By: Sheyla Paz - Cuba Travel Expert Its well known that traveling to Havana is like traveling back in time: the weathered buildings, the old classic cars and the rich history standing out as top lures on your visit to Cuba. It’s less known however, that at the beginning of the 20th century, the Cuban capital was spectacularly rich – not unlike Newport’s Gilded Age – in which Havana underwent an extraordinary boom period, architecturally enriching with international influences such as art nouveau, art deco and eclectic design.
To this day, Havana is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in the world, and safe to say, a city photographer’s paradise. Its buildings clearly mirror its social and political history ever since the Spanish colonial times, up to the more modern present day.
The old cars or classic American Cars are seen all over the Cuban streets. The car owners keep them running by replacing old parts with other car models parts. Cruising around Cuba in one of this old classics will take you back in time while enjoying the Caribbean breeze immersing yourself in the Cuban culture. Everyone that I talked to wants to talk about the old cars and how the Cuban people keep them running. When I lived in Cuba, I really didn’t think much about it because I was just going about my day and the things I had to do and to go. Once I moved to the United States, everyone have to ask about them. Now, I see how much it means to them because it brings back memories of this country and that era. Well, in Cuba is always that era. There are a few mechanics that have figured out how to make the parts and sell it to the car owners. I actually went to visit one of the shops one day with my sister who was looking for the tail lights trimmings for her husband’s 1960 chevy. It is impressive to see their talent and how determine they are to keep their cars going. Its like their most price procession and their livelihood.
Riding in an old car in Cuba is a like riding the bus in Cuba. It’s a way of living. We have several names for them: Almendrón, Pisicorre, Carro Clásico, Colectivo, and others. It depends on the model of the car and how it looks and what kind of service they offer. The classic cars that are all fixed up usually sits around all Havana and the Hotel Nacional waiting to get some tourist to give them a city tour. They charge by the hour and it ranges from $20 to $120 an hour. The price is up to the driver.
The almendrón and Pisicorre can be rented all day or all week to take you around Cuba and the driver usually want a day rate ranging from $60 to $120 USD a day. The Colectivo is mostly used by Cuban people to get from one point to the other and they pay in Cuban pesos. If you are a little adventurous, you can hope on one of this with Cuban people and give the driver $5 CUC for the ride. They will appreciate the nice tip! That means that you also would need to know where you are going and tell the driver where to drop you off. One last thing to keep in mind, those old cars might be fun to ride around Cuba but most of the time they will break down when you least expect it. They may have to stop to put water in the radiator or fix the muffler because it has fell off, or maybe the car turn itself off because of blockage in the gas tube. Overall, I bet you will enjoy your experience no matter what happen with the cars. What is important is that you go visit Cuba, enjoy your stay and learn about its people, its culture and history. You will be glad you did!