If you are going on holiday to Cuba and want to experience Cuban life to the full why not stay in a Casa Particular? A Casa Particular is a private house in which rooms are rented out to tourists. It is similar to a Bed and Breakfast but although you will have a private room you will be staying with a Cuban family.
If you are going to visit Cuba, staying in a Casa Particular is a great opportunity to learn more about Cubans and the way they live. It can also be an amazing source of information (and gossip) which is particularly useful if you are visiting Cuba for the first time.
If you are not used to travelling independently staying in a Casa Particular is actually a home from home experience. There are strict regulations controlling the Casas Particulares which means that you will have peace of mind whilst avoiding the blandness of a hotel room.
When I visited Havana I stayed in a Casa Particular. As it was the first time I had used a Casa Particular I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was made welcome as soon as I arrived. Although I had my own private room there were several other guests staying there. This was great as it gave me the opportunity to exchange information and plan the rest of my holiday.
After spending a few days in Havana I travelled to Santiago where I stayed in another Casa Particular. Everything was very well organised so when I arrived in Santiago my new landlady was there to meet me. The host and her family (she lived with her husband, daughter and grandson) were all extremely welcoming and I felt comfortable straight away.
In Santiago I had my own private room but had the freedom to use the rest of the house. There were no other guests staying there so I wondered if I would feel a little awkward staying by myself with a family but I needn’t have worried. Whilst I was treated as a special guest it was up to me how much or how little I wanted to interact with the family.
My new landlady was exceptionally kind. The price included breakfast but rather than giving me the same thing to eat every day my landlady seemed to delight in offering new or unusual items.
When I had registered and shown my passport my landlady had noticed that I would be in Cuba on my birthday so although I didn’t mention it when the day of my birthday came she held a little party for me, much to my surprise.
I had intended to travel more but because I was so comfortable staying in Santiago apart from short overnight trips to other places I spent the rest of my holiday there and despite my initial concerns that I would feel claustrophobic staying in a Casa Particular I really loved the experience.
I had a door key and so could come and go as I pleased. The only condition of this was that when I came home I had to leave the door of the shower open. This was so that if the landlady woke up in the night she would know I was home and not be worrying about me. Although she was my landlady I felt that I had a new mum! As I got on very well with my landlady I was also able to ask advice and learn about the local gossip.
I made Cuban friends outside the house but also had my new Cuban family when I came back home. This was invaluable as it meant that I could ask many questions about Cuban life which I might not have been able to ask outside the house.
I would recommend staying in a Casa Particular to anyone. In both houses I stayed in I was welcomed as a guest and looked after attentively. It really felt as if I was staying with friends or relatives. Rather than losing my freedom it enhanced my understanding of life in Cuba and enriched my experience.
By Cassie who stayed one month in Cuba