PUBLIC TRANSPORT

14 01 2011

 

Getting around Cuba, both within municipalities and between them, is a big challenge for most Cubans. Car ownership is low – more people have bicycles, but in a hilly city like Santiago, they are hard work.

I am used to crowded public transport, having commuted on London’s underground trains for many years, but public transport here can be even more uncomfortable.

These are the various means of travelling within Santiago:

Taxis : these are operated by state-owned companies. The journey from my apartment to the city centre is about a 30 minute walk and costs 3 CUC in a taxi (1CUC = £0.72). It’s cheaper than a London taxi, but an expensive way of travelling for most Cubans. There are also many unlicensed taxis. You might expect these to be cheaper, but they’re not. It’s often necessary to haggle with them.

Motorcycles : this is something that, in my experience, is unique to Santiago, perhaps because of its steep hills. These are privately owned, but licensed and regulated by the state. Passengers pay 10 CUP for journeys within the city (1CUP = £0.03). Because the drivers get paid per journey, they try to complete them as fast as possible in order to get the next fare. They can be quite hazardous to pedestrians in the narrow city centre streets.

Maquinas : maquina means machine. These are normally old US vehicles. They are privately owned, but licensed and regulated by the state. They operate as route taxis – they ply their trade on a particular route and take as many people as will fit in. They cost 5 CUP per journey.

Taxis Ruteros : These were introduced last year, serving outlying locations from the city centre. They operate like maquinas, but they are state-owned modern mini-buses and they cost 3 CUP.

Camiones : camion means lorry. These are lorries, with a covered seating area in the back. There are also smaller lorries, known as camionetas. These are privately owned, but licensed and regulated by the state. They operate like buses, on specific routes. They cost 1 CUP per journey.

Buses : There is a fleet of modern, state-owned, Chinese bendy buses. They only cover certain routes and are the cheapest form of transport: 0.20 CUP.

Coches : these are horse-drawn carts. These are privately owned, but licensed and regulated by the state In some towns they are the principle form of transport, but not in Santiago, where the hills are too steep. They operate in the lowest part of the city, near the port and the railway station. They cost 1 CUP per journey.

Bicitaxis : These are bicycles with covered seats for two people behind, a little like the bicycle rickshaws that operate in London’s West End. These are privately owned, but licensed and regulated by the state Like the coches, they are common in other towns but here only operate in the lower part of town. They cost 5 CUP per journey.

Street scene showing two froms of public transport : a camion and a bicitaxi

Public transport has improved in the major cities like Santiago and Havana since I first came to Cuba in 2007, with the introduction of the Chinese bendy buses. However, people say that the frequency of them has been reduced. I have read that this is because many need repairs and that, unlike the buses, which were bought from China on generous credit terms, the spare parts have to be paid for up-front and Cuba lacks the foreign currency reserves to buy them.

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3 06 2011
Sierra Maestra « Tales of the Heroic City

[…] front of the dieciocho plantas is one of the major interchanges for buses, camiones and maquinas heading to the east and north east of the […]

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