There are two kinds of Taxis in Cuba. The Yellow taxis and the privately owned taxis. Yes, there are private businesses in Cuba, and there are plenty of them.
My ride from Viñales to Havana was absolutely priceless (which translates as 20 USD). Sr. Rodriguez escorted my friend and I as we set sail back to Havana. Sr. Rodriguez, like many privately owned taxi companies in Cuba are proud of what they do and are some of the hardest workers. ‘Todos somos mecanicos.’ We are all mechanics he tells me with a grin. ‘If it breaks, you’ve got to know how to fix it’. He started driving when he was very young, and started his taxi business when he was 18. He has since saved enough to buy and sell four other Carros Ligeros and will keep the one he has got until he finds it time to pass it along.
Un amigo offered him 20,000 USD for the car just last week- he boasts -but he didn’t take it. The car is his, its his heart, he explains, and he will keep it until he feels the time to trade for something better or more efficient.
Sr. Rodriguez has built for himself a business, and an impressive one at that. He has acquired all 6 licenses to operate any vehicle in Cuba. He passed test upon test to earn his licenses and proudly showed me all 7 of his documents. I asked him how he learned to drive each vehicle “My friends taught me of course!” he replied. My mind drifted to this taxi driver teaching himself to drive a Gua Gua, the equivalent of Marta Bus.
A – Moto. B – Caro Ligero. C – Camion. D – la ‘segrada’ Gua Gua. E – La Rastra. F – el Tractor
While the overly expensive yellow taxis will tell you these guys are working illegally, the fact is they are working privately which carries its own prejudice. There is nothing to fear in taking any one of these taxis. They pay taxes to support their jobs, just as any of us do. Take the Carro Ligero, enjoy the company of a true Cuban entrepreneur and dont listen to me. Ask your own questions and find out for yourself what exactly is going on within the Cuban Socio-Economic culture.
“There are two dials that work”, he states proudly. “The oil pressure and the battery.” “What about the gas?” I asked with a nervous laugh. “Gas?” he asks, “well obviously I keep track of that too. I know my tank. Right now, we’ve got about a half! Enough to get to Havana”. However much he had at the time, we made it without a problem.