In these times of pandemic, things have been very difficult for Cubans, especially the owners of ‘casas particulares’, but we hope that everything will improve once the coronavirus is over and the population is immunized. Many other things have also changed in this last 2 years. If you’ve got questions about staying in a casa particular in Havana or anywhere in Cuba, this updated for 2021 blog post is the one to read. Some questions don’t need to be answered nowadays, due to the popularity of this type of accommodation in Cuba: Will my casa particular have a private ensuite bathroom? Will I share any living space with the hosts? Will I be able to cook my own meals in a casa particular? Can I bring in guests or throw parties? Read on to find out the answer to other questions!
Many of those planning to go to Cuba and considering a stay in alternative B&B style accommodation are often full of questions about staying in a casa particular and many are not really sure what a casa particular really is and what the experience is like for visitors. In previous blog posts, we told you about casas particulares in Havana and why should favour this type of authentic accommodation over tired and expensive Cuba hotels. Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about staying in a casa particular, from the perspective of guests themselves and what many of our past casa particular customers have asked us, but including uptodate information after more than a year of Coronavirus pandemic.
Below you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about staying in a casa particular in Havana and beyond. We’ll update this section as we receive more questions from our future and past guests so keep checking back to find more FAQs on casas particulares. But first, we will tell you about main changes in Cuba between 2020 and 2021.
Main changes in Cuba between 2020 and 2021
- The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), the most used currency in Cuba, mainly by tourists, doesn’t exist anymore, since January 2021. Now you can use Cuban Peso (CUP) or any other freely convertible currency (known in Cuba as MLC), such as Euro, Pound sterling and Canadian Dolar.
- There is a new service for the sale of prepaid cards worth 200, 500 and 1000 MLC, initially aimed at international travelers who do not reside in Cuba, in response to their demand to access goods and services in units that only accept payment through magnetic cards. A commission of 5.00 MLC is charged for each card.
- Since June 21, 2021, bank deposits of USD or payments in cash with this currency have not been accepted in Cuba, due to the obstacles imposed by the economic blockade of the United States on the island. In the case of travellers arriving in the country, the Aduana de Cuba (Cuban Customs) will retain the baggage of those who only have USD to pay customs duties for up to 30 days, so that they will only be able to withdraw their personal items.
You should be aware that by paying with USD, Euros or Sterling Pounds instead of Cuban pesos, you make a great contribution to the economic wellbeing of the casa owners and to improving the quality of the service they offer, because many of products they need for their business are only available in a few shops that operate with these freely convertible currencies.
What you wanted to know about staying at a casa particular in Cuba – FAQs
Do you have to share a bathroom in a casa particular?
Staying in a casa particular can mean staying in a room in a privately-owned Cuban house while sharing facilities like kitchen and living room, patio or terrace with the live-in hosts and other guests, but rarely ever a bathroom, as the
vast majority (over 90%) of rooms offered in a casa particular come with their own ensuite bathroom. At Cuba Casa, you can count on every casa particular having its own private bathroom and we’d venture to say that virtually every casa particular in Havana nowadays comes with ensuite bathroom too. Elsewhere in Cuba, casas particulares have evolved at a slower pace than Havana and in some cases, you may still have to share bathrooms with live-in hosts and other guests. In any case, even if you have to share a bathroom in more rural parts of Cuba, attentive hosts will go out of their way to procure a smooth experience and cater to guests as best as they can.
Can you use the kitchen facilities at a casa particular?
Why, of course, you can! Not only that, you’re encouraged to do so if you like, the idea is for you to feel at home in every way possible. Like we said earlier, most casas particulares either have a separate kitchenette for guests or, in the case of live-in hosts, they tend to have separate live-in quarters with their own separate kitchen so that the kitchen closest to your room is always at your disposal. There might be a minority of cases where you share your casa particular’s kitchen with the hosts and in said cases, they might talk to you about your preferences, on what times of day you’d like the kitchen to be free so that you can cook up your own meals or, more likely, they will want to cook for you and share their family dinner (sometimes at a cost, sometimes as a welcome gesture). In any case, if you’d like to cook all your meals during your Cuba holiday you only need to tell them so and they’ll be happy to be out of your way. More likely than not, especially if you’re staying in a casa particular in Havana, you won’t need to say a word since you’ll have the use of a full kitchen or kitchenette all to yourself (or maybe shared with another couple of guests). In some cases, they might even offer to do the grocery shopping for you and help you stock up during your visit.
How many guests can stay in a casa particular?
This will depend on each casa particular’s room size and their individual policies. How many guests can stay in a casa particular in Havana, or anywhere in Cuba, will be established by the host and of course will be subject to the number of rooms available, their size and the size of the house or flat overall. In the case of our casas, prices shown
are for two guests but if the room can fit more people, you’ll usually pay a supplement on top (usually 50% per extra adult or 5 MLC per child). In our case, at Cuba Casa all of our casa descriptions show you the number of rooms available and the maximum number of guests that you can fit in them. If you’re in doubt about how many rooms a casa particular has available for rent and how many people you can book in (for larger travelling parties) and whether you can accommodate your party in two different nearby casas (providing the one you chose doesn’t have enough rooms) the safest bet is to give Matthew a call on 00 44 7 525 042 396. Some casas particulares will have as many as six to ten rooms available for rent (especially large colonial ones in Havana and mansions in Miramar) while others will have no more than one or two. If you need guidance finding a house that can fit the most people possible, drop us an email or give Matthew a call!
Should I stay in a casa particular with a live-in host or an independent one?
There’s no right answer here, as you can imagine, this depends on your preferences. Having a live-in host, live-in couple or live-in family doesn’t mean you’ll be knocking elbows constantly. Far from it, Cuban hosts will take care to be out of your way most of the time and, in the vast majority of cases, they have their living quarters separate from the rooms they rent to guests. Whether it’s a second floor or a converted extension, or simply that their room is on the opposite side of the house, they like to give guests plenty of breathing space. You might share some communal areas like front porches, gardens, courtyard or inner patios during coffee-time and this might prove a great time for cultural exchanges and light-hearted chatter.
If you opt for an independent casa particular (most of these are apartment or flats) you will, of course, enjoy the greatest privacy of all but will still enjoy the luxury of cooked breakfasts as the hosts will either come to you or arrange some other breakfast option for your convenience. Likewise, meal or dinner requests will be tended to by hosts regardless of whether you stay in an independent casa particular or one with a live-in host.
Is staying in a casa particular safe?
Cuba is one of the safest countries in Latina America, scrap that, it is the safest country in Latin America and one of the safest in the Americas. The fact that every casa particular is licensed by the government (you’ll see the “arrendador” sign on the door or somewhere in the casa’s exterior), they must showcase the logo by law) means that every casa particular is under governmental scrutiny so no shenanigans or shady dealings take place here. On top of that, your hosts are the ones most interested in your safety and wellbeing at all times, so they will look after your belongings as if they were their own (nowadays there are rooms in casas particulares that come with safes). In fact, you might be safer in some Cuban casas than in Cuban hotels as petty thefts from maids in hotel rooms are not that uncommon!
Will my host at a casa particular in Havana speak English, French, Italian or any other language?
Cubans are resourceful, especially those who willingly enter the tourism market and who, upon the prospect of hosting international guests will make sure to freshen up their English-speaking abilities, dust off their foreign language skills and do their very best to communicate with you and any foreign guest regardless of where they come from and the language they speak. In the vast majority of cases, hosts at casas particulares in Havana will speak English (at varying levels, but enough for smooth, effective communication), but beyond Havana there might be a few who don’t, especially in the more rural areas and deep into the countryside. Still, like we said, Cubans are extremely resourceful and eager to communicate, so they’ll always find a way to ensure that communication runs smoothly and that both parties clearly understand each other. As to other languages beyond English, many Cubans, whether they own a casa particular or a “paladar” (private restaurant) are fluent in more than one foreign language and will be used to French and Italians tourists, for example, so, more likely than not will be able to muster some words in foreign languages other than English. Give them a try, Cubans aren’t usually shy!
Can I bring guests to my casa particular? / Can a friend stay the night?
Whether you will be allowed to bring guests to your chosen casa particular will depend on hosts. Most are pretty flexible and will be fine about you bringing extra guests to spend the day, but be sure to check with them that this is allowed and whether your friend or friends can stay overnight.
If you plan to host a big gathering or throw a party (perhaps you have friends or family in Cuba?), again it’s a good idea to let the host know in advance, they might help with the provision of snacks or might offer to cook food to share for you. On the other hand, some hosts might have strict policies regarding parties and will not allow you to host one. In any case, it’s a good idea to let the host know of your plans in advance by contacting us, we can then ask your chosen casa particular ahead of your arrival and let you know whether they approve so that you don’t find your plans squashed last minute.
Can I find a pet-friendly casa particular? / Do casas particulares allow pets?
Unfortunately (if you’re a pet lover keen on bringing your furry friend to a Cuban casa particular) we’ll have to break it to you that generally speaking, most owners of a casa particular in Havana don’t allow pets. It’s rare that a casa particular in Havana will have a live-in pet (although you can find some that do) but to be on the safe side when it comes to possible guest allergies, most casa hosts don’t keep any animals and don’t allow ones as guests. Also, the policies in place to bring pets to Cuba (long quarantine periods, vaccinations required one month prior to travel and a LOT of paperwork in advance) make it highly unlikely that holidaymakers or tourists would bring their pet to Cuba, as it’s not only a time-consuming process but also, a costly one.
Beyond Havana, especially in the countryside or more rural areas like Viñales, you might share your living space with a family dog, and maybe the patio or courtyard with free-roaming chicken pecking their way through the grass. Still, your room will be kept pet-free as will most houses and living rooms, whether in the countryside or not.
So… If you are interested in the idea of visiting Cuba and staying in a casa particular, check out our accommodation in various locations below:
Or contact us by clicking here.
To get your Cuban Tourist Card, even if you are coming from the USA, you can do it through EasyTouristCard.com. Here you can order all the tourist cards you need at the same time. In this way, you will only pay one shipping charge.