Hotel or B&B? Deciding where to stay in Cuba

HOTELS vs B&Bs IN CUBA

When you plan your trip to Cuba, one of the big decisions you’ll have to make is: should you stay at a hotel or a B&B? We get a lot of questions about these options, so we’ve compiled a list of FAQs to help you make an informed decision.

Above: a private room at a B&B in Havana

Q: Are Americans allowed to stay at hotels in Cuba?
Yes, as long as they are not owned and operated by the Cuban government. We at CIT know which hotels are allowed and which are prohibited, so you can rest assured you’ll be compliant with all the current regulations.

Q: How do B&Bs work in Cuba?
B&Bs in Cuba are known locally as casas particulares. These are homestays or private accommodations offered by Cuban families under a government-approved system of private enterprise. Running a B&B in Cuba is one of the best gigs a person can have, so Cubans take great care in ensuring that their guests have a safe, comfortable stay and all around positive experience.

Q: How does CIT choose a B&B?
We have a hand selected list of B&Bs that we use regularly. These are places that have been tried and tested many times. Depending on your preference and group size, we can either do a private apartment/house, or rent a room in a homestay style B&B. Let us know if you need a certain bed size (full and queen are most common, but king is sometimes available), if you prefer first floor or a high rise, or if you have any other special requests or needs. We’ll always send you pictures of and details about the B&B before we book it for you. All B&Bs will have private bathrooms, AC, hot water, and a safe or your valuables.

**Please note: If you are leaning towards staying at a B&B, it’s always better to book sooner than later so we can reserve a trusted property for you. Our top choices can sometimes book up months in advance.**

Q: What are the main differences between the hotels in Havana?
There are two main 5 star hotels that we use in Havana: the Saratoga and the Iberostar Parque Central. Both are located in Old Havana; amenity-wise they are also very similar. Both have rooftop pools, gyms, concierge, etc.

The lobby of the 5 Star Iberostar Parque Central in Havana

Q: What are the pros/cons of staying at a hotel versus a B&B in Havana?

Pros of staying at a hotel in Havana:
– Old Havana location. The hotels that we use are mostly located in Old Havana, which is a fun and walkable area with top restaurants and venues close by.
– More amenities. All of the hotels we use have a pool, exercise room, restaurant, business center, money exchange, concierge service, etc.

The rooftop pool at the Hotel Saratoga overlooking Havana’s Capitol building

Pros of staying at a B&B in Havana:
– Value, value, value. Even a luxury B&B in Havana will be more affordable than a hotel. If you’re planning your trip on a budget, a B&B is the way to go.
– Authentic experience. Most of the B&Bs that we use in Havana are located in the popular Vedado neighborhood, which is slightly more residential than Old Havana though still very central. For people who want to be immersed in a real Cuban neighborhood, then a B&B in Vedado is for you.
– Interaction with your B&B host. Whether you’re doing a private apartment or a true “homestay” style B&B, you’ll definitely interact with your host at least upon arrival. Many people cherish the connections they make with their hosts and cite the interactions withtheir hosts as a highlight of their trip.

Cons of staying at a hotel in Havana:
– Price. People are often surprised at the cost of hotels in Cuba – they aren’t as cheap as you might think! Also, their star rating is not equivalent to the US. In other words, the best 5 star in Cuba is more akin to a 4 star in the States.
– Other tourists. Many CIT travelers head to Cuba with the goal to experience Cuba in an authentic way and can be put off by the presence of other tourists.

Cons of staying at a B&B in Havana:
– Fewer amenities. Every B&B is different, but if you’re someone who wants a pool, spa, gym, and restaurant available to you, then you should choose a hotel.

Q: What about hotels and B&Bs in other towns in Cuba?
Generally speaking the only other place we have travelers stay overnight is Trinidad, a charming colonial town on the southern shore of Cuba. Since it is a smaller town, the lodging options are more limited.

For hotels, there is the 5 star Iberostar, a very charming and upscale hotel right by the town’s main center. However, it is one of the most expensive properties in Cuba, and since it is so small, it does book up far in advance. There is also the newly renovated 4 star Memories, located right on Playa Ancón beach. This hotel is more basic, but less pricey than the Iberostar and many people do enjoy being located on the beach.

A room at the adults-only 5 star Iberostar Trinidad Hotel

For B&Bs in Trinidad, there are some gorgeous options, but they tend to fill up very far in advance. Overall the B&Bs in Trinidad are going to be more rustic and not as modern as the ones in Havana, but they all provide basic amenities like AC, hot water, and good breakfasts.

A private room at our favorite B&B in Trinidad

If you still have any questions about the different lodging options, feel free to reach out, and one of our friendly CIT representatives will be happy to help!

Contact: info@traveltocubalegally.com/800-494-1945

How soon should you book a trip to Cuba?

We often get asked: how far in advance should I book my trip to Cuba?

There’s no hard deadline per se, and our travelers range across the spectrum from last minute bookings to people who have planned everything months in advance.

The biggest two factors are the season of travel and your preference for lodging. If you’re planning to travel to Cuba during the winter holidays, Jazz Festival, spring break, or another busy time of year – then you definitely want to start booking your trip sooner than later. That way you can lock in your flight and make sure all your ducks are in a row before prices go up and everything is booked.

Also, if you want to stay at a B&B or private apartment (the most economical option), then it’s definitely advisable to book early. There are some amazing B&Bs in Cuba, but they can fill up far in advance.

If you prefer to stay at a hotel, then there’s not as big a rush. Unless it’s peak season, the hotels can usually accommodate even the most last minute travelers.

“What about the visa” you might ask. It’s no problem! We can get you the visa right away once you sign up for a trip; we can even overnight it to you if needed. The bigger concern is definitely making sure you are able to get your flight and lodging booked.

Whether you want to plan a spontaneous trip to Cuba or are looking to plan something a year from now, feel free to reach out! We’ll be happy to help you plan an incredible trip.

Call or email us: 800.494.1945 or info@traveltocubalegally.com.

Top 5 FAQs about travel to Cuba

We at CIT get calls every day from people unsure about how travel to Cuba works. See below for a quick rundown of our Top Five FAQs – please share!

Can Americans still travel to Cuba?

Yes! US citizens can still travel to Cuba legally as long as they are going under one of 12 legal categories as described by the US Treasury Department.

Most of the available categories don’t apply to the average person (i.e., you have a close family member who is a Cuban national) but there is still one broad category open to all US citizens: support for the Cuban people.

When you book your flight to Cuba you will need to declare your legal reason for traveling to Cuba, so it is important to make sure you know which category you’re traveling under, familiarize yourself with the requirements, and choose it accordingly.

What does “Support for the Cuban people” mean?

The basic idea behind “support for the Cuban people” is that your tourist dollars aren’t supposed to end up in the hands of the Cuban government.

So for starters, you cannot stay at certain hotels, eat at certain restaurants, or shop at certain stores, etc., if they are owned and operated by the Cuban government.

Also, there’s a reason this category is called “Support for the Cuban people” – you’re supposed to be engaging in a meaningful way with Cuban people every single day! This could mean visiting a local art gallery, taking a private dance class, attending a private musical concert, visiting a school, etc.

What documentation do I need to visit Cuba?

Everyone traveling to Cuba needs a passport, and your passport needs to be valid for up to six months after your travel date.

You will also need a visa, sometimes referred to as a tourist card. In order to qualify for the visa you need to declare your legal reason for traveling to Cuba under a general license (the 12 categories) and provide the necessary documentation.

As a courtesy for all of our travelers, we provide your visa and the Certificate of Travel, which declares your legal reason for traveling, as well as an official itinerary that demonstrates all of your “support for the Cuban people” activities.

What will be the process when I return from Cuba, how do I need to prove I did a “Support for the Cuban people” trip?

It depends. We have traveled to Cuba countless times and it’s always a different experience upon returning. Sometimes the authorities ask no questions; sometimes they want to see time stamped photos of every single day as proof of activities.

The safest and surest way to travel to Cuba is to do it through an agency such as CIT. We are well versed in the regulations on Cuba travel and will make sure you have a safe, legally compliant, and seamless trip!

Is Cuba safe to visit?

Yes! Cuba has very low levels of crime. You should just use common sense precautions like you would in any other place.

The Cuban economy relies heavily on tourism, too, so local people and authorities alike are invested in making sure that tourists feel safe and welcome.