How To Stay With Local Families in Cuba

Cuban Casa Particulares

Cuba is a bit tough to plan out accommodation wise. Because of strict laws, traditional hostels are basically non-existent. And can I just say, thank god! Don’t get me wrong, I love a good backpacker hostel. But after your eighth consecutive month of sleeping in yet another disgusting dorm bed you really need a break. The Cuban accommodation system is a breath of fresh air.


So how does it work?

Instead of traditional hostels, families are allowed to rent out rooms in their homes to travelers, Cuban casa particulares. Families with registered casas pay taxes to the government and they can be identified by the little casa symbol- a white square with two blue triangles. Of course, not all the casas are registered and unregistered ones tend to be a bit cheaper but you can get in trouble with the police if they find out.

Some casas are fancier and more expensive, others simple and more budget friendly. We stayed in the cheaper ones, which were still lovely. We started our trip in Havana and stayed at Hamel Hostel. This was the only “hostely” spot that we stayed at but it was a perfect jumping off point. The dorm beds are only $5 and Magnolia and her husband, the owners, it will sit down and help you figure out where you want to travel/how to get around, etc. They’re part of an unofficial network of hostels throughout Cuba. She’ll hand out business cards for the casa of any destination you want to head to and call ahead to your next spot to let them know you’re coming. Since you won’t be using the internet in Cuba (unless you want to pay $8/hr) this is the best way to reserve your accommodation.

cuban casa particulares

How Much Are Casa Particulares?

Hamel Hostel was the cheapest place we stayed but it’s not hard to find budget casas. $15 was the “going rate” for most of the rooms we stayed in, but after some haggling we ended up paying $10 between the two of us. The prices are negotiable and staying longer in one house will obviously get you a cheaper rate. At one point we had an older European man paying $25 for a comparable room next door to ours while we paid $10 for our room. Be honest about your budget with the owners and they will generally try to work with you on it.

Good Eats

Most owners will offer home cooked meals for their guests. This is a really fun way to explore Cuban cuisine and eat delicious food. Because Cuban street food is so cheap, we didn’t take advantage of these meals that often. But when we opted for a home cooked meal, it was totally worth it. The prices for the food are negotiable as well. We haggled down the prices of our breakfast (letting them know we only needed a bit of food) and dinners (explaining that we’re vegetarian) and ended up paying about 50 cents to $1 for breakfast and $1.50-$3.00 for dinners.

Overall we found that the owners took pride in their casas and enjoyed opening their homes to travelers. Hostels can be a great place to meet other travelers but if you want a taste of local culture, you’ll love the casas. All of the casas we stayed at were run by an older couple with a few extra rooms in their houses. One couple insisted that we call them ‘mama’ and ‘papa.’ Most couples were keen for a drink and a chat during the evening. We loved hearing about Cuban history first hand and sharing stories from our respective home countries. It was lovely experience and perfect for budget traveling.

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32 thoughts on “How To Stay With Local Families in Cuba”

  1. This sounds like an amazing way to view a country. I love that you went so local, obviously this was necessary because of how the country is set up but I still thinks its pretty awesome. The food sounds amazing. A random question, did you see any dancing there? Salsa or any type of partner dancing?

    • I definitely wouldn’t say it’s tuff to plan out accommodations. For one, if you like to book ahead of time, AirBnb is alive and well in Cuba. I’ve stayed in plenty in Havana and elsewhere. Secondly, there are blatant signs hanging in front of just about every building that mean they are a guesthouse. I’ve shown up in cities in the middle of the night around Cuba and found a room within minutes.

  2. Nice to hear nothing has changed in Cuba :)) Would it ever change actually? I was there in 2007 and we also stayed in casas particulares all the time but it was a bit more difficult to bargain back then (there was no language barrier and I am pretty good at bargaining too)..As much as we tried it was impossible to get a room cheaper than 25$/night, plus it was 3 of us and people were scared to put us in the same room (it wasn´t allowed) and we always had to get 2 rooms, even though 1 bed was always empty. But they were all so nice and hospitable!

    • That’s so interesting to hear! The restrictions must have eased up a bit since then. It was fairly easy to haggle down the price, to a point. But we were definitely told to keep it under wraps and not let the other guests know. I’m sure it was amazing to visit back in 2007!

  3. It’s such a nice experience and a different way to travel. It’s a great tip for people, like me, who want to visit Cuba but stay away from the resorts and hotels.

  4. Me and my boyfriend will go to Cuba in december for 10 days. With the way the public transport works do you think its possible to visit Havana, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba in those days? And are those cities the cities to visit or would you recommend any other places? We will only book the flights and the first 2 nights in the Hamel Hostel (thanks for the recommendation!). From there on we still have to decide on what to do but would love some advice from someone with experience 🙂

    • Hi Amelie, thats awesome that you guys are headed to Cuba! I think its possible to do those 3 cities in 10 days but you’ll have pretty limited time in each. Santiago de Cuba is very far south in Cuba so it takes a while to get down there, especially if you are taking public transportation. With such limited time I would recommend Viazul. Alternatively you could just stay in the North and do Havana, Trinidad and Pinar del Rio which is a beautiful small town in the mountains. Great chill vibe and lovely hiking/horseback riding. So yea, I guess it depends on how much time you want in each place! Please shoot us an email if you’d like to chat about it more. Have fun!

  5. It’s nice to see we agree on accommodations in Cuba. I thoroughly enjoyed staying with families in their Casa Particulares. Although it would seem my shared budget was a little higher, we still had similar wonderful experiences.

    • The families are the best way to stay in Cuba. We’ve heard a couple of different reports on prices, all varying quite a bit. We were fortunate to find cheap accommodation along the way through a series of similar networks. It wasn’t the best accommodation, but it was great for the price. Glad you had an awesome time!

  6. Hello,

    I first have to say I really enjoyed reading your travel adventures. Your website is both practical, visually appealing and interesting to read.

    You give just enough informations to give me the urge to discover the places you’ve been too for myself without revealing all of the surprises I might encounter along the way. I love it! And the two of you have a great eye for photography. I have read and seen many traveler’s blog but yours is the first that I put in my bookmarks and that I will regularly refer to while planning a trip!

    Right now Cuba is my next destination and had just one question about your choice of accommodations in Varadero. Since we land there it will be our first stop and that’s the only reservation I was planning on making ahead of time…. I was wondering if you decided to stay in Matanzas or closer to the beach in Varadero and if you had any particular recommendations…

    Looking forward to read more about your next adventures.


    • Thanks so much Anne! We really love hearing such nice comments like that! It truly does help inspire us to keep working away at the blog to help other travelers. We’re really excited that you’re headed to Cuba! You’re going to have such an amazing time!
      When we were visiting Varadero we stayed in Matanzas because we found a really cheap place out there. It’s not a very long trip out to Varadero, only about 45mins. This probably depends a lot on your budget. We were wrapping up a 2 year backpacking trip, so as you can imagine we were pretty poor haha. If you’ve got the money, and you’re only going for a short time, I’m probably recommend looking for something cheap out at Varadero.
      Equally beautiful, and a lot less crowded in Playa Ancon, just outside of Trinidad. You should check that out as well 🙂

  7. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear! Thank you so much for all your articles on Cuba I cannot tell you how helpful they’ve been. I’m heading to Cuba for the month of July and like yourselves I’ve so far only so far heard mixed reviews, mainly about the ease of backpacking not only on a budget but off the tourist trail. I am a backpacker not a resort go-er so it’s good to know it is possible to be off the beaten track and my haggling skills will come in handy! I’ll be there for a month, from what you’ve said I just hope that’s enough time! Thanks again!

    • Awesome, we’re so happy to hear that our posts have been helpful! There’s definitely a lot of confusing information out there, but don’t worry! Budget backpacking in Cuba is definitely possible and super fun. Have a great time!!

  8. Quick question–

    I’m planning a trip to Cuba this fall, and I would love to stay at Hamel Hostel after your glowing recommendation. How do I get a hold of them to make a reservation? Or do I just show up?

    • Hey Braeden! Great stuff on the Cuba choice, and Hamel is a nice spot to start. Search for Magnolia on Couchsurfing under Havana. You should find her updated details there. Or, if you’re adventurous, just wing it and show up. She has quite a lot of accommodation, and if she’s full knows people who are just as good to host you!

  9. Hi, I love this blog. I just booked my trip to Cuba. I was wondering if anyone knows about how to book a room with Rolando’s Backpackers? Is there a phone number I can call? I can’t seem to book this hostel through any websites. I also don’t want to give that 10% deposit to some hostel bookers. I’d rather give that extra cash to the Cuban families. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hey Sam! Unfortunately I don’t have any contact details for Rolando’s Backpackers? But I think if you’ve got an address just show up rather than lay down the 10% deposit. Sure they’ll have room, and if not will definitely know someone to help you out. Hopefully someone else has some answers. Good luck and enjoy Cuba!

  10. Thanks so much for sharing these articles about Cuba on a budget! Very much appreciated, especially when we are solo traveler – I am preparing my 1-month trip for October and my dream is about to come true.
    I wanted to double check something with you. Even if I have a limited budget, I heard that Cubans who host travelers have to pay a monthly tax to the State… hence we shouldn’t try to low down the price of the room…

    If you’ve been able to have that kind of discussion with the Cuban families that were hosting you, I would be grateful for you to share the info ;-). Thanks a lot!

    • Hey Marie,
      That is true, that the locals need a license in order to host visitors. But the license comparative to what some of the casa particulares charge is pretty far apart. Considering an average monthly wage in Cuba is around $40USD, some places are charging $20USD a night. So there’s definitely a little room for negotiation. As always though, low balling isn’t appreciated. Haggle what you’re comfortable with spending and remember that it goes a lot further to them then it might to you, especially if you’re on a short trip before you go back to work.

  11. Hello mochileros!

    I can’t get enough of your website, very rich in information and so useful! I am about to head to Cuba for one month but will be truly backpacking the last 20 days of the trip (the first part will be with a friend, so we will share the cost of the room and we’ll try to use the “camiones” and hitch-hike as much as we can).
    As I won’t land in Hamel Hostel, I won’t be able to know where the other “on a budget places” are in other Cuban cities… do you have any tips you could share regarding the places you stayed at outside of La Habana? Thanks so much! Saludos

    • Hey Marie thanks again for the love! Glad it has helped 🙂 Unfortunately we don’t have any of our contact information with us as we’re currently on the road, but my guess is that most of the other locations will have a local hook up when it comes to other hostels and cheap places to stay. It’s all a massive referral system, so they’re always looking to help each other out. Worst case scenario if they don’t, try your luck and visit Magnolia at Hamel and ask. She’s super helpful! Maybe slip her a couple of bucks for her troubles. Also, you’ll have no shortage of options any time you step off a bus. The people will be everywhere!

  12. Casas really are the best! Some of the best meals in Cuba are cooked in the kitchens of those casas. Even a simple dish of rice and beans can be wonderful, especially with the company of chatty hosts.

  13. Hey Guys,

    Believe me you guys are doing best thing in the world Travelling + Socializing

    One day I definitely wanna visit Cuba and this article I am saving it for that 🙂

    Whenever you want to visit India and get a change to Visit Pune or Mumbai one treat is on me 🙂

    Keep Travelling!


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