6 Things to Consider When Booking an AirBnB in Vinales, Cuba
The article was written by How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch and edited by EscapingNY. Note that while this article was written specifically about the AirBnB casa booking experience in Viñales, know that the content holds true across Cuba. Check out EscapingNY's article READ THIS Before Booking an AirBnB in Cuba to learn what to watch out for, how to not get swindled, and how to guarantee you book a great casa!
Viñales is full of freshly painted, colorful homes lining dirt roads with horses trotting by and mopeds whizzing past. It’s a town small enough to be recognized in, but the farmland is large enough to get lost hiking in. You are on the most beautifully preserved farmland on the island, with its terracotta soil, and avocado green mogotes (large limestone hills) with tobacco fields lining the distance. What separates Viñales from the rest of the country is Viñales is pristine. From the fresh air to the conditions of the unique and well-maintained homes, Viñales is special.
1. Understand how Cuban AirBnB pricing works
Most homes are part of a co-op, where all the homes start at a minimum of 25CUC/night. However, during slow periods, some casas dip below because they are desperate to rent the room(s). Some tourists will negotiate down to 20 or 15, which leaves the casa owner with very little money and starts you off on the wrong foot with the locals. Paying the standard rate supports ethical and responsible tourism to protect the locals and their living wage.
2. Remember that animals live on farms
You are on a farm. There are roosters. They crow in the morning. Get over it.
3. Hire local guides
Tobacco farm tours are normally booked through local casas. All the casas work with a specific guide that they use every time. These guides are LICENSED, knowledgeable men and have to pay a fee to be able to have this job. They also maintain the horses and pay for their upkeep. Booking tours organized in Havana does a disservice to these men who are more qualified and who rely on the tours to earn a living. Many taxi drivers also try to give the tours themselves so they can get a commission off of the booking. In this case, not only does the money leave the Viñales community, but the tour itself is less informative and authentic.
4. Classic cars = Classic taxis
Tourists usually find it convenient to book a taxi transfer via their casa. The car that arrives to pick you up depends on what’s available that day, the casa owner has no say in the matter, they are merely trying to help you find a ride. The cars are old. Sometimes they have AC, sometimes they don’t. Cuba is known for their vintage cars!
These colectivo taxis are cramped and usually offload passengers to a different taxi at a halfway point outside of Havana. A taxi will almost never make the entire journey to Cienfuegos or Trinidad so don’t be alarmed when the driver asks you to get out and puts you in another car.
5. Many hosts only speak Spanish
If a casa is listed on AirBnB, it usually means they have a relative or a friend on the outside managing their home. This person is probably communicating with you in English on AirBnB. Don’t be surprised when your host actually only speaks Spanish. Casa owners are used to working with non-Spanish speaking tourists but consider downloading a language app to help with communication.
6. There are no dietary restrictions in Cuba
The concept of “gluten-free” doesn’t really exist outside of the Western world so simply say you don’t want bread or pasta. Ask for rice (which is ALWAYS an option) or just eat around the gluten. In a place like Cuba, where there has been an embargo since the 60’s, food can be hard to come by sometimes. This terminology is confusing to Cubans and making these demands can be offensive considering the historical context about food. The same goes for vegetarians and vegans who should read How to Be Vegan in Cuba before their trip.
Keeping these 6 things in mind is really easy and you’ll be totally fine. People in Viñales are super nice and welcoming and you’ll be sure to receive all it has to offer if you treat the locals with respect.
How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch is an online publication featuring diverse perspectives told by travelers who report on first-hand experiences in order to provide a diverse database of resources. The website shares travel-related content from differing perspectives based on color, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and country of origin.
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See my previous blog posts to help you plan your upcoming trip to Cuba and to get a feel for the day-to-day life that few tourists encounter.