Updated on March 26, 2017
Finding a place to stay in Havana was a very frustrating process for us. We spent countless hours on this during the months leading up to the trip and finally booked a place last minute – 1 day before our flight left for Cuba.
Want to stay in a hotel? Get ready to pay and be underwhelmed! The few hotels in Havana are expensive and appear to provide slow indifferent service, resulting in bad reviews. There are no Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG hotels here…yet. Starwood will soon operate 3 hotels in Cuba, including Hotel Inglaterra, Quinta Avenida Hotel, and Hotel Santa Isabel. Most people choose to stay at a casa particular instead, which is what I'll explain in this post.
A casa particular is a private home, essentially a bed and breakfast with average prices around $25-35 USD per night for a private room. You'll need to book in advance to have the most choices. Don't worry though, we confirmed our casa literally the day before we departed.
Casa particulares are available to rent everywhere, but most of them are not available online (remember most people don't have easy access to the internet). Everywhere we walked in Havana and even during our tour to Vinales, we noticed the blue and white ‘casa particular' sign (see pic above) on many buildings. If you are only able to find a room for the first few days, you'll likely be able to find a place after you get there. Your casa host will probably call some friends to see who has a room available.
HOW TO BOOK YOUR LODGING
- Airbnb (new users get $40 credit) – instant booking available, less choices, slightly higher prices, they accept credit cards for the full cost
- HavanaCasaParticular.com – Many casa options with links to tripadvisor reviews. The neighborhood and property type filters are helpful. Be prepared to pay cash for your stay.
- MyCasaParticular.com – just like Airbnb
- Walk & Ask – Ask at homes displaying the ‘casa particular' sign or when outside of Havana (Vinales, Trinidad, etc), locals will be looking for customers at the town square. You'll be able to see if its a nice mansion or crumbling building in a bad area.
NOTE 1: Many casa owners do not speak English so be prepared to use google translate if you don't speak Spanish.
NOTE 2: The prices are likely to be cheaper if you walk around and ask. It seems most owners are not tech savvy enough to list their rental online (or even know what Airbnb is). Our casa host used a broker to list their rental online.
We started with HavanaCasaParticular.com as well as ANashTravel (travel agent that ThePointsGuy used). ANashTravel only had 2 casas available and the photos were less than desirable. Just about all of the casas we contacted on HavanaCasaParticular.com were not available or didn't answer. We each wasted so many hours trying this! We switched to Airbnb, which has less selection and slightly higher prices, but our flight was the next day and we didn't have any place booked!
If you don't want to waste a lot of time going back and forth with casa owners, just use Airbnb. If there is a lightning bolt, you can book it with instant confirmation. For the rest, you should first contact the owner on Airbnb to ask if its available. I made the mistake of booking a casa without asking. The owner must respond/confirm within 24 hours or the booking gets canceled. Until that happens you cannot book another place otherwise you might get slapped with a cancel fee if you get double booked. Use instant confirmation or ask first!
TYPES OF RENTALS
The key things to look for, at least for us, was #1 location, #2 private room, #3, private bathroom. Carefully read the details of any place you check out to avoid surprises!
- private room with shared bathroom (bed n breakfast style)
- private room with private bathroom (bed n breakfast style)
- shared apartment (example 2 bed 2 bath apt, each bedroom may be rented separately)
- private apartment
- private house
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
What are the best neighborhoods in Havana? It depends. Check out my Quick Neighborhood guide to help you decide.
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!