Casa Particular or Hotel: not just a matter of money

Bild: Eingang zu einer Casa Particular in Trinidad

Eingang zu einer Casa Particular in Trinidad

Last Update: 27.06.2018

 

If we look at the number of tourists in Cuba in recent years, then we know: Cuba is more attractive than ever. This means for us tourists that we have to pay attention to different things when choosing our accommodation. Those who fly to Cuba have to decide first: where to sleep? Those who don’t want to sleep in the park have basically two possibilities to stay overnight: in a hotel or in a casa particular. Hotel is already clear, and a Casa Particular is a kind of Bed-and-Breakfast, i.e. a private accommodation.

 

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The Hotels

Although I mostly stay in Casas Particulares myself, there are good arguments for hotels, especially in Cuba.

Hotels in tourist destinations – the beach hotels

Especially on the beaches there are many hotels with all-inclusive. The beach hotels are mainly in Varadero, the Cayos of Villa Clara (Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Santa Maria), Cayo Coco on the Jardines del Rey and north of Holguín. On the south coast there are Cayo Largo, Isla de Juventud and some others.

I’m usually not a fan of all-inclusive, but I have to say that in Cuba it has many advantages:

  1. You don’t have to worry about food anymore. Especially in tourist places it is difficult to get food and to find an overnight stay with cooking facilities. The restaurants are touristically expensive and you will overspend money for food of average quality. Therefore, all-inclusive hotels at the beaches is definitely my recommendation. Here is by the way our article about the independent procurement of food in Cuba.
  2. The drinks you get have enough alcohol – unlike Cancun, for example, where you get mostly juices and soft drinks. This is also due to the fact that cola is more expensive than rum in Cuba! So: do it like the Canadians, they all have their thermo cups with them. It keeps not only the coffee warm, but also the drink cold 😉
  3. All-inclusive hotels are generally surprisingly cheap when you look for offers. This is probably due to the fact that hotels can calculate their food quite differently than private hotels. A few years ago it was cheaper, but 4 stars all-inclusive hotels in Varadero are still affordable today. A short search leads to a four-star hotel in Varadero for 68 euros per night for 2 people, all inclusive – and these are normal prices, not bargain prices from discount portals. Of course it goes also more favorably.
  4. Package tours: most of the time you can book these hotels as an organized package, then you don’t have to worry about how to get from the airport to the hotel and you also have a local contact person if you have problems or need help.

Let’s now compare the bill for a Casa Particular in Varadero, also for 2 persons: 40 Euro per night, breakfast 10 Euro, lunch 15 Euro, dinner 25 Euro, all drinks included. The total is 90 Euro, i.e. much more than the all-inclusive hotel costs.
I know there are savers who can live with a lot less money. I also went to Varadero for a simple snack and ate rice, beans and meat with the locals for 2.50 CUC. However, we had to walk 30 minutes to get there, the quality was so lala and at all: who wants to recover, should not be stingy.

Hotels in the city

Well, what’s the point of a hotel in town and a private place to stay? Actually the standard. Of course you have to know that the standard of hotels in Cuba is not as high as the price might suggest. As there are now more tourists pouring into Cuba, this disproportion will increase even more, the prices for overnight stays already rise massively. TUI warns for example that the categories in Cuba do not correspond to ours, i.e. 4 stars Cuba are not 4 stars Germany, but rather 3 stars. And then the hotels are at the same time still expensive. From Cuba’s point of view I understand that: the money is scarce, the tourists come anyway, why not raise the prices – let’s hope that Cuba doesn’t spoil its image.

So those who go on holiday to book an all-round carefree package and don’t have to pay attention to every cent, don’t drive so badly with a good hotel. But those who are short of cash or want to be closer to the locals should stay overnight in a Casa Particular.

The pool of the Granhotel Manzana, above the roofs of Havana

So those who go on holiday to book an all-round carefree package and don’t have to pay attention to every cent, don’t drive so badly with a good hotel. But those who are short of cash or want to be closer to the locals should stay overnight in a Casa Particular.

At the moment it looks as if many large hotel chains – if they do not come from the USA – are building or planning hotels in Cuba. The Kempinski Group’s Granhotel Manzana, for example, is already a 5-star plus hotel, with more hotels in this category to follow. Iberostar and other chains are also opening some new hotels, i.e. the tense hotel situation in Cuba will ease in the medium term.

 

Casa Particular

Das "Anker"-Symbol einer Casa Particular

The “anchor” symbol of a Casa Particular

A Casa Particular is first of all nothing else than a private accommodation, i.e. the name “Casa Particular” itself says nothing about standard or furnishing. Since a few years Cubans are allowed to rent out privately and take advantage of this possibility. This ranges from a simple separate room in the apartment to whole roof floors with whirlpool and butler – I have heard, unfortunately, never had the luck myself. Or the money ;).

In general, there is an important differentiation criterion: access through the apartment (one room) or own entrance (one apartment). If you want to chat more with the landlords, the first is quite good if you want to have your privacy – or party excessively 😉 – the latter. I.e. in the first case you have rather rented a room, in the second an apartment, usually with its own kitchen.

Excursus: Buying food in Cuba

Many products, but no selection: Supermarket in Havana

A small excursus: the cost of buying food in Cuba should not be underestimated. So just because you have a kitchen in your apartment doesn’t mean that you can just cook food or save money. While I am writing these lines, there are no eggs here in Vedado, Havana. You can buy meat at the market early in the morning, at 8 or 9 o’clock, later I wouldn’t buy anything that hung in the sun for several hours. Great advantage for all vegetarians – vegetables on the market are no problem. The selection is not huge, but with a little creativity you can cook beautiful vegetarian dishes.Bring a few more ingredients in your suitcase and you can also do some magic on the stove. (only canned food and everything that is packed, because of the food control at the airport)
By the way, here we have a whole article about buying food in Cuba!

Prices of Casa Particulares

Some say Casas Particulares are closer to the normal population of Cuba. This is no longer the case, because the owners of the Casas are among the better earners. The family of the owners of our Casa, in which we live at the moment, calls 5 Casas their own. And even if it is only one Casa: with the rent the owners earn on one day more than the official average monthly income. At the moment Casas cost between 25 CUC and 35 CUC, in tourist locations a little more, in simple areas and in the countryside a little less. But also at Casas the prices are rising due to the influx of tourists.

For me personally it is important that I can feed myself, that’s why I take some things from Germany with me (cheese, canned food, noodles, pesto, pepper…) and buy the rest on the market or in the supermarket (see above). This saves a lot of money – because restaurants are no longer cheap here, especially not with the current exchange rate – but requires some planning. And of course we also get products from our Cuban relatives: Sugar, salt, butter, cheese, eggs, avocados, fruits that they either bunkered for us or got from relatives in the country.

Booking of Casas Particulares

Hotel Riviera, Havanna, Kuba

Hotel Riviera, Havanna

There are now a lot of platforms on the Internet for booking casas. Just google it and you’ll find some. The Cubans are also resourceful: Casas Particulares are offered on all hotel portals, on Google Maps and wherever possible.

If you’re more spontaneous, just book the first two nights and you’ll find the rest. However, you should definitely have a first point of contact in Cuba, not only to find a good place to stay, but also because you will sometimes be asked for the address of your Casa Particular when you arrive.

My tip for the Casa booking: write an email 2 weeks before your trip, if everything works out. Then you have a) the security that the Casa is still reserved for you and b) it’s cultural in Cuba that you as a landlord/host like to reinsure yourself.

If you need tips for good casas, you can write to me as well, as I said, and I will help you.

The location of the Casa

When booking, also pay attention to where the Casa Particular is located. Often you will not find the exact address in booking portals, but only the block in which it is located. But even that is enough to judge: do you get to the sights easily, how far do you have to take a taxi in case of doubt? The public transport in Cuba is definitely underdeveloped.

Habana Vieja is the old centre of Havana, but the casas there are of low standard. Vedado is the new center, but there are not so many sights, but beautiful casas – and at the same time Vedado is still centrally located and you can quickly get everywhere. Between Vedado and Habana Vieja is Centro Habana, so as the name says, very central. There one can stay overnight, I already did, but Centro is not a prosperous area, so that one can get easily into trouble at night.

Dining in the Casa Particular

If I wrote above that self-sufficiency is difficult, there is a way out at some Casas Particulares: some landlords offer food. Some only offer breakfast, others also dinner. And then you kill two birds with one stone: firstly, you don’t have to worry about the supply and, secondly, you get the tastiest food in Cuba – because that’s only available at home in Cuba 🙂

Saving money: really cheap hotels

And then there are really cheap hotels, something for smart spenders. The Hotel Vedado in Havana, for example, is available from 20 euros per night including breakfast (yes, that is true!). And that was when the Pope was there and in the Habana Libre nothing was to be found under 200 Euro). Currently I can find simple 3-star hotels from 33 Euro online. This is cheaper than any decent Casa Particular – or a youth hostel in Berlin. But then you have six-legged flatmates and the air conditioning is fine, but complicated like an impatient Cubanita. So it can´t be cheaper anymore 😉

My – slightly longer – conclusion

If you want to go to Cuba, first decide if you want to spend a quiet and sheltered holiday or if you want to be closer to the people here. Both have their justification and can be fun – you just need to know what suits you.

A simple, quiet 4-star beach hotel in Varadero is available for little money (just under 70 euros in low season), including all food and drink.

Ein Blick in meine Casa

Ein Blick in meine Casa

The beaches of Cuba are incredibly empty, you only have to share them with a few Russians (but there aren´t that many at the moment), the Canadians, English and Italians prefer all to hang at the pool.

If you want to spend a little more money (don´t forget: you don’t fly to Cuba every day), then it can be a good hotel. But inform yourself beforehand what you can expect at the end. There are some hotels that look a lot glamorous from the outside and don’t meet any of the expectations inside.

If you want to spend just very little money and you are flexible in your schedule, look for special offers. You can find them on all booking platforms or directly on sites such as HolidayPirates, where you can even find package holidays for small budgets. LTUR is surely also good for last-minute travellers to get a bargain.

If you want to live a little less supervised, a little closer to the population and don’t want to spend too much money at a fair standard, then Casas Particulares are the right thing for you. I myself always spend the night in Casas, but I’m not here on vacation either, I’m here to work. And since I have a Cuban family, I now also know where to find the best casas (contact me if you need recommendations!!!) – currently we live in 2 rooms, 60 square meters, in the Vedado, very clean and newly furnished, at only 40 CUC per night.

You see, there’s something for everyone if you just plan a little bit in advance.

Enjoy your stay in Cuba!!!
Dietmar


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