- 1 Origin of Airbnb, Cuba
- 2 Airbnb in the Cuban Countryside
- 3 Airbnb - Havana, Cuba
- 4 Deciding Where to Stay in Havana
- 5 Maravilla Ugarte - The Best Airbnb - Havana
- 6 About The Author
Table of Contents
- 1 Origin of Airbnb, Cuba
- 2 Airbnb in the Cuban Countryside
- 3 Airbnb – Havana, Cuba
- 4 Deciding Where to Stay in Havana
- 5 Maravilla Ugarte – The Best Airbnb – Havana
- 6 About The Author
Needing Havana Accommodation? Wanting to use the Luxury Travel Hack of utilising Airbnb to save money? Well, you have come to the right place to find a Havana Airbnb! Cuba, is such an interesting and unique country and their Airbnbs are no different.
As we have mentioned time and time again we love Airbnb because without a doubt you get more for your money. We are loving Airbnb that much that we will continue to source fantastic Airbnbs to write about and share with our readers. Kelly from Fit Fashion Traveler is sharing her thoughts on a great Havana Airbnb in this post. So, if you are heading to Cuba soon you are in the right place.
Other Airbnbs we have written about can be found here.
So whether you are utilising an Airbnb for its added facilities or looking to split the costs between you and your friends or family you can certainly save money.
Guest Post Written By Kelly Soltis
Wondering where to stay in Cuba? Check out Airbnb! While tourism is picking up in the country, there still aren’t many hotels. Most of those that exist are government-owned, meaning they are off-limits for American travellers. Depending on your visa category, you may be required to stay in a private home (casa particular) during your stay. Staying in an Airbnb fulfills this requirement.
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Airbnbs are always a great accommodation option to consider when traveling. They are often cheaper than hotels. The space and amenities they offer, like in-unit laundry facilities and full kitchens, are beneficial compared to hotels as well.
The Airbnb business in Cuba is booming, with myriad options available for travellers throughout the country. This is especially great news for Americans, whose accommodation options are restricted. Airbnbs are especially plentiful in Havana. There is a wide range in price and quality available, though, so you’ll want to carefully consider which Airbnb you choose to stay in when planning your trip.
Origin of Airbnb, Cuba
When Fidel Castro took over as Cuba’s leader in 1959, he gave every family a house for free. When you first think about it, this sounds great! There is almost no homelessness in the country and no one has to pay rent. However, this also means there are no new accommodations coming to market for Cubans to buy either. Sixty years later, most families have multiple generations living together in the same house or apartment.
Airbnb in the Cuban Countryside
Families who received a house outside the city also received many acres of property for farming. Today, these families may apply for and receive government grants to build new structures on the property they already own. These families can expand their living quarters in this way so they are not constantly sharing rooms and living on top of each other. The families can also use their new structures to provide apartment rentals and Airbnbs for travellers.
Airbnb - Havana, Cuba
For urban families without extensive land grants, you may be wondering how they manage to offer Airbnbs or apartment rentals in cities like Havana? Generally, the owners will have foreign sources of income, like family in the United States sending them money. This extra money helps the owners to either buy a second property in Cuba specifically for rentals or to own an apartment in another country to which they travel, allowing their Cuban apartment to be rented on Airbnb while they are away.
With this flexibility, you can choose to rent a room in an apartment or casa particular, or you may have the entire apartment to yourself. In my experience, you will still have plenty of opportunities to interact with the locals hosting you even if you choose your own private Airbnb.
Deciding Where to Stay in Havana
If you are a budget traveller, you may opt for a cheap Airbnb while in Cuba. If you go this route, you may be located far from downtown. The public transportation in Havana is not great. It is also off-limits to Americans as it is government-owned. Tourist taxis (like the brightly coloured 1950s convertibles) are expensive. You usually must negotiate for general taxis in Spanish. The collectivo taxi system requires recognition of the taxis, the ability to communicate in Spanish, and a comfort with practically sitting on top of strangers during your ride. To get the most of your stay in Havana you’ll want to be within walking distance from Old Havana and the port.
If you rent a cheap Airbnb, even if it’s near Old Havana, you probably won’t have any access to WiFi. WiFi only arrived in Cuba in 2015 and is not available in most accommodations. If you need internet access during your trip, you’ll have to purchase a WiFi card from a hotel to use in busy WiFi hotspots around the city. Your best option is to search for an Airbnb that offers WiFi to its occupants.
Most buildings in Havana look as though no maintenance has been done on them since Batista was thrown out in 1959. As you walk down the streets, you will see beautiful Spanish architecture from the early-1900s that is dirty and crumbling.
The exterior of the Maravilla Ugarte apartment building is no different. When I arrived at 9 AM on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning, I questioned whether I was in the right place, seeing as I had rented a high-end and comparatively expensive Airbnb. I was instead standing in front of a building that looked in disrepair.
Luckily the area turned out to be very safe and the interior of the building and the Airbnb were gorgeous.
You will probably never meet the owner of Maravilla Ugarte, Barbara, during your stay. Barbara owns an apartment in Panama and rents out her apartment in Havana when she travels.
That does not mean you are without local hosts. Barbara’s good friends Hortencio and Roberta live one floor below the Airbnb and are the best Airbnb hosts I have ever had!
Though check-in time is noon, if the property is available before that you will be able to check in earlier. Within minutes of your arrival, Hortencio will meet you at the door, let you into the building, and take you up the elevator to your penthouse apartment.
He will give you a tour and answer any questions you may have. Then Hortencio’s wife Roberta will arrive to go over important logistics and safety information and take your passport information, as required by Cuban law for all visitors.
Interacting with our Airbnb Hosts
As most of the reviews for the Airbnb say, Hortencio and Roberta are the friendliest, most helpful hosts you will ever have. To some people they even become like family!
It is important to note that they only speak Spanish and do not speak English. I speak some Spanish but my dad who was traveling with me speaks almost none. Hortencio and Roberta were incredibly patient explaining things slowly and repeating themselves in different ways when they could tell I did not understand. They even had conversations with my dad using small words in English and Spanish and many gestures.
The best Airbnbs in Havana will have Spanish-speaking hosts so I recommend brushing up on a few Spanish phrases before your trip, bringing a translation dictionary, and finding hosts like Hortencio and Roberta that get credit for their understanding and patience.
Going Above and Beyond: Local Information and Assistance
Not only were Hortencio and Roberta helpful when checking in and out of the Airbnb, but they also offered to give us a walking tour of Old Havana on our first day there! We declined but if you are up the adventure, a free guided walking tour from a local Cuban is a great addition to your Airbnb stay.
Hortencio gave us recommendations for places to see and eat in Old Havana. He also walked with us to a nearby bank and helped us navigate the banking system later in the week when we needed to exchange money. If there is anything you need during your stay at Maravilla Ugarte, whether it relates to the accommodation or Havana or Cuba in general, your hosts Hortencio and Roberta are more than willing to offer their local advice and take time out of their day to assist you.
While the language barrier prevented my dad and I from becoming good friends with the hosts at Maravilla Ugarte, I can see why so many other travellers wrote that Hortencio and Roberta were “like family” by the end of their trips!
Inside the Airbnb
The Maravilla Ugarte apartment is beautiful. You are on the ninth floor of the building. Two balconies offer incredible views of the Caribbean Sea, El Malecon boardwalk, and Old Havana, including El Capitolio. The Airbnb also includes a dining room, kitchen with all the appliances, a living room with TV, two bedrooms with queen-size beds, and two full bathrooms, one off each bedroom. The balconies off the living room and one of the bedrooms each have tables and chairs. You can watch the cruise ships approach each morning and enjoy a glass of wine or rum during the evening before dinner from the balconies. Because the apartment is on the top floor of the building you also do not hear much street noise while in the apartment.
Roberta cleans the apartment every day. There is a camera outside your apartment door in the hallway so that Roberta can see when you leave so she knows it is a good time to clean. You are never interrupted by the hosts because of this, though they are always available by inter-apartment phone whenever you need them.
One of the best things about this apartment is that it has WiFi! As previously mentioned, this is extremely rare in Cuba because of its limited availability and high cost.
At Maravilla Ugarte, you still have to pay for the WiFi, but it only costs $2 USD per hour. You can use the WiFi in segments but turning on and off your WiFi connection to make the most of your purchase. Having WiFi in Havana apartment rentals is obviously not easy. But having the Wifi in your Havana accommodation helps you avoid having to take time during your trip to purchase WiFi at a hotel and find a hotspot, which is usually outside in a park swarmed by locals.
The amenities in the apartment really elevate Maravilla Ugarte into a luxury property in Cuba. I was impressed by how modern-looking and clean the apartment is. Though the space is not big, it is welcoming and clearly owned by someone with money.
One of the best things about Maravilla Ugarte is its location. When you stay in this apartment you will be just a few blocks from Old Havana and El Capitolo without being in Old Havana, which could get noisy and raucous at night while you’re trying to sleep. You are also one block from El Malecon, which is great for walks along the sea and also an easy way to find the apartment if you get lost walking around the city. When taking taxis, you can request to be dropped off near Hotel Deauville, the hotel just across the street from Maravilla Ugarte, instead of trying to otherwise describe your location.
Many great restaurants and conveniences are within walking distance from the apartment, including the famous La Guarida fine dining restaurant. If you need to take a taxi anywhere, there is a taxi stand across the street by the hotel where drivers are always available. Walking is a suitable option though because the street and surrounding area is completely safe, even late at night. Maravilla Ugarte is perfectly situated for you to make the most of your stay in Havana, Cuba.
If you’re looking for a luxury Airbnb in Havana, look no further than Maravilla Ugarte!
About The Author
Kelly Soltis is a travel blogger and owner of the Fit Fashion Traveler brand that focuses on healthy luxury travel. She has visited over 30 countries and uses her experiences to help travelers plan active trips with high-end accommodations, restaurants, and activities. She is a big fan of interacting with locals and gaining true cultural exposure when she travels. Check out her blog at Fit Fashion Traveler and follow her on Facebook and Instagram!