Autoblog Tries, Fails To Rent Car in Cuba
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.
The rental car situation reflects the mismanagement of the country as a whole.
"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.
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.
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?