When visiting Cuba staying in a Casa Particular is the way to go. So what are they and how do you book one? We will tell you all you need to know in this Cuba Casa booking guide.
What is a Casa Particular?
In short it’s similar to a Bed and Breakfast or a Homestay in other countries but with bells on. Those who are lucky enough to own their own house, often referred to as the ‘Cuban Elite’, can rent out rooms for visitors to come and stay with them.
They will often provide breakfast and dinner for an extra charge and be able to give advice (depending on languages spoken) on local things to see and do. We even arranged the rental of a couple of bikes at our Casa Particular in Trinidad. Very handy.
Why should you book a Casa Particular?
You are staying in the house of a local which is usually always an amazing experience. Some people would argue that Casas are not owned by ‘real’ Cubans and they are more likely to be the people that come and clean the rooms rather than the owners but it felt very ‘local’ to us.
We found the experience of staying in a Casa Particular to be very genuine and friendly in Cuba. The food served was some of the best we tasted while staying on the island and it was way more personable than any hotels or resorts we stopped at.
The owners can really help you out with local information, transport and attractions. Tourism is now the main industry in Cuba so everyone is very welcoming to visitors and keen to get a share of those tourist dollars.
How to book a Casa Particular?
This really depends where you think your money should go. There are a few different options available now as restrictions with the wider world begin to ease and 3rd parties get involved in the booking process.
Since March 2016 Airbnb has been allowed to operate within Cuba and take bookings from countries outside the USA. So people from most countries visiting Cuba can now use the service to book a Casa.
This is one of the simplest ways to book and there’s a good selection listed on the site. The main point to consider is that not all of the money you are paying makes it to Cuba and you will most likely pay a little more than going directly once the fees are added. This could be said of any Airbnb booking I guess but it’s something to keep in mind.
If you have never used Airbnb before, follow this link and get $20 free credit on us when signing up.
Casa Particular Agents
A quick Google of ‘Casa Particular Cuba’ will show many agents that can book places to stay for you. One of the most recommended is Cuba Booking Room. It’s easy to use and shows a good selection of Casas with nice clear photos and reviews.
Some of the ‘Casas’ listed on agency sites can be little more than professional B&B type places. The moment you are a ‘customer’ rather than a guest you know you’re not getting the genuine experience.
Email them directly
This is the way we found our places to stay back in May 2015. Emailing directly with the owners can be a little frustrating but will lead to finding a really genuine Casa experience.
Download the excellent Cuba Junky App to make the process easier and keep on top of who you’ve contacted and when. We trawled through TripAdvisor as a lot of the reviews include email addresses to help you out but the app is a preferable way to go.
Just turn up
If you like to let fate decide your accommodation you can always just go and knock on some doors. I’d suggest at least using the above resources to note down a few addresses but most Casas will have a sign outside to help you locate them.
Most Casa Particular owners will work together so if the one you try is full they will always be able to point you in the right direction. If nothing else you will get to meet plenty of confused locals!
Things to know before booking a Casa Particular
Even if you’ve found a place and booked it using the methods above you can still be told it’s full upon arrival. This is likely to decrease now Airbnb and others are onboard but traditionally Casa owners would want to ensure their place was full so overbooking is common.
There are plenty of comments on TripAdvisor and elsewhere claiming that the owners used the ‘bait and switch’ technique but in reality this is just the way in the uncertainty of a country like Cuba. You’ll then get taken to a ‘friends’ place who has rooms available and the owner gets a nice little commission payment. Anything for an extra few CUC.
This can be really annoying, particularly if arriving late at night but if the other place is fine and at the same price then just roll with it. Otherwise always have a backup plan with another Casa via email.
Also groups of agents share Casa bookings but they are not the individual owners and will only be looking to fill up all the places on their books. This is another reason to contact Casas directly and confirm which room you are in.
Finally, make sure you know the location of your Casa. Mark it on a paper map or ‘save/star’ it on Google Maps on your phone. The streets in Havana are particularly confusing especially in the dark.
Where did we stay in Cuba?
When we visited in May 2015 for 2 weeks we stayed in 2 different Casa Particulars and would happily recommend booking both:
For more information on what to see and where to go across the island check out our other Cuba posts on the travel blog.
We hope you’ve found that useful. Please share it with others and leave us a comment below about your Casa Particular experiences in Cuba…