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Me casa, su casa, as they say in… every country but especially in Cuba. Staying with locals is part of the Cuba travel experience and the types of accommodation that you book are called casa particular or casas particulares (plural).
Stay with Cubans for an authentic while supporting the community and saving some of your travel budget too! This guide explains what casas are, shares our experience, discusses where to stay in Cuba and finally, other forms of accommodation on the island which you can book too.
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1. What is Casa Particular?
Casas particulares are a form of accommodation in Cuba.
They are extremely popular with tourists as you get to live in a local’s house in the heart of the destination.
Casas are completely legal as owners sign up to have the right to rent out a room in their home or a full house if they have one.
Many offer breakfast making them essentially a B&B.
Some of the best places to stay in Cuba are actually casas which is great because hotels are expensive.
2. 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! Decline the cigar offer but ask if they can help you find a casa.
This is completely normal and I know it is not the way you normally travel.
They’ll take you to a friend’s casa free of charge. Payment will be made by the casa owner in the form of commission. You will experience this exchange all over Cuba for a variety of services such as taxis, class car tours, bike rental, etc.
We let fate decide our casa during our second visit to Havana and felt confident doing so after three weeks in Cuba.
A local in a tuk-tuk cycled around a couple of options until we found one.
Once you are in a casa, the host can 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 accommodation in Havana.
I know this sounds totally alien to us but it is honestly the norm for tourism in Cuba.
→ Note: The majority of casa owners do not speak English. Work on your survival Spanish before you go. Here are 5 ways to learn Spanish without leaving the house.
3. Are Casas 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.
4. What Are Casas Particulares Like?
Casas all differ!
In Viñales, Sara and Jorge’s casa is painted blue. It has 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 near the Bay of Pigs where we went diving, the owner doesn’t live in the house.
This is her second home which she uses purely for rent.
There is a porch, back garden with a washing line, kitchen, three double bedrooms and a bathroom.
We stayed with Jacqueline for four nights in Trinidad.
She has a private room with a bathroom and a fridge. There is another dorm-style room which our friend Sarah rented to herself.
Jacqueline and her family (the gran down to the kids) live in another part of the house.
She has a beautiful garden where you eat 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.
Rooms are basic, you have understand that before visiting.
→ Breakfast is usually an additional fee.
Rachel changed our bedding more frequently than hotels do
5. How Much Do Casas Particulares Cost?
Online and in guidebooks the average advised price is 10 to 30 USD per room.
We quickly found out that there is little difference between rooms at 30 and 10 USD 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!
6. What About Meals?
Again, this differs between casas.
Breakfast is usually an additional fee of 2-5 USD for eggs, toast and fruit. Some casas serve platters!
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 colectivo (Cuban taxi service) services to bump up their wages.
Unless you are willing to dine out in Cuba for all three meals, you are limited as there are no grocery stores which you may be accustomed to at home. Bring snacks from home.
However, you will find fruit and veg carts/markets around Havana.
It is very unlikely you access to a kitchen too which may make travel a challenge for vegetarians/vegans, long-term backpackers and families with small children.
Dinners in casas are supposed to be outstanding but during our trip, only one owner offered us the option.
7. How Do I Pay?
Most casas will expect a cash payment and you will agree the price and currency after you have looked at the room.
You can read all about the currency in Cuba here.
Alternatively, you can pre-book casas on third party websites.
8. Arguments For and Against Staying in a Cuban Casa
- You live like a local
- The rooms are clean
- You are helping the local economy
- Breakfast is provided for a cost
- Hotels are expensive
- Hostels are not common out with Havana
- No kitchen
- Living in someone else’s house (mostly)
9. Airbnb in Cuba
There are lots of casas available via Airbnb in Cuba and the average price for a private room for two is 30 USD.
Remember, Cuba has basically been running Airbnb before the apartment rental company was born!
Since the 90s, locals have been renting out rooms so don’t be afraid of using their direct word-of-mouth systel.
There are a few issues we need to address about Airbnb in Cuba so you are armed with knowledge before you book:
- The Airbnb app doesn’t work in Cuba so you can’t use it to contact hosts when you arrive
- Airbnb has been running in Cuba unofficially since the 90s! Casa owners create a network throughout the island and call ahead to book for you, they get commission in return
- It is not uncommon for the casa booked for you to get a better deal (a longer stay) so you are moved elsewhere and you might not know it. Naturally, you will know it if you book via Airbnb
- Read the reviews to check whether the amenities promised are provided. Hot tubs, doubt it!
- Casa owners are now advertising over different search engines like Airbnb, Booking, TripAdvisor, Hostelworld, etc and WiFi is not as readily available so the response may be slower than accustomed to
- This is also the case for casa owners updating when rooms are booked/casas are sold out
Reasons for booking with Airbnb
- Pre-booking a casa obviously gives you peace of mind
- You can pre-pay by credit card with Airbnb, less cash required – read our guide to currency in Cuba here
- Airbnb is popular, we trust the resource and customer service is generally on the side of the customer
- Properties have reviews
10. Where to Stay in Cuba
Here are the top-rated casas which you can pre-book via Booking.com and TripAdvisor.
Casa Particular, Havana
Wondering where to stay in Cuba but not interested in expensive hotels? Here’s a list of the most popular casas:
- Casa Colonial: Heart of Old Havana, big room, good breakfast
- Casa Colonial La Terraza: Affordable casa, friendly family-run with 5/5 rating on TripAdvisor
- La Villa Teresa: This is an actual palace with a pool. Outstanding reviews on TripAdvisor
Casa Particular Viñales
- Villa Sara y Jorge: Four-bed dorm-style room. Outstanding breakfast. Chairs on porch
- Casa El Porry: Incredible views from the rooftop where breakfast is served, wheelchair friendly. 5/5 on TripAdvisor
Casa Particular, Varadero
Varadero is predominantly an area packed with all-inclusive resorts but there are a handful of casas too:
- Casa Arletty Santa Marta: Friendly family, nice rooms, bikes to rent and cycle to the beach. 5/5 on TripAdvisor
- Casa Bella Mar Hab. 2: Hosts Erick Y Ely offer a clean casa with nice backyard
Casa Particular, Cienfuegos
- Hostal Marina: Top quality, internet access, rooftop.
- Hostal Rivero and Novoa: Excellent hosts, nice terrace.
Casa Particular, Trinidad
- Hostal Yaquelin Arrechea: Gorgeous garden where breakfast is served, big rooms
Casa Particular, Santiago de Cuba
- Hostal Amanecer Cubano: Beautiful home hosted by Eloy
- Casa Liñero (Habitacion en Terraza): Hammocks for chilling
11. Other Accommodation in Cuba
There are a number of hotels in Cuba, especially all-inclusive resorts around the Caribbean sea.
Hostels are lesser-known and primarily found in Havana.
Confusingly, casa owners use the term ‘hostal’ in the casa name often.
12. Hotels in Cuba
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to stick to hotels in Havana, there are many to choose from but at a hefty price.
- Hotel National: Historically important hotel in Havana, lovely gardens, not in walking distance to Old Havana
- Hotel Sevilla: Excellent location, very nice pool area which we used on our last day in Havana
- Iberostar Trinidad: Grand rooms with aircon, starts at $400 USD for one night
13. Hostels Cuba
The following hostels have dorm rooms and social spaces in Havana. If arriving solo and looking to meet friends I highly recommend staying in a hostel first and meeting travel buddies as casas can be very private.
- Club 58: Outstanding reviews, friendly staff, very social, super central and safe
- Ronaldo’s: This is the first hostel in Havana and a bit of an institution. Nice rooftop. Friendly staff
- Paradise: This is where we stayed for two nights as Ronaldo’s was full. Nice rooftop. Hot rooms
Going to Cuba?
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The types of Cuba accommodation are pretty unique I think you will agree. From casas to hostels, hotels to all-inclusive resorts there is variety to choose from but we urge you to get out of your comfort zone and stay with a local at their casa particular so you can experience a bit of culture and help out the community too.
46 thoughts on “Casa Particular in Cuba: Everything You Need Before Visiting”
Fascinating and very useful article. Thanks, Gemma! I’ve been to Cub 3x but always stayed at a hotel or resort. Perhaps I will use Casa Particulars on my next visit.
Oooo I am excited for you Doreen! I think the perfect holiday would be a mix of casa time and hotel time!
Wondering what your experiences are with Sundays in Cuba, especially outside of Havana. Is everything closed? Are tours and transportation still available. Especially looking at being in Trinidad on a Sunday. Thanks!
Now you are asking, honestly couldn’t say. We didn’t do any tours in Trinidad (cycled to Playa Ancon) and took a taxi collectivo instead of the bus. If you are looking to move to another destination, check out Viazul’s timetable for advice on a Sunday. Let me know what you find and have a great trip!
Hosts love to sell the meal element of the Casa experience, as unlike the rent they earn, their food sales are not taxed by the government (possibly important to consider if one wants to help out the local economy).
We didn’t cop the dorm experience in any pads, and the most we paid anywhere was 30 CUC (given we were a party of 3, we were pretty happy with that outcome).
The crazy thing about the Casa Particulars, is that the people who have the space to operate as one, make more in a couple of days rent, than Doctors or Engineers do in a month!
Very true – according to our tour guide in Havana the average income is 15 – 40 CUC. If customers are paying 30 CUC for a night, you can see the attraction. The dorm was unique to Viñales and we did book it through our hostel in Havana so they maybe only target the hostel types!
This might be a good alternative for looking an accommodation in Airbnb as well. I’ve never been to Cuba and no idea about the price range of sharing a place. Living like and with the locals is one of the best things to do in a community anyway. Thanks for this lovely guide! 🙂
Living with locals has always been a fun experience for us so far. I’m not sure about Airbnb in Cuba, I hope not – it would change the whole system!
Airbnb is alive and well. We booked that way before I found out about casas particulares.
Thanks for that update! I’ve had a few Cubans emailing me and asking me to include their Airbnb in this post. I would honestly say that you really don’t need to in Cuba. The locals invented Airbnb with their own network of friends around the country! Did you have a great trip?
Our Airbnb is $67 CAD per night. We will be going in Jan 2017. That’s more than double the casas particulares. But our place is right on the beach. Worth it to me. I think.
Lovely! Have a Cuba Libre for me 🙂
The people posting their properties on Airbnb are locals, are they not? They all seem to say they’re locals, offering casa stays exactly like what I’ve read about online, but I seem to see a lot of people saying Airbnb would be harmful to the locals, so I guess I’m a bit confused. The reviews on many of the Airbnb sites confirm that they are indeed locals renting out extra space in their house- can you shed any light on why so many people seem to think staying in a locals Airbnb is a lesser choice than just staying at a local’s house once you get there?
Airbnb is a business so it wants to make money, it will be charging the locals to advertise with them. This will hike the price up for you. If you just book via the internet or do like we did and don’t book (just rock up and take advice from locals) the money will go directly to the pockets of the locals (plus the government, the locals fill out a book for tax, you get a receipt). Hope this clears things up. PS I love Airbnb, you just don’t need it in Cuba as they’ve been running their own Airbnb network for decades!
Makes sense, Gemma. I was finding places for as little as $10-15 USD per night and just planning to book the first night or two through Airbnb and the rest in person when we got there for the exact reasons you mentioned. Thanks- your blog has been most helpful in planning my upcoming trip!
That makes sense, and is a good price. It will probably all move towards Airbnb soon anyway as people like reviews and images which is fair enough, it’s strange going to a country which is so unknown! Do come back with any questions before you and let me know how you get on once you are back!
Great idea! I’ve heard of this, but always stayed in a hotel(or on the base lol). I have plans to go back soon and will be using Casa Particulares this time!
Yes! I am glad to have opened up this new world for you!
Great, when i was in Cuba even the paladares were illegal but recently things have eased out a bit. It must be great to stay with locals who are not trying to scam you over with tricks. I also recently read an article about airbnb, in Cuba, not sure if you saw anything like that
There were ripples about Airbnb amongst backpackers but there was no sign of it on the streets. I still don’t know how that would work with the expensive and limited WiFi. They need to go to a specialised centre to use the WiFi still.
Great advice! I did some research into visiting Cuba and casa particulares seem like the way to go rather than big, government hotels.
I’m with you Bethany! And you can pay to use the pool at Hotel Sevilla .
Now thats its easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, its about time I went there, thnks for suggesting Casas particulares
Thanks for reading Arvin! There are many lots of excited Americans now!
Very useful guide. Well explained. It is obviously a system that has developed over some time. I like how they look out for each other. And paying commission is a bit like using a large booking site to get reservations but much more personal and keeps the money in the community!
I love the community aspect and at least they know they can rely on a service to be of quality if it’s friends and family. The tuk tuk in Havana sweated it out until he found us somewhere – shouting up at windows, asking neighbours where so and so was. An experience!
As much as I loved my holiday in Cuba earlier this year, your trip sounds so much more interesting. I wish I had more time so I could have travelled around and got the chance to practice my Spanish in a casa. If I return to Cuba, I’ll definitely do it this way – although I’m hoping that everything won’t have changed beyond recognition when I return. I think we visited at the right time! Would you return?
Really glad you wrote this because I wouldn’t have known how to find casas and I’m sure this will inspire more people visiting Cuba to go with this accommodation option. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying a package holiday, but I guess I want the best of both worlds – ease and authenticity. Probably not possible though!
Thanks Dannielle, in all honesty, I won’t be rushing back. It’s quite a tiresome country, I really don’t enjoy people selling stuff all the time – it grinds you down. But, I am so glad to have experienced it. I really enjoyed your post on Holguin, we never made it there.
I enjoy living with the locals, often you get more out of it and they give you awesome tips. I would definitely like to try it. Would be better though if you had your own kitchen.
I did feel did feel the effects of having no kitchen, not that I am a master chef or anything, it’s just nice having that freedom and not relying on 1 CUC pizza!
I did feel did feel the effects of having no kitchen, not that I am a master chef or anything, it’s just nice having that freedom and not relying on 1 CUC pizza!
I find it hard to believe that anyone who has been to Cuba thinks that Casa Particulareses are an underground network of illegal houses! When we were there in 2010 every casa we stayed in had us fill out a registration card with our names and passport #s which they had to provide to the government. We LOVED our time in Cuba and it sounds like you did too. A shame you didn’t get better meals, we were pretty lucky in that regard and had pretty fabulous meals cooked up at almost every casa we stayed in.
I think your getting mixed up there! People who have not been to Cuba seem to think this! You’re right, there are forms and receipts. Our time is Cuba came with mixed emotions!
Hi, we are going to Cuba in just a few weeks. (January 2017) We have 6 adults and 3 tweens. The hotels are so expensive (charging per person per night). Any advice on an entire place we can rent out in a good area (walking distance). It’s everyone’s first time so we want to stay somewhere with a fun and lively atmosphere.
You should check out Airbnb for casas particulares with ratings, you’ll be able to set the filter to include the number of guests and choose an area. It’s an island so there are lots of choices. Here’s my Cuba page which outlines different areas I visited.
Hi, awesome tips! Thank you so much 🙂 … and I have a question – is it possible as a solo traveler to pay just for one bed? Or if I would sleep alone in a casa I have to pay basically for the whole room. Thanks 🙂
Thank you for all the great information. We are headed to Cuba next month, specifically Varadero. Any suggestions, besides the beach?
We are also taking suitcases with gifts for children, sports equipment and barbie dolls. Do you have other suggestions for things children would want or need?
In all honesty Jessica, we didn’t take anything and would have felt awkward giving gifts. We paid to stay in casas, it really is all business. There was no discussion of charity or gifts. Hope you enjoy your stay! We have an extensive travel page on Cuba which has all of our tips. You can find it here.
What items are provided in casa particulares? For example, bathroom towels, toilet paper, soap, etc. We’re heading to Cuba in a few months, and want to be completely prepared.
Guaranteed towels and toilet paper. I’d take your own soap. Have a great trip and do check out our Cuba guidesfor more advice [come back with any questions].
Hey! Thank you for the detailed guide.
What is the most economical and quickest way to travel in Havana and Havana to Trinidad and Vinales? We are a couple should be using a bike in Havana and rent a car for Havana to other cities or take the local bus?
It would be great if you can share the expected cost with us.
Hey Ruhi. The bus can be the most economical way to get around however the times may not suit. The other alternative is to hire taxi collectivos which cost us $25 each every time we moved between towns/cities. The car had other tourists in it too. The benefit was that it was door to door.
If hiring a car do so in Havana but don’t expect to get one the day you request it, you might have to wait a few days.
Here’s a good introduction to Cuba guide.
Love your pages. I have been once, to Villas Jibacoa, a small resort in a rural area midway between Havana and Varadero. LOVED IT and the country and people.
On scams: we took two all day trips in old cars, one to Havana and one to Varadero. We were told to agree on a price in advance and insist on an english speaking guide. The drivers and cars were awesome but our guides (two young ladies) were worth their weight in gold. Very knowledgeable on history, took us to some cool spots not on the mass tours, but most importantly steered us clear of a LOT of scams such as the girls that kiss you in Havana for $, old ladies in doorways smoking cigars who will insist $ after you snap their pic, guitarists and an old guy with a doggie dressed up who also want money AFTER you snap that pic. $60-70 US or CDN for an entire day! Less than it would have cost for two to travel on the bus tours with one guide for 30-40 people. I want to stay in the same resort for 2 – 3 weeks this winter but spend a few days travelling to casas in Havana and Vinales etc. Thanks for the tips. Cheers! Tim in NB Canada
Hey Tim from my spirit country, Canada! Ah, you make me want to visit Cuba again with this chat. Even the scams 😉 Thanks for sharing.
OCTOBER 9, 2020
DO WE KNOW – AT THIS POINT – IF CASAS PARTICULARES ARE GOING TO ACCEPT FOREIGNERS IN NOVEMBER 2020. I AM PLANNING TO GO TO HOLGUIN TO A CASA THAT I KNOW BUT I AM NOT SURE IF CUBA IS OPEN TO INFORMAL TOURISTS (NOT GOING TO THE BEACH WITH A PACKAGE).
THANK TOU FOR YOUR HELP
Hi Gilles. I think the best best is for you to choose a casa that you plan from guide that is on Airbnb and ask them directly. If someone asked me a question about borders for Scotland next month I would say things are changing so rapidly here I couldn’t give you an answer.