ACCOMMODATION/HOTELS IN CUBA:
In terms of bookings, the minute you sit down on your computer to start making your reservation and plan your trip, you will realize that it is all non-sense.
It is ok to have a good idea of the places you want to see, but don’t have a fixed itinerary as it may well happen that you fall in love with a place and decide to stay there longer than expected.
In any case, the good old Cuban system does not really allow for fixed bookings (although there are some booking websites for casas particulares and resorts), so it is better to have some recommendations on casas where you could stay, email them (or better, call them and test your Spanish) and see what can be sorted.
ACCOMMODATION IN CUBA: CASA PARTICULARES VS HOTELS.
The main choice when traveling to Cuba is staying in casas particulares, which are private houses whose owners rent out 2, or at most 3 of their rooms (the standard is generally double beds with private bathroom), or state owned hotels and resorts.
My preference would have to be casas particulares. They are way more personable and give you an insiders’ look at Cuban life, not to mention that they are clean, the service is spot on, and they are considerably cheaper.
Doors are always open, people go in and out, they share whatever little they have, they will ask you to sit to have a chat, help you with information, arranging transportation and providing plenty of advice on what to see, where to eat, what to do.
They will arrange your laundry, instruct you on how to keep safe and avoid scams. Some casas are splendid colonial buildings that will leave you in awe for their beauty, and you’ll feel like you are staying in an oasis of peace even in the noisiest of cities.
BOOK ONLINE YOUR CASA PARTICULARES
If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to leave anything to chances but still wants to enjoy a truly genuine experience in one of the Casa particulares in Cuba, there is this very reliable website where you can book in advance trusted Casa Particulares. It’s called Cuba Casa and it has great reviews from travelers.
CHECK OUT THE AVAILABILITY AT THE “CUBA CASA” WEBSITE IN HERE:
PRICES FOR CASAS PARTICULARES AND SAFETY STANDARDS:
The average price for a room in a casa particular would be between 15 and 50 CUC – so between 7.5 and 25 CUC per person. At 15 CUC per person (at the most) you can have a lovely, unique room, with your own bathroom and hot shower, towels, and that homey feeling of someone who is welcoming you each time you walk through the door. It is a real budget saver.
Casas are regularly inspected for health and safety reasons, so they will be clean. They usually are safe, but do lock your belongings and count your money each time you go out. Nothing ever happened to me, but you’d better be safe than sorry. And in the unlikely event something goes wrong at your casa, just use one word: “policia” – and you will receive profuse apologies, your belongings will magically reappear. Hotels are not as personable.
HOW TO FIND A CASA PARTICULARES IN CUBA:
What can be tricky about casas prticulares is the booking system. Cubans mostly work via phone. They hardly use emails and the internet to sort their business. If you find a house that does provide an email contact, be patient until they do reply. It is in their interest to make sure that they accommodate you.
Be prepared, however, to find out once you arrive that the room that you were supposed to have has been given away to someone else. Worry not! The owners will make sure that they put you in a different house, of a friend or relative of sort, usually right across the street, and the standards will be just as good.
In the unlucky event that you have no bookings at all, the minute you step off the bus you will be welcomed by an array of owners offering rooms for rent. This is the scene that expected me in Baracoa.
Landlords usually take an interest in making your reservations for your next casa. They will ask you where you are going next, and will suggest a casa of a friend or acquaintance in another city, and will be eager to make the phone call and reservations for you. It is that easy, really.
EATING AT CASA PARTICULARES:
One of the main advantages of casas particulares is that you can have all your meals and drinks there. If you think you are going to be too tired to go out for dinner that night, you can book your dinner in the morning. Do not expect anything less than delicious.
The average price for a full breakfast (including coffee, juice, bread and jam, fresh fruit, eggs and what not) is 5 CUC. There isn’t much variety: keep in mind there is only one kind of bread in Cuba, fruit is only seasonal so for as much as you may want to have a mango, if it is not in season forget it.
Some goods are hard to find (do not ask for yogurt!), but breakfast in casas is better than what you may have at a restaurant (take my word for it: I tried it!).
The price of a dinner varies between 8 and 12 CUC: it gets more expensive if you have lobster,and the meal usually includes a seasonal salad, a soup, a main course, rice and beans known as congri, tostones which are platain croquettes – in other countries called patacones – or fried bananas, fruit and a dessert. Portions are so big that they would easily be enough for two persons.
The meals you may have in a casa are more or less the same you would have in paladares (private restaurants). Let’s talk about food in Cuba, then.
HOTELS /RESORTS IN CUBA:
If you still prefer the comfort of the Hotels and Resorts, you can find some good deals on Tripadvisor (Including reviews for various places), check it out!