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Buses in Cuba


Dane
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The buses I observed fall into four broad catagories.

1 - tourist buses; these are all very new (2007-2009) and are all Chinese built, Cuban assembled. They are in generally good condition, although tghose double deckers in both Vardero and Havanna are looking far older than three years on the upper deck.

2 - long distance buses - made up of a huge assortment of vehicles; the largest single group is more Yutang. I am guessing they were perhaps 20% of the fleet. The other 80% ranges from trailers pulled by tractors to school buses to honestly I do not even know.

3 - yellow school buses. From Canada a few years ago there are a couple hundred of these on Cuba's roads. They were distributed to both the long distance carriers and the city transit agencies, so you see them everywhere.

4 - city transit buses. Predominantly Eastern European vehicles from Germany and former USSR states. Most carry the original destination signs, since Cuban bus routes (in cities) are numebered, not named.

All buses run at extremely full capacity as there is a chronic fuel and capacity shortage in Cuba in addition to very few cars. Nasty combination of variables. It is almost impossible for locals to get on transit or long distance services, and it easily takes over an hour to get on any intercity or main intracity transit route. Reliability, aopparently, is generally poor by our standards and schedules are not clsely followed. Capacity is so stretched that tour buses (or any bus, for that matter) can never deadhead, and most offer a ride to people traveling in its direction of travel.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was in Cuba in April 2005, just before the Chinese invasion. There has been a large influx of Chinese-built buses and coaches as part of a large trade deal with the Chinese (who are investing a lot of time and money in a great many Third World and other 'orphan' states). This was what it was like in 2005.

The incoming tourism industry is serviced by four companies, Havanatur, Transtur, Transgaviota & Veracuba/Cubanican. Prior to the Chinese arrival their fleets were mainly made up of Brazilian-built Volvo - B7R, B12B (not the current model) and B12R - with Brazilian bodywork by Busscar and Marcopolo. Agrale and Volksbus - also Brazilian companies - supplied some minicoaches. Havanatur preferred Brazilian-built Mercedes O400RS with bodywork by yet another Brazilian builder, Comil, although some had Egyptian-built MCV bodywork. The choice of supplier would have been down to whatever trade deals were in place at the time. Prior to the Volvos there were second-hand imports, MCI from Canada and Bovas from the Netherlands, but these had been downgraded.

Long-distance services were split between those aimed at locals and those at toursits. Cuba has a two-tier currency, with tourists expected to pay in a currency tied to the US dollar and locals using their own devalued version. Astro runs the services for locals, with a motley collection of older Giron and Mercedes O371 but with Korean-built Hyundai Aerocity 540 and Kia AM928 dating from 2003. Viazul runs the tourist routes with Mercedes O400RSE / Busscar, although the latest ones had MCV bodywork.

Havana was still running the 'camels' when I was there, articulated truck-based things that looked like hell on wheels. Most service buses were second-hand imports from the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy. There were also some Volvos built new in Cuba that were in Havana but nowhere else. The imports could be found everywhere, in various states of disrepair but still chugging along. As mentioned above, lack of transport is a serious problem in Cuba. Many lorries with seats were noted in the country as were some donkey carts. Many hotels and ministries had their own fleets, both Girons and second-hand imports, with the Dutch DAF's being the most common. I only saw one New Look in two weeks. A few Soviet-era Russian minibuses still survived as well, and many schools had Canadian-sourced yellow schoolbuses.

Cuba did once have its own bus manufacturing industry, with a company that went by the name of Giron. Most of their designs were based on those of Hungarian builder Ikarus, either directly or by mixing up elements of different models. Giron models were numbered up in Roman numerals, an example being the Giron XXII, a long-distance coach that had had been used on tourist services when new but had latterly been transferred to Astro for long-distance work. Examples of most models were seen but most in very poor condition. There's a website that covers hem in some detail.

If I ever go back I suspect that it'll be very different. The Chinese are here.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...
No clue, could be but Cuba also had old STO fishbowls too at one point. Anyways, you can see that the fishbowl is way more than 40ft long! The bus was cut and a section was added over the rear wheels.

Must be at least 53' long, like any other trucks with trailer IMO.

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Must be at least 53' long, like any other trucks with trailer IMO.

Wow, I am just wondering.........how the heck can you make turns with that Frankenstein-looking fishbowl trailer thing?! The distance between the rear end of the trailer and the rear axles are insanely far apart from each other! I can't imagine how that trailer can manage to turn without its rear end part kicking out and hitting surrounding cars / pedestrians along the process! :P

I guess this is their next-gen Camel bus, with a converted fishbowl trailer attached to a tractor?!

Dave

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Wow, I am just wondering.........how the heck can you make turns with that Frankenstein-looking fishbowl trailer thing?! The distance between the rear end of the trailer and the rear axles are insanely far apart from each other! I can't imagine how that trailer can manage to turn without its rear end part kicking out and hitting surrounding cars / pedestrians along the process! :P

I guess this is their next-gen Camel bus, with a converted fishbowl trailer attached to a tractor?!

Dave

I don't think they will replace the camel bus with converted New Looks. The camels look alot newer than that!

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