Me casa, su casa, as they say in… every country but especially in Cuba. Cubans invite you into their homes but at a cost. As promised, here is advice on casas particulares in Cuba. Craig and I spent three weeks in Cuba, two weeks travelling around the west of the country from Havana to Viñales, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad then back to the capital. During those two weeks, we stayed in one hostel (in Havana) and four casas particulares .
What are Casas Particulares?
Casas particulares are a form of accommodation in Cuba. They are extremely popular with tourist and travellers. You pay to rent a room in a local’s house or apartment.
How Do I Find Casas Particulars?
If you are relaxed, arrive in Cuba and wander about the touristy areas. Someone will stop you and ask if you need help/want to buy cigars! More than often they will be jineteros. They’ll take you to a friend’s casa free of charge. They make money from the casa owner, a thank you for finding them custom. We did this in Havana (second visit), we were pretty confident so we let a tuk-tuk driver cycle around a couple of casas until we found one that was available!
If you arrive by bus there will be a group of casa owners waiting for you to try and sell their property, some of them will have laminated posters to advertise their pad.
Once you are in a casa, the host will suggest casas in the next town you are moving on to. They have a network of ‘friends’ who look out for each other. We booked our casa in Viñales through our hostel in Havana. I know this sounds totally alien to us but it is honestly the norm for tourism in Cuba. However, if you would prefer to physically see casas and read reviews before you go you could check out Airbnb.
Are Casa Particulares Legal?
We got the impression that in the past casas were a bit ‘under the table.’ People who have not been to Cuba (but like to think they know everything there is to know about the country, yeah those types) appear to think that casas are a secret network of housing. This really isn’t the case! If a house has an upside-down anchor sign outside, then they have registered with the government as a casa. The owner pays some form of tax to the government and the guest will get a receipt. Owners usually take your passport number for their records. There is a receipt/tax record book they complete.
What Are Casas Particulares Like?
They all differ! In Viñales, Sarah and Jorge’s casa was painted blue. It had a porch with rocking chairs and wait for it… four beds in the spare room! This was our first experience of a casa so we were surprised to see more of a hostel dorm set up.
In Caleton (Bay of Pigs where we went diving), the owner didn’t live in the house! This was her second home which she used purely for rent. There was a porch, back garden with washing line, kitchen, three double bedrooms, and a bathroom.
We stayed with Jacqueline for four nights in Trindad. We had a private room with a bathroom and a fridge. There was another dorm style room which our friend Sarah rented to herself! Jacqueline and her family (the gran down to the kids) lived in another part of the house. She had a beautiful garden where we ate breakfast every morning amongst the flowers.
During our second visit to Havana we stayed with Ramon and Rachel on Picota (#18), again we had a fridge and a private bathroom. Breakfast was an additional fee.
All rooms had air con/fans and were clean.
Rachel changed our bedding more frequently than hotels do!
How Much Do Casas Particulares Cost?
Online and in guidebooks the average advised price is 10 to 30 CUC (10 – 30 USD) per room. We quickly found out that there is not much difference between rooms at 30 and 10 CUC per person. Use your bargaining skills! If the owner is set on a price, feel free to move on – casas particulares in Cuba are in abundance.
Caleton casa – for two!
What About Meals?
Again, this differs between casas. We were offered breakfast in every casa for an additional price (2-4 CUC / $1 – 2 USD per person). Some breakfasts were platters big enough to feed a small army, others were personalised – fruit, white bread and eggs cooked to your choice. One of our hosts didn’t have margarine one day because the shop didn’t have any. This happens! Remember many Cubans live from government rations and they use renting rooms or taxi collectivo (Cuban taxi service) services to bump up their wages.
We were told that dinners in casas were outstanding but during our trip only one owner offered us dinner. With some online research, you may be able to find casas that serve dinner (Tripadvisor may be a good starting point). Do it before you go though, don’t do what we did and leave Internet research until Cuba. Wifi is restricted, although some casas now have WiFi! You still have to use the cards to log on though, not sure what that means? Do read our WiFi in Cuba guide.
Pin to your Cuba inspiration board!
In Caleton, we asked our taxi collectivo to help us find somewhere, we were travelling in a group of five but managed to find a house big enough within two stops. Again, the taxi did not charge us additional money, he would have gained commission by the host.
Research online before you go but accept that the casa may be booked already, some may have an email address but don’t expect an email back straight away, most hosts work by phone. Don’t worry if it is booked though! The host will pass you on to a pal.
- You live like a local
- Breakfast is provided for a cost
- The rooms are clean
- You are helping the local economy
- Hotels are expensive
- Hostels are not common out with Havana
- No kitchen
- Living in someone else’s house (mostly)
Hostels and Hotels in Cuba
You will find a variety of hotels in the main cities so if you don’t like the sound of staying with a local it doesn’t mean that you can’t visit Cuba. However, it is a misconception that Cuba is cheap, hotels in Havana start at £140 for a private room. There are hostels in Havana, we stayed at Ronaldo’s, Paradise is another popular one (a few doors along), both start at around £9 for a dorm bed in a six-bed dorm. Don’t expect to find hostels elsewhere, it is more common for backpackers to stay in casas.