On my recent trip to Havana, I rented a room instead of staying in a hotel. This is only a recently available option in Cuba and the market is still developing. But I was happy I did it and would recommend it for at least three reasons.
- It is by far a cheaper option. Rooms run between 200-300 CUC for the week. The conversion to the US Dollar is roughly 1-1. At a government hotel, you will pay at least this per night!
- If you are staying in a room, you are staying in someone’s home. You may be able to rent the entire apartment or just a room, but regardless you are staying in a living and working neighborhood instead of the tourist section of town. This means you get to see the “real” Havana. You can see kids going to school and make friends with the security guard in the building across the street. You can see the guy at the fruit stand setting getting organized and hear the families catching up on the patio at night. And because you are staying in someone’s home and in a neighborhood, you have a greater opportunity to interact and get to know the locals.
- Your money goes to an individual instead of the government. Now granted, if someone has the luxury of an “extra” room or an entire apartment, they are probably more middle class but still, your rent goes directly to them.
And there is nothing to prevent you from still visiting the local hotels to enjoy what they have to offer. Enjoy the sunset at the Hotel Nacional. Have a drink on the roof top bar of the Saratoga. Enjoy a brunch or dinner. Exchange your money at any of the concierges. But then leave the tourist city center and enjoy a leisurely walk through the streets back to your apartment or room and enjoy hearing the music and laughter from the streets.