Casas Particulares

7 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type



Date of travel

Jan, 2014

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with


Reasons for trip


I’ve recently spent a month in Cuba. It’s a fascinating country, and most people visit as part of a tour. I’ve enjoyed tour groups in the past, but I enjoy travelling independently – finding my way about on local transport and sorting my own accommodation. I’d thought this would be fairly easy in Cuba. After all, it’s not like the Far East where I can’t read the script. I don’t speak much Spanish, but at least I can read maps and understand directions. Besides, I could organise most of it on the internet, couldn’t I? If only. Cubans are not permitted to use the internet unless they can prove they need it for business or educational use. There are banks of computers in outlets known as Etecsas – so even those with permission cannot be unsupervised. In order to meet the needs of independent travellers Cuba has evolved a wonderful system of bed-and-breakfast homestays known as Casas Particulares. Homeowners with a spare room are licensed to offer accommodation to tourists, and they are expected to provide a clean place to sleep, hot water, and a private bathroom. But none of the owners have access to the internet. So how do you find one? There are several websites listing casas – with an address and telephone number. (I used The sites provide addresses and telephone numbers and the visitor is expected to ring up. Which is fine for those who speak Spanish, but I had no chance of making myself understood without the help of sign language. So I found the first casa by sending an email to the website, and they found someone with a free room when I needed it – the process took several nail-biting days, as the site-owner had to attend to emails only when she could get to an Etecsa. I was in Havana with a bus ticket to Camaguey and no idea if I’d have somewhere to sleep when I got there. But got sorted, and I was ‘in the system’. With the first casa booked, things were much more straightforward. The first landlady telephoned to her friends in next town, who organised me somewhere to sleep and someone to meet me off the bus. The second landlady phoned the third … and so on. Which surely meant my accommodation problem was solved? Except I was not in a position to pick and choose. The first casa was basic, but the couple who ran it so wonderfully kind (they were unfazed when I arrived at midnight) I forgave them everything. The second began well … but then I had to move to another room, off the kitchen, from where I could hear all the family’s to-ings and fro-ings while sitting on my bed, which felt a bit odd. They sent me to a kind woman with a lovely room off a courtyard … you get the picture. I was fine until I arrived in Cienfuegos, where I was met from the bus by a tall, cadaverous man with no teeth. He took me to his home and introduced me to his wife, who was less than five feet tall, also without teeth but with whiskers. She insisted on kissing me, and became obsessive about my hair – every time I passed her she’d stroke it. She was also insistent that I should visit the cemetery (I’m sorry to say I lied and told her I’d been, just to stop her going on about it). My room had crumbling plaster and the door was rotten at the bottom. The chair might, at home, have been described as ‘distressed’ but to me it just looked miserable. But, on my own, the thought of marching out with my suitcase and walking the streets looking for somewhere else defeated me. When I left for Viñales I was determined I’d be assertive and refuse to stay somewhere so difficult. I’d not put up with a crumbling room and such strange people. All the way there, on the bus, I practised my assertiveness. I’d insist I’d met friends, or found something else, and walk away. I was met by a swarthy man with no English at all but rattled on hopefully in Spanish as if the faster he spoke the more likely I was to understand. He led me past some lovely casas in the centre of the town, past some poorer homes towards the outskirts. I was increasingly anxious, my ‘I’m sorry I’ve changed my mind’ words swimming round in my head. And then he pointed up a little rise. ‘Mi casa,’ he said. And then I died and went to heaven. For there was a beautiful cottage, with orange walls, and four rocking chairs in the front porch. Somehow the system – haphazard as it is – had kept the best till last.

Jo Carroll

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.