cuba taxi

Stranded Roadside in Cuba: A Hitchhiking Adventure

In my previous post, I wrote about all things cool in Havana, including the classic 1950s American cars that color every city road in hues of blue and green and rust all over. But what’s not so cool about those old cars? Well, they break down.

In my last week there, I met two Australian guys and a Belgian girl on a bus en route from the small colonial town of Trinidad to the old capital of Santiago de Chile. They were cool and invited me to tag along (sort of. That could have been the other way around :). One of my favorite things about traveling solo is that I can be alone when I want to be alone, and it’s never too hard to make friends when I don’t. It’s also much cheaper to travel in a group...which is how we got stranded on a highway in the middle of nowhere, Cuba.

cuba taxi

Our taxi driver pondering the damage.

With two or more people, renting a taxi is more economical than paying separate to ride the bus (not only are their two currencies in Cuba, but there are two bus lines: one for locals and one for foreigners at triple the price), and ideally it’s much quicker too, since the driver takes you direct instead of stopping every five minutes to pick up his buddies and drop them off. They do have the Yellow Cab variety in Cuba, but who wants to take one of those when you can negotiate a cheaper deal to ride in one of these?

cuba taxi

Our taxi only made it halfway!

Yeah, that’s what we thought too, until in the midst of crossing a railroad track the car sputtered, and stalled. Right smack in the middle of the train crossing. As if it were planned. As if it were Hollywood. But this wasn’t Hollywood, and I’m the only one who found it funny (I sometimes get myself in trouble for laughing at the wrong moments, like that time I hopped out of my raft during guide training and lost my boat full of people to the current. Oops!). Which is why we found ourselves crawling out of the sweaty can into the blistering heat and pushing the blue piece of tin down the highway and onto the shoulder.

cuba railcar

The only railcar I saw in three weeks in Cuba. They were cheering as they passed!

Cuban Railcar2

Our driver looked around and told us the wheel shaft (or something like that) was broken. He said we would have to wait for help, and by the sound of things (or lack of sound) that was going to be a while. We settled into the shade of a nearby tree while he removed the tire and, eventually, the shattered part.

cuba taxi

Our roadside domain for a few hours!

cuba camion

A Cuban truck taxi.

While the Australians took turns throwing rocks at a sign, I flagged down every passing camion (a truck taxi where people ride in the bed, often standing for hours), taxi and car passing by. There was an intersection up ahead and most were turning the opposite direction from our intended destination.

hitchhiking cuba

Our hitchhiking savior.

Two hours later, a truck hauling gravel invited us aboard. He was making his twice-weekly haul from Havana to Santiago (a 20-hour trip) and said he’d like the company in his air conditioned sleeper cab.

We didn’t hesitate.

hitchhiking cuba

Hitchhiking in Cuba!

Four people and four large backpacks stuffed inside a cab made for a (not-so) cozy ride, but we had air conditioning, a front-row view and our driver turned out to be a pretty good singer as he karaoked our way into town. We made it to Baracoa, a sleepy little oceanside town just over the mountains from Santiago, and he dropped us off at what turned out to be my favorite stay in Cuba, for both the accommodation and the city.

Baracoa Cuba

The payoff for our adventure: Baracoa, Cuba

 

 

Stranded Roadside in Cuba: A Hitchhiking Adventure
Written by:Jessica J. Hill

I love comments!

Tell me, have you ever hitchhiked? If so, how did it turn out? Why did you do it? Are you glad you did? 

6 Comments

  1. Nikita says:

    You lucked out! Air-conditioning, classy ;). I would definitely prefer that experience to a yellow cab one!

  2. Frank says:

    We had the same thing happen outside Matanzas with some Cuban friends. I think the only difference was that the car was red 🙂 . Every Cuban is also a mechanic.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • jessicajhill says:

      Yes, so true. I complimented many of them on their mechanic skills. Seems they all know exactly what to do! Did you have to hitchhike, or did you wait it out?

  3. Rob says:

    Jessica, I hoping you can clear things up for me. I’ve read a ton of these travel blogs about cuba and it seems most of them offer tips or advice for yuppie American tourists. I have been hitching, riding freight and camping in the us for years. In your opinion, for someone with experience, is it unreasonable to think I can travel Cuba’s non tourist areas on a low budget($50/day) hitching all over the island? Do I have to stay at casa or can I camp outside. Thanks

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Rob.

      It’s definitely reasonable to plan on hitching your way around Cuba as it’s the most common form of transportation for locals as well. If you speak Spanish, it will be a huge help. I do believe you can easily get by on $50/day though keep in mind Cuba has two currencies, one for locals and one for tourists. The tourist one is 1-1 to the US dollar (or at least it was when I was there). There are certain things you can (and should) buy with local currency, like pizza and other fast food for example, though the prices aren’t usually specified and if you give them tourist currency they will obviously take it. I’m not sure about the safety of camping there, but I would imagine it’s okay if you find a seemingly safe place. However, I know the country has already changed a lot since I was there so I can’t speak to what it’s like now! Best of luck with your upcoming trip. It sounds exciting! I’d love to hear about it when you get back!

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