Rent a Car in Cuba 2012
I live in Cuba since 2006 so I thought I´d give some advice on Car Rental in Cuba. As we approach the Christmas and New Year months of December January and bookings increase for Cuba´s highest season of the year getting a rent a car in Cuba can be a complicated affair. For most people who leave it until the last moment to book their rent a car in Cuba an alternative form of transport may end up being the only solution! Yes, every year 1000´s of visitors to Cuba during the peak months end up without a rent a car in Cuba. The main reason for this is that the Cuban authorities who purchase rental vehicles for their main rental agencies of Havanautos, CubaCAR, VIA Car Rental and Rex Cuba don´t purchase enough vehicles to cover these extreme months because throughout the rest of the year demand is up to 60% less. Yes, bookings for a rent a car in Cuba drop by over 60% from January through March increasing in April for holy week then dropping again from the end of April until July. July and August see massive booking requests which cannot be handled normally. Then from September to the end of November bookings reduce to a trickle again. Then reservations for a rent a car in Cuba jump over 300% for the months of December and January. As the authorities know this in advance most third parties and non Cuban travel agencies are prohibited from making bookings in these high season months. Basically, most travel agencies cannot book you a rent a car in Cuba during these months, pretty simple. Over the past 10 years Cuban car rental agencies have begun to sell their cars directly online through just a few officially certified web pages. As all rental companies in Cuba are all managed by one company called Transtur the websites are basically all the same and use the same availability. However, prices can be different depending on the category of your rent a car in Cuba. For this reason the websites of CubaCAR, Havanautos, VIA Car Rent Cuba and REX Car Rental are essentially the same as these are simply brands.
“Getting a Rent a car in Cuba upon arrival is very risky”
Booking your rent a car in Cuba will mean booking at one of the aforementioned websites and obtaining a voucher which is then exchanged for your prepaid services. Trying your luck to get a rent a car in Cuba upon arrival is very risky (and up 50% more than booking online) and could mean spending several days traveling between different offices before a car is found. None of the rental offices in Cuba have access to inventory in another branch or agency so the only way to find a car is visiting each one until you do. However, many people are not successful have to use taxis or even buses to move around. As Cuban suppliers do not allow foreign agencies during these months to sell rent a car in Cuba then invariably, bookings made with these can be very problematic, especially if you do not check beforehand if these agencies even actually exist. The cheapest booking website of CubaCAR allows access to most of the models you´ll need along with Minivans and Vans as your rent a car in Cuba.
Getting a rent a car in Cuba in December 2012 could be even more complicated due to the fact that the economic crisis in Cuba has meant a major reduction in purchases of new vehicles in 2012 and thus fewer cars than in 2011. Havanautos has launched a last minute booking program which functions until December 10th which allows people to book a rent a car in Cuba through their online chat system between (Cuban time) 12 midday and 7pm. Operators speak German, English, French and of course their native language of Spanish. This can be a better way of finding out which vehicles are available and making an on the spot Booking for rent a car in Cuba via the chat operator then paying securely online to get the voucher.
For those who do not book in advance using the websites mentioned then forget looking at airports when you arrive and go straight to your accommodation. Then begin the search for your car using a rickshaw type bicitaxi (if in Havana or major city) as these can enter small streets etc. Expect to pay a premium of up to 50% more than the online rates plus a tip to the desk clerk if you are to get one of his cars…
Francois Germaine is a French citizen resident in Havana since 2006
Good luck booking a rent a car in Cuba this December…