Sure Havana is widely known for its legion of old classic cars from the 50´s, but are other means of transportation that are very popular as these cars, at least among the locals. Here we will explain some of them:
Car taxis are metered and cost $1 CUC to start and $1 CUC per kilometer in cities. Taxi drivers are in the habit of offering foreigners a flat, off-meter rate that usually works out very close to what you’ll pay with the meter. The difference is that with the meter, the money goes to the state to be divided up; without the meter it goes into the driver’s pocket.
These are a sort of collective taxis running on fixed, long-distance routes, leaving when full. They are generally pre-1959 American cars that belch diesel fumes and can squash in at least three people across the front seat. State-owned taxis that charge in convertibles hang about bus stations and are faster and usually cheaper than the bus.
A cheap touristical way to go from one point to the other in Havana. Yellow ones are for tourists, black (with yellow) are for locals.
If you are visiting the city and want to get a first-hand view of “the Cuban way of life” then you definitely have to get a bicitaxi ride. They are a very special adaptation of large tricycles designed for the narrow streets of the city with just a couple of sits on the back and, usually, a very talkative driver “chofer” in the front. In Havana they’ll insist on a $1 CUC minimum fare but some bici-taxistas ask ridiculous amounts over $10 CUC.
No official bicycle rentals exist, though locals can sometimes be convinced to rent bikes. Potholed streets, aggressive stray dogs, and poor lighting are problematic for tourist cyclists.
Many provincial cities have “coches de caballo” (horse carriages) that trot on fixed routes, often between train/bus stations and city centers. It cost around $1 CUC for person.
Very crowded, very steamy, very challenging, very Cuban – “guaguas”(local buses) are useful in bigger cities. Buses work fixed routes, stopping at “paradas” (bus stops) that always have a line, even if it doesn’t look like it. You have to shout out “¿el último?” to find out who was the last in line when you
showed up as Cuban queues aren’t lines in the normal sense of the word. Instead, people just hang around in a disorganized fashion in the vicinity of the bus stop. Buses cost a flat 0.40 cents in national coin or five cents if you’re using CUC. Havana and Santiago de Cuba have recently been kitted out with brand new fleets of Chinese-made metro buses. You must always walk as far back in the bus as you can and exit through the rear door. Make room to pass by saying “permiso” (excuse me), always wear your pack in front and watch your wallet.
“Camión” traveling is hot, crowded and uncomfortable, but is a great way to meet local people, fast; a little Spanish will go a long way. Camiones (trucks) are a cheap, fast way to travel within or between provinces. Every city has a provincial and municipal bus stop with trucks departures. They run on a (loose) schedule and you’ll need to take your place in line by asking for the last one “el último” to your destination; you pay as you board. A truck to travel within Havana costs five cuban “pesos” or 0.25 cents in CUC, while the same trip on a Transtur bus costs $6 CUC.
Not precisely on wheels but you can cross the Havana Bay in the passenger ferry from Old Havana to Regla and Casablanca. These ferries are generally safe. In both 1994 and 2003, the Regla/Casablanca ferry was hijacked by Cubans trying to make their way to Florida. The 2003 incident involved tourists, so you can expect tight security. The price for this travel is 0.40 cents in national coin.
Now, ¿Are you ready to visit Cuba?