Getting Around in Cuba

To get around Cuba, there are modern coach buses that tourists can use. Viazul is the national bus company designed for this purpose. They connect Havana with Santiago and provide transportation to the main cities, towns and resorts in Cuba.

The best way to get around Havana is by taxi. Havana is a big city and the districts are quite large and spread out. The official taxi company is called Cubataxi. Cabs are readily available and they can be hailed in the street or found at hotels and the main plazas around town. It’s the most fun to ride in a classic American car, which are also official taxis. Just make sure they have a TAXI sign in the window.

If you venture out of Havana and Varadero, you will see a lot of people hitchhiking. This is how the locals get to work, run their errands and travel between towns. It is common for Cubans to pick up local hitchhikers, but if they offer tourists a ride, they need to have a permit or they can be fined by police. If you rented a car in Cuba, I’d refrain from picking up any hitchhikers.

The roads in Cuba were in decent condition, at least where we went. In the small towns it’s common to come across slow moving horse and wagons. In the countryside you need to watch out for animals grazing on the side of the road. Be alert at railway crossings because they don’t have gates. In the cities, watch out for cyclists and be careful when driving down unlit roads.

Cuba is relatively well connected by bus: You will be able to visit all major cities and travel all around the country by bus. While there are a few bus companies there, only Viazul is the one that takes tourists traveling independently.

Go to the bus station at least an hour before departure: Viazul has a site with a current service schedule it is possible to book tickets online. You can also go to the bus station ahead of time and queue for a ticket. Since buses are not that frequent, they tend to sell out quick.

Shared taxis are also a good option: Taxi drivers stand in front of the bus station to pick the excess of passengers without tickets. They offer a shared taxi ride to some of the most popular and well-connected cities in Cuba for about the same price of the bus and faster. If you’re going to a smaller town not covered by the shared taxi, you can take the shared taxi to the closest city possible, and from there take a local shared taxi called “Almendrones.”(Usually an old car from the 50’s)

Should they price the shared taxi ride much higher than the bus, then, you’ll need to haggle. Oh, and don’t be surprised if the local sharing your ride paid a fraction of what you paid. That’s Cuba. Foreigners almost always have to pay more than locals.

The local buses in Havana are fine, and so are the taxis: Local buses cost 1 CUP (about $0.04 – which you can pay in CUP or give 5 cents of a CUC). It is hard to understand the routes, but your host could tell you who one’s you should take to go to most of the important places. Taxis are not expensive, costing about 5 CUC from Old to Central Havana.

Vintage taxis have a set route: All those pretty vintage taxis you see in pictures, those are exclusive for tourists to ride (not drive) and they only go through a select route in Havana. You could, though, have the luck of riding vintage cars your shared taxi from once city to the other.

 

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