How Taxi Drivers Became Kings in Cuba

Hint: They make more money than doctors, lawyers and economists

You can’t order an Uber or Lyft here in Havana, but nonetheless you’ll likely have the most epic taxi ride of your life.

And the taxi driver of that classic car your cruising in, well, he or she is likely making bank.

Startup Cuba Episode Two: Why Doctors Drive Taxis In Cuba

Taxi drivers have two things going for them that are unlike anywhere on earth. They’re on an island that has almost 60,000 American classic cars in working order. And they live in a dual economy. If you work for the Cuban government — which most Cubans do — then you make an average of $25-$30 a month. If you are in the private sector, things can change drastically. And some taxi drivers can be among the highest income earners, pulling in $75–100 dollars a day.

Taxi drivers in Cuba often make more money in a day than most people make in a month.

This dramatic difference in pay has compelled highly educated people to leave their state jobs to drive tourists around. What is life like for these Cubans? Has the trade-offs been worth the added cash?

In Startup Cuba’s episode “Why Doctors Drive Taxis In Cuba” we talk with taxi drivers that were once economists, engineers and yes, doctors. We hear what it’s like for them to now be taxi-entrepreneurs.

Cuentapropista Nelys Nevas, a former doctor, now drives a Fotingo taxi (a 1929 Ford) in Havana, Cuba.

In this new economy Cubans are grappling with the question of meaningful work versus money in ways they never had before. And taxi drivers — with their status of kings — happen to be at the center of this debate.

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