Commonly Asked Questions About Food & Eating Out in Cuba


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Frequently Asked Questions

Paladares are one of the best ways to enjoy local Cuban cuisine. A paladar is a small, family-run restaurant, usually in a converted part of a home. Many paladares  appear and operate much like a normal restaurant. While our Cuban guides are not able to bring groups to a paladar, feel free to try one on your own. Visits to paladares are generally at the participant’s expense however some paladares are included in the tour. In Havana, a few recommended paladares include La Moraleja, near the Habana Libre Hotel; retro-feeling Cafe Laurent; and La Cocina de Lilliam, a dreamy garden respite in a residential neighborhood. InsightCuba provides a list of paladares with your final documents. Additionally, insightCuba tour leaders are experts in the paladar dining scene and can recommend the best restaurants based on your tastes and preferences.

It’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling small, portable fare. While we don’t recommend eating street fare, please use the same discretion as you would when traveling to any international destination. Check to make sure the food item looks fresh. It’s often best to buy from vendors who are busy with lots of customers. If you are choosing a food item that needs to be cooked, make sure it's thoroughly cooked at a high temperature.

Although vegetarian and other special diets are still largely unfamiliar in Cuba, we’ll do everything we can to meet your needs. We talk with waiters and chefs in advance and announce each meal’s menu to our guests to ensure that the choice is allergen-free and otherwise acceptable. Usually, at least white rice and vegetables will be available. That said, those might be your only options at times, so if you follow a strict vegan diet, for instance, you might find your choices limited and repetitive. The following represent reasonable options for vegetarians in Cuba:
Tropical fruits such as bananas, coconut, mangoes, and papaya can be found in abundance. You might also enjoy Cuba's most popular fruit, the mamey, virtually unknown in the U.S.
Starchy, flavorful plantains are used in many local recipes.
Rice and beans is a reliable staple.
Many locals enjoy incidentally vegan salads made from shredded cabbage, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, onions, or avocados, often dressed with vinegar or lemon juice.
French fries.
If you eat eggs, dairy, and wheat, breakfast should present few, if any, challenges. And the coffee and cocoa are delicious!
Some vegans recommend bringing along a bottle or two of hot sauce to keep meals interesting.

In Havana, most foods are generally safe to eat and require similar precautions as you would exercise while traveling anywhere abroad. Outside of Havana and in the provinces, we recommend exercising similar precautions as you would when traveling to any developing country. In the provinces, we recommend eating only fruits and vegetables that can be peeled and have not been sliced. Take extra care to make sure your food is thoroughly cooked. If it doesn’t look or smell good, don’t chance it; send it back and ask for something else.

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