Cuba: What’s an Almendron?

almendron cuban car

We landed, we got there, we were in Cuba mi amol!

We went out to find a taxi and then it hits you, it´s hot, hot hot, and the humidity. We could barely breathe. And thank god it was at night… phew!

We took a taxi and headed to an apartment we rented in La Habana Vieja just next to the famous Casa de la Musica.

We had a short catch up with our landlady, she was so nice and so helpful. She gave us some tips about things to avoid ’till how to get around. She introduced us to the term “almendrones”, the plural of almendron. She said “the best and cheapest way to move around is an almendron”. “It is a car”, she said, “you will easily find loads of them on the streets going around the city getting people in and out. It costs 1 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) per person for foreigners”. Locals have a different price, cheaper of course, and they even pay with a different currency, CUPs (Cuban Peso). It was really difficult for me to understand why cubans have two currencies or why they apply different rates to foreigners. If you want to get a cab in Barcelona or London you pay exactly the same rate regardless nationality or if you are on holiday. Anyway… “Esto es Cuba” (meaning, this is Cuba). It is not the only country which does it though but still. I understand that when there is a need of generating cash or business you do what´s needed. And if people pay then who am I to judge? It´s just a thought and I´m still not used to not knowing the prices beforehand.

Again, coming back to the main point, almendrones. We thought that we had enough information and it will be very straight forward to find an almendron if we needed so.

Next day, our first real day in La Habana, we looked around trying to find an almendron. Not because we wanted to get one yet, we wanted to wander around first, discover, experience, see. Just for later, just in case we really needed to get one. We couldn´t find them. Where did the almendrones go? No clue. As a note, we were a group of five. Keep it in mind. It may be not important now, but you will see why later.

So, later on we were tired and we were quite far from our apartment and, as we couldn´t find almendrones, we got a cab. Our first experience in one of these old fancy cuban cars. A classic. One of my favourite things of Cuba is its cars, I would love to have one. Do I really need it? No… next subject. Dreams are dreams, right? Let me dream of having one one day, perhaps just a miniature, it counts 😉

So, we took one. Well, after bargaining for quite a few minutes:

Driver: 10 CUCs

Us: No, 6 CUCs

Driver: ummm 8 CUCs

Us: 7 CUCs or we wait for the next one

Driver: ok 7 CUCs then

And we got in. We followed the same strategy and we could get rides for 6 CUCs (we improved our negotiation skills, well that´s what we thought).

What we got all the time were almendrones!!!! yes guys. And we gave them 1 extra CUC everytime. When did we realise about that? you may be asking yourself. It was during our last day in La Habana. We rented a car, but that´s actually another story, and we had to pick it up (for the second time… yes, another story). So only 2 of us went to pick it up, there was no need for us to go all together again. Our landlady was just passing by and she helped us to find an almendron, as we said to her that we couldn´t find almendrones. And then it was, when we realised that yes we knew what an almendron looked like and we had been taking almendrones all the time, and paying extra. It´s not about the money, I guess you know that. It is about the fact that we were bargaining and thinking that we got a good price when actually we had no idea, at all. Our pride and happiness thrown to the bin.

What´s an almendron then? Almendrones are the old American cars the symbol of Cuba itself. How could we have missed it? Lack of information I believe hence I decided to write this post.

There are two types of almendrones:

  1. Those that give you a tour: they are more expensive, have fixed rates and routes but you can still negotiate the price
  2. The regular ones: what we call cab or taxi. You can “easily”, I say easily if you know what you are looking for, find them driving around. They will stop to ask you for a ride, if you are going somewhere, if you need transport, taxi, etc. These, as I mentioned, cost 1 CUC per person. You can find yourself sharing the ride with random people, from locals to tourists

Hope you find this post useful and help you to learn from my mistakes 🙂

Enjoy and stay around!

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