Driving around in one of the vintage America convertibles was at the top of my very touristy list of things to do while in Havana. Cliche? Of course.
There are old cars EVERYWHERE. More than I expected. Some are used as group taxis, flag one down, jump in even if there are a few people in the car already let the driver know your destination and off you go. Then there are the cars that are parked near hotels and tourist areas. The colorful cars that you see in all the photos. Some are pristine others not so much. We ended up choosing a convertible that was somewhere in the middle.
We first inquired about a one hour tour with a group of drivers parked near the Revolution museum. The men were all holding a laminated card that showed the prices in CUC. It looked like an official price list. It may have said 50CUC, we weren’t ready to jump in right away anyway, so said no thank you and started walking away. Immediately he offered 40CUC. We had to politely decline. But interesting that the price dropped by 10CUC that fast. Cool.
We stopped into the Parque Central Hotel to purchase a card to use the internet. After a quick check in with family and a few emails answered, we were ready for our car tour. We had noticed a few convertibles parked in front of the hotel lobby entrance and figured it couldn’t hurt to ask the concierge about a tour. He brought us outside and introduced us to the driver of this white convertible and we were told the (1) hour tour would be 30CUC. Done. The kids and I jumped in the back seat, Keith in the front and away we went.
It was the sunniest day so far. Not a cloud in the sky. It was HOT driving around. The driver pointed out the sights as we meandered around Havana. Out of nowhere it started getting dark and then the skies opened up in a downpour. The driver quickly pulled over and with Keith’s help was able to pull the convertible top up and lock it in. The kids were able to roll up windows manually, when was the last time you had to do that? Pretty quickly, the rain was pouring through the the formerly watertight convertible top. The threadbare cover was about as useful to repel rain as if it were made of cheese cloth with gaping holes. The fact that there is even a working roof is a testament to the owner’s ability and resourcefulness. Getting soaking wet in the back of a convertible with the roof up just added to our experience. We all loved it.
As fast as the it started raining, it stopped.
The kids had huge smiles on their faces the entire convertible tour. They may not have had it on their list of things to do but I’m quite certain they were pleased that they had.
At the top of the kids to do list in Havana was riding in a Coco Taxi, actually that may be the only thing on their very short list. The kids had watched a PBS special on Havana so they were well aware of this adorable puttering coconut shell before we arrived. But it isn’t just foolish tourists that use Coco Taxis, locals do as well. They look slow but they move at a good clip. Trust me when you are beaten down by the sun and humidity and can’t imagine taking another step, these little guys are a vision.
But I learned quickly that the pricing structure is determined by the driver. We picked up our first Coco Taxi parked in front of Restaurante Floridita, yes the one of Hemingway fame. Needless to say, we paid the tourist price of 10CUC to take us from the square in front of the restaurant to the souvenir market Almacenes San Jose not far from where the cruise ships dock, we could have walked in 10 minutes. We jammed the four of us into one, no seatbelts while I clung onto Gabby as we zigzagged through the streets. The kids loved it.
We learned quickly that grabbing a Coco Taxi or a yellow cab from a tourist area was like being held at ransom. Wayyyy overpriced. Just start walking and hail your transportation. Just stick your arm out – not up. Do not stick your arm up like you would in NYC to grab a cab. Extend your arm out and raise it extended. I was given this lesson from a Coco Taxi driver who almost didn’t stop because he couldn’t figure out what I wanted because my hand was in the air. We paid a fraction of what we would have if we had grabbed him in front of a hotel.
Walking around Havana is hot and sweaty. The sun and humidity can be exhausting. Any time there was an opportunity to prevent the kids from tipping to hangry (in this case, hot rather than hungry) and grab a drink in an air conditioned restaurant, stop into the lobby of a hotel and sit for a few minutes or grab a taxi to take you to the next destination I’m all for it.
Surprisingly there were very few complaints from the kids. We were wise enough to retire to our apartment in the late afternoon, the hottest time of the day, let them grab a book and regroup for a couple hours. Breaking the day up like this really paid off. We were able to see and do alot.
Every night seemed to end with us searching for Al Pirata Heladeria near Plaza de la Catedral. No need for transportation as they slowly ate their ice cream and took in the sights and sounds of Havana as we walked back to our apartment. An enjoyable way to end the day.