Cuba: Hitchhiking & Transportation

The Bus

Being picky about your ride is not an option in Cuba. Buying a car is extremely difficult, so you make do with what you have access to.

While we were down there, our primary mode of transportation was a giant bus that had been left for parts in a field when the previous owner called a church member to ask if they would be interested in restoring it. He stated that all they had to do was get the bus out of the field, restore the interior, and make sure it ran smoothly. He would give it to them free and clear as long as they would come take it off his hands. The church was more than willing.

Stepping on this bus immediately took me back to the public transportation in Guatemala. The interior was sheet metal and seats that were acquired from other old buses then bolted to the floor. Padding in the seats would have been a luxury. On the bright side, we had plenty of space.

This bus war our primary method of transportation. I did not understand why we needed a giant bus for our small group, but I realized this was more of a sense of pride than necessity. They wanted to show off their bus to us. Acquiring it had been a huge "win" for the church and allowed them to expand their outreach.

As we drove along roads in the city and in the country, I could not help but notice many people standing on the sides of the road attempting to wave down cars (and our half empty bus). One of the Cuban men helped me understand what this was.

"Public transportation is rare and inconsistent," he stated. "If you are waiting on the city bus to pick you up, you might wait all day. Rather than waiting, people hitchhike to get around. In essence, everyone with a car is a taxi driver whether they want to be or not. It is rare to see someone driving by themselves because there are many people in need of a ride and they have money to pay for the ride."

The reason hitchhiking is so popular in Cuba is based on necessity. The same used to be true in America a few decades ago, but now most people have access to their own vehicles or public transportation. Cuba simply does not have that level of transportation infrastructure.

The last time your vehicle was in the shop, did you realize how inconvenient it was to not be able to leave at a moments notice?

When I need to go to work, shop, or vacation, I hop in my truck and drive. To us, this is the norm. If I want to go somewhere, I just do it without a second thought. I do not recognize how nice this is until I do not have that luxury. Often we forget just how blessed we are to have something as simple as a vehicle that allows us to go where we need to go.

Bryan Clifton

Oklahoma City, OK