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!

Havana, Cuba

Old Ladas

Havana, Cuba

Traffic light in Havana

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?

Cars in Cuba

Fixed cars

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:

Havana, Cuba

Sidecars are still very common in Cuba

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.

Baracoa, Cuba

Will it manage to fit our bags?

Need a quick ride in town? Get a horse carriage, if you can stand horses having to deal with traffic and what not:

Camaguey, Cuba

Horse carriages in Camaguey

Want to try something new? Go for a cocotaxi – slow but nobody’s ever in a rush in Cuba:


Cocotaxi in Santiago

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:


Camionetas – a cheap way to travel around


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!

Baracoa, Cuba

A tire exploded on the way from Santiago to Baracoa

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.


Pit stop in the middle of the highway

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.


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  • Lauren
    29 September 2014 at 7:45

    Very interesting multiple modes of transit there! I guess whatever takes you from point A to point B, but looks like you can do it in various forms of style 🙂

  • Sandra @ Tripper
    29 September 2014 at 11:33

    Love the colors on this post. Blog looks great by the way and it’s so nice to “own” your name isn’t it? Congrats!

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      30 September 2014 at 13:18

      Still working on it – moving pictures into the gallery etc. But it’s slowly taking shape 🙂

  • Sammi Wanderlustin'
    29 September 2014 at 19:27

    How cooool!! Those old cars at the traffic lights, ugh! I don’t wish for their situation, but I wish I knew how to fix cars and look after them that way!

  • Elena
    29 September 2014 at 23:17

    I love the cars in Cuba, so old school and so cool! Not that cool if you rent one…our one was falling apart in 2008…

  • Casey O'Connell
    30 September 2014 at 0:30

    I would love to see all these old school cars driving around in the streets of the Havana! What an awesome sight! I’d want to get around in a cocotaxi though… they’re so cute! haha

  • Lesh @ NOMADasaurus
    30 September 2014 at 13:31

    Great post on the transport. We loved the collectivos. We took them all the time and paid local prices. We were lucky our host took us under his wing. Did you see the Yellow Ladies out in the countryside? They have compulsory hitch hiking. They would hale down a car with a government number plate and ask where they are going and put people in the car. We thought it was a great idea but never tried it. Next time. Love how they randomly stop on the luxury buses for little breaks. Ours was for a coffee and cigar stop for the driver. We love Cuba and all the awesome music. 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      1 October 2014 at 10:09

      I think foreigners can’t hitchhike in Cuba actually – or at least, for what I know, Cubans are not allowed to take foreigners in their car unless they are taxis. umh…

  • Heather Cole
    30 September 2014 at 22:00

    The cocotaxi looks fun! You could spend an entire trip there using a different mode of transport each day, so much variety! We hired a vintage car in Laos this summer for an airport transfer, rather rickety but we looked the part!

  • Brianna
    1 October 2014 at 3:24

    I would totally go for the coctaxi- they looks so cute 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      1 October 2014 at 10:08

      It looks like everybody would 🙂

  • Els
    1 October 2014 at 15:22

    Nice summary! You’re right some of these old cars look in a terrible state, but I guess they don’t have much more choice than fixing them over and over again…

  • Karen Warren
    2 October 2014 at 10:12

    I’d often seen those pictures of vintage cars in Cuba, but hadn’t realised it was because new cars were so expensive. Makes sense though.

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      2 October 2014 at 10:15

      Many reasons – remember the embargo? Plus they are expensive to the average Cuban (which is the vast majority of people); they are hard to find; and I think part of it also became cultural.

  • Allison @ A Foodie in Europe
    2 October 2014 at 11:58

    cool post! My parents went to Cuba not that long ago and they were amazed at the cars there.

  • Cory Lee
    3 October 2014 at 14:07

    The vintage cars look like the ultimate way to travel around Cuba. So cool!!

  • Veronika
    3 October 2014 at 15:57

    Wow, I didn’t imagine there were such various means of transport! Cocotaxi seems to be my favourite (right after the good old Havana cars). Great post..!

  • Stacey Veikalas
    4 October 2014 at 10:13

    Cool Post I have always wanted to go to Cuba – love the cars, and taxis’ not sure I would want to ride those busses – hee hee but very fun post love the colors of the cars and the fact that older than 1990 no seatbelt no problem well then all is ok!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Christine
    6 October 2014 at 9:05

    Haha, great post! I love reminiscing about Cuba. We took the camionetas and loved them! They were supppper cheap and we met lots of interesting locals! Especially since we were squeezed in super tight with all of them! We took Viazul once which was definitely roomier and the air-con was nice, but didn’t have the same feel of adventure!

  • Bianca (@ItsAllBee)
    24 October 2014 at 9:34

    I have been dreaming about Cuba for far too long now…it hurts to see pictures of those little vintage cars and yet I want to read more and more about other people’s experience. BTW great coverage of transport options there.

  • Antonia
    2 February 2016 at 20:49

    Hey Claudia,

    brilliant blog! Thanks for all the useful information 🙂 My boyfriend and I just booked our trip to Cuba and were planning on renting a car to get around – what are your thoughts on that?

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      2 February 2016 at 21:00

      It really depends on the itinerary you are planning. If it is very complicated you may consider that, but I would hire it from home, online as once there… it is almost impossible to get a car. At least, it was for me! Every agency told me they didn’t have any of the ones I could afford. Let me know if you need more info. I also have a guide on Cuba, though you may have read that already!! 🙂


Who is Claudia?

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Hello, nice to meet you!

Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started travelling... except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. Learn more about me here...


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