Havana's taxis, most of them vintage American cars that have traditionally shared the service they offer, for the first time in decades face the unusual situation of having to compete for passengers, following a boom in licenses for private cab drivers.

In a city where problems of public transport are chronic, it is strange to see cabs looking for passengers and not the other way around, but the sudden appearance of hundreds of new taxis over the past two years has changed everything.

Licenses for private taxi drivers has allowed some traditional routes to give better service and even some new ones to be opened, but drivers who have been in the business for a long time complain that there is now "a lot of pressure."

"There's more competition, so you have to get tough and race to pick up passengers, which makes the work more dangerous," Pupy, a 52-year-old cabby who drives a 1957 Chrysler, told Efe.

Of the almost 400,000 private licenses registered in the country up to last December, 11 percent are in the field of transport and a large number are concentrated in Havana.

"There are too many cars from whatever province of Cuba working here, and Havana isn't ready for that, there aren't the streets or the infrastructure," Hector, another taxi driver with 15 years' experience, said.

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