The best market in Cuba is black
About 90% of the Cuban economy is unofficial. Official channels have a very limited offer on their shelves, the black market provides almost everything. This leads to an interesting error of judgment most tourists make. We think when we hear that the average salary is about 20 $ and something costs 10 $ that the average Cuban will have to work 15 days to buy it. Sounds logical, doesn’t it?
Well, thanks to the black market (la bolsa negra), things do not add up that way.
How to survive in Cuba
Our logic dictates that we go to work to earn money. That’s not the case in Cuba.
To live, Cubans in Havana need about 150-200 $ a month (outside Havana half that amount). If your salary is 15 and you need 200… you have to make some money on the side… The money you make “on the side” is your main income.
Every Cuban is forced to be active on the black market somehow. And they all are. This renders the “official salary” a useless way of measuring prices and spendable income. Real incomes are higher than you are told, and real prices are lower than you think.
Thanks to the black market in Cuba, people can survive, make money, buy goods and since this is not in the official statistics, we make a very wrong estimation of the real situation.
Too manny people believe that the Cubans are poor and helpless… They are not! Rich Cubans exist. Poor Cubans too. Another myth is that all Cubans live of foreigners. Not true either, Cuban has it’s hidden economy and market.
Find the black market
For a tourist, this black market is sometimes hard to find. Yes, taking an illegal taxi is easy, but finding an iPad or a fish tank will be very hard for you… Cubans are always on the lookout for contacts that can supply them stuff or that can become customers for the stuff they happen to sell. Their networks are very efficient, and that makes for a very effective black market. To complicate things, not everything on the ‘informal’ market is black :-).
Read more about the stunning paradoxes that rule Cuba in our book… On this page we’ll give you a tip that will save you a few hours in Cuba.
Last updated July 2018
Everybody operating la bolsa negra is a jinetero