Casas Particulares I Cuba

Casas Particulares in Cuba – Essential Guide

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

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.

Casas Particulares in Cuba

 

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.

Casas Particulares I Trinidad Cuba

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.

Casas Particulares Havana Cuba

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.

Casas Particulares Cuba

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!

The essential guide to casas particulares in Cuba. How to find them, what to expect, and how much you should pay. Are casas better than hotels?

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.

Tuk Tuk Taxi Havana I Casas Particulares in Cuba

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

Further Reading

Cuban Currency II Scams to Avoid II WiFI in Cuba II Budget

Over to you – any questions or points to make?

Gemma and Craig full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 40

    1. Post
      Author
      1. 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!

        1. Post
          Author
  1. 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!

    1. Post
      Author

      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!

  2. 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! 🙂

    1. Post
      Author
        1. Post
          Author

          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?

          1. 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.

          2. Post
            Author
      1. 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?

        1. Post
          Author

          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!

          1. 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!

          2. Post
            Author

            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!

    1. Post
      Author
  3. 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

    1. Post
      Author

      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.

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
  4. 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!

    1. Post
      Author

      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!

  5. 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!

    1. Post
      Author

      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.

  6. 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.

    1. Post
      Author
    2. Post
      Author
  7. 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.

    1. Post
      Author
  8. 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.

    1. Post
      Author
  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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?

    Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author

      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.

  11. 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.

    1. Post
      Author

      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].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *