By on September 13, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 11.24.51 AM

Seyth Miersma of Autoblog has been exploring Cuba through a car enthusiast’s lens as of late, and it isn’t easy. In fact, the seasoned writer tried to rent a car in the island nation and ran into some cultural roadblocks.

CubaCar, Cuba’s state-run car rental service, may let you reserve a car at one of their many locations, but actually getting a car seems to be a bit of a headache. Also, it isn’t what you would call cheap or convenient.

For starters, a car rental costs nearly $100/day along with a $200 deposit. And you can’t use American credit cards. It’s a cash-only proposition for an American.

Availability, even with a reservation, is left mostly to chance:

When I finally spoke to the CubaCar office manager, I got the message that would be repeated, almost exactly, a few more times that day. No cars were available right now; there might be a car available at Location X; if I speak with Someone, Someone might have a car available later today… or tomorrow. I tried offices around another one of the big hotels in Havana before I started to get the picture: renting a car to drive myself was going to take time. What’s more, it would take an outlay of cash.

The whole experience is worth a read. Give Seyth some love by giving his story a read at Autoblog.

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30 Comments on “Autoblog Tries, Fails To Rent Car in Cuba...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Good to see someone is at least trying to provide this service .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Joss

    Forget CC’s bring American cigarettes and a car will magically appear.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      My NGO pals suggest: 1 carryon with clothes and essentials, 1 suitcase with medical supplies, 1 suitcase with a thin later of clothes (socks and plain underwear on top) cartons of Marlboros below. 2 carton of Marlboros to clear customs and immigration, then 6-10 for the rest. If smokes offend your sensibilities then baby formula in non-metallic containers.

  • avatar
    henrryg

    I born there,but have been living here more than half of my life and every time I go for me the best is to rent a car online(vacacionartravel.com)you can paid with credit card and when I get to the airport everything is ready waiting for me .. The only cash I have to pay is $200 deposit $20 Airport fee and a full tank of gas ..

  • avatar

    I need to visit CUBA before America destroys it.

    CAPITALISM is going to do things to that country that JFK’s suggested invasion of Cuba during the Missile Crisis could have never done.

    There are so many people waiting to get in there and exploit those people.

    So many Cubans waiting desperately to become the next mindless American consumer: iPhones, Android garbage, clothes…

    If you really want to conquer IRAN and NORTH KOREA – give them CAPITALISM.

    The people will rise up against their own theocracies and their dictators to have a chance at becoming America’s/China’s next consumer.

    Capitalism does things bullets and bombs can’t.

    Capitalism causes people to voluntarily subject themselves to exploitation in the hopes of “getting rich”. Everyone wants 15 minutes of fame because that 15 minutes is worth a LOT of money. Money you can use to buy stuff. Like Hellcats.

    • 0 avatar
      WhiskeyRiver

      Nobody owns a Hellcat – or much of anything else – in communist countries. If you want to own anything you had better reside in a capitalist country.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        “So many Cubans waiting desperately to become the next mindless American consumer: iPhones, Android garbage, clothes…”

        Are you familiar with Cuba’s current standard of living? This would be a tremendous improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      As if the Cubans there have not been getting exploited by their own govt for half a century with zero financial gains.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        This^
        I also agree with JD and Whiskey

        @hellcat
        So Cubans want to buy things. And that is bad, how exactly? If its so terrible and bad, how did you aquire all that you have? Its okay for you but not for the people of Cuba?

        Youd rather them to continue to live in poverty than have the US “ruin” it? You are clueless. Life in Cuba is pretty misirable. If you envy them, give me all of that you own, build a shanty and go for it. You can even move to a country that surpresses its people. If thats how you’d prefer everyone to live, lead by example. No more Hellcats, no more youtube, no more useless comments where the answer to everything is an LX car.

    • 0 avatar
      tophatt

      Frigging communists, this website wouldn’t exist without capitalism nor would you be able to freely express yourself as you just have.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @BTSR: Agreed. It will have both positive and negative consequences for Cubans.

      But in reality, Cuba could end up like China – a weird hybrid of communism and capitalism.

      I’m no Obama fan, but I totally agree with the normalization of relations with Cuba; the 50-year shutout was accomplishing nothing.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you for understanding what I said SCE. Most of the others couldn’t get my tempo.

        There will be positive and negative consequences for sure.

        and yes – the normalization of Cuba and American relations is the only together thing Obama did that I’m happy with. #1 was having Seal Teams kill Bin Ladin.

        Now it’s time to normalize with Iran and North Korea.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        “but I totally agree with the normalization of relations with Cuba; the 50-year shutout was accomplishing nothing.”

        True, though their healthcare system is pretty good, considering that it costs citizens nothing. If capitalism flourishes though, it will bring prime rib, MacDonalds, Twinkies, and GMO crops…
        Soon to be followed by MRI/CT scanners, angiograms, and very expensive pills.

        IOW, There’s something to be said for a starvation diet, and free preventive care.

        But, we *really* normalized relations so we could get their CIGARS and CARS.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          The Caribbeans are what happens when your obsolete ag technology is self-replicating and ag is all you still have on the island because the mines are played out. I can’t see its descendants ever offering much of a market or labor source for any modern capitalist exploitation.

        • 0 avatar
          360joules

          You don’t want those cars. Humidity, salt air, low grade steel, backyard welding…from what I have been told, they looke great in pictures viewed from afar but in person you’d rather be in a Dart, Sonic, or a Corrolla.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Right, because GMO crops have killed so many people.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food_controversies

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            “Right, because GMO crops have killed so many people.”

            The role of GMO crops (specifically, “Round-Up” resistant strains) that are taking over our food supply, and neonicitinoid pesticides (that are so integrated into the plant structure that washing cannot remove them) are to the great benefit of 2 corporations.
            Ostensibly “harmless”, their effect on the human gut biome is poorly understood, but could affect long-term health by altering nutrient absorption.
            This will come to pass as the human race will have fewer and fewer alternatives for unadulterated food – though the supply will be plentiful (which is what “Big Food” often touts as the benefit.)

            Note: GMO crops that have been developed for drought resistance or poor soils are derived from natural variants, and would be less of a problem, except for the inevitable narrowing of genetic diversity.

            /Opinion

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I’m sure that with a discrete display of some hard currency, a car would have magically appeared for Mr. Miersma. But then he would have had much of an article, would he?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do know on the way to Paris from Sydney we had a lay over at Guangzhou (Canton in old speak).

    I wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes and in the terminal they would only accept USD and Euro.

    If you wanted to exchange another currency into USD or Euro the cost made it not viable unless you really wanted to have a smoke.

    I waited until I arrived in France to buy some cigarettes.

    These autocratic/authoritarian governments have little focus on the consumer or consumerism.

    I tend to disagree with BigTrucksReview regarding CAPITALISM. If what he states were true, then we wouldn’t have the conflicts we do.

    The conflicts we would have would be purely economic based and not religious or paradigm based.

    Capitalism and how the management of capitalism has taken the West centuries to perfect.

    Even with all the instruments and tools available to convert an economy into what we have will take several generations.

    Ingrained ideals that the Cubans now have within their culture will make it harder to transform their economy.

    Well, the US can only blame itself for this. This is not to say Cuba can’t be transformed, just it will take longer and cost more.

    I suppose the US taxpayer will pick up the tab to pay for some of the transformation of Cuba’s economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      Big truck does have some good points especially with the younger generations. Decent paying jobs and access to better consumer goods is a much more effective weapon against tyrants and that is why North Korea will not allow it. Keep the people poor and subject to a dictatorial regime. Once Cubans have more access to better paying jobs and more and better consumer goods there will be a huge transformation. Eventually you will see some of the old 50’s cars being sold to collectors over the World and there will be more Kias, Hyundais,Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The rental car situation reflects the mismanagement of the country as a whole.

  • avatar
    craiger

    “I need to visit CUBA before America destroys it.

    CAPITALISM is going to do things to that country that JFK’s suggested invasion of Cuba during the Missile Crisis could have never done.

    There are so many people waiting to get in there and exploit those people.”

    Every other country in the world except the U.S. is free to do business with Cuba, and many do.

    The country is a dump because of socialism.

  • avatar
    craiger

    I’m guessing that someone in need of a more substantive analysis of the problems of Cuba is probably someone who’s not going to be enlightened by a post on TTAC.

    My post was intended to communicate a simple fact that a lot of people aren’t aware of, which is, that the U.S. doesn’t do business with Cuba, but other countries do. I for one am tired of hearing the old canard that Cuba is a mess because of U.S. policy.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Whatever the issues with Cuba are, I just want to point out that I had a nearly identical experience trying to rent a car from Budget in Chicago a few weeks ago. So this isn’t exactly a communist vs. capitalist issue as it is one of mismanagement. How did the rest of your vacation go? Did the hotels take care of you? Did the airports work?

    Just to vent, I had an online reservation to pick up a rental car from Budget from an in-town location in Chicago. Like the famous Seinfeld episode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T2GmGSNvaM), we got there and saw a lot with 8-10 cars sitting around but none of them were available to rent despite the reservation.

    With three kids in the car, I returned to the other car on a hot day to call the Budget 800# to see about finding a car at a different location. The guy managing the lot knocked on my window and threatened to call the police if I didn’t move my car off of their mostly empty lot because the space was “for customers only.” Of course, I pointed out that I was trying to be their customer, but they took a reservation then couldn’t keep.

    Anyway, the 800# folks assured me that there was a car waiting for me at another location about 15 minutes away, that they had spoken to the lot attendant and I should go there immediately. Well, we drove there in traffic only to be told that they also had no cars and that they hadn’t heard from anyone at Budget corporate about our coming.

    So whatever one thinks about the government of Cuba, I’d chalk this up to an issue with a mismanaged rental car company. Despite computers, GPS chips, and a profit motive managing rental cars seems to be a challenging business problem. Perhaps Avis/Budget runs that Cuban company as well through an Argentine subsidiary or something?


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