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Travelling by self-drive is a great way to experience this beautiful island at your own pace, and although the thought of driving in a developing country might seem a little scary at first, there really isn’t much to worry about. You’ll need to watch for the odd pothole, generally on rural roads, but the main highways are well maintained and traffic is minimal. We’ll make sure you have everything you need to feel confident behind the wheel – as well as a modern car, you’ll be given detailed directions, contact numbers and local driving tips. Easy!
Self-drive or transfers?
The best thing about transfers is getting picked up and dropped off at your destination, it’s hassle free. However, self-drive gives you a little more adventure, allowing you to travel at your own pace and have the flexibility to take little detours or pit-stops along the way.
Satnav & GPS
This technology isn’t available and will not work in Cuba. However, there are solutions. You’ll be given a detailed road map during your welcome meeting in Havana, and the road signs are fairly clear. We’d also recommend downloading some offline maps onto your phone or tablet to help you navigate (maps.me is our favourite app for this).
If do you get a bit lost, then it’s all part of the adventure! Don’t be afraid to ask the locals as they will certainly point you in the right direction…
Car hire options in Cuba
Unlike many other travel destinations, there is a limited number of hire cars available in Cuba (especially throughout May – August and December). Our main car rental partner in Cuba is REX, which offers car hire all year round. We still recommend booking your trip and car hire as early as possible to avoid disappointment. Here are the car options that we can offer you on your self drive trip to Cuba:
- Insurance per day 20 CUC (to be paid locally)
- Suitable for 2-3 people
- Insurance per day 20 CUC (to be paid locally)
- Suitable for 4 people
Category D: VW Passat (or similar)
- Insurance per day 25 CUC (to be paid locally)
- Suitable for 4-5 people
- Insurance per day 30 CUC (to be paid locally)
- Suitable for 7 people
*Please note that availability can be limited for this option
The driving distances can be relatively long in Cuba. The main roads are generally all straight and you don’t need to turn off too much until you arrive at your next destination. There are service stations roughly every 50-75km on the main ‘Autopistas’ and you’ll usually find informal places to take a break along the other roads. If you decide that you’d like to share the driving, then you can add a second named driver for a one-off fee at the rental office.
We’ve rarely had any problem parking in Cuba – you can almost always leave the car outside your hotel or casa particular. This will usually be free, but you may need to pay a small fee to park in some places.
Our favourite journeys
Roll through lush green tobacco hills
Drive the leisurely 2 hours from Havana through the rolling hills of Viñales, Cuba’s rustic cigar region. A stubborn, scenic village that refuses to be changed by tourism, Viñales feels totally timeless. Locals ‘shoot the breeze’ in creaky rocking chairs, kids hit the ice cream stalls as soon as school’s out and oxen plough their way through the fields.
Explore the southern coast
Whereas the north coast is famous for its pristine beaches and resorts, the south coast of Cuba is a little more rugged and natural. Head down to Playa Larga in your rental car, explore the wildlife of the Zapata National Park, go snorkelling and visit the site of the failed U.S. invasion at the Bay of Pigs.
Cruise the cobbled streets of Trinidad
Experience Cuba the Cuban way as you step back in time on the cobbled streets of Trinidad, where horse-drawn carts line the plazas, salsa music drifts from the doorways and the past lingers in the air. Take a traditional bici-taxi tour with a local guide and get into the groove of this colonial, creative city.
All the way to the rugged, undiscovered East
Discover Cuba’s Wild East Coast with our trip to Baracoa in the far east of the country. With an isolated culture all of its own, it’s a region of waves, waterfalls and wide smiles. Explore the untamed coastline, which is remote and wrapped in mystery. Once you arrive you can trek through the forest, swim in the ocean and, of course, meet the locals.
View our favourite road trip spots
Terms & conditions for REX car hire
REX is a good quality car hire company in Cuba, and they are also the only car hire company in Cuba that doesn’t charge a drop-off fee at every location if you decide to drop your car off at a different location than where you collected it from.
Also in the unlikely event of problems with your car, the assistance offered by REX has been voted the most well organised and the most customer-friendly. This is essential in a country such as Cuba.
Below you’ll find the car hire booking conditions for Cuba car hire company Rex:
REX car hire rentals include:
– Unlimited mileage
– Local taxes (except airport surcharge)
– Detailed road map
– Driving directions and route information
Additional charges not included in our car hire prices:
– SCDW (Super Collision Damage Waiver) The cost of this insurance depends on the make and model of the rental car. The insurance fee for a standard economy compact car is 20 CUC per day.
– Fuel (approximately 70p per litre).
– Deposit. The amount depends on the make and model of car. The deposit amount is authorised on your credit card for the duration of your rental.
All insurance fees (SCDW) and the excess deposit are all paid locally and directly to the Rex rental office when you collect the car.
Note: The car hire company has the right to change these fees and conditions without warning.
SCDW (Super Collision Damage Waiver):
SCDW insurance must be paid on location and is compulsory; it covers any damage (and excess) that may occur. You will not be charged in the event of damages. Window damage, tyre damage and damage caused by sand and water are not covered. The complete set of terms and conditions are available on the insurance contract that you’ll sign when picking up your vehicle. You will not be able to pay off the excess for the SCDW. Each of the rental cars offered by REX is protected by a special system that makes it impossible to drive them without a key. Car theft is only possible if the thief gains access to your car keys – the chance of this happening is very slim. If you lose your copy of the car hire contract or return the rental car dirty, you will be responsible for a fee of 50 CUC that is not covered by your insurance. You will also be personally liable for any traffic fines noted on your car hire contract (another reason to keep track of the contract) and any damage to tyres or rims. In the event of an accident or theft, you must contact the police immediately, fill out a damage report, inform the car rental office and safeguard the car to prevent any further damage.
When picking up your car, you’ll always receive a full tank of petrol for which you will be charged. Therefore when you return your car, leave the tank as empty as possible. Unleaded petrol is known as ‘Especial’ and costs 1.50 CUC per litre (70p), it’s fairly inexpensive. Petrol stations can be found in and near all major cities. Because of the large distances you’ll be travelling, it’s best to always make sure your tank is at least half-full. If your tank is half-full on the day of departure, fill it up. Cuba also sells a cheaper type of petrol that’s been watered down. Be sure to always tank Especial. If you do use any other type of petrol and cause damage to the car, you’ll be personally responsible for any damage. We recommend that you make sure you receive a completely calculated and signed contract and completed credit card slip when you drop off your car. This way you won’t be charged any additional charges later on. REX accepts the following credit cards (not debit cards): Visa or Master Card.
Note: Petrol stations only accept cash!
One way fees:
REX will sometimes charge a drop-off fee when you drop your car off in different location to where you picked it up. The cost depends on the destinations and the duration of car hire. Ask when collecting your car how much the drop off costs will be.
However REX will not charge drop-off fees between the following destinations:
Havana – Varadero
Havana – Santiago de Cuba
Havana – Holguin
When dropping off a car at Playa Pesquero you must drop it off at the car rental office in Guardalavaca. You can take a taxi cab back to Playa Pesquero for about 10 CUC and it will take about 20 minutes. When dropping off a car in Playa Santa Lucia and Viñales you’ll pay a drop-off charge. Information on additional drop-off locations available upon request. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to drop off a car at the port to Cayo Levisa. Drop-off charges are always paid on location, they do not include VAT (IVA is 15%)
Note: Drop-off charges are paid directly to the car hire office in Cuba and are not possible to collect in advance.
If you pick up your car at an airport there is a surcharge of CUC 20 that will be charged by REX.
Contract fee/ Frequent Flyers:
You do not have to pay a Vehicle Licence Fee for REX car rental contracts. Unfortunately because of our special rates and early bookings, you will not be able receive frequent flyer miles for car hire bookings.
Children’s booster seats are hard to get in Cuba. We can request one for you, but if you want to be absolutely sure you’ll have one for your trip it’s best to bring one with you. Wearing seat belts in the front and back of the car is required by law.
The deposit and additional charges must be paid on location by using the driver’s Credit Card (not debit card and must be Visa or Master Card only). The amount of the deposit depends on the type of car. When you collect your car you’ll be asked to sign a blank credit card slip to cover the deposit. This slip will be destroyed and returned to you once the car is returned damage-free.
To hire a car in Cuba, you must have had your driver’s licence for at least 1 year. The same applies to any co-drivers. You are not required to have an international driver’s licence.
The minimum age for drivers and co-drivers is 21. There are no young-driver surcharges for people under the age of 25. Some types of vehicles (like a Van) require a minimum drivers age of 23.
The charges for an additional driver is 10 CUC and their name must be mentioned on the REX contract. You’ll also need to present their passport. We recommend you double check that they are on the contract before you drive off, if they’re not on the contract the insurance won’t cover them or the car. There’s a maximum of 2 additional drivers per contract.
The minimum Cuba car hire period is 2 days (each day being a full 24 hours). If you bring back the car too late, you’ll be charged for the additional hours or days. You’ll be charged the local going rate (not our special contracted rate) and applicable taxes. If you decide to drop your car off early, you will not be reimbursed for unused days or hours.
You can pick up your rental car at the airport or a downtown city office. Make sure you arrive within 1 hour of the agreed pick-up time or your reservation may be cancelled. If you return your car late, you’ll pay (a part of) the daily local rate.
Much like car hire in other parts of the world, Cuba car hire is based on categories of cars and not specific makes and models of cars. The makes and models of cars mentioned on this website are merely meant to serve as examples of the car hire options available. If there are no longer cars available in the category of your choice, you’ll be offered a better category car at the same price. If you decide to hire an upgrade on location, you’ll pay a surcharge based on local rates.
Luggage space in hire cars is always limited. Quite often people travelling in groups of more than 2, bring along more luggage than can be stowed. We recommend travelling with soft travel bags instead of hard-shell suitcases to save room.
In case of emergency:
REX has a 24-hour emergency telephone number that you can call in case of an emergency in Cuba. Our local agent will also provide any additional support you need.
Never pay a police officer a fine in cash. Traffic violations are dealt with and paid for through Rex, the car hire company. REX do charge a small additional fee for processing traffic fines.
Information subject to change:
All information quoted here on rates, drop-off fees, insurance premiums and the terms and conditions are subject to change and can be changed by the car hire company or local government without any prior notice.
Detailed terms and conditions will be provided on the car rental agreement provided to you when you pick up your car.