Here’s the last in the four part video series on my tips for traveling to Cuba. And this is probably the most important, because something going wrong with your lodging can ruin a whole trip.
I would strongly recommend that you do NOT stay at hotels. They are overpriced, out of date, and very very few of them really are worth the price they are charging. As with everything, do your research. Not to say that there are no good hotels in Havana, but you can get more bang for your buck + quality with an AirBnB.
Get your people to people on and stay at an Airbnb. Just do your do diligence. Only book rooms with verified hosts that are responsive. With wifi being notoriously limited there may be a slight delay in how quickly hosts respond but within 48 hours is standard. Most hosts only speak spanish, but Airbnb auto translates messages for you and if you do not hear from your host before you get to Cuba, that is NOT a good sign.
I personally only stick to, when booking rooms abroad, staying with hosts that have reviews. READ THE REVIEWS. What are people saying about the location, what’s nearby? How was the host? Cleanliness? Hot water? Water pressure? Everyone is not going to be detailed, but enough will be that if you do your due diligence you can find great lodging options for the low low. We never spent over $75 a night with the bulk of our stays being in the $40 a night range. We stayed in 3 different Airbnbs and one home through BBinVinales.com, cause everything on Airbnb in Vinales was booked. And we had great lodging throughout our stay. All of them didn’t have hot water, but that’s a luxury, not a given and we knew that going into the booking. We also booked late in the game (about a month out) during holiday season, so the pickings weren’t plentiful but we were still more than pleased with our lodging.
You will have to book in advance, like a month or two, really two to three months because tourism in Cuba has exploded and rooms go quickly. The best folks get booked up fast. All the hosts offer breakfast for $5cuc and dinners for $8-12cuc. We did breakfast with our Vinales host that was okay nothing special but their lobster dinner was lit. Then we didn’t do it again until we got to Matanza and only cause we were being super lazy. But bruuuuuhh that host with the freshly baked pastries! Rafeal’s house was so so nice and the food was so divine. That’s the only place we did breakfast for each day we stayed.
For locations, Vinales, Trinidad, Varadero/Matanza are all relatively small cities and reading the reviews will give you a good understanding of proximity to restaurants/bars. For Havana, you more than likely will spend a lot of time in Old Havana aka Habana Vieja, so central Havana, most any place off the Malecon, and Habana Vieja itself are great locations. A lot of people talk about Vedado, which is a cute, hip area close to the salsa clubs and the very popular Farbica De Arte clubhouse. We spent so much time in Old Havana though, that Vedado wasn’t our favorite neighbor but it was by far the nicest AirBnB we stayed in. Miramar, is the suburbs and far from just about everything you will do as a tourist, however people who travel with children and families might like it because it’s a wealthier, quieter neighborhood and there’s some great paladars to eat at without the hustle and bustle of Habana Vieja.
Remember negativity tends to be the loudest, people do have horror stories about their stay in any country, Cuba included. But if you do your due diligence, trust your instincts, staying at AirBnBs/Casa Particulars can be delightful and a great way to experience the vibrant local culture of Cuba.