We had 24 hours until our flight to Cuba departed and we still didn't have a place confirmed as I mentioned in my previous post on how to book a casa particular. Out of time, we settled on a one-bedroom apartment in Vedado booked on Airbnb.
Our Casa Particular
- Ideal rental: private room + private bathroom in a bed n breakfast for around $35 USD per night.
- Actual rental: Airbnb one-bedroom apartment in an apartment building for $65 USD per night.
There were many good options and we spend the weeks leading up to our trip frantically trying to contact many of them. It was early March and, unfortunately, most were full or didn't respond. Since our flight was less than 24 hours away, we decided on one of the few available places that responded quickly enough. Looking back, we should have booked the first day or two then walked around Vedado looking for a better place – casas are everywhere! Just look for the sign.
Hospitality / Casa Owners
The owners were lovely, extremely friendly and hospitable! The apartment was – meh. Without the owners hospitality, there would have been lots of regret.
I made the mistake of thinking the person responding to my emails was the owner, but he was a broker on Airbnb who managed many listings. Despite the broker's super friendly personality and offering to be available to answer any questions or provide suggestions, he never answered his phone or returned our messages. The inexperienced hosts had been only renting for a few months and while they had a few suggestions on where to go and things to do, often they weren't sure what to recommend (restaurants, things to do, transportation outside of the area). Without a working phone, internet, or a paper guide, we just winged it most of the time.
Asking the owners for a tour: We asked one of the owners to show us around Old Havana. It was more of a double date. He took his wife and the 4 of us went to see Old Havana. I later invited them to ride along in the 1 hour convertible tour with us. There are probably guides you can hire to show you around town but its not exactly easy to find an English speaking guide when you are new to the country.
Our apartment was on the 3rd floor of this building (on the left). Not very nice from the outside – this photo was conveniently not posted on Airbnb.
Fortunately, we didn't see any cockroaches in the apartment or on our floor. Unfortunately, we did see dead ones near the entry in the last couple of days. Where there are dead cockroaches, there are live ones.
The bedroom had blacked out windows for some reason. From the bedroom we could hear many things the neighbors were doing. At dinnertime, the whole building was buzzing with restaurant style dinner sounds. A single phone ringing would resonate all times of the day throughout the building.
The bed was not comfortable at all. Think of the cheapest college dorm bed you could find. This is supposedly a queen size bed but I couldn't fit so my feet touched the wooden frame. In the photo below you'll see the mattress is only supported by a stretching material…not much support there.
The living room had the most basic of furniture. It was functional but not very comfortable (I would sit down and feel the metal bars through the cushions).
Not much of a view but enough sunlight. I spent a lot of my time in Havana looking for shade to hide from the beating sun.
The bathroom was sufficient (we had hot water after firing up the furnace for 20 minutes) though the thin sandpaper-like towels left a lot to be desired. It was really hard to dry off after a shower. A newspaper would probably work better.
We definitely felt safe inside the apartment with its 5 Locks (including 2 deadbolts) + a locking metal gate on the other side! This level of security was certainly not necessary for this neighborhood, but… I used all the locks just in case.
The kitchen was unnecessary and I probably wouldn't have used it anyway. It all looks clean in the photo but it seemed like it was all sitting there unused for months. The faucet would drip all the time.
It was my first time seeing a furnace like this. It had to be turned on by hand for about 20 minutes to get hot water.
No power adapters were needed. Here's a list of the electric outlet types by country for reference.
Across the street was this interesting building, though unfortunately no ‘casa particular for rent' signs.
Breakfast was offered for 5 CUC per day per person and served in either the owners apartment or in our rental. It was prepared by a helper and had to be booked the day before. We had the choice of food and time. The price is reasonable but we later learned that 5 CUC is more than enough to have a similar breakfast (or lunch) in a restaurant.
We had 2 breakfasts at the casa and the rest in town.
Our first breakfast was lots of fresh fruit, toast, and eggs. One of the fruits was unusual – the star apple/cainito is the purple one in the center and tasted like a softer bland version of a plum. Interesting but I have no desire to have more.
When we had an early morning tour schedule, we requested an early morning breakfast served in our room. We had omelets (“tortilla”), fruit cocktail (fresh fruit mixed with fruit in syrup — from a jar?), fruit juice, toast, and tea. My omelet (right side) was good while the one on the left somehow had uncooked raw egg, not just runny egg). A little extra cooking on the stove made it edible. The first breakfast was better.
My Cameras: These photos were taken using either my Canon S110 (newer model is S120) or my Sony a6000 (with this wide angle lens). The Canon is fits in my pocket and takes amazing pictures. The Sony packs the power of a full size DSLR while being small enough that I'm still willing to bring it!