Latin America Travel & Tour Information
Cuban Budget Accomodation (Claire Ward)
What is the best way to get to know how the Cubans live day to day? Move in with them! Cuba has a fantastic system of home stays or Casa Particulares where a family with a ?spare? room in their house has registered it with the State as a tourist room, (Cubans aren?t allowed to rent them freely and the hosts pay a fee of roughly 200CUC per month for the privilege whether the rooms are occupied or not). Cubans running this style of accommodation are very approachable people and are willing to answer most questions that you may have about life in Cuba. If you don?t speak Spanish, don?t worry because you will still get an excellent insight into the daily rhythm of domestic Cuba, from hand-washing to family gatherings, to home cooked meals. If you do get your washing done by your hosts then supply them with the washing powder bought from a Convertible Peso store (their soap is of very poor quality and doesn?t smell the best either), plus negotiate a price before the work is done.
Prices range from 15 to 25CUC (convertible pesos) per room per night yet the quality of the room does not necessarily change with the higher price. Some houses are more modern, more spacious and better equipped than others. Some rooms may come with en suite bathroom, some with air con or fan, double beds or twin, blank white walls or dripping in religious paraphernalia. The one thing they all have in common is Cuban house-proud cleanliness.
If you are a vegetarian then eating at the Casa is your best bet for a well balanced diet that goes beyond the ubiquitous rice and beans or congris. And that goes for you omnivores too. Your hosts are used to the foibles and quirks of tourists and will do their best to offer you interesting and varied meals which will enviably be too much food. It is up to you to tell your hosts what time you would like to eat dinner and breakfast. Officially, they are allowed to offer you chicken or pork and in general it will be served with congris, salad and maybe malanga or yuca (root vegetables). It is not uncommon to be offered soup and coffee with the meal and sometimes even dessert, caramel flan is a popular choice. Dinner should cost between 7-8 CUC. However, they may also offer you lobster, shrimps or fish. Officially this is illegal but what they don?t know doesn?t hurt, just don?t be surprised if your plate gets whipped away from you if someone knocks at the door?it could be an inspector! Lobster and shrimps on average costs 10CUC. Breakfast should cost 3CUC.
Don?t worry about how to find a Casa Particulare. Hosts will be waiting in line with photos and descriptions when you get off the bus. Just talk with them to make sure they?ll meet your requirements, go and check it out before agreeing to stay and if it isn?t what you want they will help you find one that suits, usually at their family?s or friend?s house. If you are walking in the streets in search of casa to perch for the night then keep an eye out for the official Casa Particulares sign, it will be a sticker of a green or blue with a house-shaped triangle printed on it which is placed high on a door or window.
Finally, your newly adopted Cuban family appreciates any gifts that you can give them apart from monetary tips. If you can leave them your second hand clothes which are gratefully received. Other gift ideas include soap, shampoo, washing powder, toys for the children, pens, coloured pens, flip-flops?the list goes on because everything is hard to come by in Cuba.