When most UK travellers think of a trip to the Caribbean, chances are they immediately think of the Cuba holidays all inclusive specialists offer and little else. Of course, this is understandable given the way in which these kinds of trips have defined Caribbean travel for some time, but nevertheless represent nothing close to the only option on the cards – and certainly not the most authentic.
No – for those looking to soak up the real Cuba for all it has to offer in the most authentic manner possible, there quite frankly isn’t anything that comes remotely close to the casa particular. Roughly translated, a casa particular is what most in the UK would know as a bed and breakfast or maybe a guest house. The latter of the two is probably the most appropriate as rather than a formal means of accommodation per se, most casa particulars see travellers becoming the guests of a family for a week or two and sharing their standard family home.
The benefits of choosing a casa particular are literally off the scale – there’s no way of discovering Cuba for all it really is than to immerse yourself with the locals. They can take you to local haunts, introduce you around, let you in on secrets and more often than not will offer you the kind of genuine hospitality a five-star resort doesn’t come close to.
So, if all of the above sound appealing, here are a few essential tips from the experts on the subject of casa particular home stays in Cuba:
• Room Types – More often than not, it is perfectly possible to find and organise casa particular stays in small private bedrooms, larger rooms with private bathrooms, external outbuildings or even full floors of a family home.
• Costs – Generally speaking, casa particular stays will cost between CUC 20 and CUC 40 per night in the very heart of Havana – much cheaper though the further you stay from the city. Remember however that this is the price for the room and no per person, which means that even the upper-end prices are still absolute bargains.
• Occupancy – The law of Cuba dictates that one room can occupy a maximum of two adults over the age of 16, therefore do not ask any home stay provider to break the law by trying to reach an agreement for more people in a room than allowed.
• Registration – Another area of law specifies that the accommodation provider must register all guests within 24 hours of arrival with the official immigration authorities, therefore will need to take passports and visas along to do so. Always make sure documents are returned immediately afterwards.
• Beds – Larger beds like queen and king size are rare in Cuba, with most double-beds coming in at standard size or slightly smaller. If any special requirements are needed by way of mattresses or bedding, these must be addressed before booking.
• Meals – It is highly recommended to ask about meal during the home stay as some of the most authentic and inspiring dishes cooked anywhere in the Caribbean are cooked by home stay families for their guests – often for pennies.
• Plumbing – Last but not least, be prepared to use a waste basket for all toilet paper and tissues, as the plumbing in most Cuban residential areas cannot handle this kind of waste.
By Claire Thomas
Claire Thomas is a once regular traveller to the Caribbean who today has taken to blogging on the way in which the credit crunch has affected global travel. She still occasionally indulges in Mauritius all inclusive holidays and otherwise, though is dedicated to managing her budget for the sake of her growing family. She and her husband currently live in Doncaster.
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