Birding and sightseeing in CubaHannah Donaldson - Travel Expert
There are several car hire offices in Havana (though fewer elsewhere), which are often near tourist hotels. Driving is fine – there are relatively few cars once you get out of Havana, even on the so-called motorway! As you’ve heard, road signs, both for directions to places and for traffic information, are very poor. Familiarise yourself with the compulsory stop sign in particular. You must stop when you cross a railway, even if the line looks unused.
Your fluent Spanish will be a great help to you, particularly given the poor signposting – we generally advise that you may need to ask locals for directions at times. I have a few other tips to help too: the first is to get a good map – the best you can afford. There are plenty available on-line, and Stanfords in Covent Garden is the best shop in the UK. (If you book through us we’ll give you a map, of course.). You may be interested in our self-drive holidays to Cuba too.
Secondly, getting out of Havana and finding your way eastwards to the start of the motorway which runs towards Santiago is really, really difficult, so I’d advise paying a taxi driver to guide you to the point where the motorway starts. (Again, we include an escort for this part of the journey in our self-drive holidays.) Finding your way westwards is easier.
I would also avoid driving at night – it’s easier to get lost, and lots of vehicles drive with no lights. Now Cuba is such friends with Venezuela, petrol is much easier to find. Fill up in medium and larger towns, and be aware that petrol stations are very intermittent on the eastbound motorway, which bypasses larger towns.
In terms of the birding, I’m sure you already have plenty in mind, but I would try the Laguna de Las Salinas (part of Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge) for observing migratory birds between November and May, and also Cayo Sabinal, to the north of Nuevitas in the province of Camagüey.