I stayed in Havana for 4 days, but I decided on my first day there that I wanted to have a ride in one of these “coches Americanos” (American vintage cars).
There are 2 types of these: the ones in top condition, well maintained, brand new looking, beautifully painted, luxurious taxis used by tourists and the not-in-such-a-good-shape, maintained-but-you-can-see-that-they-are-more-than-50-years-old, simple taxis used by locals mostly.
The older ones are the shared taxis, you don’t ride alone in them, the driver picks up as many people as possible from the street, it costs 10 CUP (0.50 EUR ~ 0.50$) / ride. You just have to stand in the street, signal that you want to get in, if one stops there you just have to say where you want to go, either he goes there or not, hop in and at the end pay the 10 CUP. There can sit in it even 5 persons, tourists don’t use it often.
I read it somewhere that tourists should use it so that they shouldn’t ask the price of the ride otherwise the driver would charge them the tourist price (=more than 10 CUP). In my opinion even if you don’t ask anything, just stand there in the street, the drivers (and all Cubans) know that you are a tourist from your appearance and by holding a map / camera in your hand. So that is why I was afraid to try it out, since I was travelling alone the drivers would have set me up and if I hop in without having an agreement for the price at the end I would have paid much more than the normal price.
The good-looking Classic Cars are more expensive. Yes a drive can cost about $15 – $30 for a ride. Drivers park their cars outside the government-run hotels, they are very careful with their precious cars, they clean them every day, they repaint them often. The car drivers have a Classic route where they drive (eg. Passing by the Capitolio, driving along the Malecon, to the Revolutionary Square and back). They also explain to you what you see while driving.
I chose a blue Chevrolet from the Square in front of Hotel Inglaterra (there are a lot of Classic cars, there even 2 stations of these cars on both sides of the square). He wanted to charge me 50 CUC (~ 50 EUR) for 50 minutes. I didn’t agree so I asked to take me around for 15 minutes for 15 EUR. We went along the Malecon through Chinatown, we skipped the Revolutionary Square because there was the memorial of Fidel Castro (it was Nov 2016) and after that the driver took me to the Cemetery of Colon and he left me there (I asked him to do so, I wanted to see the Cemetery). He didn’t speak much English, mostly Spanish, I didn’t mind and I guess if you can speak Spanish you can bargain better too.
There are more than 60.000 coches Americanos now in Cuba. In Havana I don’t know how many, but I felt myself being in the 1950s America, the one I know from Classic movies. It is like an live automobile museum, everywhere I went it didn’t take more than 5 minutes for a Classic Car to appear on the horizon.
I read it: in 1955, Cuba was the top importer of North American-manufactured cars, there were about 125,000 of them. But it changed some years later when Fidel Castro took over the country. It was prohibited to import parts to the cars so the owners had to improvise repairs. That is why the cars lost their values, they are not real anymore, for car collectors they are not worth. The bodies of these cars are old cars, but the inner parts like the engines are mostly from other cars e.g. From older Soviet vehicles. People call them Frankenstein automobiles…
I am not a big expert in cars (if you ask me what kind of car I drive I usually give the small red/white/grey answer…) but I even heard about the ones I saw here in “flesh”: Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Buick, Ford, Dodge, Crysler’s, I even saw some Volgas, Ladas…
I hope you will enjoy my photos of these Classic Cars…