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What Makes Cuban Car Culture So Exceptional

By Oliver Pearson   16 December 2015

If there's two things which keep bringing people to Cuba, it’s cars and cigars. No less familiar is the site of a busy cigar lounge than a road bustling with vintage Austins and Jaguars. However, unlike anywhere else in the world, these kinds of vehicles are more rule than exception. With the roads easily accessed via yacht, guests to the island are able to get a real sense of this truly unique car culture whilst on their luxury charter.

Whilst the models themselves are classics, they are at the same time souvenirs of Cuba’s remarkable history. Due to the embargo which prohibited imports from around the early 1960s, Cubans had to maintain what they had or else settle for much less sophisticated cars sent over from Russia. For this reason, there are currently over 50,000 pre-1960 classics roaming Cuba’s roads. What better way to set out from Havana’s Marina Hemingway than by getting in amongst them all?

With a resourceful ingenuity, Cuban mechanics have kept even the most challenging vehicles operational. Indeed, it is not unusual to turn the corner and see a crowd gathering to look under the hood of a Hillman or Mercury, with everyone offering his or her own innovative solution to the problem.

Unable to ship the necessary parts from the United States, Cuba’s enthusiasts have to engineer every aspect of their repair work independently. Whilst such work has in some cases significantly altered the build of vintage models, it has brought about an unrivalled understanding and appreciation of the classics. In this way, simply getting off your yacht and making the short trip to Havana is a cultural experience in itself.  

Cars in Cuba are not just a means of getting around or looking impressive, but the center of a culture in every sense of the word.

For the purist, the A Lo Cubano Club offers a taxi service which allows only original classics to join its fleet - to wear the A Lo Cubano badge, drivers must prove that their vehicle is made of exclusively authentic parts. As you might expect, members of this elite club are more than happy to talk about their antiques between trips. When it comes to travelling the land on your luxury charter vacation, there aren't many means which come even remotely close.

The streets are a moving museum, with 1950s Buicks giving way to Studebakers and Chevrolets against a russet and terracotta backdrop. In many ways, driving around Cuba feels like being transported to the Hollywood of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe

The recent relaxing of laws surrounding private enterprise means that more and more rental companies are emerging, offering visitors the opportunity of handling a well preserved classic themselves. With appropriate and subtle additions - things like modern air conditioning units and comfortable interiors - it’s possible to enjoy Cuba in true style. This isn’t to mention that when you don’t feel like driving yourself, you’ll be able to taxi in a range of beautiful cars which simply aren’t available anywhere else in the world. Whatever you decide, the roads of Havana are easily accessible via yacht and make for the perfect stop along your luxury charter vacation. 

For more information on creating your perfect Cuban charter vacation, please contact your preferred charter broker.

To get some inspiration, why not take a look at some of the yachts currently available for charter in Cuba- the 99m/325ft superyacht 'Christina O', the 69m/228ft luxury yacht SHERAKHAN, and the 53m/173ft motor yacht MIRAGE are all currently available in these fantastic waters.

Or, take a look at all of the luxury charter yachts currently available in the Caribbean.  


Photo Tour of Cuba56

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