Havana Classic Car Tour, Cuba; How To Organise It!
UPDATED MAY 2020. On my journey to every country in the world, I found visiting the Caribbean countries a little boring (I know, I’m sorry!). That was, at least, until I reached Cuba! Wow, what a destination! If you can set down the rum and cigars for a couple of hours, which is pretty difficult believe me, then the one ‘must-do’ activity in Cuba is to take a Havana classic car tour. Riding around Havana in the old-school American cars was perhaps the highlight of my whole 3 months in the Caribbean. But how do you organise a Havana Class Car tour when you’re in Havana? Don’t worry, it’s easy….
Visiting Havana, Cuba and Doing It Right.
There are 2 ways you can experience Cuba. One is in an all-inclusive holiday resort, this blends Cuba in with all the other resorts dotted around the Caribbean. Beautiful beaches, Western standards of service, and luxury. Great. But you sacrifice the flavour of Cuba that way.
The other way to visit Havana, and Cuba, is by staying in a ‘Casa Particular’ in Havana and beyond, and travelling independently. These Casa Particulars are like AirBnB 20 years before AirBnB was invented. You pay a local family to stay in their house, they include breakfast, you get a key and you’re free to explore. I stayed in THIS ONE if you want to check it out, lovely family.
Remember when you’re exploring In Cuba, they have 2 currencies. Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP). Essentially, as a foreigner, you only get access to CUC (1 to 1 with the dollar), where the locals use CUP, which is 25 times less valuable. This structure means these Casa Particulars allow local families to make real money and help them survive in a tough economy. So that’s another reason to use them.
When you explore Havana, you’ll see that it’s not quite as elegant as blogs and Instagram, suggest. It’s quite run-down, but with a distinct faded charm, and the classic car tour will highlight that further. When it comes to organising your Havana Classic Car Tour, you can head down to the Capitol Building and negotiate yourself with the drivers. That is a tough experience. Most of these guys don’t own the cars, and they’re on the hard sell. Expect crazy price quotes and aggressive sales techniques. A better option is to organise it online (about $55). You can book the Havana classic car tour here, it just takes 2 minutes. And avoid all the stress!
Havana Classic Car Tour; How it works
You can chat with the guy directly about where you meet, normally it’s around Hotel Ingleterre in the city centre. Once there, your guide will introduce you to your driver, and you’ll be ready for your 2-hour tour.
You’ll hop in a 1950s American convertible (before you ask, no you can’t drive it!), and up to 4 tourists can fit in one car. I went with just my buddy and 1, and 2 people in the back, with the driver up front alone, was perfect. If there was 4 of us, personally, I’d choose to book 2 cars to make sure you get the best experience, and don’t feel too cramped. If there was just 3 people, I’d take just the one car though, they’re quite spacious.
The 2 hour tour breaks down into a 90 minute drive through Havana. You’ll check out ‘real’ Havana through Centro Habana, Miramar, and Vedado. And then onto the the more famous spots like the Malecon, the glamorous 5th Avenue of Miramar, the American “Special Interests” building, Anti-Imperialist Square and finally you’ll get to Revolution Square. Home to the huge Che Guevara art piece. Epic.
HOW THE CLASSIC CAR TOUR FELT
Driving down Malecon Street with people looking at us, honking the old-school horn, I felt like an Irish travel blogging James Dean. Seriously though, soaking up the moment, like fifty years back in time – this was EXACTLY what I hoped Cuba was going to be like.
Our actual drive lasted between an hour and an hour and a half, through the Plaza de la Revolucion where you get out to take pics, around the old city, where the guide explains about the history of the place. Also, our guide was a bit of a superstar so we got quite deep into politics, something I had been dying to chat to a Cuban about – absolutely fascinating.
COCKTAILS TO FINISH OFF OUR CLASSIC CAR HAVANA TOUR
As our Havana classic car tour came to an end, and you shed a tear that your James Dean moment has ended, the tour isn’t over just yet. You get dropped off at the famous Hotel Nacional – the hotel where all the various left-leaning celebrities over the last hundred years have stayed. They have a hall of fame where all their PHOTOS are listed – from the peak of society to the depths, it’s captivating.
After you’ve had your cultural fill though, it’s off outside with the high society, sitting in the plaza, overlooking the Caribbean sea drinking a cocktail of your choice (all included in the tour if you book directly online), I actually really wanted a beer but I thought I’d hang on to the last remnants of my classy day and ordered one of Cuba’s beloved son’s, Ernest Hemmingway’s, favourite drink – a mojito, with no sugar of course. Well played Ernie. Our guide had a frozen daiquiri which in all honesty was more delicious than my choice, but I didn’t tell anyone.
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