Photos from Cuba.

All Photography Copyright Andy Lepki, 2009.

Cuba is maybe not the location popularised on bacardi adverts... undoubtably beautiful, but with a thick edge of poverty which leaves you exhausted from trying to find a way of life which gives you a rootsy challenge

50 years of cynicism and envy of the dollar added to a whole lifetime of corruption and revolution, the country is charged with a strange blend of desire for a more lucrative future, and apathy of resignation, that although vastly significant in global history and politics, developments in the later part of the 20th century have powerful big hitters lapping cuba in the rat race, so they've decided they will just walk, and maybe chat to some people along the way...


a camel bus in havana


much of cuba is a complete timepiece, and it can be quite disorientating trying to figure out exactly which era you are in... dollarisation sits alongside communism on an overfull bus, polluting the streets of havana with acrid diesel fumes... roads have huge pot holes, and brick dust and banging provide the daily accompaniment to which cubans orchestrate their daily existence...

Buskers practise along the tree lined Prado, the pretty main tiled walkway enveloped by 20's sugar speculators spectacular houses in pinks and fading tropical limes, but the aged trumpeters will expect a dollar or more for the privelidge of having this romantic salsa serenade...

People just hang out here, try and get into conversations with tourists to practise their english with the lure of the invisible sky high golden arches 82 miles away in Miami... these conversations usually follow the same pattern...

"hey amigo, my friend, english ? italiano ? deutchse ? "

The Cuban may be genuine and want to be of assistance to his guest, but you can bet your bottom dollar that your bottom dollar will be exactly what they're after... Although not physically threatening or imposing jinteros are a pest, and after two weeks you can be physically exhausted by shaking off literally hundreds of prospective translators/hosts/chefs and of course, cigar salesmen... that said, you do need the odd one's help, as hotels are so overpriced and poor value, staying in a Cuban home for a fraction of the price represents the best option... Cubans are allowed to rent out one of their rooms to tourists as the government collects a cut in tax from the license...

Some places, especially in Havana are unlicensed, and it is probably more advisable to pay the extra few dollars for the security... Family members are willing to move out and make up a fresh bed at the drop of a hat, and you'll get a key for you $15... most places will start the bidding at $20, but say you've been offered $10 and they'll let you go for $15... you get strangely used to the logic, and staying in homes is a good way to get your food... for say, an extra $5 you can get breakfast for 2, $10 for dinner... It all varies, but will definitely be a lot cheaper than eating out, which is an unbelievable chore in many places...

In Cuban towns and cities, familiar brands are evident shipped in from South Africa and Canada, but these are expensive compared to Cuban produce; for example Tikola will cost 50C and Coke $1 and there isn't a lot to choose between the two, and you get a moral tinge to the flavour that it is the national produce you should be supporting...

cristal beer, nice








Cuba tips for Chris & anyone else (1999)
by Tiz, Andy and Stu

A friend bought two boxes of cigars on the street for US$25 each only to get home and discover they were fake; consequently I only bought mine from a shop and when offered them I said that I didn’t want to carry them around Cuba with me in my backpack or that I’d already bought them.

When people asked me what I was looking for, replying that I was looking simply for peace (trang-keel-ee-dahd) got the best response.

A tourist I met told me that she’d brought sweets, little toys, balloons for the children here and aspirins for the adults. In addition I was asked if I had any clothing to spare.

Should you need to extend your visa you will have to purchase stamps to the value of the necessary fee at any bank prior to making your way to the Immigration Office which in Havana closes at 3pm.

To reserve a train ticket in Santiago de Cuba head up Aguilera from Plaza Dolores. On the 2nd block on the left hand side you’ll see a sign with a train on it the last word beneath which is “reservaciones”,
reservations. Once inside don’t forget to ask “Quien es ultimo?”, Who’s the last person?. In Cuba there are often no queues instead this question will tell you know after whom you’ll be served


Another friend booked Hotel Lido but when he went to get this tourist
card from the Cuban Embassy in the UK they didn’t ask him for
confirmation of his booking so perhaps he could have faked it and
booked his room in a casa particular immediately instead.

Olga Hernandez Lopez
Cuba #611 Apt 1
% Luz y Santa Clara
telef 674561
Rafa’s favourite family in Cuba. 2 rooms and her son speaks reasonable
English. It was Olga who put me onto Ernesto.

Ernesto Cardoso Vega
Luz #310
entre Habana y Compostela
habana vieja
telef: 615164
$25 per night including breakfast, toilet has seat, best bathroom I’ve
used in Cuba; used to English speakers. 5-10 minutes from Capitolio –
cheapest internet incidentally. Stayed there ten days.

Kash made friends with a guy named Felix who works for the tourist
coach company (Via Azul). Call him and he’ll show you around. Ernesto
will also show you round.

Andy made friends with Jorge who I consequently met. He acts as a
translator for his part of town. So he can sort you out with a casa
particular as low as US$15 without breakfast or a lovely apartment by
the sea front for 35/40. Very nice chap.
Jorge Conesa
consulado #17
entre ciajo y cancel de benios
centro habana
telef 617420

I met Hector who could also find accommodation in Central - 795143

La Julia Paladar
O’Reilly #506A
% Bernaza y Villegas
habana vieja
one of the waiters is particularly sound

Finally a friend booked a flight with Adria Alexander at Hotel Lido
671107 8.30am-5.30pm Home telef 209159. She was very helpful. Some
flights are more frequent than others.

Santa Clara

Jose Enrique Romero
Bonitacio Martinez #60
% Sendico y Caridad
telef 206754
friend of Ernesto’s wife. Not seen


Cienfuegos is a relatively affluent feeling town on the south coast of cuba, roughly 100 km, and a $10 drive away from havana...

After the frenzy of Havana, Cienfuegos is a good place to regather and take advantage of the relative tranquility...

A fairly compact town with not really that much to do, dollar shops are springing up more and more selling salsa cds, tshirts, ornaments and general miscellany; my huge cuban flag, a symbol of pride and patriotism cost me $12, yes dollars, from one of the strange feeling department lack of department stores...

You could go into one of these needing some socks, and find no socks but hundreds of egg whisks; absolutly no logic defines supply and demand in Cuba away from the black market, a market a naive traveller would be well advised not to dabble in unless they had dollars to smoke...As described elsewhere, luck plays such a huge part in what casa, and ultimately, experience you have in a certain town... our luck was in, and Geronimo was a complete star on the cuban flag; a fantastic host, cook, and tourist adviser, only to willing to assist...

His house was a bargain, and felt safe, a priceless commodity after shifty policemen and jinteros in havana...

definitely recommended :

Jeronimo Garcia Escoriza
Calle 35 no 5806
e/ 58 y 60
phone : (0432) 6549

Rita Fundora Rodfriguez
Calle 41 #5803
% 58 y 60
telef 432 8442
Rafa: friendly family. Didn’t stay


Trinidad is south east of Havana on the the south coast. It's a really nice spanish colonial style town with well nice mountains inland and a really good beach (Playa Ancon). I think you could definitely spend a few days here as it is really chilled and the coutryside is well nice - a good contrast to Havana.

We stayed with a bloke called Pedro Jimenez: Calle Camilo Cienfegos No 213 Between Francisco Cadahia and Jose Marti Tel 0419 3520 It was a good house with a courtyard and high ceilings - we payed 15 dollars for a double room but its more for one with air conditioning.

I tried two other places in Trinidad, one of them was plain scarry, think it was on Jose Marti, but basically, avoid any house with teenage Dali angst nasty artwork and tasteless religious imagery... The bloke was a bit like willy roper from eastenders, the food was shit, and you have to eat near a huge doll crucifix...

The other place was with Fransicso Javier Zerquera No 360 c/o Ernesto Valdez Muñoz y Manuel Solano CP 62600 Tel 2220 And this place wasn't too bad, stayed a couple of days here, and the food was generally pretty generous, and the hosts were nice enough, but the bill here had a few add ons which we weren't expecting...

A double room was $10 a night, and added to this was $10 for dinner, and another $5 for breakfast ( for 2 ), and $5 a day bike hire ( each ). Someone in Havana gave me the address of their friend in Trinidad; didn't stay there, but for completeness: Jose Marti 358 e STG Escobar y Simon Bolivar ( Pro : Jesus ), Trinidad.

But there are generally plenty of casas available, throw the dice and see where you end up..

not stunningly recommended, but you can try.

Fransicso Javier Zerquera
No 360 c/o Ernesto Valdez Muñoz y Manuel Solano
CP 62600 Tel 2220

Trinidad Casa Hospedaje
Pablo Pichs Giron 251
% Independencia y Vicento Suyama
US$10/15 ask for the room with the terrace (and implicitly the view)

Kash “probably stayed in one of the better colonial homes here, call
monolo @ his fathers house on 0419 3909, address, maceo 455. 5 minute
walk from coach station.”

Maria Esther Perez
Francisco Cadahia (Gracia) #224
% Lino Perez y Colon
telef 3528
beautiful house. Two rooms. Toilet has seat

Sobeida Rodriguez
Maceo #619
% Pablo Pichs y Piro Guinart
telef 4162
has many rooms usually filled with English speaking tourists.

Barbara Rondon Gonzalez
Pablo Pichs Giron #177A
% Maceo y Frank Pais
Telef: (0419) 3854
pan suave is made in a casa nearby should you like to try it.

Joanis Lopez
Maceo 471
% Simon Bolivar y Javier de la Vega
telef 4320
recommended by Annmarise. Not seen

A sound brother who doesn’t speak any English – Norge Arostica (0419)
3725 Wk Casa del Joven Creador 3656


Santa Rita #16a (El Solitario)
% Republica y Santa Rossa
telef 9 6754
Rafa’s 2nd favourite family in Cuba. Husband good communist and cook.

Santa Rita 13
% Republica y Santa Rosa
telef 291995
recommended by Annmarise. Not seen.


Mabel Rodriguez Sanchez
Jose a Cardet #190
% Arias y Aguilera
telef: 461644
Rafa: comfy and interested.

Santiago de Cuba

Ing. Ruiz y Olga Jordan
Maria Rodriguez (Reloj) #317
% Sagarra y Hechavarria
telef (53 226) 654909
Excellent food. 2 rooms US$15. Stayed there eight days. Well looked
after. Olga speaks English/Spanish as you prefer. Very central.

Arlex Rojas Cruz
San Francisco (Sagarra) No. 303
E/Hartmann y Gral. Banderas

Absolutely lovely man (& his son) run this place. They have a lovely double room, and another one that can take up to four people - both with their own private bathroom & air con. Make you feel really welcome. He also can give you details of relatives casa (Balbina Cadahia) in Trinidad (which is already in the Lonely Planet guide).

$15 per night, including breakfast.

He would prefer to not have single men (unless they have good enough
to explain they will not bring back ladies of the street!)

Pedro Guillermo Marti Vazquez
Corono 805
% San Czalros y Santa Rita
telef. 620101
recommended by Kash.

Sorangel Schmidt
Corona #656
% Heredia y San Basilio
telef 623182
recommended by Ernesto. Not seen.

Rolando y Laudelina
115 Cornelio Robert (Jaguey)
% Escudero y 10 de Octubre
Telef: +53 (226) 653042
2 rooms US$15. Not seen.

A sound brother who hardly speaks English – ask for Pantri man amongst
the rastas at Plaza Dolores – or another who’s deaf, Jorge, can be
found signing away there at about 8ish in the evening.

Pinar del Rio (pronounced peenyar del ree-o)

Hilda Amador
Isabel Rubio # 14, Apartmento 2
% Marti y Adela Azury
Excellent food. Very friendly family. I think someone speaks English in
the family. One of my favourite families in Cuba because they would
always be happy for me to join them and talk to them endlessly.

Vinales (pronounced been-yalehs)

Villa Norma
Camillo Cienfuegos No. 1C
(opposite the Infants school)

$10 per night, breakfast & amazing dinners are extra, but extremely

Very friendly couple, lovely large room, with two double beds & private

house in trinidad