The question many of you are asking: “How can I send my motorcycle to Cuba?” answered here. For visitors to Cuba, there are three ways. Air freight (expensive), on a private yacht (if you own one or can hook up with yacht owner willing to assist), or in a container ship (relatively inexpensive, but best suited for groups).
Air freight: While Air Transat has offered this service from Canada in the past, at last check they were claiming that they are not currently accepting motorcycles as air cargo due to a lack of facilities in Cuban airports that will provide the dangerous goods certificate. We’re not certain this is actually the case as a Canadian friend very recently shipped his Harley to Varadero with Cubana de Aviacion at a cost of ~$2500 CAD all in for the one way journey from Montreal. Should he choose air freight for the return (remember that he could choose an alternate shipping method for the return should that be his preference), Cubana would ship the bike back to Canada. Another German acquaintance has used European airlines to ship a group of motorcycles to Havana at a much heftier price tag of ~€3500. At any rate, if you’re on a tight timeline and have lots of money to spend, this route is certainly an option. Temporary importation and licensing of your bike is possible for the duration of your tourist visa. For most nationalities tourist visas are good for 30 days, extendable locally for another 30 days; for Canadians it’s 90 days + 90 days extension for a total of just about 6 consecutive months of riding pleasure. The process is relatively fast and requires no intermediaries. You are obliged to re-export your bike upon a) departure from Cuba or b) expiration of your tourist visa (whichever comes first) or risk confiscation of the equipment. If you were forced to unexpectedly leave Cuba for a documented medical emergency they may make an exception. The only other possible (long shot) exception to this rule might be if you were married to a Cuban and granted permanent residence in Cuba before the stipulated temporary importation period expired, in which case you might be able to nationalize the bike and have a local plate issued.
Private yacht: If you’re traveling to Cuba via private yacht or know someone who is willing to ferry your bike to Cuba, after checking in at the international marina the marina’s customs office will assist in the temporary importation of your bike, and again local regulations allow for licensing for the duration of your tourist visa. No intermediaries are required for this option either. Bike owners (or those in power of the bike’s official paperwork) can present their documents directly to the appropriate Cuban officials for temporary importation and licensing/registration.
Container ship: WoWCuba has experience assisting in the temporary importation of containers of motorcycles in Cuba. This option requires the support of a Cuban institution and is not suitable for individual travelers. In conjunction with a guaranteed land package (transport/guide/hotel services) which needn’t necessarily be for the entire duration of your intended stay in Cuba, our ground handler Havanatur S.A. issues a document authorizing the local import agency to undertake the corresponding actions to extract equipment from the Mariel port upon arrival with our assistance and supervision, and we also take care of local licensing with the local Motor Vehicles office upon arrival of the bike owners in Havana. We’ve managed to compete this process in the past in a record 24 hours, but (to be on the safe side) a minimum of several days to a week are recommended from the time of arrival of the container ship to when you expect to begin riding. From Canada we usually use Protos Shipping, based in Halifax. They have a direct non-stop route to Havana featuring bi-monthly departures of Melfi Marine ships which take 5-7 days to arrive in port. Container ships also regularly travel to Cuba from Mexico, Panama, and even Europe, but routes from Europe can be very circuitous so at least a month is recommended from departure to arrival/extraction in Havana. When maritime shipping/port/customs fees are divided between a group of 8-10 bikes per container, the overall costs are usually very attractive compared to air freight. While some Danish groups that bring their bikes here simply use tie-downs to secure their equipment in the containers to maximize the use of space, others prioritize the safety of their equipment by using pallets with steel wheel divots to ensure immobility of equipment during the journey. Some groups even use dims to build a second level in their container and fit even more bikes in for relatively the same costs, but this usually requires a little more work in terms of removing windshields, lowering handlebars of the bikes on the first level to accommodate the bikes on the top during transit.
If the above options for riding your own bike in Cuba turn out to be too complicated and you’re looking for a simpler solution to experience Cuba on 2 motorized wheels, this year Ernesto Guevara (yes, he’s Che’s youngest son), Camilo Sanchez and Sergio Morales have teamed up and will be offering two different circuits in Cuba with modern Harley Davidson bike rentals included. WoWCuba will soon have full details and rates available for individuals or groups interested in rolling Cuba’s roads with this adventurous and accomplished team of local organizers/riders/mechanics.