The biggest drawback of staying in casas particulares is that you might have to run the gauntlet of the touts, also known as jineteros or intermediarios. Ostensibly, these are locals who work as brokers for a number of houses. In return they collect a commission (around $5CUC per night), which usually gets added to your nightly bill. In tourist hotspots, groups of local casa owners greet every Víazul bus arrival with pictureboards of their houses. Most are perfectly legitimate, but be aware of touts among them who, in the event that you say you have already booked a place, claim that it is full or has closed down – it’s always a scam.
- Touts will often demand their commission from any casa particular to which they have taken customers – even when they have done little more than given directions. There is no way to avoid the attention of these people outright when you arrive in a town, and it can be incredibly frustrating when you feel besieged by people hassling you at every turn. There are, though, several ways to avoid falling prey to touts and thus having your accommodation bill increased unnecessarily.
- If you are approached, state that you have already organized accommodation, but don’t disclose where. Often touts will arrive at your chosen house first and tell the owners that they have sent you themselves.
- Always book ahead and ask your hosts to meet you at the bus station with your name on a sign – many casa owners do this anyway.
- One of the best ways of finding a casa particular in another town is by referral. Most owners have a network of houses in other towns which they will recommend, and will often phone and make a reservation for you, or at the very least give you that house’s card, though they may well collect a commission themselves for passing you on.
- If you need to ask for directions, ask for the street by name rather than the house you want to get to. Another trick to watch for is that intermediarios will pretend to direct you to the house of your choice but will actually take you to a totally different one, where their commission is better.