A casa particular is a spanish term that usually means “private home” but the term is recognized worldwide as private accommodation or private homestays in Cuba. The plural of casa particular is casas particulares and not casa particulars as it sometimes quoted.
A casa particular is basically a private family establishment that provides paid lodging, usually on a short-term basis. This type of establishment would more usually be called a bed and breakfast or vacation rental in other countries. In general under this term you could find full apartment and houses, rooms inside people homes, mini-apartments or rooms with separate entrance (studio or efficiency type rooms).
It’s also considered a type of boarding house typically operated out of a single family residence where guests can be accommodated at night in private bedrooms (which may or may not be equipped with private baths) and where breakfast, sometimes continental and sometimes the full English variety, is served in the morning. The business may be operated either as a primary occupation or as a secondary source of income, and the staff often consists of the house's owner(s) and members of their family who live there.
Because most casas particulares are small, rarely with room for more than about 5-6 guests, it is advisable for anyone wanting to stay at a bed and breakfast to make reservations well in advance of their travel date. Many casas particulares belong to associations, have a web presence, and are described in various books and travel guides. In some Cuban cities and tourist resorts, like Varadero, Playa Santa Lucia and Guardalavaca, local authorities determined that casas particulares would represent a threat to the hotel industry, and passed some legislation placing regulations and limits on the industry forbidding the operation of these establishments.
Origins of the term
“Casa particular” literally means "private house" but it started to be used to mean “private accommodation” in 1997, when the Cuban government finally allowed Cubans to rent out rooms in their houses or apartments to tourists. As any other type of accommodation in Cuba such as hotels, camping and motels were owned by the government, the term “casa particular” stated that this kind of paid lodging was privately operated. Cuban families, encouraged by the need to find new sources of income, offered friendly hospitality to please in the best possible way their guests.
Services and facilities
All rooms are clean, safe, upgraded to tourist standards and will generally fit the guests’ needs and expectations. It ranges from basic accommodation of a room with a bed, a closet, a small table to full furnished independent apartments upgraded to western standards. Other features found may be a telephone, an alarm clock, and a TV. Food and drink may be supplied by a mini-bar (which often includes a small refrigerator) containing snacks and drinks (to be paid for on departure).
Although it could be thought that a casa particular is a bed & breakfast do not assume that breakfast is included in the room price, usually you should pay an extra fee for it, unless explicit stated.
Advantages over other lodgings
• Happiness: The guest can quickly develop genuine Cuban relationships and become deeply involved in the culture of the country. Before he/she knows it, the guest will be part of the family and be made to feel very special. Staying in a big resort makes slim the opportunity to talk to and make friends with the real people, only meeting hotel workers and other tourists.
• Freedom: The guest will enjoy the free and easy atmosphere, feel completely at home in the casa particular and will be able to invite friends over. The current regulations for state-run hotels don’t allow to have Cuban guests invited to hotel rooms.
• Less Expensive Trip: It is almost always cheaper to stay in a private room than in a hotel. The guest will have more money left to spend on taxis, restaurants, night clubs and museums.
• Helping people directly: By renting a casa particular, the guest will be directly contributing to a person or family's standard of living which allow the family to help other relatives as well.
The cost and quality of casas particulares are usually indicative of the accommodation type and type of services available. Most of the casas particulares are rented for short term as to provide accommodation for travellers to the island. Long term accommodation is also provided by some casas specially for foreign students. In Havana, Cuba capital city, the casas particulares are usually family apartments and a smaller number of them are houses. In other cities, private accommodation is provided mainly in family houses.
- Private Room: a room is rented out most of the times with private bathroom and a key to the apartment/house is usually given to the guest.
- Private Room with independent entrance: There is a separate entrance to the main entrance that the guest can use privately. Sometimes, the house/apartment is split in order to allow this.
- Apartment: the guest can enjoy the privacy and independency of a full furnished apartment for his/her vacations. Sometimes this apartment is part of house being split by a wall usually with a connecting door.
- Studio-type or mini-apartment: It’s not an apartment with several rooms but just the bedroom, a kitchen-living-dining room and a bathroom.