The first time I visited Santa Clara, my Cuban contact said he’d reserved me a room in a “hostal”. This sounded like the word “hostel” to me, so when I finally got there I was gritting my teeth, expecting some form of primitive accommodation with bunk beds, cockroaches and a washroom down the hall. Wrong! The “hostal” turned out to be what we would call a B&B: a home turned into a private, meal-serving mini-hotel. My room, which boasted a small TV, fridge and air conditioner in addition to an ensuite bathroom, was the only guestroom in the place. The family – grandmother, parents, 2 boys – occupied the rest of the house, going about their daily business except for when they stopped to talk to me. I wasn’t often at home, but when I was, I loved to sit in the sunny, palm-filled patio outside my door. That’s where I had breakfast and supper; that’s where I talked to the grandmother, who’d been a high-school physics teacher. In Cuba, a hostal (or casa particular, as they are also called) is much more than a B&B. It’s also where you can eat better main meals than in a lot of restaurants, a tourist information office, a shopping advisory, a travel agent. In Santa Clara, the owners talked to me every day, advised me on what to see, and even arranged for a taxi driver to chauffeur me and my friend to national parks, beaches and historic towns – all at low cost. I felt very safe with such an arrangement. Today there are casas particulares in every town and city in Cuba – over 1000 in Havana alone; many are listed on Trip Advisor and Airbnb.