Car hire in Cuba
Hiring a car in Cuba
The politics of Cuba have meant that it is quite different from its Caribbean neighbours. It is known for its crumbling grand 16th century buildings, retro cars and cigars. The island also has incredible scenery, with rolling countryside and white sand beaches, which complement the salsa and mojitos that Cuba is also known for.
Many people don’t realise before they visit just how large Cuba is. It measures 55 miles north to south and a whopping 760 miles east to west, making car hire and absolute must on the island. Especially as there are fascinating places to discover from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, Varadero to Baracoa.
What you need to know
Hiring a car in Cuba will allow you to explore the whole island. Use our booking tool to consider your options. This will help you to compare prices, the vehicles available and the places that you can pick them up from.
Choosing your car hire through Holiday Autos has a wide number of benefits. These include 24/7 support should you encounter any issues whilst driving in Cuba. Were your plans to change, then you could cancel the car you have booked at no cost or inconvenience to yourself. This is why more than five million people have chosen to organise their car hire with us in over 170 countries worldwide.
Where to pick up your car
Cars can be rented through Holiday Autos for collection at airports, train stations or city centre locations. Once you have chosen which of these works best for you, make a note of where you’re expecting to pick your car up from.
If it is at one of Cuba’s airports, such as Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) in Havana, your car hire company may have a desk within the terminal. Alternatively, take a free shuttle bus to where your firm is located or await the services of a meet and greet representative who will take you to your car.
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“The pick-up was easy, it took 5 minutes from arriving at the desk to driving out the car, and the return took even less time.”
Where to go
Cuba has some fantastic cities and resorts to visit depending on what you wish to get from your holiday. Nobody can resist the opportunity to drive around the streets of Havana and see the vintage cars and crumbling mansions that make you feel like you’re on a film set. This is no movie, however, as trade embargoes to the country have meant that locals have mended their retro vehicles to keep them going over the decades.
Further across the island is the city of Santa Clara, with its pretty main square. The biggest attraction in town, however, is its connection to the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, whose mausoleum, complete with imposing statue, can be found in Santa Clara.
Right at the other end of Cuba from Havana is Santiago, where you will find a stunning historic town centre and a distinctly Caribbean feel. Music is in the air in Cuba’s second city and whether you’re looking to hear some salsa or son, you won’t be able to escape Santiago’s rhythm.
Driving in Cuba
You need to be 21 to hire a car in Cuba, but if you are of age, it’s a great way to get about. Drive on the right-hand side and take over on the left, making sure you don’t exceed the national speed limit of 100 kph.
The main roads to be aware of include the carretera central, which is a single-lane highway that runs from east to west. There are two sections to the A1 – the first running from Havana to around the mid-point of the island and the second starting up again near Santiago. You may also encounter the A4 if you are driving between the capital and Pinar del Rio.
Due to its incredible length, there are lots of opportunities to undertake longer drives in Cuba. If you wish to tackle the entire journey between Havana and Santiago de Cuba in one go, it will take you around 11 hours along the Autopista Nacional and Carretera Central. Another option is to make some stop offs along the way, at least in one direction if you plan to drive all the way back too.
Cienfuegos is just over two and a half hours from Havana and could be your first stop. Nicknamed the Pearl of the South, it was a colonial town that has been in both French and Spanish hands. So stunning are its public buildings and private residences that UNESCO inscribed this former trading place for sugar cane, tobacco and coffee onto its World Heritage List in 2005.
Top attractions in Cuba
While much of Cuba is like a living museum, the country is home to some fascinating cultural institutions and attractions to visit too.
Museum of the Revolution
To learn more about Cuba, its history and the politics that have done so much to shape it, a visit to the Museum of the Revolution is an absolute must. Somewhat ironically, it is housed within the former presidential palace. This highly decorated building served Cuban presidents from Mario García Menocal to Fulgencio Batista.
Che Guevara Mausoleum
As well as the remains of the iconic Che, the mausoleum in Santa Clara is also the final resting place of 29 of his fellow revolutionaries who were killed in Bolivia in 1967. They were not interred there until 1997, after seven of them were found in a mass grave alongside Guevara. There are plaques for each of the combatants and a single white flower is placed in front of the corresponding shrine on their birthdays.
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
Approximately 10km from Santiago is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Castillo e San Pedro de la Roca. It guards the harbour from a height of 60m and has incredible views over the surrounding coastline and the backdrop of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Its batteries and bastions add a real sense of the history of the place and the pirates it was built to protect Santiago against.