Question: Is it safe to rent a car and drive around Cuba? Do sat navs work?
Answer: In terms of personal safety, there is seldom a problem in renting a car and driving around Cuba. However, as in any part of the world, one should always exercise caution and good judgment when offering rides to people one meets on the road. That said, it is important to note that Cuba has a very active, and comparatively safe, tradition of hitchhiking.
The biggest problem of driving around Cuba is that road signs and, often, road names are notoriously in short supply. This, more than anything else, can cause drivers great confusion. As well, road services – gas stations, repair stations, wayside cafes, etc. – are in much shorter supply than one is used to in North American or many European countries. In Cuba, the general rule of the road is that when you see a gas station, fill up!
Thus, if you rent a car, be sure you have a good road map with you and that you’ve carefully checked out where you’re going and how you get there.
The other consideration is that you must pay careful attention to the condition of the roads themselves when driving. Although most of the country’s main highways are in relatively good condition, the majority of side roads and city roads will often have unanticipated holes, or manholes that are quite a bit lower than the surrounding pavement, etc. And, whether driving on country roads or even sometimes on major highways, it is not uncommon to come across free-ranging livestock – cattle, donkeys, horses, sheep and goats – crossing the road, or slow-moving tractors, trucks, bicycles, foot-traffic, etc.
Satellite navigation is not available in Cuba, either in privately-owned cars or in rental cars.