CC Taxi Ride: The Modern Chinese Taxi – Emgrand EC8

Cuba is not all classic American cars with some Russian ones sprinkled in. There is more variety than likely most any other place I can think of. Heck, we saw a Ford Aerostar that by all rights should not have been there being used as a taxi. As part of our taxis from around the world series we took a couple of rides in the ubiquitous (in Cuba as a taxi) Emgrand EC8.

We did not actually set out to sample the Emgrand EC8 but when arriving in Varadero we, unlike most, did not have a bus to catch as we were not staying at a resort. There was a line up of modern taxis ready to take us into town but I thought I would be smart and head over to the near by collection of classic cars in the parking lot to catch a ride. There must have been some sort of rule against offering a ride to passengers outside the taxi line up as none of them were interested in taking us.

A good portion of the modern vehicles in Cuba are Chinese as China is providing a huge amount of investment in the country currently. The official taxi line up was almost all Emgrands but I had never been in a Chinese car so we hailed one. Not that we really had a choice. The car itself was fairly unremarkable but seemingly competent and well put together except for the headliner.

The headliner seemed to be doing its best impression of a Seventies or Eighties American car by being held up by push pins.


So what the heck is an Emgrand? It is a luxury sub-brand of Geely, a Lexus to Toyota if you will. Emgrand was later discontinued as its own marque and rolled into a series under the Geely banner. The EC8 is a mid sized car of roughly Toyota Camry size circa 2010. Our taxi had a five speed manual gearbox which is odd by American or Canadian taxi standards but par for the course in many other places in the world. The engines were supplied by or derived from Mitsubishi designs of either 2.0L or 2.4L.

The Emgrand and its driver reliably brought us to our first casa (you rent a room from a local) and with that we had checked off a Chinese car off our list.

The next morning we headed over to the bus station to figure how we would get to Havana. We managed to determine that there was two buses a day. We seemed to be in line to buy our tickets but after we sitting in the waiting room for over an hour we soon realized that we were actually just on a waiting list as both buses were sold out for the day. More prepared travellers had bought their tickets online before travelling to Cuba. With a couple hours to go before the first bus departure we left to rustle up some lunch wondering if we should wait just to be likely disappointed.

As we came out a taxi driver was standing in front of this lovely Ford. He offered to take us to Havana for a reasonable price which we accepted rather than gambling on two spaces being available on a sold out bus. He then lead us over to … another yellow Emgrand EC8.

Despite the bait and switch we were at least off on our journey and would have some Havana exploring time left in the day once arriving. Note the airbag repair which is probably not worth dwelling on how it happened and to what standard the rest of the car was repaired to. This one had a different style of headliner that appeared better at staying up on its own.

It is about a two and a half hour journey passing through the town Matanzas but luckily the Emgrand proved to be reasonably comfy.

There were plenty of chances to spot many interesting vehicles along the way. Photos were a little harder to get unless they were out the back window. I do find these UAZ vans to be quite charming.

The middle portion of the journey had a variety of forest, small towns and coastal sections.

Here is a very brief video to give you an idea.

Once we got to Havana we gave our driver the address of our next casa. A period of confusion followed when we realized that the address we had been given was not the complete one by Havana standards. We had a number and a street name but we additionally needed the two streets it was between. Otherwise the numbers repeated along the street. This is what the average street looked like and we only had only seen interior shots plus one of the balcony of our casa. We had no phone or data service for the duration of trip either.

Our driver stopped for directions which was not really successful.

It did allow me a chance to take a shot of the household light switch that operated the horn.

Luckily my son somehow recognized the second floor balcony of our casa despite it being repainted since. That unmarked brown door is the entrance.

After climbing the stairs we were met with an interior which was extremely nice but also very pink. The tile was the original flooring.

We had a great view of road from the balcony and were ready for our Havana adventure.

Related Reading:

CC Taxi Ride: Re-powered Citroen Traction Avant in Havana, Cuba

CC Taxi Ride: The Other Russian – Moskvitch 2140 in Havana Cuba

CC Taxi Ride: A Cuban Fiberglass Half Coconut