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Airbnb is now in Cuba, and I’ve booked myself a stay that I should currently be enjoying. (Since internet access in Cuba is not the easiest thing in the world, I’ve queued up this post in advance. Here’s how I booked my flights to Cuba.)

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My favorite site to book accommodations now lists properties in Cuba that you can rent online. Here’s How Airbnb Works (Plus a $25 Credit You Can Use for Your First Stay). If you sign up through this link, we’ll both get $25 on your first Airbnb stay. Leave your referral link in the comments.

Hat Tip to Brian who sent me this Wall Street Journal article on Airbnb moving into Cuba.

What’s Different About Airbnb Properties in Cuba

For Cuba bookings, the four main differences I see are:

  1. cheaper properties
  2. slower host response times
  3. a declaration that you as an American can legally travel to Cuba
  4. many spaces listed only in Spanish

Havana is Cheap

There are 33 properties you can rent next week for $10 to $25 per night. No guarantee on their quality, and almost no properties have reviews so far, but you can’t beat the price.

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Hosts are Slow

The first place I contacted with a message before attempting to book because I wanted to know if arriving at 2 AM was a problem and the internet situation in his neighborhood. The host responded that a 2 AM arrival was fine, and there was an internet cafe for $4.50 an hour down the street.

Then I attempted to book the property, and I got no response for 24 hours, which causes your offer to expire. Then I renewed the offer, and he finally declined with no message.

It’s pretty rare for a host to miss the 24 hour time frame on Airbnb, but this host probably has to make a special trip to an internet cafe to check his messages that hosts in most countries can see on their phone wherever the are.

Give yourself a little extra time when booking a place in Cuba on Airbnb.

As an interesting side note, how does Airbnb partner with hosts who have no internet and no bank accounts? From Fast Company:

The hurdles were not small: In 2011, the country’s National Statistics Office and the International Telecommunication Union estimated that about 22% of Cubans have Internet access, but that included people who only had access to a government-controlled Intranet. Until 2008, Cubans were banned from buying their own computers. Meanwhile, having a bank account is uncommon. “It’s not just that people prefer cash,” says Henken, “It’s almost the only way. People don’t trust anything else, at least not yet.”

Thankfully for Airbnb, however, it didn’t have to start from scratch. It simply tapped into an existing network of middlemen.

The company partnered with a handful of what it describes as “Internet cafes for hosting” that were already facilitating bookings online. These small businesses already had connections with most of the homes for rent on the island, and already charged them a fee for management services. Now they will handle Airbnb listings. Even for hosts who have bank accounts, Airbnb needs to work with intermediaries to deposit funds into their accounts. For the many hosts without access to bank accounts, it partnered with third parties who, in some cases, will deliver cash to their doorsteps (Henken says Airbnb is likely using an established money transfer service to handle payments to unbanked hosts, Airbnb declined specify who’s providing the service for them). All of these are informal partnerships.

Declaration of Purpose of Travel to Cuba

Only Americans who fall into one of 12 categories can travel to Cuba. There’s no need to ask for permission in advance, you just need to self-certify a category.

And on Airbnb while requesting to book a place, you have to self-certify the category and give your address.

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¿Hablas español?

Most Airbnb properties worldwide list the place in English or English plus another language. But in Havana, most of the places I saw are only listed in Spanish. I’m not sure what response you’d get contacting the host in English. With Google Translate, I don’t think this is a big issue, but I thought I’d note it.

Bottom Line

The convenience of Airbnb has come to Cuban lodging. Use this referral link, and we’ll both get a $25 Airbnb credit on your first Airbnb stay. Leave your referral link in the comments.

I used Airbnb to book my first two nights in Havana. My other five nights in the country, I’ll just find on the fly. I will, of course, have a full review of my Airbnb stay in Cuba as soon as I leave the country.

Cuban Airbnb searches are a little different than you’re used to. The places are cheaper, the hosts are slower to respond, and you have to certify the purpose of your trip while booking.

Have you used Airbnb to book a stay in Cuba?

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