Malecon at sunset in Havana Cuba 

Accommodation in Cuba

By globedrifters Uncategorized

Accommodation in Cuba

When it comes to accommodation in Cuba, there are a couple of options: hotels and casa particulares. Hotels are government-owned and -run while casa particulares are owned and operated by private Cuban citizens. This is your guide on how accommodation in Cuba works and information about each type.


Casa Particulares in Cuba

A casa particular is a type of accommodation in Cuba that is similar to a guesthouse or bed and breakfast. You can find casa particulares in most large to mid-sized cities and in some smaller, more well-traveled towns in Cuba. You can identify a casa particular by the mandatory sticker with a blue anchor on the door. This indicates that it is a legal place of accommodation for tourists.

They are generally very safe and most casas have a small safe inside each room where you can securely store your valuables. 

Casa particulares are owned and operated by private Cuban citizens who often live on the property. A casa may consist of up to 5 – 7 rooms or as little as 2 – 3 rooms. On our 9 day trip, we only stay at casa particulares. 

The families who own and work at the casas will try their best to make you feel at home. Most Cubans are very friendly and love to talk to guests. In some houses, the family members speak English well while in others, they are practiced at communicating with their non-Spanish speaking guests simply by gesturing and smiling. Most see overcoming these communication challenges as part of the fun!

Many of our travelers have said that the casa particular accommodation in Cuba was a highlight of their trip. The casas provide you with a great opportunity to interact with everyday Cubans. They also offer a different experience than staying in hotels.

It’s important to keep in mind that in Cuba, replacement parts for basic things such as TVs, air-conditioning units, beds, etc. are hard to come by. If a part is needed, Cubans have to improvise with whatever they have and cannot simply order it online. Please understand that things might break and there is almost never an ‘easy’ way to fix it in Cuba.

Accommodation in Cuba, Casa particular exterior

A casa particular is the home of a private Cuban citizen set up similarly to a B&B.

What are Casa Particulares in Cuba like?

In most casa particulares in Cuba, each room is air-conditioned and has 1 – 2 beds as well as its own en suite bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower. The rooms are comfortable and clean, but basic and will vary from casa to casa. Some provide shampoo, soap and a hair dryer while others do not. So you may consider bringing these things with you from home for your travels in Cuba. Check out our blog on what to pack for Cuba to find out more about what to bring for your trip.

Accommodation in Cuba, Casa particular room

Rooms in a casa particular are simple and will vary, but are comfortable with the basic amenities.

How Much Does a Casa Particular in Cuba Cost?

Casa particulares in Cuba are generally much more affordable than government-owned hotels. The cost per night of rooms can vary. There are some with very basic rooms for about $25 – $30 USD per night while others are private and much more high-end. These can cost $100 – $200 or more per night. The casas we select on our 9 day trips are on the nicer end, but are not the most luxurious ones out there.

Most casas will offer breakfast for an extra fee of anywhere from $5 – $10 USD per person. This is included every morning on our trips. The breakfast usually includes eggs and bread, seasonal fruit, fresh fruit juice (i.e. guava, papaya, mango, etc.), coffee and tea. Please keep in mind that there are shortages on the island so the quantity and what’s available will vary. Please also be mindful of the amount of food you waste.

PRO TIP: Bring a couple of sealable plastic baggies with you to take some breakfast “to go” or as a snack for the road during your travels in Cuba!

Breakfast at casa particular in Cuba

Fresh seasonal fruits… It’s what’s for breakfast at a casa particular in Cuba!

Can Americans stay in Casa Particulares in Cuba?

Yes! Travelers from the US visiting Cuba can stay in a casa particular. This is because they are owned by private citizens and not by the Cuban government/military which is prohibited by the US’ OFAC.

PRO TIP: If traveling independently to Cuba, you can easily find a casa particular on Airbnb.com. Note that we do not vouch for the quality or safety of any casas you may find on the internet.


Hotels in Cuba

Nearly all hotels in Cuba are operated in conjunction with the Cuban military or one of its affiliated entities. This means that travelers from the US to Cuba cannot legally stay at most hotels in Cuba. We do not stay at hotel accommodations on our trips, but rather in casa particulares. This is the list of prohibited entities according to the US Department of State.

We suggest all travelers stay at a casa particular in Cuba to support the Cuban people and local economy. It’s also a way to have more authentic interaction with local Cuban people.

Fusterlandia in Cuba

Cuba: Fall in love with Its architecture, culture, history and people.


Accommodation in Cuba is pretty straightforward and your best bet for a more affordable and authentic visit is to stay at a casa particular which we highly recommend. Happy travels!

 

Tipping in Cuba

By globedrifters Uncategorized

Tipping in Cuba

Cuba has a very modest, but very present tipping culture. In restaurants, taxis and for personal services, all tips are at your discretion. Many locals, especially those working in the service industries, are poorly compensated for their work so tipping helps them earn decent wages. Knowing who and how much to tip in Cuba is not always an easy task. Refer to this blog for your ultimate guide to tipping in Cuba.


Who Should I Tip in Cuba?

Cubans tend to tip anyone who offers them any kind of service. Cuban people will leave tips for waitresses at restaurants, grocery store cashiers, mechanics, bartenders, taxi drivers, barbers, maids, etc. During your travels in Cuba, we suggest tipping anyone who gave you service that went above and beyond their duties. Also, anyone who helped enhance your experience is a very good candidate for a tip. If you did not receive exemplary service, you are not required to tip.

tipping in cuba, tip anyone who gave great service

You can tip anyone who gives you great service in Cuba.


What Currency Should I Use for Tips in Cuba?

A tip in any currency will be appreciated, but we recommend tipping in EUR, USD or CUP (the local Cuban currency) while in Cuba. For more information on what currency to use in Cuba, check out our blog about Exchanging Money in Cuba

Leaving a tip of 10% of the total bill in restaurants and bars is a good rule of thumb.

When tipping in USD/EUR, you might want to leave a 1 – 2 USD/EUR tip. When eating out, you might consider tipping as a group and taking turns. For example, one person will tip for the group with a 5 or 10 USD/EUR bill at a meal. And at the next meal, someone else can leave the tip and so on. 

When tipping in USD, we recommend bringing about $25 – $50 worth in 1/5 USD bills to leave as tips.

When tipping in CUP, the 10% rule also applies, but it’s a bit trickier and involves a little more math. The exchange rate for CUP vs USD/EUR may be different in private businesses than in the government exchange offices. Many restaurants will value 1 USD/EUR at varying rates so be sure to ask.

You can read in our blog about the currencies in Cuba to better understand how this works. 

You’ll most likely be paying in USD or EUR most of the time, but may receive change in CUP. Before calculating your tip in CUP, you should ask what the restaurant’s exchange rate is for CUP vs USD/EUR. 

From there, the example below explains tipping in CUP:

  • The restaurant values 1 dollar at 75 CUP.
  • Your meal at a local restaurant costs 15 dollars.
  • You pay with a 20-dollar bill. Your change is 375 CUP (5 dollars).
  • You want to leave a tip of 2 dollars in CUP.
  • 2 dollars x 75 CUP = 150 CUP is the tip in local currency.
tipping in cuba, you can tip in cup!

It’s up to you in what currency you tip in Cuba… USD, EUR or CUP.


How Much Should I Tip in Cuba?

How much to tip in Cuba is always up to you, but as mentioned previously, 10% of the total bill is acceptable in a restaurant. You’re always free to leave more if you feel like the service you have received went above and beyond the call of duty. Below is a recommended list of who and how much to tip in Cuba:

  • Taxi drivers: 1 – 2 USD/EUR (only if very good
  • Luggage porter: 1 – 2 USD/EUR per suitcase (keep in mind weight & size)
  • Waiter/Bartender: 10% of the total bill
  • Cleaning ladies: 1 – 2 USD/EUR per day
  • Local guide: 5 – 10 USD/EUR per day (or in one lump sum at the end of the trip)
  • Bus driver: 3 – 4 USD/EUR per day (or in one lump sum at the end of the trip)
tipping in cuba, just tip what you feel right!

Don’t worry about who or how much to tip. Just do what you feel is right and come ready to enjoy the beauty of Cuba!


Tipping in Cuba is really all up to you; there are no set rules. Just tip what you feel is right and deserved. Remember that those who give you service will usually be appreciative of any tip you may give. Another way to help the Cuban people is to bring gifts with you to Cuba due to the lack of access to goods there. Check out our blog about bringing gifts for the Cuban People to learn more about this. Happy travels!

Gifts for the cuban people, Cuban people street scene 

Gifts for the Cuban People

By globedrifters Uncategorized

Gifts for the Cuban People 

Want to know what gifts for the Cuban people you can bring on your trip to help them? In Cuba, most people lack access to a lot of the things that we would consider basic necessities. Most of you, including travelers on our 9-day trip, will visit Cuba under the OFAC category “Support for the Cuban People”. Your trip is a great opportunity to bring some small things that could make a big difference and help the Cuban people. Below is a list of some ideas for gifts for the Cuban people you can bring.


Why Bring Gifts for the Cuban People?

There is an embargo placed on Cuba by the U.S. and Cuba’s government tightly controls the distribution of goods to the people. A combination of these two things (as well as many other political, economic and social factors) makes getting items that most consider basic necessities very difficult in Cuba. For example, many of us wouldn’t think twice about running to the local pharmacy to pick up some Ibuprofen or Aspirin if we had a headache. This simple task isn’t so easy in Cuba because shortages of over-the-counter medicines as well as prescription medications are common, especially these days.

Due to shortages of everything from cooking oil to antihistamines and everything in between, we always recommend that travelers to Cuba who want to help bring gifts for the Cuban people to donate to those in need. You don’t have to pack your suitcase full of donations, but if you have some spare space in your luggage, basic items to help the people of Cuba are a great way to do some good while traveling. 

Cuba embargo billboard, Gifts for the Cuban People

The embargo is just one factor that makes getting basic goods very difficult in Cuba.


What Gifts to Bring for the Cuban People?

Any gift for the Cuban people you bring will usually be appreciated as there are shortages of pretty much everything you could imagine. However, there are three main things that are extremely hard to come by in Cuba: medicine, clothing and toiletries.

Medicine

Most over-the-counter medicines, ointments, vitamins, supplements, etc. are next to impossible to find in Cuba. These are probably the most necessary things that are hardest to come by for the Cuban people. Below is a list of ideas of medicines and medical supplies you could bring:

  • Ibuprofen/Aspirin/Paracetamol
  • Antihistamines
  • Antacids
  • Antibacterial ointment/cream
  • Vicks Vaporub 
  • Bandages
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Anti-itch creams for children

Toiletries

Anything related to personal hygiene is hard to obtain in Cuba. When you can find it, the supply is very low or it’s very expensive for the average Cuban person. Here is a list of things that don’t take up much space in your suitcase and would make great gifts for the Cuban people:

  • Bars of soap
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Sponges/Loofahs
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Baby powder
  • Disposable razors

PRO TIP: If you bring shampoo, conditioner and shower gel for your trip, you can just leave them behind for the cleaning lady at your casa and even if they’re just half full, they’ll make great gifts for the Cuban people. And as a bonus, your suitcase will be much lighter on the way back home!

Clothes

Clothing of any kind can also be difficult to find for many Cuban people. When you can find it, it’s expensive, very low-quality and often in poor condition. For this reason, we always suggest bringing clothes as gifts for the Cuban people. They don’t have to be brand new or high fashion; even lightly used, but in good condition is alright. 

PRO TIP: We recommend children’s clothing because these are often the most expensive and difficult to find in Cuba.

Miscellaneous

Pretty much everything under the sun in Cuba is hard to find so any little extras that you would like to bring will be great gifts for the Cuban people. If you bring bottles of any liquids or creams, even half-full bottles are OK! The items below are not essential, but are still hard to get. Here is a list of miscellaneous items that you can bring to help out the Cuban people:

  • Rechargeable batteries and lightbulbs (due to the recent power outages)
  • Perfumes/Colognes 
  • Lotions/Beauty creams
  • Makeup
  • Deflated soccer/basket-/kickballs
  • Small, handheld ball pump
  • Children’s backpacks
  • Hair accessories (i.e. brushes, combs, hair ties, bobby pins, etc.)
  • USB cables (for phone chargers)
  • AA or AAA batteries
  • Pens/markers
  • Small candies or lollipops
Cuban musicians, Gifts for the Cuban People

Any gifts, big or small, will be greatly appreciated by the Cuban people.


Who do I Give my Gifts for the Cuban People to?

Most travelers on our small group trips have told us that they weren’t sure who to give their gifts for the Cuban people to. It can be hard or awkward to decide who to offer them to. We understand that giving them to a random person on the street can be uncomfortable. We recommend giving your gifts to the cleaning ladies at your casa particular. They are often part-time hires by the casa owners and make less than the average Cuban so they are great recipients of these gifts. You can give them the gifts in person or leave them in your room with a little note at the end of your stay. 

PRO TIP: The casa particular owners are often in better economic situations than many other Cubans as they have family in the US or overseas that often help them with goods and money. They’ll be appreciative of any gifts you may have for them, but we recommend giving your gifts to the cleaning ladies as they typically earn less and have access to less.

Plaza de la Revolucion Havana, Gifts for the Cuban People

Traveling to Cuba is an experience of a lifetime so why not do some good while you’re there?


Pretty much any Cuban person you encounter on the island will usually be happy to receive a gift in any form as long as it is offered with a warm smile. Gifts for the Cuban people are not mandatory, but can make a big difference. Whatever you decide to bring and whoever you decide to give it to will be very much appreciated. Happy travels!