Viva Cuba! Part 9 – The Best (Cheap) Food & Drink Options

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Emily:  When I learned about America’s more relaxed policy towards travel to Cuba, I jumped at the opportunity!

Cuba has a lot to offer.  My friends and I were drawn to the classic cars, the Art Deco architecture, and, of course, the friendly people!  We also love music and dance, which is one of Cuba’s specialties! Rick Steves recently produced an excellent video on Cuba that’s fun and informative.

The US and Cuba reached an agreement for direct flights.  Flight availability to Cuba from various US airports and search engines is ALWAYS changing, so be sure to try multiple search engines and cities, if possible.  Readers have reported that some flights to Cuba from the US may be opening up.  When I went to Cuba in December 2015, flights were not scheduled yet. My friends and I flew via Cancun, and continued our journey to Havana.

Note:  Regulations surrounding US travel to Cuba are always changing, so make sure you check the current rules before planning your trip.  There are limited opportunities to use miles & points, but you can save some money.  I’ll show you how later in this series!

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

Cuba Has Charming Public Squares, Just Like in Europe

My travel partners included many of the same friends who accompanied me to Croatia!

Robbie (pink hair) is a professional dance instructor who teaches salsa, kizomba, and bachata.  Sarita is also a dance teacher, as well as a graphic designer.  Gissell teaches fitness classes and loves rock climbing.

On this trip, I went with 3 new friends – Diana, a local art teacher, Chelsea, who manages a hostel, and Antonio, who works in IT design.  Traveling as a group of 7 was fun, but definitely challenging at times!  We had a great time together, and can’t wait to return!

Viva Cuba! Trip Report Index:

Casa Particulars Probably Have the Best Food

Our most delicious meals (by far!) were in our own home.  I learned that most Cubans don’t have the income to visit expensive restaurants very often, and instead learn to cook delicious food at home for a fraction of the cost.

We had breakfast at our casa particular EVERY morning.  Our host family charged $7 per person, which was totally worth it.  They served scrambled eggs, croquetas (similar to hush puppies), meat, bread and butter, fruit, juice, coffee, etc.

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

What Better Way to Begin the Day Than Breaking Croquetas With Friends?

We had extravagant breakfasts, fit for royalty!

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

A Table Brimming With Food for Less Than $50

Supermarkets Don’t Have a Great Food Selection

My friends and I found a supermarket and decided to stock up on snacks, wine, and water.  We were amazed at the small selection of food.  And the large selection of alcohol!

Fresh produce was particularly sparse.  It’s best to visit a farmers market for that.

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

It Was a Ghost Town In the Supermarket

The selection of mayonnaise was above average, though.

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

If Only We Could Find Something to Put it On! Oh, I Know, Hot Dogs! :)

Plenty of hot dogs, too.

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

We Didn’t Buy Anything That Needed Warming Up, Since We Didn’t Have Access to a Kitchen at Our Apartment

As well as canned meats and fish.

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

The Market Sold Mostly Non-Perishable Items

Their liquor selection was pretty extensive.  Stay away from the cheap wine – it takes like vinegar!

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

We Saved Money by Making Our Own Drinks at Our Casa Particular

I really liked Mulata rum (my personal favorite was the darker, caramel colored one).

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

Cuba Knows Its Rum!

We stocked up on lots of water.

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

My Friends and I Like to Drink Lots of Water

A store employee helped us carry our groceries down to the car.  He even helped us load it up!

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

I Could Get Used to This Kind of Treatment!

Farmers Markets

No matter where you stay, there is likely a farmers market somewhere nearby.  Your host family can direct you to the closest one.

There are lots of fruits and vegetables.

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

We Found MUCH More Desirable Snacks at the Farmers Market

I decided to try some Cuban sweets.  I was able to pay in the local currency, making them SUPER cheap!

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

You’ll Save Money By Finding Someone Who Will Let You Pay With Local Currency (CUP) Instead of Tourist Currency (CUC)

We enjoyed looking at the selection of fruit, and buying a few unfamiliar kinds to try back at the apartment..

Viva Cuba Part 9 The Best Cheap Food Drink Options

A Big Part of Travel Is Trying New Things

Bottom Line

The best food in Cuba is probably in your own apartment!  Ask your host family if they can cook for you.  The fee is well worth the meal.

Supermarkets are a great place to shop for water and liquor, but that’s about it.  They didn’t carry a lot of other products!

Farmers markets are excellent for buying cheap produce.  And for trying new fruits!  We didn’t buy much else, because we didn’t have access to a kitchen at our apartment.

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3 responses to “Viva Cuba! Part 9 – The Best (Cheap) Food & Drink Options

  1. Emily, this whole series has been very helpful. We jumped on the Silver Airways bandwagon and bought tickets the first day they were available. We are heading to central Cuba in late December. Curious if anyone in your party was vegetarian and how that was dealt with? We have arranged to have kitchen access at our casa particulares. It’s very useful to see your photos of the supermarket (not planning mayo-based meals).

    Keep it up!

  2. @HeavenlyJane being a veggie in Cuba will take flexibility. Does the person eat fish at all? If not they might find food to be quite limited, lots of eggs and salad. With rice they’ll be limited to white rice as the rice and beans is cooked with pork as is pretty much everything. It’s probably best not to dive to deep into ALL the ingredients as you might find even veggie things are cooked with pork or another type of animal fat.

    Do look at the comments on each of the pages as I, and others, have posted tips and corrections (especially on the food, there is AMAZING food in Cuba). The Cuba forum on TripAdvisor is full of VERY experienced travelers to Cuba, a bit less so is the Thorn Tree on Have a great trip!

  3. @ HeavenlyJane- Thank you so much for the feedback! I’m so happy you’re enjoying it!!

    I did travel with vegetarians! It’s easy to find rice and beans, lol–but Karen is right–I am not sure how the rice and beans were cooked. Ours didn’t have any meat included with the rice and beans, but I’m not sure what broth it might have been cooked in. We also had lots of fresh avocado, salads, and grilled vegetables at home.

    Our host family asked us what we wanted, so we asked them if they could prepare more veggies for us and less meat. It might be more difficult finding only veg food in restaurants though. I didn’t seem to find where all of the good restaurants were (except for a delicious pizza place that did have veggie options). I’m allergic to fish and didn’t get served any fish on my trip, which was a huge relief. You may want to order these chef cards in Spanish. I get fish allergy chef cards for every trip I go on, and I think it’s one of the reasons why I have not had an allergic reaction in several years.

    Check out the comments on the previous post and the Tripadvisor Cuba forum. You’re going to have a great time, and I wish I could go again very soon! 🙂

    @Karen- Your feedback has again, been invaluable. I really wanted this series to be one of the most thorough “how-to’s” on Cuba that’s out there. Thank you again for your help!! 🙂