Cuba: Where to Stay and How to Move Around?

The Hotspots Map



Where to Stay in Cuba? Private Homes!

As the island just started to open itself to tourism a few years ago, accommodation (and transportation) infrastructures for tourists are still under-developed and relatively scarce.

Nevertheless, in the last five years the tiny opening of the  Cuban government to privately-owned businesses, allowed entrepreneurial privates to start their own tiny accommodation structures, and compete with more expensive hotel chains.

Hereafter I briefly discuss the two main accommodation alternatives you’ll find in Cuba, hotels and private homes, and I’ll explain to you why in my opinion the best option is the latter. Furthermore, I’ll share the experiences I had (good and bad!) to help you make better choices than me;).



The number of hotels on the island is quite limited and so it’s generally their availability (it’s good to reserve time in advance).

Like in almost any country on Earth, in Cuba you can also find high-end superior quality hotels; but the vast majority of them are just way below average and service is not worth the price tag.

Built-in more prosperous pre-revolution times, the majority of hotels are in fact, vintage old-style and badly-maintained. Given the hardship to import goods from abroad, very few hotel chains have had the capability to set up a service of quality in Cuba and, of course, given all the taxes on import and the bureaucratic hardships, it’s a given that quality comes with a cost.

For saving you the hassle of having to research it yourself, know that the average prices for 3-stars hotels range between 50-80 Euro per night for a double room, 100-160 Euro for a 4stars and over 250 Euro for a 5-star.

For some of you, those prices may seem normal hotel prices (depending on when you come from) and they probably are. Still, when you put them in the context of Cuba you’ll immediately see that they are exorbitant compared to the local cost of living and the quality you would get elsewhere. The opportunity cost of staying at hotels is definitely high!

If you’re going to Cuba with a genuine interest in knowing the local culture and lifestyle (like us) and not just laying on the beach 24/7 with an all-inclusive packet (for that better we suggest Mallorca 😉 )we would suggest you avoid expensive hotels and go with Casas Populares (private homes) for a more authentic Cuban experience.


Casas Particulares (Private Homes)

As said in the introduction, in recent years many locals became entrepreneurs and many became so by opening the doors of their houses to incoming tourists. In fact, the Casas Particulares (Private Homes) are nothing else than private Cuban houses where people normally live.

Depending on your taste and willingness to socialize, both entire flats and rooms in shared family houses are available all over Cuba for really a fraction of hotel prices (and sometimes even more services!).

The advantages of staying in a private home are several: you get to know locals that will tell you everything you want or need to know about the surrounding areas (did I already mention that Cubans like to talk a lot?^^), they can help you to find and organise tours/transportation/reservations, normally they have the facility to wash your cloth and you may also get breakfast/dinners with them.

For an authentic experience and getting acquainted with locals, Casas Particulares are definitely the way to go! I personally loved most of the places we’ve been staying at. Of course, not everything is flower and roses too: choosing the right host is time-consuming and also terribly impacts your experience and comfort.

First thing first, some Cubans speak English (especially young ones), but most of them don’t. Speaking Spanish is a key advantage when visiting the island as it helps you tons to communicate with your host, to socialize, to bargain, and to understand their perspectives.

I met a Korean girl in one of the houses we’ve been staying in Havana and she was having a horrible stay because of not being able to communicate with the host (who was an extremely kind lady but speaking Spanish-only).

My best advice is just to have Google Translator with you or even better, get familiarized with basic Spanish sentences before departure (the Duolingo App is your friend and entirely free), it’ll bring you a long way!

Said that you may be asking yourself “how can I find and reserve a Casa Particular?”. There are different alternatives.

Airbnb, stumbling upon it on the street (believe me you’ll always find one, it’s just full everywhere), or asking your first host to reserve you one in your next destination are all fine options (Cubans know someone everywhere, ask and they’ll help you organise anything you need anywhere you need it).

We have been booking them through Airbnb as I personally like the review system of the platform; still get ready that every place you’ll be staying at, will reserve you some surprises (as in every house there are some).

On two occasions we arrived at the house and did not find the Internet working, despite the announcement on the internet stating it was available. My suggestion is to call ahead of time, to make sure if you’re an Internet-addicted (like me) that can’t fall asleep without.

To sum up, Casa Particulares are a cheaper accommodation option that makes your journey more immersive and gifts you a glimpse into normal Cuban life. Some homes are equipped almost like hotels while others are more familiar, some are apartments to stay alone and some rooms in shared flats.

No matter what you’ll choose, remember to be friendly and kind (as you enter other people’s homes) and for sure you’ll be rewarded with big smiles, a lot of histories and pure friendliness.



You may be asking yourself whether is any hostel are available in Cuba? The answer is yes. But they’re few and kind of different from your average hostel as the industry is quite underdeveloped.

Although many facilities call themself “Hostal” (“hostel” in Spanish), the vast majority of them are simply private homes with a different name to them, offering exactly the same thing (1-2 rooms in a shared house). We stayed at a hostel in Havana but also here was just another private home.

If you look around on Hostelworld, you’ll find a couple of hostels, but don’t expect those kinds of bunk-beds-party-place castles you may find elsewhere.


How To Move around Cuba?


After the end of the communist revolution in 1959, importing new vehicles (and gasoline!) on the island has been immensely hard because of the diplomatic crisis with the USA and the subsequential embargo. 

This caused a scarcity of vehicles on the island and forced locals to get creative and arrange themselves alternative ways to move around.

Here is a list of a transportation option that as a tourist you can take to move around Cuba, with prices and tips on what to take where 🙂

 Simply Walk

If you’re in a city and you’re fit, your best option is to walk. Cuba is one of the safest countries in Latino America, so also for women is possible to walk alone without incurring any nuisance (Cubans will approach you, boy or girl, but normally not with the aim to harass you, it’s just their culture to talk with strangers!).

Walking allows full immersion. Getting your time, stopping, observing, and not jumping from one place to the next, allows you to make greater sense of the Cuban community and the history of the colonial settlements. To me, walking in Cuba is breathing the local ordinary life; it’s research and discovery at the same time.

Even Havana, the largest city, is walkable from side to side in just a couple of hours (at least the central regions of Habana Vieja, Central Havana & Vedado). If you’re not in a hurry, walking is for you!

On a side note, if you choose walking, I suggest leaving for sightseeing early in the morning as the warmest hours can get pretty damn hot most days through the year.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus

To visit Havana’s Hotspots and moving around, a cheap and convenient way is to purchase a daily ticket for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus.

What can a tourist ask better than a bus made for moving tourists between city hotspots? Although in general, I am not a fan of Hop-On Hop-off, I have to admit that Havana was a practical and enjoyable experience (in Varadero more of a boring experience).

The ticket price is 10CUC (9 Euro) for the whole day, and you can jump on and off the bus as many times as you like. The full route around both the city center and the outskirts is of about 90 minutes.


 Tourist Taxi – Private Taxi – Illegal Private Taxi –  Classic Taxi

Cuba is full of taxis. Of any kind. Of every color. And shape. As for car taxis, there are of four different kinds and are all used both within cities and to cover long distances between different towns.

First, we have government-run taxis, which are yellow and make up the majority of taxis you’ll see outside the airport when you’ll land in Cuba. They have standard tariffs, a label “TAXI” of the front glass, and normally a meter too.

Then, we have cars of other colors still labeled “TAXI” on the front. Those are private taxis, still licensed by the government which provides them the official label. Their prices are in line with official ones, although drivers are more than open to negotiating.

As a third option, we have “illegal” taxis, not labeled in the front. These are just normal people, utilizing their own cars to earn a living. Normally you don’t find these taxis, they find you. In fact, as they don’t have any label telling them apart from normal cars, drivers market themselves on the streets, asking if you need a ride or just leaving you their phone contact.

“Illegal” taxis are not dangerous to take (as could be in other countries) and in general, you can bargain a significantly lower price (as drivers don’t have to pay for a license, they incur also lower fixed costs). To give you an example, from the airport to Havana we paid 30CUC (27Euro) for an official taxi, on and the last day we covered the same distance with an illegal taxi for 10CUC (9Euro).

The fourth taxi option, are classic cars. Mostly run or licensed by the government, they offer in addition to the ride the unique experience of staying in a ’50s-’60s car, which you can hardly try anywhere else on Earth. Drivers may start with exorbitant prices if they notice you’re on your first day in Cuba and still not knowledgeable about tariffs.

The truth is, that if you take your time to bargain (Spanish helps but it’s not strictly necessary) you can lower the prices and bring them in line with the ones of any other normal taxi.

As a rule of thumb, before taking any taxi don’t be scared to bargain the price, it is part of local culture and totally expected.


Shared Taxi (Taxi Colectivo)

The Taxis Colectivos (shared taxis) are taxis that bring you from point A to point B with other people, all sharing the price for the ride. They are, in my opinion, the most convenient way to connect between cities (in terms of time/cost) and for sure an unusual but interesting experience.

Shared taxis can be normally arranged for you by your host, in taxi offices, or on the street with strangers (working as promoters) approaching you.

The funny thing about them is that you’ll never know in which car and with how many people you’re gonna be. In my experience, I’ve been in a new car only with my dad, in a 4ppl classic car with 4 people or even 5 hours in an 18ppl van adjusted for 20 passengers and their huge pieces of baggage (nightmare but fun!).

To give you an orientation on prices, we paid from Havana-Vinales 25CUC/person (23Euro), from Vinales to Trinidad 40CUC/person (46Euro), and from Trinidad to Varadero 20CUC/person (18Euro). Depending on your haggling skills, you may get slightly better or worse prices.


Bicitaxi – Cocotaxi

As taxi categories in Cuba never end, here we have the light-weight category!

Bici-taxis are arranged bicycle with two seats on the back for passengers, good for covering small distances within city centers (prices start from 1CUC – 0,90 Euro).

Then we have Coco-Taxis: a unique and picturesque automatic-rickshaw vehicle typical of Cuba. Those lightweight mini-cars (see photo above) are nothing more than a scooter with a coconut-shaped frame around that can host up to two passengers and bring them around cities while nimbly rushing through traffic.

Prices range between 2-5CUC depending on the distance.


Viazul Buses

Viazul is the government-run buses for tourists. They are quite comfortable and slightly cheaper than shared-taxis when covering long-distances. Still, they also come with a couple of disadvantages.

First of all, buses are scarce; there are just not enough rides to move the tourists around the island. To ensure to find a place on a Viazul bus, be sure to check your route and reserve your ticket at least 3 days in advance (or 10 days in advance through their website!).

Furthermore, as for EVERYTHING, in Cuba, take a breath and expect delays.

Overall, Viazul buses are a good option to move around, although definitely not hares. Be sure to plan ahead if you’re planning to take one!


Renting a Car

Renting cars in Cuba is expensive: rental prices start in fact from 450 Euro/week with the base models and swiftly upward toward the 1000 Euros for more advanced options.

If in other countries those prices are competitive, in Cuba, unless you’re planning a road trip where you want to change place every day, they absolutely aren’t (given the other much cheaper options). Also, fuel is scarce on the island and you may have to line-up long lines to fuel in gasoline stations.

Overall, in my opinion, the benefits and convenience of having a car don’t make up for the price.


Given the low number of cars in Cuba, hitch-hike is widely spread and popular among locals.

In fact, it is very common to see on highways herds of people waiting under the bridges to be picked up by drivers offering their free seats (the sense of community and solidarity in Cuba is visible and strong).

As a tourist, getting a ride for free might be harder (as they know that if you have the money to come to Cuba you also have few bucks for transportation) but hey, depending on the driver and your diplomatic skills you may very well succeed 😉


Horses & Wagons

To move around rural villages and plantations, horses are still widely used in Cuba (sometimes you can also see them on the freeways!).

If you’re into horse riding or just want to try the feel of ride on an ancient wagon, know that for a few CUCs that’s also possible in Cuba.




While accomodation selection is not varied, it’s relatively easy to find a place to stay both online, by word of mouth or also just by stumbling upon it. If you’re willing to try a true Cuban experience while staying on a budget, the Casas Particulares are the right choice for you!

On the otherside, Cuba offers a great variety of different transportation alternatives and here, to find your best option, what you need is patience, haggling skills and a bit of luck. When in doubt, just ask around and locals will go out of their way to help you find yours! 🙂


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