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How to get around in Cuba? Bus Viazul, Transtur, cabs, collective cabs, routes, fares & schedules Viazul

I asked myself a lot of questions before my trip to Cuba. I hope that the information provided below, in the form of Questions/Answers, will help you organize your trip. Following the feedback from my friends who have recently been to Cuba (2020), this information is always up to date. Yes, things are moving slowly in Cuba.

In one sentence: don’t worry, transportation in Cuba is very, very easy.

Part 1: Regional Transportation

There are two bus companies that tourists take: Viazul, a state bus company; and Transtur, whose reservations are made through Cubanacan agencies (or hotels belonging to this group). Both companies are reliable, on time, and the buses are of good quality. The Transtur bus is slightly smaller than Viazul.

How to book or buy Viazul tickets?

Viazul has a website where you can buy tickets online. Please note that not all tickets are available online

  1. Just because there’s no more room online doesn’t mean there’s no more room left in real life 😉
  2. It’s not because the site indicates only one bus for your journey, that there is no other schedule during the day, in real life..

So if you think it’s too late to book your bus on the Viazul website, go 1, 2 days in advance, or even the same day at the Viazul terminal, to buy your tickets on the spot.

Timetable Viazul 2017

Be nice, click on the picture and then do “save picture as…
“The destinations are written in abbreviation, refer to the note below (Leyenda) to check the cities & abbreviations



Where to take the Viazul bus? How do you get to Viazul?

Be careful, it is necessary to go to the Viazul terminal and not the national bus terminal (where the buses reserved for the locals leave).
Download the maps.me app and the offline map of Cuba, Viazul terminals are well indicated on this app (search for “Viazul terminal”)

When you take a Viazul bus, remember to print your confirmation email (if you bought the tickets on the Internet) and go to the terminal preferably 30 minutes to 1 hour in advance, to checkin.
If you bought the tickets on the spot, you must also check in the same day.

If you don’t, your ticket will be mercilessly resold to another traveler. Passengers on the waiting list will be given their ticket approximately 30 minutes before departure.

Be careful, if you *do not* have a ticket and have to buy them at the terminal in Havana, allow plenty of time.
For other cities, there is much less waiting.

The train

Between Matanzas and Havana, you can take a train that dates back to the time of great sugar cane exploitations. To buy the tickets, go to the station, tell the cab or your casa that it is to take the Hershey train. We talked about this train here

What happens if there are really no Viazul places left?

First solution: Cubanacan

Go through the Cubanacan travel agencywhich has a fleet (Transtur) at the same rates as Viazul. Type Cubanacan on maps.me to find the travel agency closest to you (in Cuba).

The Transtur buses are smaller but there are more and they are also very comfortable. The pick-up can be done at your hotel (if it belongs to the Cubanacan group).

Second solution: Car for rent

I see Cubacar offices all over the place. The cars for rent are very modern, with air conditioning. Unfortunately I don’t know the rates (someone told me about 70 to 100€/day) – info to check.

Gasoline costs, in April 2017, 1CUC/liter or 1.05€/liter. There are gas stations everywhere, without too many queues. Parking isn’t a problem in Cuba. In Havana, there are empty lots marked “parqueo” with guards.

This isn’t the solution I recommend because the roads are far from being the best (potholes, cows, carriages, and even rice on the road), Cuban drivers aren’t very careful, one-way streets aren’t clearly indicated (just a small arrow stuck on the wall of a house).

Third solution: colectivos cabs (cabs to be shared)


Don’t worry, System D works especially well in Cuba. Many cabs parked in front of the terminal will be happy to take you to your destination. Unless you’re going to a lost corner, you’ll always find other travelers willing to share the colectivo cab with you (it’s the driver’s job to find people to share the cab).

They are always ready to do 200km. In addition, the old American cars are particularly spacious, comfortable and well ventilated. But dangerous (there is no seat belt).
I don’t know very well the prices per km, but I give you the rates we were offered :
Havana -> Vinales : 20CUC/person for 180km, without tradeCienfuegos
-> Playa Giron : 15CUC/person for 100km, without tradePlaya
Larga -> Cienfuegos : 10CUC/person for 135km, with trade



Cabs may agree to match Viazul bus fares, especially for short distances (< 150km), but this is part of the trade.

If you are that worried about not finding transportation, let’s say, to go to Havana because you have a plane to catch, you have 2 other solutions:

  1. You can contact Cubatur, a travel agency, which will send you a cab colectivo in front of your casa at the indicated time. The fare will be communicated to you in advance. You will pay directly to the driver. The fares are slightly higher than if you found a cab on the street.
  2. Talk to your casa. She can find you, I don’t know by what means, a shared cab for you. The disadvantage of going through your casa is that you don’t negotiate the price directly with the driver, so your casa will tell you a price (often not negotiated/negotiable) and you are kind of obliged to accept it.

Be careful, for the Viñales -> Cienfuegos or Viñales -> Trinidad route, the colectivos cabs all pass through Havana. It is possible that you may be “sold” to another car in Havana. Or worse, you may be “widened” in the middle of the road by another car (to be paid for in addition), when you have already paid a fortune. So don’t pay the colectivos cabs until the end. Or, if you are forced to pay right away, only give half at the beginning and half at the end.

Fares Viazul vs. cab colectivo

I read somewhere that for distances under 100km, it is better to go by colectivos cabs and not by Viazul because getting to the terminals in Viazul is expensive -> it is the same fare in total. This is FALSE!
Most Cuban cities are small. You can walk from your casa to the terminal of Viazul (except Havana) without paying a penny. With Viazul, distances under 100km cost in the 6-7 CUC/person, while colectivos cabs take at least 10CUC/person (for the trouble).

Part 2: Urban Transportation

Local bus

Like everywhere else in the world, there are city buses in Cuba, but they are so crowded that I never felt like taking one. Especially under this heat! If you are brave, it only costs 5 centavos CUC/journey (5 cents CUC).

Tourist bus hop-on hop-off

There are hop-on hop-off tourist buses in :

  • Havana (called Habana Bus Tour, 10 CUC/day). Departure, among others, in front of the Ingleterra Hotel
  • Viñales (but I didn’t see)
  • Around Playa Giron, 3 CUC/day (it passes through Playa Giron, Playa Larga and Boca de Guama). The bus ticket indicates Guama Tour but it is marked “Transtur” on it
  • Trinidad (5CUC/day to go to Playa Ancon). Departure in front of Havana Tour
  • Varadero and Matazas

Ask at your casa, mention “bus turistico” and they will understand what you are talking about. Tickets can be bought directly on the bus.
These fares are very interesting because they are cheaper than the cab. However, depending on the city, there are a lot of bus departures and returns (Havana) or not (Playa Giron).

Official Taxi

The black and yellow cab costs about 1 CUC/km. Arm yourself with your maps.me app to measure the exact distance between two points by car (and not as the crow flies) and use it to negotiate your cab fare. Have a lot of change with you. As luck would have it, drivers never have change in CUC. In the worst case, ask them to give you money back in moneda nacional.

The cabs around Varadero/Matanzas are the worst in the country, and incredibly dishonest. Once the rate is negotiated and the tourists installed in the cab, the driver drops a “ohhh if your casa is after this or that bridge, it’s 5CUC more” or “I drop you at the side of the road, you just walk 500m, if it’s in front of your casa, it’s 5CUC more” so be firm on the negotiated rate.

Cab colectivo


Old American cars are used as colectivo (shared cab). They are a “cab” sign (or not). In general, when they take tourists, they do not overload the car too much. Locals pay 1CUC maximum for a big trip (10 to 15km), but you, you will have to negotiate, try 0.75CUC/km for two people.

Old convertible car


This type of car benefits from a higher rate. A tour of the city of Havana in one hour will cost you 35CUC (35€). To better succeed in your negotiation, don’t take this type of car in front of a 5 star hotel, but in the surroundings of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza (a few streets away from the Plaza de Armas).

Cab in the shape of an egg


We have never yet taken this type of cab (the yellow cars on the right of the picture), not wanting to take all the smoke in our face.

Bici-taxi


They are cyclos capable of carrying 2 people max (with luggage). They are normally not allowed to carry tourists but many do and it seems that the police close their eyes. Some are equipped with speakers and play latina music all day long. The race is 2CUC maxi for 2 persons for 2-3km. Do not pay more.

Truck


I see them a lot in the provinces, especially between Varadero and Matanzas. These refurbished trucks stop at bus stations and the driver announces the destination and the price. It is the most comfortable way to travel between Matanzas and Varadero and cheaper than the hop-on hop-off tourist buses. Be prepared to be either standing or sitting on not very comfortable seats. But it’s a great way to travel with the locals. It is well ventilated, there is a red button where you press to signal to the driver that you want to get off at the next stop.

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If you like this guide, check out our article: Ultimate Guide: Cuba in 27 days

Cuba in 27 days: Itinerary, assessment, guide (budget, transportation, accommodation, Internet, practical advice)

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