Are you considering renting a car in Cuba but have questions about the feasibility, costs, and the driving experience? Look no further! Captain Ulysses has got you covered with all the answers.
💡 Planning Your Trip to Cuba 💡
🇨🇺 Visa: Before you depart, be sure to apply for your tourist card (which is your visa for Cuba). You can easily order your tourist card online through CubaVisa.
🛏️ Accommodations: To book your accommodations in Cuba, the Captain recommends Expedia.
📸 Activities: To book your activities, the Captain highly recommends Civitatis.
Car rental in Cuba: Who is it suitable for and why?
While many tourists in Cuba rely on buses or collective taxis (collectivos) for transportation, renting a car is a great option for exploring the country. Besides budget considerations (which we’ll discuss later in this article), opting for a car rental in Cuba depends on your travel preferences, the length of your stay, and your planned itinerary.
Captain Ulysses recommends renting a car in Cuba if:
- You value the freedom of movement and enjoy the flexibility to spend as much time as you want at any given place.
- You’re eager to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations beyond the usual tourist circuits.
On the other hand, Captain Ulysses advises against renting a car in Cuba if:
- You have a short stay on the island (as the minimum rental period is 3 days).
- You’re on a tight budget or have limited financial resources.
- You’re not comfortable navigating with maps.
- And of course, if you lack confidence in your driving abilities!
Driving in Cuba: What You Should Know
While the roads in Cuba may not always be in optimal condition (beware of potholes!), driving in the country is generally safe.
To rent a car and drive in Cuba, you only need your valid national driving license and passport. However, car rentals are limited to drivers aged 21 and above who have held a license for at least 2 years.
Here are some recommendations to ensure a smooth driving experience:
Avoid driving at night
Visibility is poor, with inadequate lighting on the roads. Keep in mind that the sun sets quickly in this region. Additionally, be cautious of intoxicated drivers, although awareness campaigns have improved the situation.
Carry a road map
It’s advisable to have a physical road map or use an offline mapping and routing application. Signage can be lacking in many areas. In cities, asking locals for directions is often helpful, but be aware that reaching your destination can still be challenging. For instance, in Trinidad, street names have recently changed, and some Cubans still use the old names while others use the new ones!
Watch out for railroad crossings and potholes
Even if the railway tracks appear overgrown and unused, they might still be in operation. Barrier protection at level crossings is uncommon. Stay focused and reduce your speed when approaching such areas.
Be mindful of speed cameras and police presence
Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limits in Cuba are: 50 km/h (30 mph) in urban areas, 90 km/h (55mph) on paved roads, and 100 km/h (60 mph) on highways.
Whenever possible, park in designated lots at hotels or casas particulares where you are staying. If not available, consider having locals watch over your car to prevent any unpleasant surprises. However, note that parking is generally possible in most places in Cuba, except for specific streets where it is explicitly prohibited.
Exercise caution with hitchhikers
If you choose to pick up hitchhikers (you’ll encounter many locals on the sides of the roads or under highway bridges waiting for a ride), exercise caution. Some tourists have reported instances of theft or damage.
How to Rent a Car in Cuba?
Thinking of waiting until you arrive in Cuba to decide on car rental? It’s not a great idea! Due to the limited number of cars in Cuba (only 40 households out of 1000 own a car), the Captain strongly recommends planning well in advance. You can make a reservation by phone, visit an agency, or book directly online. However, it’s crucial to be cautious as not all options are reliable for finding a car upon your arrival in Cuba.
Which agency should you choose for car rental in Cuba?
Keep in mind that, ultimately, you’ll need to go through the Cuban government to rent a car, which is facilitated by two organizations:
You can visit their websites directly.
Car rental in Cuba: What budget should you plan for?
Prices vary depending on the season, rental duration (with decreasing rates), and the vehicle category.
As an estimate, for a two-week rental (including gas and insurance), expect to pay around 60 CUC per day for an economy model during the low season, and 150 CUC per day for a standard model during the high season.
These budgets include the base rental fee, mandatory insurance (between 10 and 30 CUC per day, depending on the period and model), which covers everything except for theft of the car radio, and fuel. The cost of fuel is approximately 1.3 CUC per liter for “especial” fuel, available at all gas stations.
Additionally, keep in mind that you’ll be required to provide a security deposit (between 150 and 250 CUC, depending on the vehicle category).
Captain Ulysses’ Final Recommendations
When returning the car, it’s advisable to have an empty fuel tank unless your rental company specifies otherwise. Keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for the first full tank of gas.
If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, make sure to bring appropriate car seats.
During the car pick-up process, take your time and carefully inspect everything. Ensure that any issues are noted on your contract, and consider taking photos if necessary.
Be punctual for the pick-up day. Being a few minutes late can lead to unpleasant surprises, such as the rented vehicles being given to other tourists.
Alternatives to Car Rental in Cuba
If you’re still unsure whether renting a car in Cuba is the right choice for you, feel free to check out our article on transportation in Cuba for more information on alternative options.