Budget accommodation in Cuba #2
Casa particular Cuba – pronto!
After a long day on a bus, you have almost reached your destination, wherever that is in Cuba, and you realise that despite your best efforts you still do not have any accommodation in town. It is highly unlikely that this is going to happen, as your landlords from the previous casa have surely asked you if you need a casa in your next destination, have offered the casa of their friend, cousin, sister, or whatever. They definitely know someone there and they are most likely willing to make the reservations for you. But, you never know.
You shall not worry. As soon as you step off the bus, you will see what literally looks like a wall of people offering rooms in casas all over town. These is what how we were welcomed in Baracoa:
We thought it was so bizarre to see that we could not resist taking pictures.
The same scene is going to happen in any bus station in any city or village you visit in Cuba. Do not think that just because people are there, looking for guests, the casa is not going to be good. Casas have to all follow certain standards. They are all going to have ensuite rooms, they are all going to be very clean. Those who are not on guidebooks obviously have less business and they need to go look for tourists directly. To landlords it is a major achievement to appear in a guide! Our landlord in Cienfuegos (Eugenio) was by far the nicest person we met, very modest and very sweet. He told us that one day he was at the bus station, as usual, looking for tourists. He found one, walked him home. He noticed the guy kept writing and writing, and assumed he was a writer. A while later, his name and house appeared on the Lonely Planet (which is where we found him!) and he is now doing much better. But that is how he started.
What happens if you do not like the room you got or if the casa you thought you made reservations for is fully booked? Again, this happened to us. We just left our bags at the casa and knocked at any door where we saw a sign that said “arrendador” (these are clearly visible). Landlords are usually keen to let you in and take a look, and in case they have no availability, they will send you to a neighbour where again you will be able to take a look. The overall process can last for as long as you wish – it is up to you to take the first room you find, or to look for something you like better. In Trinidad we even negotiated the price of our room – but this is not a common things to do. We managed to do so only because were literally were the third guests at a very new casa. In Baracoa we left the first casa where we stayed (Casa Elvira, in Frank Pais) as we could hardly sleep at night – the room faced the street and it was very very loud. When we woke up, at 7:30 am, we got dressed and knocked at another casa (Casa Yalina y Gustavo) and Yalina was so sweet at telling us that yes, she finally had a room for us, so we fled Casa Elvira.
All in all, you never need to worry about accommodation in Cuba. You will find a casa, even when the city seems fully packed. You will not be left sleeping in the street. There is always someone who has a room, or a friend, a relative or neighbour who has one. It is just a matter of slightly adapting, but as I have said before, the standards are always quite high so you should not worry!!
Check more of my Cuban adventures here.