Getting around in Cuba
Vintage cars are one of the symbols of Cuba. They are anywhere. Some are so dear to their owners, who take so much pride in them that have completely renovated them, changing the engin, placing new appliances, and what not. Some others are just plain old cars, which make loads of noise and, what is worst, produce an incredible amount of smoke and pollution. Yet, riding on one of those cars is an experience and you will want to do it. Sitting on the back seat you almost feel on a huge couch. Yes, they are comfortable!
The other side of the coin is that… some cars are just plain old and rotten. It is apparently so expensive to buy a car in Cuba, that Cubans who do own cars learn how to fix them over and over, and you will see their old moscovite car has no belts, has wooden doors (yes!), you will have to use special tools to put the windows up and down, and the engine is a second hand peugeot – literally, bits and pieces taken here and there, until eventually the car becomes decent. No matter what, any car will have a very good and possibly brand new stereo – Cubans can hardly live without their music and there is nothing better than driving around listening to music. Do not worry if your car doesn’t have safety belts! Law in Cuba apparently says that belts are compulsory only for 1990s cars or newer. Ah well! Then you are safe, right?
Believe it or not, according to our driver the car pictured above costed him 9500 CUC. Just as it was. I have no idea how much he will pay to replace the various bits and pieces, but surely he looked and sounded very proud of it.
Interested in experiencing other means of transportation? Try the sidecar, if you manage:
Or go for a bicitaxi – tourists are not supposed to use it, they are only meant for Cubans, but nobody really checks. And with a bit of luck, your suitcases will fit too.
Need a quick ride in town? Get a horse carriage, if you can stand horses having to deal with traffic and what not:
Want to try something new? Go for a cocotaxi – slow but nobody’s ever in a rush in Cuba:
Want to risk your life? Camionetas might do for you. I have no idea how many people actually manage to get on board, but it looks like MANY. Apparently you can only go without really carrying much lugguage. I wonder how much smoke one breathes there? Also… well there are frequent accidents, some causing the death of passengers:
Travelling long distance? Get a Viazul bus. If you can stand the bus stopping continuously to let passengers (or better, drivers friends) on and off – literally at their door; or to allow the drivers to say hi to friends they spot on the street; or so that drivers can pick up some groceries and drop them off at home; or you are not afraid of cockroaches, don’t mind feeling freezing cold because of the air conditioning although the temperture outside is mild and pleasant, and most of all don’t mind if the bus has to stop so that the driver can change a flat tire that was so smooth, no wonder it exploded, then this is a must!
This happened to us on the bus from Santiago to Baracoa, a 5 hours bus ride through Guantanamo, via La Farola, up and down, curvy road, yet spectacular view. I am very glad the tire exploded before getting on that road!!
Want to go for “luxury”? Get a Transtur bus. Hardly any stop – only for toilet use, for a smoke for the driver, food etc, or so that the drivers have a chat with other Transtur drivers they see driving by.
We took a Transtur from Cienfuegos direct to Vinales. At some point the bus stopped in the middle of the highway, we saw another Transtur stopping on the side, going the opposite direction, and the drivers all got off, crossed the street to meet in front of our bus (still in the centre of the highway) to have a smoke and a chat… and pick their noses. Oh well!
Whatever means of transportation, you surely will have an experience!!!
Care to know more about my Cuban adventures? Read here.