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Car rental in Cuba: for whom?
If most tourists choose to travel to Cuba by bus or collectivos, car rental is an interesting option for visiting the country. Beyond the question of budget (which we will discuss later in the article), opting for a car rental in Cuba depends mainly on your state of mind, the length of your stay and your itinerary.
We advise you to rent a car in Cuba if:
- You like to have a great deal of freedom in your travels (you are the kind of person who likes to find a place that you like and to feel free to stay there as long as you want)
- You want to get off the beaten track and visit places that are not part of the classic tourist circuit
On the other hand, we do not recommend renting a car in Cuba if :
- You are only staying on the island for a “short time” (the minimum rental period is 3 days)
- You have a tight budget, even very tight
- You are not very comfortable with maps
- And of course if you are not sure of yourself behind the wheel!
Driving in Cuba: what you need to know
Even if the roads are not always in excellent condition (beware of potholes!), driving in Cuba is relatively safe. To rent a car and drive in Cuba, you will only need your national driving license and a passport. Only drivers over 21 years of age and with a license for more than two years can rent a car in Cuba.
Here are some recommendations to ensure that everything goes smoothly
Avoid driving at night
The lighting leaves something to be desired when it is not completely absent.
Beware that the sun shuts down quickly at this latitude. You should also beware of drunk drivers, even if things tend to improve thanks to awareness campaigns.
Bring a road map
Think about bringing a road map or downloading an application (with offline maps) for mapping and directions. In the city, it is best to ask the locals for help in finding your way around…
and even if you ask for directions, it is not always easy to get to your destination.
In Trinidad, for example, many streets have been renamed recently, and some Cubans use the new names, while others still use the old ones!
Wondering where to find a good road map of Cuba?
We highly recommend the one on sale on the CubaVisa website, which is, as its name suggests, a specialist in the destination.
The site also offers packages that include visas for Cuba and a road map, which are very practical if you cannot go to the Cuban embassy in Paris yourself.
Beware of crossings with railroads and potholes
Even if the railroad is covered with weeds and seems abandoned, it may still be in operation. And we’ve never seen gates protecting railroad crossings. So stay focused and slow down!
Beware of speed cameras and police presence
Unless otherwise stated, here are the speed limits in Cuba: 50km/h in the city, 90km/h on paved roads and 100km/h on the highway.
If possible, park in the parking lots of the hotels or casas particulares where you are staying.
If not, don’t hesitate to have your car watched by locals, as this can avoid unpleasant surprises!
Be aware that you can park almost anywhere in Cuba except for some streets where this is notified.
Beware of hitchhiking passengers:
If you decide to take Cubans hitchhiking (you will see many locals on the roadsides or under the bridges of the highways waiting) be careful.Some tourists mention cases of theft or damage.
How to rent a car in Cuba?
You prefer to wait until you are on the spot to decide whether or not to rent a car?
Given the shortage of cars in Cuba (only 40 out of 1000 Cuban households own a car), we advise you to plan ahead.
You can book by phone, go to an agency or simply make your reservation directly on the Internet. But beware, there is a lot to eat and drink!
Some websites and agencies are really to be avoided if you want to find a car when you arrive in Cuba. Which agency should you choose?
You should know that in any case, you always go through the Cuban state to rent your car through two organizations:
- REX (beware, avoid rexcuba. com, which is absolutely not related to REX)
- Havanautos/CubacarYou can go directly to their websites, but we strongly recommend that you go through the French agency Novela Cuba, which specializes in this destination.
You can easily book online on a more accessible and ergonomic site.
In Cuba nothing is ever quite easy, this is especially true for car rental.
Cubans will always find a solution but sometimes you will have to be patient…
and in this case, the help of an agency like Novela Cuba is welcome (especially if you are not very comfortable with Spanish).
The agency has offices in Havana and works directly with Gaviota, the main tourism agency of the Cuban state, which allows them to make things happen.
They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, either from their office in Paris or from the agency in Havana.
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What budget should you expect?
The prices depend on the season, the number of days of rental (decreasing rate) and of course the category of the vehicle.
To give you an idea, you will pay for 2 weeks of rental (gasoline and insurance included) between 60 CUC/day for an economic model in low season and 150 CUC/day for a standard model in high season.these budgets include the “dry” rental of the car, the compulsory insurance (between 10 and 30 CUC per day depending on the period and the model) which covers everything except the theft of the car radio and the gasoline.
The latter costs about 1.3 CUC per liter for the special fuel that you can find in all the service stations.
In addition, you should know that you will have to pay a deposit (between 150 and 250 CUC depending on the category of the vehicle).
Our last recommendations
- Bring the car back with an empty tank of gas (unless otherwise stated by your renter): you will indeed pay for the first tank of gas.
- If you are traveling with a baby or small child, remember to bring the appropriate seats from France
- At the pick-up, remember to take your time and inspect everything carefully. Make a note of everything on your contract and take pictures if necessary
- Arrive on time on the day of the pick-up! A few minutes late and some people have had the bad surprise of seeing their vehicle rented to other tourists.