Casa Particulares: Affordable Housing Rooted In Culture

Casade Benito

Casade Benito

The “casa particulares” is a particular private residence that has been approved by government for various housing solutions for tourists, students and travelers seeking affordable accommodations and close encounters with Cuba’s culture. Casa particulars are private family establishments that provide paid lodging, usually on a short-term basis, similar to bed and breakfast operations in the US and Europe.

Each casa has its own business model, unique amenities and personalities. Prices vary according to seasonal demand. Many international students rent these accommodations for longer terms than do tourists or business travelers.

Casa a la plaça Major, Trinidad

Casa a la plaça Major, Trinidad

One of the most appealing benefits for tourists is the opportunity to partake in the culture immediately via the process of infusion. It doesn’t hurt that “casa particulars” are dramatically less expensive than Cuban hotels. Tenants at these boarding houses not only enjoy embracing the culture from a different perspective but they also have a few more personal freedoms such as inviting guests to the room, which is not permitted in some Cuban hotels. Like bed and breakfast operations, Casa particulares only survive if their guests feel welcome and at home.

Types of Casa Particulares – These residences are either operated as a primary sources of income or as a secondary source. In both cases, the staff usually consists of family members. Not all rooms have private baths and breakfast although usually included is not always part of the arrangement. Before renting, be sure to know all details about the property and terms of your occupancy. Some casa particulares offer mini-bars that allow guests to access certain comforts and pay at the end of the stay. Some rentals offer telephone service, an alarm clock or television. Internet access would be rare.

Typical offerings can include:

  • Private room(s)
  • Apartment(s)
  • Studios
  • Mini-apartment
  • Villa rental or independent home

Breakfast is almost always included and some owners may go out of the way to provide an English styled morning meal. If dinner is offered, it may not be included in the standard fare.

House in Cardenas

House in Cardenas

All legal casa particulares must pay an annual room tax so owners are vested in the operation. Legal casa particulars are designated by a small sign on the door that has two blue triangles or roofs against a white background. This sign indicates the homeowner has paid the annual room tax.

Owners of these properties might choose to rent one room or more and in some cases entire homes. In larger cities, apartment houses fall into this class. It is rare that any one house can accommodate 5 or 6 guests.

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At one point, casa particulares were banned in several tourist areas where they reportedly posed threats to the government owned and operated hotels. Casa particulares first became legal operations and sources of much needed extra income under Cuban law in 1997.

An obvious benefit of this type rental is that the tenant is assisting a Cuban property owner earn extra money that can help raise them from poverty. The conscientious owner understand the financial dividend and makes improvements that non-landlords cannot afford to make. The condition of casa particulares is superior to the condition of the typical residence.

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Guests to Cuba should inspect any casa particulares prior to entering into a short or long-term agreement. In peak season, this is a highly competitive market so price fluctuations can be surprising. Make sure you know the terms, length of occupancy and cost. Never let the homeowner get too far in front of the rent and you can expect cooperation.

The casa particulares is the right solution for some guests but not for everyone. Like all real estate transactions, this market is also about location, location, location.

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