Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Cuba: Share a taxi in Havana

Communal taxis are the way to get around in Havana.  One of my favourite sights in the early morning was Havanans hailing them to get to work.  These are not just any taxis, of course, because this is Cuba.  The people of Havana go about their business in the fleets of 1950s beauties that have become the country's trademark.  Most of them have been around the block a bit, literally and idiomatically. They ooze character: 1950s glamour that has acquired a shabby chic patina of age and experience. ie. dinks and dents!
The communal taxis drive set routes through the city and people get in and out along the way. They're like small buses that ply back and forth, or round and around, picking up and setting down on request. As they approach junctions on busy streets, (where people tend to wait) the drivers give hand signals to show where they are going - not just left and right, but at which junction up ahead. Fares, paid in national pesos, are cheap.

It's a great way to get around.  At first I was nervous about how to 'do it', but there's no need to be. The drivers were friendly, helpful and more than happy to take the fare in tourist currency: the CUC. You'll pay more than the locals that way but it'll be considerably cheaper than the yellow 'tourist' taxis. Cheapness is not the reason to do it though.  It's a fun and enjoyable way to travel the city.
Most routes begin or end somewhere near the Capitolio and Parque Central, the hub of the city. When we had visited somewhere and wanted to get a taxi back into the centre, we found a road that went in the right direction, hailed a passing taxi at a junction or lights, and asked if he'd take us to Capitolio. Simple as that.
We travelled along, letting people in and out.  The taxis were generous and spacious with bench seats made for lounging.  The driver took up the least space of all!

Everyone seemed content to watch the world of the street passing by the windows and enjoy the breeze coming in.  There was something very companionable about sharing the ride, strangers travelling the same way for a few minutes before carrying on with our individual journeys.


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