Driving a rental car in Cuba is not difficult, just a little different. Unmarked roads (especially in rural areas and away from highways), roaming cattle, tractors and cyclists on the Autopista are probably the biggest challenges. Lack of night lighting can also make driving trying. Nevertheless, Cuba has some of Latin America’s best driving conditions since there is relatively little traffic on the highways. In the cities, however, traffic is on the rise.
• Mind your speed limit (40-50km/hour in towns and villages, 60km/hour on smaller roads, 90 km/hour on highways and 100 km/hour on the Autopista unless otherwise indicated).
• Driving is on the right hand side of the road. Although legally not allowed, some drivers keep driving on the left side of the road and can be passed on the right side. Avoid confusions; keep always on the right lane.
• Honking is not forbidden.
• Water : Yes - Alcohol : No
• You should only follow instructions from uniformed officers. “Private traffic controllers” (read: non uniformed “officials”) imploring you to detour may try to get you to patronize their private eatery (except of course if you do wish to visit the place)
• Plan your daily travel distances and schedule to reach your destination before sunset. Driving at night is absolutely not recommended due to limited visibility (i.e. poor lighting and signage) and road hazards (cattle, cyclists, potholes).
• Stop at all railroad crossings.
• Speeding or other traffic tickets have to be paid upon returning your vehicle to the rental company, never directly to the official administering the ticket.
• Fasten seatbelts.
• Be patient and slow down when sharing the road with cyclists, pedestrians, and cattle.
• Hitchhiking is an unofficial (but not illegal) system of transportation for Cubans. Picking up hitchhikers has its pros and cons. You can contribute to alleviating the transportation problem by picking them up, plus they can assist you if you get lost and it promotes socio-cultural interaction with locals. Although relatively rare, there have been cases of hitchhikers stealing property from rental cars, so be aware if you do offer rides to strangers.
• Usually fuel is paid for when you pick up the car. If this is the case, you don’t need to fill up the tank before returning the car. Indeed: refunds are not given on any fuel remaining in the tank.
• Flat tire? Do not accept help from enthusiastic passersby who spontaneously offer to repair it. Instead, locate the nearest gas station or "ponchera". You also can call Customer Technical Assistance (you’ll find the telephone numbers on your contract).
• Since GPS service in Cuba will not be what you’re used to and good roadmaps are not always available, it’s best to plan your itinerary and route in advance. Either print your planned routes at home, or purchase a good roadmap in your country. Remember that connectivity via mobile phones may be limited.
• While some drivers decide to pick up their car in the morning, if you want to hit the road early, pick up your rental in the afternoon (the day before) at about 04.00pm. Then you can drive off immediately after breakfast the next day. Needless to say, pick-up and drop-off times have to be when the rental office is open.
• Make a list of the cities you’ll pass during each drive. Road signs are not abundant in Cuba, and towns are often only signposted once (sometimes directly before the turnoff!). The list will familiarize you with the terrain and names, making navigating easier.
Follow these normal rules and you should enjoy a wonderful, stress-free exploration of Cuba, its natural scenery, and hospitable villages and towns.