Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Traveling to Cuba, I knew that we would encounter many historic American cars, and some Russian cars, and some horses, however, I had no idea that the ratio of horses would outnumber cars the further we traveled from Havana.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Visual Assault

While I knew that horses and carriages are still in use around Cuba and that much of the transportation was older; there were still some surprises in store for us! The sheer number of vintage cars seen in every direction was a constant visual delight.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

A wedding party departing from the Packard Hotel – lots of tooting!

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Lines of vintage vehicles parading by our Airbnb was not unusual. The taxis across from our entrance gathered every morning to carry guests wherever.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Pink vehicles everywhere; usually they are bubble-gum pink. This raspberry color was quite the contrast to the palms and harbor just beyond. Some of the vehicles were not originally convertible, but had been cut down and modified!

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Not Just For Looks

The first overwhelming visual concerning vehicles was upon arrival of the airport, discovering that the re-furbished American vehicles are not just in Havana for hour-long tours.

I think I somehow had gotten a funny idea that these well-maintained, highly glossy American convertibles are reserved for those brief tourist jaunts, not for daily transportation use in Cuba.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

A Car Is A Business

What we discovered was that the refurbished vehicles are everywhere, and are considered a business unto themselves. They are coveted and well cared-for, and pink seems to be a favored color!

We also learned they are dreadfully expensive, costing anywhere from $60,000-$80,000 in CUC, which trades about 1:1 to the American dollar.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Shade Tree Mechanics & Magicians

When we went on one of the hour-long historic car tours, our guide told us that the mechanics are absolutely magicians, devising all sorts of ingenious ways to keep these vehicles running.

Once you see the cars, you know it’s true.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Notice the proportion of pink cars to other colors.

As we traveled this stretch of road, our driver told us that the owners of the older vehicles will shift to ‘neutral’ on downhills like this to save the transmission or brakes or both. Later, we discovered he was absolutely right, they do shift to neutral!

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Somewhere I read something about the drivers staying up all night baking something in their backyards to serve as the next day’s brake pads!

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Best of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The feeling I got when looking across Havana and seeing all of these old cars operating was “what a fantastic thing.” How wonderful to keep something running instead of throwing it into a landfill. I wonder how many cars are on our United States highways, and how many are thrown out every year or five years.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Here was an entire nation practicing the best sort of recycling of all: not throwing things away, “use it up, make it do, wear it out, or do without.”

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Some New Vehicles

We also saw new cars, and they must have been terribly dear. At one point, our taxi was an Audi A4 from 2014. I believe our driver told us it cost about $170,000.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Mind Blowing Time Warp

When we arrived a a scuba tank fill location, we saw this trunk full of dive tanks! In a car with big fins! How appropriate!

It felt like stepping back in time.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

For one of our dive trips, we rode in this beauty. Another $75,000 vehicle, as it was a complete business: taxi, product transport, local transport, and roomy delivery vehicle.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

We noticed plenty of additions and modifications on the older vehicles. This was the vehicle that the owner asked us to close the doors very, very gently. I said, “Like my grandmother’s prized china cabinet door?” The owner smiled broadly – “Yes, yes, exactly!”

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

More Horses Than Cars

What we weren’t prepared for was that the further away from Havana you traveled, the higher ratio of horse and buggy, and the lower ratio of automobiles! At some point we crossed over the tipping point, and there were more horses than cars.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

The horses pull small lightweight unadorned carts, carrying locals down the highway, to the beach, and doing everything a taxi would do in another country. They provide inexpensive public transportation to the locals.

In the cities, there are plenty of fancier carriages for tourist jaunts. You can take a trip of a couple miles from one end of town to the other for one dollar per person. Quite a good deal! None of the hassle of requesting and waiting for an Uber; you simply hand them two dollars and off you go.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Real Cowboys – Vacqueros

In the countryside, we saw plenty of actual cowboys, vacqueros, who quite proudly ride their horses right down the middle of the road or highway. They always dressed in slim-fitting jeans, generally a light – colored long sleeve shirt, boots, and one of several types of cowboy hat. Some looked like what we would think of as a cowboy hat, and some appeared to be more of a local style providing even more shade.

The cowboys were not the only ones wearing the very large shade hats. I saw several people riding motorbikes who place their helmets on top of such a straw hat and ran the straps through the hat near the crown and under their chin. Shade is very important in Cuba!

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Wide Variety

We saw a few modern cars: BMW, pews show, Peugeot, and even some Toyota Hi-Lux trucks.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Our Van For Several Days

We learned that, just like in the United States 100 years ago, anytime you travel, you should be prepared for anything. I remember in one of her books, Majorie Kinan Rawlings wrote about the car ride from Gainesville to St. Augustine. It was expected to experience at least one flat tire on the route for that day’s journey.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Roadside Assistance – You’re It!

Our van lost a bolt on the brake caliper. Luckily, the wheel bolts were the same size and pitch, so we limped to Playa Larga on that.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

High Prices

There are old and Russian cars, like the Lada one of our Airbnb hosts had just purchased for $25,000.

Something about the size of a gremlin or Datsun 210 from the early 70s sells for about $25,000 as well.

If you are interested in the prices of used automobiles, the Cubans use a website called Ravella Co, which seems to be a combination of craigslist, eBay, and other online selling sites.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse
Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Buses

There were plenty of new buses purchased to transport the cruise ship tourists on various outings. Rows and rows of those are parked and not in use due to the suspension of cruise ship arrivals a few days before our trip.

We saw yellow taxis with black checkers on them, and the locals seem to use the older vehicles that are not refurbished as communal taxis. Lots of people would pile in and share the ride.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Sharing Rides

We quickly learned the hand signal for “I’m full” is to hold your hand palm up, as if weighing a handful of grapes. Then, move your hand up and down like it is heavy. This is the signal that you have no room to spare.

Everywhere you see people walking, or holding up pesos as a signal that they desire to share a ride.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Plenty of Motorbikes, Sidecars

We noticed a lot of public transportation, and at one location we even saw two metal ramps to which buses parallel park. The metal ramps are for loading your own motor bikes and scooters!

Scooter riders drive up the ramp and into the open bus, and everyone just sits on their scooter as they are transported out of town. Once at their destination, they unload and zip on their way.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse
Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse
Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse
Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse
Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Unique Wheels

In every direction you looked in Cuba, you could discover something interesting used for transportation.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

The bicycle certainly is well-equipped for economical rides.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse
Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse
Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

Bicycles with extra seats served as taxis as well as sightseeing vehicles. The yellow bubble is a small three-wheeled scooter with a bit of exterior.

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

What To Read Next

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

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Thank you Bill for always being ready for the next adventure and holding out your hand to lead me through the next door! Best Travel Partner EVER!

Cuba Transportation Vintage Vehicles, Getting Around in Cuba // Most Transportation Is by Vintage Vehicle, Cycle, or Horse

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