Expensive Havana Outings: a Hole in Your Pocket

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – I can tell you that to go out in these times you’ll need to have a good-sized roll of bills. Anything you eat in a cafeteria or restaurant will leave a sizable hole in your wallet. To my way of thinking, the monetary reordering (the 2021 currency reforms) is the worst thing to have happened  to the country.

I call it “monetary disordering”, because all the private and state sectors have now raised their prices, as if everyone were receiving a respectable salary.

After so much time shut up at home for the public health crisis, many places have finally begun to offer service. I wanted to go spend a few hours in Old Havana, and I talked a friend into going together.

We got there fast, heading down the Havana boardwalk on her electric motorcycle. Right away we began to look for a parking space where she could leave the bike. Almost all the sites where they guard parked cars and motorcycles are situated amid old ruins of former buildings. The fee for parking her motorcycle for a few hours was 50 Cuban pesos. (US $2.00).

The House of Chocolate and a customer

Our first destination of choice was The House of Chocolate, where in years past they prepared a great chocolate drink with cinnamon and nutmeg. Now it’s only just hot or cold chocolate, and of course they’ve given up the bonbon and the little cookie that used to come with the cup. It doesn’t even come with a little piece of toast.

The entire place has changed. There are only a few tables in the main salon, and the chairs are piled against the wall. At least they still have air conditioning. Sitting in the garden is the pleasantest though, with the tables in the open air amid large pots full of plants.

Outside, they sell churros for 20 pesos, which people buy to have with the chocolate. The cup of chocolate now costs double what it did before – 25 pesos.

A man in white served us. He’s not a waiter. I commented on how the quality of the chocolate had gone down, since it was now half watered down. He responded rudely that it’s not his fault, and that in addition they’re short-staffed.

Can you imagine a more discourteous reply to a customer?

The decor is still tasteful, with shelves of porcelain cups, and paintings on the wall with scenes involving cacao.

We tried to enjoy our stay there, conversing and recalling old times. Later, we walked through the plazas and alleys, until it occurred to us to go by the National Museum of Fine Arts to catch an exhibition. The entry fee, which before was 5 pesos each, now cost 15 pesos per person.

The lunch hour caught up with us, so we checked out two or three restaurants. They all offered the same thing – chicken – as if suddenly that animal was all the rage.

They say that pork now costs 200 pesos a pound in the markets…

What’s really going on is that there’s nothing else to eat, or maybe they haven’t done the necessary transactions, or they lack enough imagination to develop dishes that don’t involve meat. The administrators of these places aren’t interested in those who are vegetarians or vegans.

The Brewery in Plaza Vieja, Old Havana

Finally, we stopped at a restaurant in Plaza Vieja called La Cervecera [“The Brewery”] because they usually sell that beverage.

All the main dishes involved chicken, of course, and the cheapest cost 250 pesos, while a beer with the food cost an additional 38 pesos.

My friend ordered a chicken skewer that seemed to have come straight out of the refrigerator. It was supposedly grilled with briquettes, but the dough was pale, and the peppers on the skewer were half rotten.

Since I refused to eat that darn chicken, I didn’t eat anything, only drank one of the beers.

I began to protest and badmouth them loudly, saying that they were forcing people to consume a plate of cold and ill-prepared chicken, just to be able to drink a beer. A woman who was at the table next door, then broke in to say that the place wasn’t so bad, and that there were only two leaders she followed: one was Hugo Chavez and the other Fidel Castro.

I froze when I heard that, and I said: “Hey, I’m talking about the shitty food here. What does that have to do with those two dead people?”

At to that, a man at another table replied: “Well, they’re colder than that chicken!” 

Read more by Irina Pino here.



Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

Irina Pino has 273 posts and counting. See all posts by Irina Pino

11 thoughts on “Expensive Havana Outings: a Hole in Your Pocket

  • I would like to post this comment as an update about what appears to be the tourism situation in Havana, at least at the end of March 2022. Whoever is reading this post, DO NOT even think about coming here for your vacation. Old Havana looks like it just survived a bombing campaign and the people are so poor it’s just unbearable ( we had on several occasions people begging us for money and a few swindlers ). This may not be new, what is new however is the unbelievably high prices me and my wife had to wrap our head around here. Most places even in Switzerland are lower than in Havana. For example, a bottle of 500 ml is 120 pesos ($8 Canadian dollars), a simple burger with 2-3 fries is 500 pesos ( $28 Canadian dollars), a beer domestic is 180 ( $10 Canadian dollars ) etc. Believe me, we looked in quite a few places and that is the average. We regret we ever came here and it will never happen again !!!

  • Brad, you’re talking about respect?
    Maybe lame sloganeering and trolling is a respected pastime down your way?

  • I have not returned to Cuba in a little more than two years. I am sorry to hear about the decline in the quality of the House of Chocolate. It has always been one of my favorite Habana Vieja stops. It’s no surprise however to hear how the place has changed. I can’t think of of a single Havana restaurant that has improved over the last few years. Also not a surprise to read about the Castro/Chavez fan. I am always amazed at how these people can literally walk through dog sh*t in Havana and still praise Castro. But Trumpsters do the same in the US so I guess Cuba is not the only place idiots exist.

  • If you start telling the truth people might gain a tiny amount of respect Nick.
    Granted it’s not very likely it’s just not in you.

  • More lame and useless abuse from Brad.
    Repetitive like a parrot.

  • Truth hurts Nick you support the dictatorship and everyone knows it.

  • Brad likes making up stories about people that aren’t true.
    Shame.

  • Sorry Nick not into dictators or wannabe dictators. That’s your style.

    Your Cuban unelected communist tyranny should come to an end, but i don’t think that is happening anytime soon. Too much fear and repression.

  • Brad doesn’t have a lot to say so he makes up stories about other contributors.
    This is a shame.
    Brad are you a big fan of trump?

  • I remember going to the House of Chocolate when I was just a Kid. It sounds so odd the difference between the place nowadays and the old one. I wonder how it will go with the tourism in Cuba, the quality is more important than the quantity. I’m hoping that the economy of the country gets better for when I go to Cuba again, if I do.

  • Cuba is falling apart everything is getting worse by the day.
    And the prices keep rising, the CUP street rate continues climbing while the state banks try to sell at the fake rate of 25 to1.
    What a mess Cuba. This is what Dan and Nick boast about the incompetent disastrous tyranny.

Comments are closed.