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Airbnb is one of an online platform for travellers to find and book lodging all over the world, providing countless options of houses and apartments for rent. In 2016 Airbnb opened up in Cuba, and by now there are hundreds of accommodation offers in every city of Cuba available for booking on the site.
No doubt, it is very convenient for the tourists to have all of these options available and easily accessible from any part of the world, which is why Airbnb has been rapidly gaining popularity among travelers. However, like many things, booking an Airbnb in Cuba is different to booking an Airbnb in the rest of the world.
The apartments that are offered on Airbnb by Cubans are called Casas Particulares: this term includes a variety of accommodation options, from a room in the house of your hosts to to an entire colonial villa with all the possible amenities. Casas Particulares first emerged in the year 1997, when the government allowed Cubans to rent their apartments to foreigners. Since then the room renting business has flourished all over the country, becoming an important part of the tourist industry nowadays.
Pros of booking a Casa Particular through Airbnb
Airbnb’s are cheaper in Cuba than hotels
On Airbnb you can find accommodations with very diverse prices, depending on the location, size, and comfortability of the lodging. However, the average price for a one-room apartment in Havana ranges between 25 and 45 CUC per night. It is cheaper than most hotels, and the value is the same, if not better than in state-run accommodations.
Cuban Airbnbs have a cozier atmosphere.
Many tourists who have stayed in Casas Particulares have warm memories about their stay not only because they have been provided with comfortable accommodation and a good service, but also because they have created bonds of friendship with their landlords.
Cubans are very friendly people, who are always happy to help you. This is why it is easy to communicate with them, if only you show your interest in interacting with your host family and ask questions about their life. This warmth is a big advantage that Casas Particulares have over hotels, which may make your stay in Cuba more pleasant.
In Cuban Airbnbs you will be closer to locals.
Another reason why it is convenient to interact with the locals closely is that they can help you to get around the city and show you all the important tourist spots around the house. You can ask your hosts to recommend you good places to eat, guides who can show you the city, drivers who can transfer you all around the country, apartments for rent in other towns you want to visit, etc. They also can make phone calls for you, and help you in any unexpected situations that may arise. Also, if you are a US citizen traveling under the Support for Cuban People category, you might be required to spend much of your time with locals, and renting a private house is a great way to do so.
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Airbnb Voucher Cuba: Discount on Airbnb of up to $40
Lastly, it is good to know that Airbnb has a referral system that allows you to have a discount on your first booking if you log in using a promo code provided by someone who is already using the site.
Problems that may arise while booking with Airbnb in Cuba
It is impossible to book an Airbnb from Cuba.
While Airbnb is a very easy way to find accommodation abroad, once you arrive in Cuba you cannot make any reservations. You will be able to view your profile and the bookings you have already made, but if you want to book a place, you have to do it in advance from your home country. The only way to use all the apps features in Cuba is by using a VPN app. Alternatively you can book on Cuban casa particular websites.
Sometimes mistakes happen due to the slow Cuban Internet
For Cuban landlords it may be challenging to manage their Airbnb accounts because of the lack of Internet experienced by the Cuban population. This may cause some inconveniences for both the host and the tourist. For example, if the connection is too slow, the site might not save the confirmation of the booking by the host, resulting in double bookings. Also, some Cubans ask their family and friends abroad to manage their accounts for them, and if there is no fast and efficient communication, they might not let each other know about the availability of the apartment and the bookings that have been made, resulting in inconveniences.
Cuban Airbnbs might just move you
Some landlords will rent their place to someone else, even if they have an agreement with you, if it pays better. This system has emerged long before Airbnb appeared in Cuba, and usually, if two bookings for the same apartment overlapped, the owner of the house would arrange another Casa Particular for one of them. Now, however, Airbnb allows the guests to see pictures of the house they will be staying in before they arrive in Cuba, and many would be very upset to find out that they won’t be able to stay in the apartment they have chosen, and this may become a big issue.
Tips for booking with Airbnb in Cuba
Always read the reviews.
This very simple piece of advice has helped millions of tourists to find adequate lodging. It is important to notice that you have to look at the dates of the comments as well: pay more attention to the recent one than to the old ones, if you want to get to know about the current conditions of the house.
Prepare to be offline.
Don’t assume you’ll just check the address and message the host after you’ve landed. Print out the address and reservation, or save it on your phone. Read our Beginners Guide to Cuba.
Double check the address
Airbnb uses Google Maps for addresses and locations in Cuba, and Google Maps doesn’t do a good job. Please ask the owner to confirm the full address. In Cuba, addresses have the following format:
House number,Street Name, Between Street A and Street B, City
So, for example:
305 Industria Street, Between Neptuno y San Miguel. Centro Habana
Contact the owner personally
It is always convenient to check with the owner if there are any things you consider crucial for your lodging. You may want to ask again if the apartment has all the amenities listed on the site, or just ask about the ones you are interested in. You may also ask if your landlord can provide you any additional services (breakfast, transport, etc.) and how much they will cost. It is also advisable to contact your owner again a couple of days before you depart from your home country to make sure he remembers about your booking and hasn’t rented the apartment to anyone else. Also, please inform the owner when you will arrive a day or two in advance. This is to make sure he or she will be there to let you in.
Bring some extra cash
Despite all the precautions, there still is a chance that problems may occur with your booking. There have been situations when the money has not been correctly transferred to the owner, double bookings occurred due to problems with the Cuban Internet, and there were mistakes in the address that appeared on the site, leading tourists to a house that didn’t rent any rooms. These situations are extremely rare, but it is better to be safe than sorry. It may be very difficult to use credit cards in Cuba, and Casas Particulares accept nothing but cash, so it is advisable to bring some extra money with you, enough to rent a room at least for a few days..
Beware of scammers
It happens that people looking for a pre-booked Airbnb on the street are approached and “lead” a different apartment, only to then be told to pay at the end of the stay. Do not pay, and be suspicious of people who approach you on the street.
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