What you should know about driving in Cuba
July 5, 2019
If you want to have a road trip free of surprises make sure you have clear what you should know about driving in Cuba. Bed and breakfast Cuba is here one more time to help you with this matter. Renting a car is one of the best ways to move around at the island, but do you know what to expect?
Why you should rent a car in Cuba
Finding the right transportation is one of the challenges when someone is planning a trip to Cuba. If you think about comfort, it is most likely that you will need to travel by plane. What happens in this case is that not all tourist destinations have an airport.
Another option is to travel by bus. The main bus company is Viazul and they have a website where is possible to buy the tickets online. But if you cannot book a ticket this way, don’t worry, you can do it once you arrive in the island. There is an office in every popular destination.
Traveling on bus around Cuba is a cheap option and the units have some comfort. But the seats are not assigned, something you would desire if you are traveling with a group. Also make several stops along the way, which lengthens the journey to the destination. And, of course, you don’t have any control of this.
At the bus stations there is another way to go around the island: taxis collective. The drivers will offer a better price than the bus, but it’s only cheaper if you can split with other passengers. Also you can book book a private taxi, which have several advantages over group transfer.
So, we are back to driving a car in Cuba. Renting a vehicle gives the freedom to travel without worry about schedules, don’t need to find a bus station to book a seat for your next destination. And of you are the kind of traveler who likes to take control, this would be the best option.
But you need to be aware that renting a car in Cuba needs to be done well in advance. Don’t wait to get to the island to do it, because most likely you will not find cars available at any agency. Nor is it the cheapest option because there is little supply to satisfy the demand of the market.
What you should know about driving in Cuba
The process of renting a car in Cuba is not much different than in any other destination. But there are some peculiarities that are necessary to know to do it without any problem.
There are several car rental agencies in Cuba such as Rex, Havanautos, Via and Cubacar. Also, there are websites like Car Rental Cuba where you can find all the options in one place.
The costs vary according to the type of car and the travel season. It is possible to find small vehicles that cost around 50 CUC per day and others considered luxury for more than 100 CUC. The total amount has to be paid at the moment you book the car. Also, the agency will ask for a deposit of about 200 CUC-250 CUC and the mandatory insurance. That could be around 25 CUC per day.
Both the insurance and the deposit would be paid in Cuba. The agency will return the deposit money at the end of the contract.
Note: Don’t expect to find a brand new car, but you will not rent a car in the 50’s either. The quality of the vehicles is acceptable.
All you need to rent a car in Cuba is your passport and driver license with more than one year of validity (it doesn’t have to be an international license). Drivers should be at least 21 years old.
Rent the car in advance, the process can be very slow and you want the agency to confirm before arriving in Cuba. The high season is when there are more problems with the availability of cars. So start doing it with enough time before the trip.
What would happened if wait until the last minute to rent a car in Cuba? Check out this video from Autoblog:
Some facts to know when picking up the car
Before you take the car out of the agency you should check out the next points:
- Observe the car’s conditions before moving it. If you think it is necessary to take pictures, do so.
- The agency will deduct from the price a gas tank.
- Make sure the car has the spare tire in good condition and that all the tools you need to change it are in the vehicle.
- Ask the agency a phone number in case of any emergency. They should provide road assistance.
- To avoid a fine, keep the rental contract safe.
Also is good to know that you can arranged one way trip, but it can cost around 100-150 CUC if the agency doesn’t have an office at the destination. Another fact is that you can rent a car with a Cuban driver, for an extra charge.
How is it to drive in Cuba
This can be the fun part (or not). If you like adventures, take the chance to drive around this Caribbean island. There is not much traffic on the roads that connect one town with another. Within cities, such as Havana, there are more jams, but it is easy to handle them.
In general the roads are in good conditions, but (here comes another but!), the paved roads can end without any notice and drivers need to be careful with potholes (sometimes they are massive).
Before hitting of the road make sure to take a detailed map with you. The internet access is very poor and the GPS will not work, so you have your ability to read maps and ask for directions in Spanish. The upside is that Cubans are willing to help. From time to time you can ask someone if you are on the right way to your destination.
Roads are also full of surprising things like sellers or animals crossing the roads. So, take precautions when driving. Somethings that are scarce are the traffic signs. There are very few, so you will have to lean on your map and the inhabitants of each town to guide you.
Do not be surprised if you find hitchhikers on the way. It is a very common practice. It will depend on you whether or not you carry them in your car. Most people do it, but be careful cause everyone can recognize a tourist car. On the other hand, having a Cuban with you, will make the trip easier.
It’s recommended driving just during the day because at night the lighting is bad. It would be an unnecessary risk to take. Always stay on the main streets, the back roads could have even more surprises for any driver. And you will lost time and gas.
About the gas and parking
There are three types of gas in Cuba 94, 90 and 87 octanes. The tourist cars use the first one, and it’s the most expensive. Even when all cars can work with the 90 octanes, the best is to use always the 94 and keep the receive from the station. The reason is simple, if there is a problem with the car, the agency can claim that you used a type of gasoline that did not match.
Beyond the price of gasoline, you will find another inconvenience. 94 octane gasoline is not available in all cities. For this reason you will want to always have the tank full, especially when traveling to smaller villages.
Some maps include the available gas stations around Cuba. Try to find one of these because they will be very hepfull.
Now the parking… As a driver, you would be responsible for anything that happens to the car. So you need to be take precautions every moment, even when you choose where to park.
Most parking are free and some attractions charge about 1 or 2 CUC for parking. Choose a place that is intended for that purpose. Otherwise your car becomes an easy target. There are lots with attendant supervision that will look after your car for that same amount.
At the accommodation, the owners of casas particulars will also provide supervision. Ask about it when booking your room, or contact us to find more about services at the accommodation.
Some facts about driving in Cuba
- The maximum speed limit is 100km/h.
- Driving is on the right-hand side.
- Rented cars have a tourist plate and everybody will recognize it.
- The traffic police are strict, so avoid committing infractions.
- You must pay any fine you have before leaving the country. The fines will be deducted from the deposit
- In Cuba they use the international system of signaling
- The lighting in the evenings on the roads is very poor, best avoid driving after sunset.
Remember: Do your homework and learn some Spanish words to ask for help and directions in Cuba.
Would you like to see by yourself how is it to drive in Cuba. Well, while you wait for your next vacation, take a look at this video of a trip road from Trinidad to Sancti Spiritus.
We hope this post has been helpful to clarify what you should know about driving in Cuba. We’ll be waiting for your comments!