By on December 17, 2015

Cuban Yank tank

If recent reports that you may soon be able to hop a flight from Miami to Havana, Cuba have you scrambling for your passport to spy Che’s Chevrolet and Fidel’s Oldsmobile, tranquilo.

According to Reuters, although commercial airlines in the U.S. may resume service to Cuba after a 54-year blackout, travelers to the island country still need to fall within 12 different criteria to enter the country, and “car watching” isn’t specifically one of them.

Journalists, humanitarians, doctors and people named Tom Morello still get to go.

For the rest of us, there are photos and documentaries about the car culture in Cuba, and the relative time capsule of pre-1960 cars on the island.

The documentary “Yank Tanks” is required watching, and there are other projects such as “Carros de Cuba” that may bring to fruition other deeper dives into the car culture of the small country.

JetBlue, Delta, United and American airlines have all expressed interest in flying into Cuba.

And the opportunity to ride in an old, rickety, Soviet-era plane will be quashed too, according to Reuters. Planes flying into the U.S. still need to meet U.S. restrictions, so no Russian planes either. Only on the island.

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25 Comments on “You Still Can’t Go To Cuba Just To See ‘Yank Tanks’...”


  • avatar

    I think I’ll go vacation in Cuba once a nice, safe, tour package is available.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Cuba is unsafe?

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        Cuba is ridiculously safe. The government absolutely needs tourist dollars, and having a job that is in any way related to tourism is basically a gift from god (you will make at least 10x more that anyone in non-tourist industries). Any Cuban that would be in an area that foreigners would commonly go wouldn’t do anything to you. Unless you massively go out of your way to put yourself in harm’s way, you are probably safer than in any major American city.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I recall reading about the dual currency situation there, the CUC and the peso. If I remember correctly, the peso – which all workers are paid in-is worthless but the CUC is bought/used by tourists and has some exchange rate. Does this sound accurate at all?

          • 0 avatar
            kmoney

            Yes. It is a dual currency system where Cubans are paid in pesos and tourists use the CUC — which artificially trades at par with the USD and has no value outside of Cuba — or also just straight USD. I don’t know know exactly what locals would trade CUC for pesos at on the black market, but just through general observation, I can tell that you would make massively more through tourist gratuities.

            The State wage is ~$20USD a month, and you can probably make that in at most a day, if you’re a waiter tour guide, bus or (especially) cab driver, or anyone that comes in contact with tourists.

            Like in most poorer countries, people there hustle for money, but in general the people there are some of the most incredibly nice and sincere people you will meet — and I’ve traveled enough to know when it’s a facade. If you manage to get out of the tourist compound and actually go to the local areas it’s an amazing place.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      There are currently “People-to-People Education Tours” are available to U.S. citizens offering the “opportunity to immerse yourself in Cuban culture by interacting and engaging with the people of Cuba including artists, farmers, health-care professionals, children and other locals.”

      The catch, besides a price range between $2500 adn $6500? “Deviation from the program is not permitted. Per U.S. law, participants in the program are required to follow a full-time itinerary with little down time, except on some evenings when dinner is not included.”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Canucks have never stopped going. You can even book the specific Yank Tank that you want for your holiday, on-line, in advance. One of my co-workers spent a week riding around in a mid 50’s Buick and loved it.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    How are we supposed to be the Land of the Free when the government dictates what countries we can and cannot travel to?

  • avatar
    kmoney

    The opportunity to ride on an old Soviet plane there effectively died a couple years ago anyway.

    All their old Soviet planes (including the little Yak 40’s and 42’s) got retired for modern Il-96s, Antonovs, and Tupolev Tu-204s around 2010. Most of the old planes used to be parked around José Martí airport, but after going there two years ago, it looks like they are all gone.

    We got to fly on an Ilyushin Il-62 and a Yak 40 there about 10 years ago (these never actually flew to NA, but did service Europe-Cuba and inter-island routes). Cool old planes (especially the Il-62) and awesome experience for anyone into aviation.

    • 0 avatar

      I visited Cuba in December 2002.

      The travel agency I hired reassured me that the ancient Soviet planes had been replaced by 737s and so travel to Cuba was safe.

      You can imagine my feelings when I saw the plane we were going to take to Cuba. It was the Yak 42D. It looked like some relic out of the 1960s, even though I looked up its history and it was introduced in the 1980s. It looked terrible, and once I got inside with all the decrepit seats leaning forward I wondered what I’d got myself into.

      The plane took off in a jolting way that made me feel nervous. Felt a bit like I thought a fighter plane must feel. From this, I got the impression that Soviet engineering was very simple to explain. A plane (or a car, or an apartment) must perform basic functions and then it never changes. So as long as a plane takes off, moves for a while and lands, it won’t be updated again. Unimportant things like passenger comfort simply do not matter.

      It was certainly a memorable experience, but not one I want to repeat!

      After I returned, I learned that 20 Cubans got imprisoned for 20 years for simply setting up a lending library I felt lousy that I’d supported the regime. At the same time, you can’t tell how awful Communism really is unless you see it up close and watch how people you grow to like are affected by it. I’d say its something everyone should experience at least once, but I’m happy for the sake of the good people i met that Communism is going the way of the dodo.

      David

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @kmoney,
      Sukohoi makes sections for the Boeing Dreamliner. My how times have changed

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      The one Soviet passenger plane that’s always intrigued me is that one old Tupolev with the four huge turboprop engines. I’d love to just see one of those in person.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-114

      Here we go! The Tupolev Tu-114.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        That thing reminds me of the TU-95 “Bear” bomber. I’m sure there is one out there — their old planes just seem to end up sitting in the most random places over the former Bloc nations.

        http://www.webpark.ru/comment/46498

        Here is the Russian version of the Concord (Tu-144), basically sitting in a random backyard. I’m reminded of the graveyard of Migs on Top Gear too.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          The Tu-114 was a passenger version of the Tu-95 bomber so that explains the resemblance.

          That’s one hell of a plane! Looks like a MiG-25 fighter sitting under its one wing too.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    Anybody from the US can go to Cuba anytime they wish. Just go to Mexico first and go from there to Cuba. The Cuban government does not stamp your passport, so the US government does not know that you have been there. Going to Cuba is safe, easy and cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      There are also regular flights from Nassau, which is much more convenient for East Coasters

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Or take a puddle-jumper from Jamaica. And I doubt that it would even be that difficult to qualify for one of the 12 approved categories if you made a little effort.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      That seems like a poor choice on the off chance you have legal or health issues while travelling in Cuba and need any sort of diplomatic assistance. Plus, I value my Global Entry far too much to jeopardize it by not playing by the rules. I’m excited to visit Cuba at some point, but it seems stupid to smuggle myself in (as the U.S. government would see it).

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    My boys, who are 10 and 12, were lobbying pretty hard to vacation in Cuba after watching an episode of Cuban Chrome. They were even using the fact their mother is a spanish teacher as all the more reason the trip would make sense.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I’m not keen on communism but I do know that Cuba has very high literacy compared to other economically hobbled countries .

    Americans who wanted to have been Touristing in Cuba for decades , as mentioned you simply fly from Mexico or wherever .

    Moto cycle touring is quite popular and Cuba has fairly good medical service shoukd you need it , unlike say Mexico .

    Most of the old American vehicles are thrashed and have new engines and running gear , gotta keep ’em going by whatever means .

    I’d maybe like to go but not if my $ supports repression of the Cuban People .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    LOVE the header pic. My Dad (RIP) had a 58 Chev Delray in that color.
    Spent many years enjoying the cushy ride in the back seat.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “What? Rapido? Tranquilo.”

    “Tranquilo, tranquilo.”

    “Ok Rapido.”

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