As the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba strengthen, Americans are beginning to flock to the country to get a glimpse of the beauty that Ernest Hemingway famously described. We weren’t any different. Once we arrived, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t stay in hotels to get a better feel for the local lifestyle. We walked around for nearly 3 hours through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and asking for an open room with our limited Spanish. If you’re the type to stress over where you will stay before arriving, I’d suggest booking at least the first night prior to arrival (even though it isn’t necessary).
Luckily, this gave us a valuable opportunity to scope out the entire area and see what we were dealing with. During our stroll, we came across many casas that were renting rooms, but most places were already occupied. “Casas particulares (Cuban homestays) – are accommodations for foreigners in Cuba that is legal and formalized by the government. Cuban families are required to have a special license in order to operate this type of accommodation, and have to pay a high license fee every year as well as regular payments monthly, whether they have guests or not.”
You can tell which houses are registered as casas particulares from the white and blue anchor on a sign, which are typically nailed at the front of the home. It was starting to get late and our backpacks were taking a toll on our backs. With some luck, one of the hosts from another casa waved us down as she took us into her building. Just as we were coming in, her neighbor Enrique pleasantly agreed to accommodate us for the duration of our stay in Havana. A sigh of relief
Price of a casa particular
- You can count on a rate between 20 and 35 CUC (typically around $25 USD) per room per night. Depends on the area and how nice the place is.
- Some casas will offer a breakfast option, which is around 3-5 CUC. Highly recommended.
- TIP: If you’re going to be moving to other places, you can ask the people at the casa you’re with now. They tend to offer up their friend’s place so you won’t need to search.
Homestays are one of the best ways to travel if you’re looking for a truly, unique experience. What do they usually eat? What do common homes look like inside?
There were a few nights where we hung out on the roof top with Enrique, his nephew, and a few friends until 3 am, as they sung and danced to Cuban tunes. After a few bottles down, they shared some hilarious stories about which songs made them tear up over past relationships. These are moments I’ll cherish forever.
Four bottles of rum + Cuban passion = Priceless
Much like this trip, these delightful interactions are too short…but it leaves me with a personal connection with a destination that makes traveling, all the more memorable. It’s easy to understand why Hemingway fell deeply in love with this country.