2 Major Types of Accommodation Choicess

Before proceeding further on key types of accommodations, I want to share or suggest a general view or attitude of Guanabo. I think the best thing is to approach a trip to Guanabo as almost a hitchhikers or youth hostel type of trip (of course it is not) but with that expectation seeded, you will most certainly be extremely surprised and delighted with your accommodation and village setting.

To begin the hotels are at most 1 star hotels but filled with Cuban life. As mentioned before the town of Guanabo is halfway between a real Cuban village and a tourist or recreation destination for higher income Cubans.

Some portions of the town are quite run-down whereas other neighborhoods are being renovated. In general main street (5th avenue) is quite nice and always very interesting but with a few spotty exceptions. The architecture varies from old colonial to communism type buildings (some nicely renovated and some in a state of decay/decomposition). There are also a small number of dogs and chickens (from time to time a goat or two) that run around the town and up and down Main Street. Most people seem to live quite well, while a very small minority seems to be lesser off or in some degree of need.

This disparity is somewhat surprising given my understanding that every Cuban makes between $17 to $22 a month. As well, I understand that everyone or maybe itís just families that have a ration card that allows for cheaper, but rationed purchase of basic goods (i.e. largely food and staples) that varies based upon age and number of children etc... I am also led to understand that some Cuban families that have parts of their families living abroad (i.e. read Miami) benefit from relatively substantial (at least in Cuban terms) supplementary income sent back to them. So as you tour or walk through Guanabo you see both very beautiful houses and slowly decaying houses on the same street, often right next to another.

In any event many, many Cubans in Guanabo seem to very happy and quite friendly.

Key types of accommodations and their advantages

At the end of the day, what is of utmost importance is a safe, clean, comfortable and well located casa or hotel. Our experience in Guanabo, and to some degree but a little less so elsewhere, is that there are 2 key accommodation choices. These are casa particulara and hotels. What follows is an effort to better describe, explain and provide some advice as to which ones may be best fit for your type of travel and some tips and tricks for selecting either one of these.

Casa Particulara:

Casa particularas are, when translated, are private accommodations within a Cubanís house. These vary in size (from a room to a 3 bedroom apartment) and price from $20 to $50 and beyond if you start looking at multiple bedroom units. Other factors that affect price are:

  • What city: Havana, town/village on the ocean or in the interior

  • Neighborhood: downtown, on the beach, near the beach etc.

  • Swimming pool

  • Air conditioner

  • Kitchenette

  • Hot water

  • Security guard

  • Own entrance or do you have to go through the house

  • Do they mind company and are they touchy about the hours you keep

But one of the most important and difficult one is reputation. If you know someone in a village try to ask for a casa with a great reputation. As with everything, there is always usually a rotten apple in every barrel.

Overall and in the majority of cases, casas are a wonderful way to live and learn. Many are run by great Cuban families that care a great deal to make sure their clients are delighted with their stay, and go out of their way to teach you the ropes and the history of their town. Many if not most casaís also often breakfast and supper that are usually really good and uniquely Cuban.

Another important consideration is that often Cuban families will introduce you to their immediate and extended families and friends which further accelerates your introduction to Cuban people, food, music and dance. In fact I know a number of ex-pats that have been almost adopted by their casa family and return over and over, over many years.

Hotels:

Another viable and likely safest alternative to stay is in a Cuban hotel. I always look for an Islazul hotel as they are in most Cuban cities and mid-size towns throughout Cuba. A comparable chain in Canada could be Holiday Inns. While much different than Holiday Inns, these government run hotels are considered a luxury by Cubans and do a really good job of accommodating you in a safe and clean environment and usually are located near downtown and often have a pool. However this option is simply a hotel room and does not come with a separate bedroom and living room and kitchen etc.. as many Casas do. On the other hand many of these do a have a pool. In my experience the average cost is from about $17 to $23 (add another $7 if the room is for 2 people) depending on which city. Also some of these Islazul also offer a free small breakfast.

Lastly it is important, and this is where reputation and recommendations come into play, that your casa owner gives you the privacy and flexibility you need while at the same time ensuring complete security of yourself and belongings. And most importantly does not snoop around while your away. More on this should we meet.