There can be a weird contradiction when you travel to a new and exciting destination. Sure, most of what you will experience is exotic and new, and yet there might be a part of the experience that feels awfully familiar. Staying in a large hotel is something that feels the same practically no matter where you go. You’re not overwhelmed. You’re not underwhelmed. You’re just… whelmed. It does the job, you have somewhere to stay, and you know precisely what to expect. Sure, Cuba has hotels… many of them in fact, including some recognisable names. And yes, this is an option when you visit the island nation. But to stay in a nice, although potentially generic hotel is to deny yourself part of the truly authentic Cuban experience. Have you heard of Casa Particulares? This is going to be your new favourite type of place to stay in Cuba, for some very good reasons.
Cuba has flirted with the idea of private enterprise (in a variety of forms) throughout its history. It could be suggested that the country went through quite a few changes after the Soviet Union came to an end. It was one of Cuba’s closest allies, a major trading partner, and without that financial and political support, Cuba began to open itself up to tourism and those much needed pesos. So a hearty thanks to the Soviet Union for not lasting beyond 1991. It really was this turn of events that led to the proliferation of Casa Particulares, since not everyone was going to stay in a hotel.
A New(ish) Type of Operation
Let’s say a Cuban family has a spare room in their home, or even an entire section of the home that can be self-contained. There will be a private bathroom, making the room or area just perfect for guests. So perhaps those guests would want to pay a very reasonable fee to stay? No, it’s not in the Cuban nature to charge Grandma Maria to stay with her own family, but paying guests such as yourself might be interested. So Cuban families who have an appropriate amount and style of space in their homes can apply to become a Casa Particular. And business is booming!
Bed and Breakfast
The Casa Particular is really just the Cuban version of a bed and breakfast style of accommodation. You pay an extremely reasonable fee and the room is yours. Breakfast might be included in the price, or it might incur a small surcharge (which is worth it, since it saves you money on eating when you’re out and about). There are a variety of sleeping arrangements too, so if you’re travelling with a few people and want to save some cash, you can sometimes squeeze more people into the room if space allows.
The Local Touch
So really, a Casa Particular is an authentic Cuban accommodation option that allows you to see the real Cuba without needing to spend a huge amount of money. You will be made to feel very welcome, and your hosts can provide you with every conceivable piece of information about the local area. It’s the sort of visitor’s experience that is often hard to find – the advice of someone who has lived in the area for their whole life.
Pick a Location
Casa Particulares can be located quite literally anywhere, since they are just private residences with the appropriate operating license. So if you want to stay somewhere that overlooks the beach, or a place where an Old Havana walking tour can begin right outside your front door, there will be a Casa Particular to suit your needs.
When it comes to booking a Casa Particular, there are a huge number to choose from online. Just remember that not everywhere will immediately respond to your online enquiries, since few private residences in Cuba have access to the internet. They will still respond to your booking or enquiry, but it might take a day or two. So allow yourself enough time to make enquiries and book. It will be an accommodation experience you will remember fondly.
The Peak Season
As a part of planning ahead, you need to remember that some Casa Particulares only have one room. So when a single guest has booked, the place is no longer available. So yes, it’s kind of different to a large hotel in this respect. In peak times, many of the Casa Particulares can fill up quite quickly. July and August tend to be quite busy with the number of people visiting Cuba, and the same goes for December until March. So really it’s a question of looking at the availability in your preferred location and then making a booking as soon as possible, otherwise you can easily miss out.