Here's what it's like to stay in an Airbnb in Cuba, where everything looked great but was actually broken
Business Insider recently sent three reporters on a wild trip to Havana, Cuba, to experience the island nation's surreal time warp.
Instead of booking rooms in one of the state-run hotels, we decided to stay in a three-bedroom "casa particular," a traditional Cuban home we found through Airbnb, which started offering accommodations in Havana in June.
Our apartment was just a few steps away from the infamous Habana Libre hotel, the beautiful seaside views of Malecón, and Havana's main drag, "La Rampa."
We booked a 7-day stay at "Diana's luxury apartment in the heart of Havana" for a grand total of $840. The listing was accurate for the most part, but it would have been nice to know that there was a serious issue with the water — most days, we didn't have any.
Bienvenidos a nuestra casa aquí en Habana, Cuba! This is what our living room looked like. We had two wooden rocking chairs, a glass table, and a bookcase. Most of the furniture in our apartment, including the Marilyn Monroe canvas, was from IKEA.
Our bookcase was stocked with plenty of Russian and communist literature, but since we had plenty of things to do, we didn't take the time to sit down with all five volumes of "Lenin."
Off to the side of the living room was the smallest of the three bedrooms, which was equipped with a sofa bed.
It had a gorgeous private balcony that flooded the room with tons of light.
From the balcony, we caught a view of the infamous Habana Libre hotel, where Fidel Castro ran the country during the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
The second bedroom had two twin beds pushed together, a small light above the bed, and a large wooden armoire.
For whatever reason, the bedrooms' windows and closets were nailed shut, so we couldn't get any natural light into the rooms during the day.
However, we couldn't have cared less about not having light in our bedrooms, since we had working air-conditioners to combat the steamy 90-degree weather.
The apartment had two large bathrooms, which was crucial considering all three of us got food poisoning on the second day of our trip. This is the larger bathroom.
The tile and fixtures looked nice, but the bidet didn't work, and since the water supply was so poor, the toilet tank wouldn't fill with water. This forced us to haggle with the toilet every time we had to flush.
I loved the tile work in my bathroom — much nicer than my own bathroom in New York City — but again, I barely had running water, and I had to use that large glass vase on the countertop to manually fill the toilet tank for every flush
Like in our bathrooms, a lot of the furniture in the apartment looked great, but was also broken. As you can see from the video, the shelves in this cabinet were all slanted, and the doors weren't even attached. I kept all of my stuff in my backpack the entire trip anyway.
Here's a full view of my bedroom. Again, my window and closets were nailed shut
The biggest problem with our apartment was that we rarely had running water. All of our water was stored in two plastic blue tanks stored on a makeshift shelf above our patio. We noticed that there were some pipes and wires jutting out from the top of the container — we don't know what those were for.
The only way to get the water to work was to manually adjust three metal levers below the tanks. The lever with the blue ribbon had to be in the opposite direction of the other two levers, and if that didn't work, we tried the opposite. Our housekeeper said there wasn't really a system — you just had to play around with it (which would have been nice to know ahead of time).
Our long, open-air hallway was one of the best features of the apartment because it gave us a ton of light and brought a consistent breeze into our rooms.
However, whenever it rained — which was everyday during our trip — water poured in through the decorative wrought-iron. We still loved hearing the storm, though.
At the end of the hallway was our huge kitchen, dining area and patio. We only used the fridge since we weren't supplied with any pots or pans to cook anything. Here's a quick look around our kitchen.
We loved our patio and frequently left the gorgeous wrought-iron door open to catch a nice draft through the apartment. Here's a video of our view.
The listing noted that the apartment came with a washing machine, so we each brought a small backpack of clothes, thinking we could wash them during our trip. We found our washing machine on our patio.
It was dirty, unplugged, and had missing pipes, so even after a week of walking around in Havana's 90-degree weather and not having clean running water most days, we didn't bother messing around with the washing machine.
We heard from other tourists in Cuba that the state-run government hotels weren't much better. We were happy to have a place to hang our hat while we toured Havana.
See recent photographs from Cuba: