Since the energy crises of the late 1980s, when the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries stopped supplying Cuba with the petrol it needed, “every possible means has been used to get around the island”. I read this in a guide book and let me tell you – it’s so true!


Beautiful vintage gold car

You can see vintage American cars and Soviet vehicles made in the 1970’s along sided on the streets with bicycles and one-horse carriages! Getting from one place to another, from home to work, is not an easy task for Cubans. They usually don’t have a car, and if they do drive – it’s probably some old thing that you can only find improvised parts for in local workshops. (Cubans were not allowed to have any private property, don’t know if that changed over the years.)


Another blue beauty on the street

Hitch hiking to work

So, they can either go by bicycle, if the office is not that far, or hitch hike. Every time I took a bus from my Varadero hotel to go to Havana I was surprised that so many people who work at surrounding hotels were just standing on the road, still in their uniforms. They were hitch hiking, waiting for some lorry or a truck maybe to give them a lift.


The full trailer

The bus I was in was obviously for tourists only and the Varadero peninsula is pretty long, far from the small settlement where they might have lived. There were some whose houses were in Matanzas town, 50 kilometers from the hotel area.


A lorry pick up

So, you often see people hitch hiking all over the island. Have that in mind if you are renting and going on small road trips, since you can always give someone a lift. But if you do rent, try to get a full tank while in Havana or other town, since petrol stations are not that frequent on the open road.


Taxi drivers chatting

Crowded camello bus

How about the public transport, you might ask. Well, I did see few crowded buses that only a Cuban can do. I mean, it seems you would have to have some special skills to climb up, squeeze in and then go down at the very station you choose. There were not enough buses when I visited, so those that I have seen in Havana for instance were only covering the city. There were no intercity lines at all.


Interesting camello bus

And that one in Havana? Well, you just have to admire Cuban resourcefulness. There were not enough buses, so how do we make the ones we have – bigger! At least that’s what it looked like to me. You see a bus on Havana streets, like it was cut in two and another wagon put in between. It becomes long and heavy, so you add some bigger tires and a truck cabin to pull the construction. And there you go – the pink city Havana bus or the camello (the camel) as locals call it!


The lovely green vintage automobile

Rickshaws and sidecars

It’s easy to stumble upon traditional horse carriage in the countryside, while you can often see rickshaws in town areas. Both not oil dependent, hence the reason. I have also seen carriages pulled by a horse with tires instead of wheels, or something that was once a van, but now it’s only its shell with front wheels as those for carriages, no tires and all. You get confused by cars pulling a trailer full of people, but then again – you just stand in awe because of the ingenuity of Cuban people.


Look how shiny this one is!

There are motorbikes on the road or town streets, older models, but there are also – sidecars?! Just imagine seeing sidecars so often in various colors, sparkling red or blue, all cleaned up, that you actually begin to wonder if you have woken up in an old movie! I was fortunate enough to ride in one in Cuba (still remember my bruised knees), you can read about it in one of the previous Glimpses. I will never forget the journey!


Behind the wheel of a pink Cadillac

Chevrolet… and a cocotaxi

And now, the thing Cuba is recognizable for all around the world! Old cars in Cuba, vintage American cars! You can often see old Chevrolet models in town streets, but there are lovely Cadillac cars as well. I just had to get into the pink one, didn’t care how “touristy” that might have been! And one can say that Chevrolet cars are among the most popular since they are appreciated for their durability and passenger space – all the essential things here! It’s very easy to find one, they are often used as communal taxis.


One of the old Chevrolet models

As if this was not enough, you can also visit the Old Cars Museum in Havana with all sorts of Ford models. Now you will step into another movie scene – but the black and white one.


The Old Cars Museum

Never the less, you can get all sorts of taxis here, from sidecars to a Cadillac. There is one cute little thing, all yellow and round. It’s cold the cocotaxi. It’s an egg-shaped scooter that can carry two passengers and it can be very useful for short rides around the city.


Cocotaxi station

As a tourist, you will have a lot of fun with all of these means of transport. Cuba is really an open-air museum where you can witness an old movie-like scene and stand there in awe as another old-timer, brightly pink, just passes by!


The full Cuba SERIES


28 comments on “Cuba: CADILLAC OR CHEVROLET, HM? (8)

  1. Oh my word, I am obsessed with Cuba now!! I love old world stuff. It literally looks like you went back in time! I really cannot wait to visit. Those cars are beautiful — I would take a million photos!! Not sure I could get used to the whole hitch-hiking thing though 😉

    1. I know, those are a bit different circumstances compared to the ones we’re used to. But the whole situation in Cuba is so unique that you just have to admire it all. And take a million photos, of course! 😀

    1. Oh, I know, it’s like having an open-air museum, but the one indoors as well. I’m sure that those cars would be on Havana streets as well, if only they could still work! 😀

  2. I remember that there were a lot of hitchhikers in Morocco, but more often than not it was a marketing ploy. They would ask us for help to get back to town, befriend us on the way, and then when we got there invite us in for a tea into their home that (gasp) doubled as a rug store.

    1. Yes, well, I’ve been caught up in a lot of those “stories” in Arab countries. 😀
      This is a bit different though, hope it shows in the post. People here just didn’t have any other choice and those I’ve encountered were too proud to even try to deceive you.
      At least, that’s the experience I’ve had.
      Thanks for sharing Rhonda! 🙂

  3. A journey to Cuba is certainly a journey back in time and the old vintage cars complete the effect. It will be interesting to see how things change now that tourism from the USA is starting to open up. I wonder if they’ll start getting new cars there soon. Either way – lovely pics!

    1. I hope they will start to get new cars for the sake of the people. But I’m sure they’re going to keep the tradition.
      Who knows, one day we might be able to choose whether to take a ride in an old or a new taxi vehicle. 🙂

  4. Epic selection of cars!!! I’d absolutely love to go and see these myself. Really love how they keep the traditional old cars, but appreciate this is going to change soon!

  5. I think that the old American cars are truly an iconic image of Cuba, and one that most people think of when they think of the island. I wonder how often they have to have parts replaced and repaired though, especially if they’re so old and on roads of poor condition. I do have a romanticised view of the idea of locals hitchhiking around the island though, even though in reality it’s probably inconvenient and stressful.

    1. It’s not that idyllic, that hitchhiking, it’s an unfortunate thing, but it will get better hopefully.
      Oh yes, vintage cars became a true landmark of the island, deservedly so! 🙂

  6. These cars are the main reasons I want to get to Cuba. Time has stood still there.
    All the colors are so different, we hardly get to see them on cars now.
    It is a great source of income for the locals now.

  7. I love how the Cubans thumbed their noses at western sanctions and adapted to the fuel deprivation in such a unique way it’s now a tourist attraction!! I’d SO be in that Cadillac, Coco-taxi or Camello bus – to me that’d be an essential part of the Cuba experience!

  8. So interesting, I actually didn’t realize that part of the Cuban regime meant that citizens couldn’t own private property – interesting that the limited transportation fostered a hitchhiking culture. And it’s good to note that petrol stations aren’t that common on the open road – if we take a roadtrip will definitely stock up when the opportunity arises.

    I’ve always wanted to visit Havana for it’s reputation for vintage cars, though didn’t realize the transport scene was so diverse, with sidecars, horse and carriage etc. Thanks for highlighting such an interesting world of transport!

    1. So glad that I was able to shed some light over the Havana atmosphere. Scenes with vintage cars are lovely, but there’s always the story behind. 😉
      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the post, thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  9. Cuba is my spirit country, so vibrant and colourful and filled to the brim with old world. Its perfect. I sometimes wish that Australia would take a chill pill and go back in time a little, imagine how much happier everyone would be seeing those gorgeous ol cars.

    Not sure about the whole hitch-hiking thing though, the strict planner in me wouldnt want to risk being late for work if no one picked me. Ha! 🙂

    1. Hehehe. Well, it is a bit tricky to get somewhere in time if you have to go from one place to another this way.
      But people get used to so many things when they don’t have the alternative. Hope this will change though.

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