Booking.com is the Big Cuba Hotel News, Not Starwood

News flashes following President Obama’s trip to Cuba touted Starwood’s inking of 3 hotels to manage in Cuba, with Marriott in pursuit. They will go to Cuba and set up the least Cuban accommodations in the market. If you want a nice beach vacation, other Caribbean destinations have them and are leagues ahead of Cuba.

If you want to go to Cuba, the draw should be to taste the culture. The lack of massive tourism infrastructure and diversity of the island make it one of the easiest Caribbean islands to encounter locals in their daily lives.

Cuba’s network of B&Bs, casa particulares, welcome you into a local home with Cuban grandparents for your stay. Before the recent visitor surge it was easy enough to show up in a town, knock on the door, and have a room for the night.

Casa Particulare

Rooms are now often full and booking in advance is been a challenge. AirBNB is already active in Cuba. I am less a fan than many. I don’t want to spend the time on the back and forth to confirm bookings. My trips are often short stays booked last minute which doesn’t work well with the AirBNB model.

Booking.com is a favorite of mine (it is owned by Priceline). I used it for much of my West Africa trip last month. The listing are among the most extensive of any website, especially for Europe, Africa and Latin America, covering all price range and type of accommodation. They also have thoughtful touches such as options for local language printer-friendly confirmations with GPS coordinates listed.

Booking.com has many B&Bs and properties that may appear on AirBNB, yet everything is set up for instant confirmation. Book and done. Off the to-do list.

Great news, then, that Booking.com’s entrance to Cuba is imminent.

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  • DaveS

    Looks like you’ll have to identify which of the 12 approved categories you fall under and provide other details about the purpose of the trip. Is this pro forma, or does this actually restrict who will be able to reserve with booking.com?

  • Amy

    @DaveS — that depends who you ask/believe. But you need to keep documentation.
    One caution: if you are going on your own (rather than with a group) it’s not unheard of to show up in Cuba and find your room has been given away to a someone traveling as part of a group. (I recently read an article that I can’t find right now but talked about taxi drivers renting out their cars to tourists wanting to use them to sleep in since they couldn’t find another place to stay.). (I write this as someone who has legally been traveling there for years and thought I had seen it all, but that surprised even me.). Also, my last two (well-reviewed) Casa particulares didn’t have any water or didn’t have hot water for substantial parts of my stay. If you can’t honestly go under one of the listed, allowed reasons and are looking for a beach vacation, as noted, Cuba is not the best place for that.

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  • DaveS

    I’m planning to go the airbnb route in July, and have my flights booked. I was going to wait a bit longer to make room reservations, but from what you say, I think I’ll go ahead and get that taken care of. Thanks for the information. As you say, for a beach vacation, there are many other places to go, and I may never see a beach in my days there.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @DaveS – if you go go around the country the beaches and areas of the Bay of Pigs are worth a visit, there is a good museum and throughout the region, wherever a Cuban life was lost, there is a memorial marker, a stark tribute for the seeming random nature of the locations, one by a roadside, two in a backyard, another over there, it provides much to contemplate.