Airbnb Hosts in Cuba Can’t be Trusted

First, the place was advertised as “Casa Jesus & Maria” and it looks and operates as a hostel (a bad one). I booked the place about three weeks in advance for two days and had been in contact with the host almost every week. The last message was exchanged only two days prior to our arrival and, at that moment, we were told that the room we were supposed to stay had been under construction for over a month. We arrived in Cuba at around 11:30 at night (the host was informed about this a week earlier) and were greeted by Jesus and Maria. We were promptly informed that they did not have a room for us. Maria ushered us in and, as if to prove her point, showed us a room with a scaffold inside and no furniture and claimed that the only reason why the room was not ready was due to heavy rain.

My friend and I were puzzled since it clearly looked like the room had been under construction for a while and they probably rented the room to us without it being ready. Worst of all, they probably knew very well that it was not going to be ready more than a day before our arrival and never told us about it. Maria informed us that she had arranged for us to stay somewhere else and that she was going to call the person to come pick us up. It was after midnight and we were stranded at some stranger’s place in Havana, without any local currency, and thinking that these people are really trying to screw us. Maria spent over 40 minutes on the phone, trying to find us another place since her arrangements did not follow through. They barely looked us in the eye while we were there and did not speak to us at all.

Finally, someone knocked at the door and we were escorted to another place by Ana. Ana’s place was definitely not in good shape and it was completely different from what we had signed up for. We were taken upstairs through these very narrow steps (our carry-ons barely fit) and shown an area with a queen bed and a bathroom without a door. The room was as big as the bed, the bathroom had no hot water, and the shared bathroom downstairs did not have a toilet seat. After we finally got ready to go to bed, about 2:30 AM, the bed broke. We had to move the mattress by ourselves since Ana was nowhere to be found. I had an asthma attack because the mattress was extremely dusty.

We woke up the next day and went back to our first host to try to give them a second chance; they had told us that they would have another room ready. Of course the room was not ready and we finally lost our cool. I told Maria that what they were doing to us was not fair and I wanted my money back. I did not raise my voice and spoke to her calmly. Maria got extremely upset and told me that if I wanted my money back I had to deal with Airbnb. We took off and, unfortunately, spent almost the whole day trying to find another place to stay. I speak fluent Spanish and all I could think of when all this was going on was: what if we did not speak the language? We would be even more desperate.

I called Airbnb and spoke with Kendra in customer service. She said that I was going to get a refund and that the incident was going to be “investigated”, that the host was going to be told to “honor the ads.” I was really expecting a little bit more of sympathy from Airbnb since this experience basically destroyed our vacation; we had only planned to stay in Havana for two days. I understand that Airbnb has little control over how hosts act but I was truly expecting more concern from the operator. I do not want anybody to go through what we have been through, especially if they do not speak the language. Now the host is threatening me with Airbnb messages. Needless to say, I had to dispute the charges with my credit card. I closed my account and will never use this service again.

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