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ZOO GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/18/13 8:55 a.m.

I am back from a week in Cuba -- and I am excited to share my experiences with my forum family.

First, Cubans love their cars. Almost every car I saw was "modified" or "customized" in some capacity -- from paint and decals, to wheels, to exhausts. Not necessarily what we would do in North America, and some of it was "ricey", but I think that's more about the limitations of the economy and the supply of automotive parts. The older American cars really presented a Grassroots spirit -- many had engine swaps (small diesels seemed popular). I tried to find an owner to walk me through their car, but language was a challenge.

Second, cars are expensive. We took a private cab to Havana (the Peugot in the pictures), and the driver explained that the cheapest cars were the tiny, two-cylinder Fiat knock-offs from Poland. In the used market they are roughly 6000 Cucs -- the "convertible" peso. For reference, Cubans believe that the Cuc is worth more than my CDN dollar (the exchange rate was about .88). Ladas sell for around 16000 Cucs. Classic American cars sell from 18000 Cucs on up depending on condition. Our cab, which was privately owned, was 25000 Cucs. There is no dealer network -- the state brings cars in. Cubans cannot purchase a car from the state without proving that they have earned the money legally. There is no credit in Cuba.

Third, gasoline prices are comparable to Ontario. Diesel is much cheaper. 83 Octane gas is available.

Here is a link to my pics -- you get them all -- but there are many of the cars I saw. What I would love would be for people to look at them, and if you wish to reply to this thread with a link to the pic identifying cars. I know many of them, but some are still a mystery. I will try to answer questions as they come up. Any car with a yellow plate is privately-owned.

I am aware that there is a long-standing political challenge between the US and Cuba, so please don't make this a thread about politics. The Cubans I met were friendly, outgoing, and generally optimistic about their futures. They have access to clean water, excellent health care, and education -- I felt better spending my money there than in some other areas of the Caribbean where things are much worse for many more.

When I return I will take a stack of old car magazines with me -- I am positive they would be well loved and received.

Rob's Cuba Pics


ZOO GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/18/13 8:57 a.m.

This is the car I drove -- I offered the driver an additional 5 Cucs to drive around the resort. It was a diesel conversion (Isuzu), with a five-speed (on the tree )

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/18/13 8:58 a.m.

In reply to ZOO:

You should take car parts. A guy I know did, and they were incredibly well recieved. Say if you've got some old parts lying around for cars that you saw..

ZOO GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/18/13 9:00 a.m.

We did a "Jeep Safari" -- I drove the second one in line. A Suzuki Jimmy. 4WD. Manual. Almost every car was a standard transmission in Cuba.

ZOO GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/18/13 9:10 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver:

I thought about that. I didn't see any BMWs, or Miatas, sadly. I think decals may work, wiper blades, etc. I will bring an assortment. Everyone is a mechanic, so even some duplicate tools would be helpful.

Enyar Reader
3/18/13 10:11 a.m.

Need more info! Food/weather/what did you do/what did you wish you had done/etc?

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/18/13 10:12 a.m.

In reply to ZOO:

The group I knew had something to do with school, but I knew them for classic car reasons- they had some old Ford electrical part in their garage that they took with them. Gotta change to the CM board...

Enyar Reader
3/18/13 10:22 a.m.

Ok so 696 pictures did a better job explaining what you did, but I would still like to hear more details about costs for food/lodging, tips, etc.

The_Jed Dork
3/18/13 10:25 a.m.

Best taxi ever!

Luke UberDork
3/18/13 11:12 a.m.

Great photos, thanks for sharing! Cuba is high on my list of post-graduation travel destinations.

ZOO GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/18/13 11:17 a.m.
Enyar wrote: Ok so 696 pictures did a better job explaining what you did, but I would still like to hear more details about costs for food/lodging, tips, etc.

We flew from Montreal -- to an all-inclusive in Varadero, Cuba. Total cost for the two of us was $1830 (food, lodging, and travel). Other costs -- the Jeep Safari was about $80 dollars per person (and worth it, in my opinion). The trip to Havana was $40 per person. There was a departure tax of $25 each upon leaving. I figured we spent an additional $500 on excursions, tips, and other incidentals.

I would have liked to do more snorkeling -- but the weather didn't really cooperate. If I were doing it again, I would have spent a night in Havana - there was so much more to see and experience there.

The food was better than adequate -- but not stellar. There was lots of selection, and it was all fresh. We ate tons of fish. Overall the food was much better than any "continental buffet" offered by hotels for breakfast. But, it was on the conservative side of "seasoned". The beers were inoffensive. The coffee bland. The ice cream exceptional.

PHeller UltraDork
3/18/13 11:29 a.m.

I so wanna go.

I'm a bit leery of backpacking in places where I cant speak the language, but everything I've read about Cuba says that even its largest cities are safer than most US cities, and in every town you'll find someone willing to provide bed and breakfast.

Looking through your pictures makes me seriously jealous.

You even got to see some boobies (besides your beautiful partners im sure), but what was that "native" demonstration about?

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
3/18/13 11:44 a.m.

Ugh i want a Lada so badly...

ZOO GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/18/13 11:45 a.m.
PHeller wrote: You even got to see some boobies (besides your beautiful partners im sure), but what was that "native" demonstration about?

That happened after the Jeep Safari -- we drove to a national park (on a river). Then we took speed boats down the river to another location where we got different jeeps. While we changed we had a chance to watch the native dance.

Anything to make a buck -- we watched, and then the hat was passed around.

Everyone hitches in Cuba. I laughed because two large men were standing on the side of the road, waiting for a ride. With huge machetes.

I never felt unsafe at any point. There was a real sense of looking out for one another.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
3/18/13 3:11 p.m.

Thanks for posting --- it's great to get an "inside" view.

A good friend of mine and his GF recently visited Cuba and had a similarly positive experience. They even met another couple who invited them into their house where they stayed for a few days. They couldn't say enough positive things about the Cuban people. They can't wait to go back.

Zomby Woof
Zomby Woof UberDork
3/18/13 6:48 p.m.

What's with the huge rat on your girlfriends head?

Hyundai Atos Prime.

ZOO GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/18/13 7:00 p.m.
Zomby Woof wrote: What's with the huge rat on your girlfriends head? Hyundai Atos Prime.

That's a "tree rat" -- and part of the "we will try everything we can to get money from you" spirit of entrepreneurship present everywhere. Funny story -- we went to a coffee plantation. You could hold snakes. Ride horses or bulls. Make a wish at some fountain. Get Pina Coladas. But you couldn't get a fresh cup of coffee . . .

neon4891 UltimaDork
3/18/13 7:01 p.m.

Is it wrong to want to "defect" to Cuba?

nicksta43 Dork
3/18/13 7:08 p.m.

In reply to neon4891:


Appleseed PowerDork
3/19/13 2:59 a.m.

Isn't Miami North Cuba?

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/19/13 4:23 p.m.

You know you're from the city when...

You take pics of A Horse

drainoil Reader
3/19/13 5:03 p.m.

As OP said no political diversions here, but what year or time period did Cuba allow Americans to be tourists there? Sorry but I must be behind on my Cuban history/news lol.

nicksta43 Dork
3/19/13 5:18 p.m.

In reply to drainoil:

He's Canadian if that makes a difference.

Kenny_McCormic Dork
3/19/13 5:20 p.m.

In reply to drainoil:

The Cubans don't care, as I understand it, its the USA you've gotta worry about.

nicksta43 Dork
3/19/13 5:24 p.m.

If everything south of oh...say...Knoxville TN fell off the planet I would be so happy. I'm moving to the north pole, everything else is just too hot.

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