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
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.
Types of Casas Particulares rentals