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Taxis in Havana

Taxis in Havana

Antique American Cars Serve as Taxis in Havana
Antique American Cars Serve as Taxis in Havana

Taxis in Havana

Most of the old 1950s Chevrolets, Buicks, Oldsmobiles and other American cars you see driving all over Havana are actually a type of local taxi. They are much cheaper than the many yellow modern taxis you also see. However, the interior of the 1950s vintage "taxis" is very primitive -- dashboard show holes where some of the instruments used to be, the doors are tricky to open and close, the ceiling painted-over rusted metal, the fabric lining having long ago falled apart, or perhaps simply decayed. But the price is right! If you find a local to explain them to you, some of these taxis ride back and forth along long fixed routes. If you know the route, you can just stand anywhere on the road along the way with your arm sticking straight out (when you see one come by.) If they have room, they will stop for you. (Most cars have room for 5 passengersm, which they strictly enforce.) You can go as far along their route as you want. The price (regardless ofd the length of you trip) is $1 (1 CUC) per person. This is a great bargain, and quite a fun experience to ride along in a colorful antique car.

Even for a personalized trip in a yellow-type cab from door to door within Havana, the going rate seems to only be 4 or 5 CUC. In one ride the Hotel Nacional to the area called Miramar (Hotel Copacabana) the driver requested $5. I countered with $3. He gave an emphatic NO, but they offered $4, which I accepted.

here are also pedicabs all over downtown Havana. Most of these ask 5 CUC at first, we usually settle for 3 CUC. Once for a trip that was not too far, I offered no more than 2 CUC. After rejecting it at first, it was finally accepted. The outdoor bike ride was kind of enjoyable. The breeze and cover over our heads helped cool us down. But it was a little scarry whenever they went the wrong way down a one-way street, staying close to the right curb. Cars would appear ahead coming right at us and then barely veer around us at the last minute.

In the touristy areas (such as around the Plaza de Armas and in Old Havana), there are also little yellow scooter cabs. They are similar to pedicabs -- a 3 wheel vehicle with a little covered bench in back for 2 passengers. But instead of being peddling, it it a scooter which the driver operates from the front seat. 3 CUC seems to be a common final price for a ride within the general area.

I am not sure what the yellow taxis charge in Havana, as I never took one.

Note however, that taxis from the airport are a whole other story. See link

Some of these taxis seem to have no shocks or springs, so they really bounce you around on the highway, or if you're moving along fast and hit a dip in the road.

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Taxis in Havana (continued)

Two Antique Taxis on the Streets of Havana
Two Antique Taxis on the Streets of Havana

The drivers were very picky (though polite) about the car doors. If you slam them like you do a modern American car, you can expect a polite lecture on how to shut the door properyly (so it doesn't fall off, I presume). You close it to within a few inches and then just give it a decent tug. These old car doors require lots less force than the air-sealed modern cars.

To get the $1 rate, it is important to pick a taxi definitely on that route, and then use the correct keyword or phrase. For my destination, it was "Portecero" with "Tercera Avenida" being okay as well. Once when I did not use the word correctly with an empty cab, he took us to a couple of "Puerto something" destinations, none of which were what we expected. He ended up dropping us back off where we started at no charge. The correct $1 taxis will normally have a number of people already in them. You put your arm out and if there is room for your number of passengers, they will stop. You then say the magic destination to them and if that is where they are going they will let you in. (Kids in the back only.) If that is not their destination, they will just nod "no" and drive off.

Expect your taxi ride more often than not to have a blaring backgound of Salsa radio music. But that really just adds to it being a real Cuban taxi ride.

By the way, the official rate for local cuban seems to be a bit less than $1 (1 CUC). They pay 20 regular pesos (and sometimes just 10 -- for shorted hops, or by bargaining with the driver I'm not sure.) 1 CUC is worth 24 or 25 regular pesos. Once when paying a river 2 CUC for 2 people, he actually handed me back 10 regular pesos as change.

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