Everything You Need to Know About Biking in Havana, Cuba
Havana is a city made for biking! In the older parts of the city, especially in Old Havana and Central Havana, the roads are tight, and often packed with people walking around and going about their daily chores. While some tourists prefer to walk through the winding streets and slowly take in the views, I think the best and easiest way to see a lot of Havana, in the shortest amount of time, is to take your bike. In this article I will explain the advantages of exploring Havana on a bike and tell you exactly how you can take your bike to Cuba on your next trip. For even more information about biking in Cuba, you can check out the best Cuba guidebook and download a free Havana Tips and Tricks guide.
Advantages Of Exploring Havana On A Bike
1) The weather in Cuba and particularly in Havana can be extremely hot. You will have a more relaxed and refreshed trip if you can conveniently zip around the city on a bike, rather than walking or taking public transportation every time you want to explore.
2) With a bike, you will be able to cover a lot of distance and still have the flexibility to choose your own route and stop to explore wherever and whenever you want, without having to walk all day.
3) Cubans are very chatty and if you are walking around the city and look like a tourist, they will constantly stop to talk with you, ask you about your trip and offer you travel advice. On a bike, you can zip right by them without ever feeling compelled to stop and have a conversation.
4) Biking in Havana is relatively safe, compared to other large, metropolitan destinations since traffic generally moves slowly and drivers are very careful.
Renting A Bike In Havana
In terms of renting a bike in Havana, your options are very limited. While there are locations which offer rental services, most are located in the Miramar neighborhood, close to the foreign embassies. Prices can be very high, often 25 CUC per day or more for a basic bike. Your best option for a bike rental is to simply approach a local with a bike and offer them a bit of money to borrow it for the day. Even if the person declines your offer, they may refer you to somebody else with a bike available. If you are successful, you can usually expect to pay a local about 5 CUC per day for a bike rental. If you are staying at a casa particular, you should also ask your landlord about a bike rental. On rare occasions, they might have a bike, or know somebody who does, and might be interested in renting it out.
Buying A Cheap Bike In Cuba
Buying a bike in Havana is relatively difficult and can be very expensive. Furthermore, the quality of the bikes available, both new and used, is very low. For example, a new bike, purchased at a state store will usually cost at least 120 CUC. It will be a very basic mountain bike and will often require considerable assembly. On the used market, the cheapest adult bikes will be about $40. These bikes will usually be a mishmash of rusted, antiquated parts with worn out tires. Better bikes can be had, but will cost much more. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in Havana and in need of a bike, your best option may be to pay a bit more for a used bike that is in reasonable condition.
The best location to search for a used bike is near the intersection of Maximo Gomez and Manglar streets, in the Central Havana neighborhood, beside the old Cuatro Caminos market. Many people walk around this area, promoting used bikes that they are trying to sell. Just a few streets south, at the corner of Vigia and Pila streets, you will find dozens of used bike vendors and bike mechanics. On some weekends there are literally hundreds of old bikes on display in the streets, with mechanics busily working to get them all repaired. This is the only area of Havana where I have consistently seen many bike dealers and actually had any success with purchasing a used bike for a reasonable price.
Note: Several sources on the internet claim that there is a “bike depot” located beside the Capitolio, in the Edificio Metropolitano. To my knowledge, this depot no longer exists. Your other option to buy a used bike is to look on the Cuban classified ads website, Revolico.com. The prices on this site are usually considerably higher, but it is a good opportunity to hone your negotiation skills.
Your Best Option For Biking In Cuba and Havana
If you are interested in exploring Cuba by bike, then your absolute best option is to plan ahead and bring your own bike with you to Cuba. A simple, inexpensive used bicycle will be perfectly fine. Most airlines permit travelers to transport a bike for free or at a nominal cost. Overall, this will be the most cost effective approach, even if you have to buy a cheap used bicycle specifically for your trip, and then pay a supplemental fee to transport it with you to Cuba. With your own bike, you will be sure that it is mechanically sound and reliable. You will have the confidence to use it as your main mode of transportation and you will trust it to take you wherever you want in the city and even on longer distance trips to the Havana countryside.
Very Important Havana Biking Tips
1) If you plan on using a bike in Cuba, always remember to bring a good lock with you, since bike locks are almost impossible to find in Cuba and theft is high.
2) Even if you have a good lock, the best way to be absolutely sure that your bike will be safe is to park it in secure facility, called a Parqueo. Throughout Havana, wherever there is a parking lot, you will notice attendants, dressed in state-issued, red and white uniforms, keeping watch over the cars, motorcycles and bikes. For a nominal sum (half a peso (MN) per hour) the attendant will guard your bike. The small cost is well worth the peace of mind.
Bicycle tourism is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of travel, and in many ways, Havana is one of the best cities for tourists to explore on a bike. Not only will you save money in transportation costs, but you will be able to easily ride through the packed Havana streets and casually stop at whatever location you find interesting along your trip. Bringing your own bike to Cuba is the best and cheapest option for most people. And, it’s interesting to note that at the end of the trip, you can either bring your bike back to your home country, or leave it in Cuba. A bike is a prized form of transportation for any Cuban family and you can be sure that your bike donation will be appreciated and highly valued.
Following the tips in this article will guarantee that your bike trip goes smoothly. You can check out my guidebook for even more information about traveling to Havana and exploring Cuba on a budget.