany your host to the local agros to see how the shopping is done. However, if you’re heading off by yourself, don’t worry — it’s actually very simple. Bring your own bags if possible to reduce waste (although there will usually be some Cuban ladies selling plastic bags outside if needed), pick your foods, and take them to the cashier where they’ll be weighed and you’ll pay. You’ll usually need to pay in the local currency, so you may need to exchange some CUCs at the airport upon arrival or at a local bank.

After you’ve paid, head to the Area de Consumidor, or consumer area, where unofficial ‘staff’ re-weigh your items to see if you’ve been overcharged. If you have, simply head back to the seller who will rectify the issue. While the concept is certainly very unethical, it has become a very normal part of life for many Cubans, who are accustomed to checking that they have been charged the correct price.

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