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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Travel

Rooms for rent in Cuba - How it works

Posted July 23, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Travel.
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Lucas Garve, Fundacion por la Libertad de Expresion | [url=http://www.cubanet.org]http://www.cubanet.org[/url]

A Canadian visitor to Havana last spring found lodgings through the Internet: an air conditioned room with bath in a spacious apartment on Empedrado Street. Online, 30 dollars a day for an attractive room in Old Havana seemed very reasonable.

Three hours away from Montreal, firmly planted on tropical reality, the air conditioned room became a windowless 9 by 12 in an apartment to be shared with the very portly proprietress, whose clothes filled the one closet in the room. All of a sudden, 30 dollars payable daily to the landlady with the bulldog face did not seem so very reasonable.

Mercifully, the tropical mirage is deceiving but accommodating. A few hours later, with the help of a Cuban friend, he had a whole apartment to himself, just a few blocks away, for the same price.

He had entered the world of Rooms for Rent; an intangible but nevertheless rock-solid net of Cubans who seek to supplement their meager incomes by renting out all or part of houses or apartments, the need for which they may have outgrown, to foreign visitors paying in hard currency.

An old woman in Central Havana explains: “Necessity compels… How are you going to live without dollars to get what you need?” she said, adding that she rents two rooms to tourists. “I was afraid at the beginning, but, just imagine, I can’t live on my retirement income; my sister is 87 and bedridden. What do I want this big house for if not to rent it?”

The mostly illegal rental system has codes, rules and regulations, and
operating protocols, perfectly understood by all, with not a word written down. The Canadian’s friend received a 5 dollar per rental-day commission from the owner of the apartment. Friend or not, that’s the going rate.

Sometimes there may be two or three apartments in a building whose
owners rent them out. They typically cooperate with each other to keep
occupancy rates up. The other residents quietly offer the renters services such as housekeeping, laundry, cooking, or any imaginable service a
tourist might require. All in the shadow of the law which long since
banned the exploitation of man by man.

There are 3,300 licensed renters in Havana, according to an official in
the Rental Department of the Havana Housing Authority. They pay roughly 300 to 400 dollars a month in taxes and fees. In the first five months
of this year, 530 lost their licenses for doing building additions or
remodeling without a permit. In addition, 73 unlicensed renters saw their housing units confiscated. Still, the pressures are strong.

Mario, a 70-year-old pensioner, said his wife was fearful and deterred
him from renting. He has been a widower for the last four years, and
lives alone in an apartment that he rents for 25 dollars a day. That’s
650 pesos a day. His pension is 123 pesos a month.

Havana Journal note: Be sure to bookmark our list of Casas Particulares at http://www.havanajournal.com/traveldirectory.php

Member Comments

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On July 24, 2004, publisher wrote:

As any traveler should know, do your homework before you go.

You can get ripped off at any town or city in the world.

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On July 26, 2004, Rodney Kidd wrote:

I visited Cuba in April this year, and stayed in a Casa in Miramar. It was with a wonderful family who treated me as one of them, and we had many fabulous outings together. The accommodation was top class, and at
US40 per day, was more than reasonable, and indeed very comfortable and private. I will certainly be back.

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On September 26, 2004, osmin vivas wrote:

yo admiro y respeto la labor que ustedes realizan perteneci al partido pro derechos humanos de cuba afiliado a la fundacion Andrei zajaroj saludos a todos los que luchan por la libertad de cuba especialmente arene montes de oca martija