Carisa and I had finally made the decision to visit Havana in late December 2016. We’d booked a flight on Delta and now had the task of selecting a place to stay during our time there. In Cuba, you will often find that “Casa Particulars” or private homestays are offered by families who are looking to rent out extra rooms to visitors in order to supplement their income. For a small additional fee, they will provide hearty homemade breakfasts to guests. We were blessed with this type of spread every morning:
We’d decided to forego Casas in favor of renting an entire domicile because we really do like our privacy and don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing space with others. To that end, we opted to look for an entire apartment or house rental on Airbnb.com and Homestay.com.
I found my listing early on after logging into my Airbnb account. I was a little disappointed in the first options offered. However, after selecting certain features, it popped up as the first choice. I was really impressed with everything about it, especially the price which at the time was $35.00 USD per night (as of this writing it has increased to $45.00 USD per night)!! I contacted the owner, Marlene, to ask a few cursory questions. She was very engaged and forthcoming and assured me that all of my requests could be handled. Here’s the apartment’s exterior:
The photos displayed on the site was impressive. The apartment had two bedrooms with queen beds and a couch that let out into futon-like bed. The living room had two leather chairs and a 60″ screen television set.
The dining room table could accommodate at least four people and is situated in front of a set of french doors that led out to the balcony where you could enjoy the view from 10 stories up. It has a free-standing A/C unit in the corner that cooled the living and dining rooms. There is no central air in the building. At times, the A/C was too cold, that’s how phenomenal the units were.
The kitchen was fully appointed with everything any cook could possibly want or need. The only thing that it lacked was food! Right beyond the kitchen was an accordion divider that hid the utility room. The utility room housed a stacked washer and dryer set, a tankless water heater and a huge water dispenser with a laundry sink just behind it.
As two single women, naturally we were concerned about security issues. But we needn’t have worried. The front door is fortified and has a security door that is made of wrought iron. A motion sensor light is installed right above the entrance. The french door adjacent to the dining room has bolts on each door. The building is pre-60s, so while all of the buildings have definitely been affected by the U.S. economic embargo, they have managed to keep it sound and in good repair.
Each bedroom had a queen bed, a mirrored dresser, nightstand and bedside lamp. Each room had window a/c units and roomy closets with hangers and a tall laundry basket. Marlene was thoughtful enough to have an umbrella in each closet because it comes in handy to keep you protected from the sun.
The bathroom had an oversized shower that could fit two. We were provided with a body wash dispenser and a commercial type toilet paper dispenser. Please be aware that both items are scarce in Cuba, so I was surprised to see them because I had brought my own.
I think the best feature of our accommodation was our magnificent host manager, Raul. I can’t begin to tell you how fantastic he was to us. He arranged our airport pickup/dropoff and our day trip to Vinales. He could speak very little English which matched our deficits in Spanish but we managed to communicate wonderfully via the offline version of the Google Translate app. Currently, WiFi is practically non-existent in Cuba.
We were able to communicate well, so that’s all that mattered. Our apartment was very centrally located in the Vedado community. Restaurants were within walking distance, as were banks, hotels (where you were most likely to get a WiFi signal if you purchased a WiFi card from them or at the airport), markets and small businesses.
here are a few tips for your visit to Cuba
If you have any trepidation about visiting Cuba or feel that your lack of Spanish will be a hindrance, don’t let that stop you from visiting this magnificent city. We canceled one of our day trips because we wanted to devote more time to explore the city because it is massive. We’re so glad that we did because it gave us a chance to be less rushed and to enjoy every aspect of it and we still haven’t scratched the surface.
I would still encourage you to learn basic words like Hello (Hola or Buenos Dias), Goodbye (Adios), Thank you (Gracias), etc. There are plenty of phone apps that you can use that operate offline like Google Translate. Just keep in mind that internet service is a RARE commodity there, so don’t expect to use it much (and never if you don’t have a WiFi card).
If you decide to book (and I hope you do!), please tell Marlene that I sent you! Have a fantastic time in Havana!
Pssttt……if you are new to Airbnb, use this link to sign up. You will save $40.00 off of your booking. Full disclosure, I will get $20.00 once you’ve booked. Gracias!
Once you have signed up, you can book the apartment.