Many tourists who visit Cuba prefer to make a personalized schedule for their trip, which is why getting around by bus, train, or plane may be inconvenient for them. In this case hiring a taxi may help to make things more flexible, but still many people prefer to travel completely independently. If you are one of these people, renting a car may be the perfect option for you. Luckily, in Cuba there are a lot of ways to hire a vehicle for a tourist. We are going to provide with a complete guide, which will help you to decide whether to rent a car, and teach you how to do it.
Table of contents
- Pro’s and Con’s of Renting a Car in Cuba
- Ways to rent a car in Cuba
Pro’s and Con’s of Renting a Car in Cuba
Among all the available ways of getting around in Cuba, it is sometimes difficult to decide which is the best for you. Here we will provide you with reason for and against renting a car in Cuba, which will hopefully help you to find the best option for you.
Renting cars is expensive
Many foreigners state that Cuba is one of the countries with the most expensive cars for rent; therefore, the cost is usually the main reason why tourists consider finding other means of transport to get around the island. In the official car renting companies, the lowest possible price of a business class car during the low season is 45 CUC a day, although usually it is very hard to find a car for less than 60 CUC per day. Also, you will have to pay about 15 CUC a day for insurance, and leave a deposit of nearly 200 CUC (may vary between 150 and 250 CUC), which will be give back to you when you return the car. Luxury class cars may cost you up to 200 or even 300 CUC a day.
Renting cars is difficult
It is always advisable to book your cars online in advance, especially during the peak tourist season (November through February), because due to a scarce number of cars in the official renting companies it is highly possible that upon your arrival in Cuba there will be no cars left for you to rent. Also, it is possible that you won’t be able to choose the model you want among the lacking choice of cars provided by these companies, so you should book your car as soon as it is possible. Besides, the government-owned agencies do not do a good enough job regarding the maintenance of the vehicles, and it is a helpful piece of advice to check the car before paying the rent, and take pictures of all the imperfections you find. Thus, you will not be blamed for them when you return the car, and they will return you our deposit without any problems.
The cars are not provided with GPS
When driving around a foreign country it is vital to have some reference that would help you to find the right way to your destination. However, cars in Cuba do not feature such a helpful tool as GPS, which is very inconvenient for tourists. If you rent a car, and have to drive without the company of a local, you should download some offline maps in advance, so that you don’t get lost while driving around the city.
If you want inside tips on how to navigate Cuba independently use ViaHero to plan your trip. ViaHero is a trip planning platform that will connect you to a local in Cuba to plan your trip to Cuba. With ViaHero you get a completely customized travel itinerary with offline maps and recommendations from locals in Cuba.
Some roads are in a bad state
While in Havana and other major cities the main roads are regularly repaired and usually are easy to drive on, the further you get from the city, the worse the condition of road becomes. There are barely any signs, which does not help foreigners to get around. Also, in rural areas you will have to watch out for cattle that may freely walk on the roads. All of this makes driving between cities in Cuba a difficult task.
You cannot leave Cuba if you have an accident
Accidents may happen to anyone, and being part of one does not necessarily make you guilty. However, if a tourist has an accident while driving in Cuba, they cannot leave the country until the court is over, even if the accident is not their fault at all. Waiting for the court to take place usually takes from 6 months to a year, so if you don’t plan to be stuck in Cuba for such a long time, take extra care while driving.
You have more freedom
The biggest advantage of hiring a car in Cuba is that you will have the possibility to be totally independent on your trip. For many people this reason may be the only necessary reason to decide to rent a car. You may choose any route you want, drive at any time you find comfortable, and visit all the places that you find attractive, changing your plans on the spot. It is obviously a very important reason to consider renting a vehicle.
You only need your drivers license from your country.
In Cuba, you don’t have to worry about your license not being valid. For six months since your arrival to Cuba you can legally use the drivers license that you were given in your home country, without having to do any revalidation. However, some prefer to get the International Driving Permit in advance just to make sure. In any case, it is also a big advantage that in Cuba you don’t have to worry about being able to drive with your documents. Also, within the major Cuban cities the roads are usually good, and there is very little traffic, so that even if an unexperienced driver it would be very easy to get around.
You may hire a driver with your car.
If you prefer company, or just want to have someone who may take the wheel for you in case you are unable to drive, just for 3 additional CUC a day you may choose the option of inscribing a driver in your car renting contract. If you hire a local driver who will travel with you across the country, it may bring a whole lot of positive things. Your driver may not only help you to get around in an unknown city, but also recommend you cheap places to eat and stay for a night, which might be unknown for you as a tourist, help you if you get a flat tire, and just give you company.
You can pick up hitch-hikers.
It is very common for people in Cuba to ask for botella, the Cuban word for hitch-hiking, especially when traveling between cities. In Cuba, it is safe to pick up these people, and convenient for both parties. Not only you will help them to get to their destination, but they may guide you on how to find your way, and tell you some interesting facts about their cities and the country in general. Besides, you may meet really nice people this way. Cubans are always eager to help, so you may unexpectedly find help not only from hitch-hikers, but from the people in the city. For example, many will offer you to watch your car over the whole night for 1 or 2 CUC.
You may share the rent among two or more people.
If you are worried about the price of the rent, there is an easy solution that will allow you to pay half the price or even less for your car. You only have to find some people who would agree to share your Cuban adventure with you. If you arrange your trip so that you can travel together, you may split the price of the rent. Besides, traveling with more people will only make things funnier and make your vacation more memorable.
Ways to rent a car in Cuba
Cuban rental companies.
The three major agencies in Cuba are CubaCar, Havanautos, and REX. REX is considered the best out of them, which is why the prices there are also a little higher. Other companies have cheaper cars, but worse service, and these include not only CubaCar and Havanautos, but smaller agencies such as ViaCar as well.
Hotels and airports.
The same companies offer their services out of the offices, especially in hotels and airports, which is where most tourists look for cars to rent. Here the prices are a bit higher, but the advantage is that you will not have to go to the official car renting office, but instead provided with the service on the spot.
Online booking sites.
If you want to book your car in advance, you can do it from your country online. Both Cuban and foreign agencies offer this service on their sites. Booking in advance may also help you to save some money, although private agencies usually offer a higher price that official state-run Cuban companies.
There also are some Cubans who have one or two cars that they rent privately. These may be found through Revolico and similar online advertisement sites, as well as by recommendation of your Cuban acquaintances. However, as usually these people rent their car illegally, and most may not trust a foreigner to drive and will thus refuse to rent you their car.