For our Cuba holiday we stayed in “Casas Particulares” all the way, i.e. in a room in people’s homes. There are a lot of these around, wherever you go, and they are distinctly marked by the blue-on-white sign as you see 3 examples in the next picture of Camagüey.
We booked ours in advance, but if you are not too choosy I am sure you can find one on arrival. There were “jineteros” (hawkers) at every place where we arrived by bus.
However by booking in advance and crosschecking between guidebooks, TripAdvisor and colleagues’ previous experience we managed to get a quite good and uniform quality throughout the trip, and for a price of around 30€ for a double room (breakfast is extra, usually at 5€ per person). By the way, I use euro instead of CUC, it is virtually the same value.
The most difficult part is to contact them, as usually you get an address and a phone number, but the first takes far too much time and for the second you need some decent Spanish and a sympathetic phone company.
Here is the list of places we stayed at, with their e-mail address (and google translate is your friend):
- Havana: La Casona de Calzada (Margarita y Alexis). A very beautiful house around a garden in a quiet neighbourhood.
- e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- address: Calle Calzado #508, e/ D y E, Vedado
- Viñales: Panchito and Norma
- e-mail: email@example.com
- Cienfuegos: Ivan y Lili
- e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Trinidad: Casa Smith
- Camagüey: CasAlta
- e-mail: email@example.com
- Santiago: Mabel
- e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Baracoa: Ykira Mahiquez
- e-mail: email@example.com
- Varadero: Betty y Jorge
- e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of them can be booked through AirBNB, but why give money to some billionaire American if it is just as easy to send a mail direct?
We did go through an association, Cuba Linda, in France (that’s where we live), to book our casa in Havana, including the transfer from the airport. That really turned out to be a good idea: as we paid the casa for the taxi ride, we saved a lot of time by not having to queue at the exchange counter at Havana airport!
Of course doing it all by e-mail directly to the owners, no money changes hands before you arrive. Do not abuse of their confidence, as your money means a lot to them. Usually they will ask you to call them the day before arrival to reconfirm. Even if your Spanish is only so-so, this is not really a problem. It is such a well-established routine that the owner of your previous casa will make the call for you without any problem.
That way you can also arrange for them to send a taxi to the bus station to pick you up (if that is how you travel). It will cost you some 5€ but saves you the hassle of negotiating with the army of taxi drivers who will try to get you to some other place where they touch a commission.