52 chevrolet


Chevrolet BelAir / 1955 by Ruud Onos

Before Uber and all the sharing car options, the Cuban “Maquina”!

As many countries in the world, in Cuba taking a cab, renting or buying a car is very expensive. Bus, subway, sharing car, there are plenty of transport options in Western countries. What about Cuba?

Another concept exists in Cuba, the collective transport in vintage car known as a máquina, which means machine, or almendron, which means almond. Let me explain about this transport.

When you see a vintage American car with a taxi sticker on the window it’s not a real “taxi”, it’s a “maquina”!

Do you want to join me for a ride in a Maquina? Ok, let’s go!

It’s a real headache to understand how local transports work.

1.       Where can you find a Maquina?

You have to go to one of the streets where there is Maquinas’ traffic. Here are the major streets where you can find a Maquina:

-          Galiano, near the Capitolio and Zanja in Havana City Center,

-          Línea, Calle G, and calle 23 in Vedado

-          Tercera, Septima and Calle 51 in Miramar

-          Calle 19 en playa

2.       How to stop a Maquina?

In Cuba, there is no indication on bus stops for the maquina. We just have to do a signal to the driver to stop the Maquina. How? Making a hand signal to bus drivers who respond in return with another hand signal. Thanks to this, Cubans can pick up the maquina they want.

Let’s start easy, just raise your hand and watch the maquina’s driver, as does the guy in front of me:

One, two, three… 10 maquinas have passed by without even seeing us.

3.       Wait

-          It’s the rush hour, all the maquinas are full! He tells me (understanding that I was waiting for a maquina too). We could wait from 15 to 30 minutes here… Well, I’m Alejandro, nice to meet you.

Great, it’s finally working! A very beautiful black Chevrolet 52 stops and we go inside. The car is huge and quite comfortable!

4.       But… to go where?

Each maquinas follows a predetermined road and most often goes straight ahead along the street: from the beginning to the end of Tercera, then from the beginning to the end of Linea, and then to Capitolio, etc.

Actually, the only potential difficulty remains in finding the road changes (?). Thanks to Alejandro, here is the meaning of the different signals you have to learn to understand where a maquina is going and to make the driver understand where you want to go:

-          The index finger pointed downward: I’m going straight ahead along this street.

-          The index finger pointed upward: I’m going to Havana City Center (or anywhere, just point the finger to the direction where you want to go):

-          Show three fingers of one hand: I’m going to Tercera

5.       Price

The maquina is very cheap! At 50 cents Cuc (=0,50 USD) a ride, you can go far from the Vedado to the Capitolio for instance.

To conclude, it is very fun to hang around in a maquina. It’s probably not the quickest way to go to your destination but it’s definitely one of the best way to feel the Cuban spirit, to hear the Cuban stories and Cuban “chismes” (ie gossips), to live like the Cuban people!

Thank you Alejandro for your help!

If you want to go quickly somewhere, I would not recommend you to try those transports alone but with a local who knows how it works. You are shy or in a hurry? Don’t worry, there are other options to choose when visiting Havana: the classic yellow taxi, the classic taxi, the bici-taxi (bike taxi), the coco-taxi (replaced by a moped bike), or the horse cart. What kind of transports should you use, and where? Let’s have a clear overview: