Cuba is an interesting destination for numerous reasons, but one particularly unique experience that Cuba offers is the chance to stay in a casa particular – a local homestay.
It may sound a bit strange to show up at someone’s home, knock on their door and drop your bags off in one of their rooms. But, in Cuba it’s more normal than it sounds!
In 1997, the Government announced that Cubans could register their homes as privately-run businesses. Since then, locals have been renting out their rooms to foreigners.
Typically with casa stays, the owner will live next door, upstairs, or down the road.
These homes are set up for having travelers stay in them. You’ll find anywhere from one to five private rooms, many of which have an attached bathroom.
Each room will usually have air-conditioning for those hot nights and some basic furniture. Sometimes there will be a kitchen in the home that you can use, and there will also be a common area.
Casa Particulars are set up more like guesthouses than home stays, but the owners are there to make you feel like family. You can party with the owners, have dinner with them (or a cigar!), or, just say hello and enjoy a quieter stay.
They are around if you need anything, or if you want to talk to them, but they also give you privacy and space.
If you have any particular needs or requests for your casa (such as English-speaking hosts), make sure those are met before reserving a room.
To book your stay, check out websites such as CasaHavanaParticular.com, HostelsClub.com and HostelWorld.com. And, you can now book a room in a casa, or an entire casa, online with Airbnb.com, but keep in mind you must pay a service fee with this option.
In Cuba, there aren’t really any “hostels” in the traditional sense.
A hostel typically has lots of dorm beds, a communal kitchen, a backpacker vibe and activities available on the cheap. In Cuba, expect to find more B&B’s, homestays and casas, as opposed to hostels.
Recently, many of the casas have started listing their properties on websites like HostelWorld.com, but if you’re looking for a true “hostel” stay, you may be disappointed.
If you would prefer to stay in an actual hostel, there are a few available around Havana, but in reality, the only difference between them and a casa is that they have bunk beds!
For a more luxurious stay, check-in to one of the many hotels, which are state-run rather than owned by individual Cubans.
Keep in mind that by staying at hotels, you are putting your money into the government, rather than into the pockets of hard-working and well-deserving Cuban business owners.
There are a few iconic hotels in Cuba that you may want to stay at, or at least pop in to have a look.
The elegant National Hotel in Vedado, Havana has been welcoming guests since the 1930’s. Some notable names who have stayed include Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner.
Also in Havana is Hotel Saratoga. With its neoclassical architecture and recent restoration, this gorgeous hotel has attracted the likes of Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Keep in mind that these historic hotels come with a hefty price tag (upwards of $300 / night). Yet another reason to stay at casa particulars!
Our partners Goats on the Road break down 7 things you must know before heading to Cuba, so that your travel planning can go a lot smoother.
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