Driving in Cuba

Soon – no one quite knows when – Cuba will change irrevocably. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, many Cubans in particular will surely celebrate the day that some of the restrictions and embargos that have been place on their lives are lifted. In some ways however, a loss of the current Cuban regime, and when Castro finally leaves – will be something to be mourned. Either way, the Cuba of recent history will disappear, and so it's worth trying to have a trip to Cuba as soon as possible, to see the last gasps of a remarkable and singular culture.

One of the best ways to see this remarkable country is to drive it – rent a car from one of the car hire outlets in Havana and hit the open road. Havana is the place to begin, and it's worth spending a few days exploring its streets and bars to get a good feel of the Cuban culture. You'll notice a huge preponderance of community and conviviality. There are no billboard advertisements (save for Che stating Castro's somewhat 1950’s ideology), and the architecture has a distinctly Spanish feel, albeit filtered through Africa.

Sport is big in Cuba, with baseball at the very top – perhaps due to its popularity in the USA – as well as music, which has enjoyed a huge amount of attention worldwide recently, due in no small part to Ry Cooder’s work with The Buena Vista Social Club. Reggaetón, salsa, rumba, mambo and cha-cha-cha can be heard and danced everywhere, and you’re never very far from a troupe of musicians regaling a group of swaying locals.

Once you feel like you have a feel of Cuban life, it’s time to head out on the road, and into the hills of Viñales. Aside from the odd cart being pulled by a ropey looking horse, or weird 1950’s American cars and motorbikes (most notably the huge Chevy), there's very little on the open roads of Cuba, which more than occasionally feels like the roads of Middle America. Travelling around the inner areas of Cuba, you're aware of the quiet, the friendliness, and the joy in this culture. Villages welcome you into their bars and homes; hitch-hikers share hilarious anecdotes; everyone has an opinion on Castro. It's a truly remarkable place, and one that is changing with each passing month.

One day, the Cuba that exists today will be gone, replaced by yet another capitalist society like every other. So try to get there as soon as you can, rent a car (from someone like Holiday Autos) – not forgetting to get some suitable and ample car insurance before you arrive.