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Where To Stay in Cuba

Cuba can be expensive for backpackers who travel solo. For a third world country, one might think its cheap—but it’s not. It’s a tourism-fueled economy where most tourists go with hotel and flight packages and stay in well-known beaches like Varadero, Cayo Coco and Playa Ancon. Thus, even accommodations aren’t really backpacker-friendly.  Where to stay in Cuba.

MONEY EXCHANGE TIP Where to stay in Cuba
Tourists use CUC or convertible peso which is equal in rate to US dollar. But, if you bring USD and exchange at their local bank, the rate would be $1 = .87 CUC. That means that in every $100, you lost $13. So, imagine if you exchange $500? You surely lost $65! The rate is the same across the country. So, my advice is: better withdraw money from the ATM machines in Havana. There are few around Parque Central in Centro Havana.


STAYING IN CASAS Where to stay in Cuba
Cuba has no hostel culture, except in Havana, where there are few—and in high season, good luck getting a bed. So, for backpackers, the cheapest bet would be staying in casas, private rooms (with private bathrooms) offered by families in their house. These casas are inspected by the government before they’ll be given a permit to operate one.

You can book one from the many websites online but, based on my research, MY CASA IN CUBA offers the cheapest price for backpackers. Many of the casas listed here are also listed in other websites with a different (more expensive) price. Most of the casas listed at My Casa in Cuba offers 20-25 CUC/room. And I wish they will keep that prices. By that way, they can compete ( a bit cheaper) with the ones listed in Lonely Planet Guidebook. In fact, I’ve never stayed in one of the recommended casas from the guidebook. Though this price isn’t single traveler-friendly but for couples traveling, this is a good deal. 

The good thing about staying in casas is that they’re clean. And guess what, you have your own bathroom, too. Beds aren’t the softest in the world but they’re enough to comfort your tired body at the end of the day. You stay in the local’s home and they welcome you with open arms. It’s basically like a homestay. And most of all, there’s no check-out time. When you book, tell them your arrival and checkout time so they can call and inform the casa owners. As long as there are no other guests coming in, they’ll surely allow you to checkout at your convenient time.

Most casas also offer meals. I’ve tried their breakfasts (3-5CUC) but not their lunch and dinner menu. I found it more expensive than Toronto or than eating outside. Aside from having your own bathroom with hot water, there are also other amenities like; refrigerator, an electric fan, a TV, sometimes a DVD player, lampshade, a closet and safety box deposit.


You have visitors coming in? No problem—as long they know. Make sure, whoever your visitor is, has an ID. The owners will look/keep it and return it when he/she leaves. It’s required by the government and It’s for your own safety, too.

The challenge (not really a disadvantage to me) in staying in casas is that, most owners don’t speak English. They can throw some words and that’s it. But, then again, that’s part of traveling to a foreign land, right?

Confirming bookings: Where to stay in Cuba
Once you’re in Cuba, forget about getting online. The best way to confirm your arrival to the next city is to ask your current homestay to call the casa of your next destination to facilitate pick-up time at the bus/train station or at the airport.

The casas where I stayed in my 16-day backpacking trip in Cuba deserve a mention in the online world, so I’m writing this, my way to thank them for all their welcoming ways.


WHERE TO STAY IN HAVANA

Hamel Hostel 
Find more reviews at TripAdvisor.com

It’s very basic but it’s a good place to stay for less than $10. It’s on Hamel Street and a walking distance to University of Cuba. I recommend this for its close proximity to La Rampa, a bar district in Vedado area and to Malecon. They’re less than ten minutes walk.

Where to stay in Cuba

Where to stay in Cuba: Hamel Hostel in Havana / Hostel in Cuba

Owners don’t speak English, not a bit, but they’re ok. Curfew is at 3am. Breakfast is 1CUC. Dinner is 2 CUC. Mineral water is at 50 cents and 1 CUC. This hostel really knows that backpackers value their budget.Casa Aleido
Find more reviews at TripAdvisor.com

This is a gay casa owned by the fabulous Aleido. The picture you see below is all yours for $30CUC. It’s like a Presidential suite with your own balcony. And oh, yes, they’re very straight-friendly, too.

Where to stay in Cuba Gay Casa in Havana

Casa Aleido is a gay casa and straight-friendly casa in the center of Havana / Hostel in Cuba

Check out this separate blog entry of this gay casa in Havana.

WHERE TO STAY IN CIENFUEGOS

Casa Yarek en Kenya (20CUC)
Address: Calle 37/Paseo Prado
#4219, entre 42 y 44
Telephone no.: +53 (43) 523331
Find more reviews at TripAdvisor.com

I love this casa. It’s along Calle 37, the main street, and a walking distance to the city centre, a World UNESCO Heritage. Their terrace has an amazing view of the bay. Lay down on the a hammock with your cuba libre and watch the gorgeous sunset.

Where to stay in Cuba Cienfuegos Casa Yarek Y Kenya

Where to stay in Cuba: Casa Yarek Y Kenya / Hostel in Cuba

This casa is also a restaurant and serve cheap, good food. There’s a bar, too. This is the only place where I had all my meals here because I found it friendly to a backpacker’s budget. There are two rooms to choose from but ask for the one with two open windows.

Where to stay in Cuba Cienfuegos

Casa Yarek Y Kenya in Cienfuegos / Hostel in Cuba

The place is built in 1927 and retain its marble columns and floors. A table on a small patio overlooking the city’s main street is a good place for breakfast while looking down at the morning quiet rush.

It’s less than 10 minutes walk to the city center, few steps to the Malecon which leads you to Punta Gorda.

WHERE TO STAY IN TRINIDAD

Hostal Trinidad Maria Guadalupe (20CUC)
Calle Ernesto V. Munoz no. 51 (Media Luna)
Telephone no.: +53 (41) 996784

Find more reviews at TripAdvisor.com

It’s a medium-sized room with your own bathroom and a walk-in closet! There’s a big window enough for the air and natural light to seep in. Sparkling clean bathroom has towels, soap and shampoo/hair conditioner! You have your own small refrigerator. They give you a key to the house so you can go home anytime you want.

 The main house is a century old with ancient chair that’s still rocking up to this day. There’s sloooow internet but free. Head to the terrace anytime of the day and see the view of a 500-year old city.

Where to stay in Cuba Trinidal Hostel

Where to stay in Cuba: Hostal Trinidad Maria Guadalupe / Hostel in Cuba

Best value for short distance to everywhere: 3 minutes walk to the center of the city, Plaza Mayor, restaurants, Casa de la Trova and nightlife shenanigans. The souvenir street is few steps away, too. It’s on a street where cars aren’t allowed so you’ll have a quiet and sound sleep.

A chef who works in a hotel comes twice a week to cook for whoever wants a home-cooked meal. He speaks conversational English. Ask for the upper room. Much better than the one below it.

WHERE TO STAY IN SANTA CLARA

Hostal Mercedez (20 CUC) 
Calle Pons y Naranjo (Toscano)
#53 e/Coronel Galvez Real e Independencia
Email: tomasrd42@gmail.com
Telephone: +53 (42) 292313
Find more reviews at TripAdvisor.com

The colonial house has a homey feeling when you arrive. The owners are a welcoming couple who are gregarious and take pride in their humble place. They both speak a bit of English. It’s seven minutes walk to the city center and 6 blocks to “El Che”, still walkable.

Where to stay in Cuba Santa Clara Hostal Mercedes

Where to stay in Cuba: Hostal Mercedes in Santa Clara / Hostel in Cuba

The are two rooms for rent and very clean. There’s a small TV with antenna and an aircon. Though there’s a glass window but it’s covered with curtains. However, you have a door that leads to your own patio where they serve your meals. A small refrigerator is stacked with drinks: beer, soft drink, mineral and carbonated water.

They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner—but the main dishes (for lunch and dinner) starts at 10 CUC. Breakfast starts $3CUC (fresh fruits, bread, milk/fresh juice and butter).

They have internet but I didn’t try it so I’m not sure of its speed.

WHERE TO STAY IN CAMAGUEY

Casa Miriam (20CUC)
Joaquin de Aquero 525
calle 25 de Julio y Perucho Figuerado
Rpto. :a Vigia, Camaguey
Find more reviews at TripAdvisor.com

Three-star hotels would be put to shame by this modern casa. Everything inside is sparkling clean—the sheets are carefully pleated. The drawers and closets are the ones I wish I had. The living room is mixed with old and new furniture and uses natural light. The terrace is full of green plants.

Where to stay in Cuba Camaguey Casa Miriam

Where to stay in Cuba: Casa Miriam in Camaguey / Hostel in Cuba

It’s a long 34 minutes walk to the city center (Plaza de Dios) but the houses along Independencia street are very colonial and they’re more than 100 years old! The columns of these houses are simply stunning. Few meters from the casa are bici-taxis that will take you to the center. There’s also an El Rapido fast food at the corner.

WHERE NOT TO STAY IN SANTIAGO DE CUBA

Alquiler de Habitaciones

I was supposed to stay at Casa Raul Y Cathy but for reasons unknown they never met me at the bus station when I arrived at 11:40 in the evening. I waited for them until 12:30 am but when my hopes were extinguished, I had to succumb to a tout’s offer to stay at one of the hostels he was “recommending” Casa Alquiler. 

The moment they led me upstairs to my room, I smelled something gross but didn’t bother to ask—because my tired self was already demanding a good sleep.

And oh, the bed creaked—every single time I moved. The aircon has annoying sound and it takes time to cool your room because when you close the jalousy, wooden windows, they leave spaces between them. Yes, outside my room is a terrace but there’s no view. It’s blocked by the walls and you can literally see and smell the neighbor’s kitchen which is separated by an iron bar.

You have to ask them everything you need to learn, like how to turn on the heater for the shower. They never told me that until I finished my first shower (yes, I survived the cold water) and I had to ask them for a toilet paper. Soap? Nada. But I brought one. And oh, the towels have a lot of loose threads! It’s harsh to dry your body with it.

Breakfast? Just don’t. They gave me an over ripe pineapple sliced thinly so I won’t be able to detect its grossness. I asked for mineral water and they gave me a carbonated water. I explained to them the difference but they insisted it’s the same as mineral water! Bwahahaha….

Clean? Compare to other casas I’ve stayed in Cuba, I had no problem walking inside my room in barefoot. But this casa? I had to pull out my slippers because the floor was dusty.

When the girl gave me my change, it was short of 2CUC. I reminded her about it and she acted like it’s no big deal. She tried to ask the neighbor’s but came back nothing. I paid her in the morning and took the change 8 hours later—so that’s not an excuse not to find an exact change to their customer. Had they given me the exact change, I could have given it as a tip. But if you kind of “forget” it, that’s another story. They insisted me to pack my bags before noon because they have to clean it. When I asked if someone has reserved the room on that day, they said nobody–they just want to clean it. They offered to keep my bag downstairs. My bus for Havana left at 6pm and I would have loved to relax two hours before that or have taken another shower again before going to the bus station.

The only good thing about this casa? It’s the location. It’s 5 minutes walk to Plaza Dolores.

WHERE TO STAY IN VARADERO

Hostal / Casa El Villareno (30CUC)
Calle 44, #208
e/ 2sa y 3ra Avenue
Find more reviews at TripAdvisor.com

Located just three minutes to the beach, I couldn’t ask for more. The breakfast ($5) and dinner they served me were good. Try their lobster, you’d never regret it ($12).

Where to Stay in Cuba varadero Hostal Casa El Villareno

Where to stay in Cuba: Casa Hostal El Villareno in Varadero / Hostel in Cuba

The room is super clean and it has TV, mini-fridge, walk-in closet, aircon, electric fan, hot water, and an open-air terrace. They have clean towels, too. 

Enjoy your stay in Cuba!

Read: Things to do in Cuba


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