Hiring a car in José Martí International Airport
Havana comes well equipped for those wanting to rent a car in this city. You can find the rental agencies in Terminal 2, 3 and 5, all located in the arrivals area. You probably won’t recognise the brands represented in this airport, but they are legitimate companies. These are Cubacar, Rex, Havanautos and Via Transgaviota.
It is strongly recommended that you book your car in advance, especially if you are travelling in the high season, or you run the risk of not being able to secure one.
You’ll find that the cars here generally come with an automatic transmission, and are of the 4-5 door sedan variety. However, if you are travelling with a larger party there are people carriers, vans and SUVs available also.
Leaving José Martí International Airport
The airport is around 15km from the centre of town, and the drive should only take 20-30 minutes. Head northwest and join the Calzada de Bejucal which will take you directly into downtown Havana.
Heading south on Avenida Rancho Boyeros for two and a half kilometres will take you to CUPET petrol station where you can fill up your tank before returning your hired car.
Driving in Havana
In Cuba, motorists drive on the right. The road system within Havana is a grid, and is very easy to navigate, however, traffic is heavy within the city, and driving here can be a little intimidating if you are not confident behind the wheel. Driving at night can also be hazardous, as the roads may not be as well maintained as what you are used to, and parts of the city do not have street lights illuminating your way. You will have to take out car insurance locally, but it is advised that you buy comprehensive travel insurance before you leave.
You can park in public lots, and in the hotels (please ensure your hotel offers free parking). Do not leave your car in unsecured parking overnight, or keep valuables within the vehicle.
You do not need an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Cuba, but it doesn’t hurt to have one. Please make sure you carry your license with you when you are driving in Cuba.
What can you see and do in Havana?
Visitors will find plenty to do in this historic and beautiful city of the Caribbean. Begin exploring this city by touring Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site where you can enjoy a stroll through the public squares of Plazas Vieja and de Armas. Learn about its history in the Museo de la Ciudad and discover the stunning Baroque cathedral of San Cristobal. On the other side of the city you’ll find the Plaza de la Revolucion, the stage upon which Castro made his famous speeches. You can also ascend the Jose Marti Memorial, over 100 metres tall to get a sweeping view of this city. Then head to the seafront, and walk down El Malécon a large esplanade and enjoy the sunset while mingling with the locals.
Take advantage of your rented car and drive to Viñales Valley, where traditional agriculture still reigns in this part of the world, especially in the production of tobacco. The settlement nearby gives you an insight into Cuba that you will not have seen in the movies, and it is well worth a trip out there.
Please note all information is current as of November 2015.