How to navigate Cuba? That’s the ultimate question! The answer isn’t black or white. It all depends on your priorities: flexibility, cost, speed… To assist you in making the right choice, Captain Ulysses has compiled an overview of the various transportation options in Cuba. Cars, buses, collective or private taxis, and domestic flights will no longer be a mystery to you!
💡 Planning Your Trip to Cuba 💡
🇨🇺 Visa: Before you depart, be sure to apply for your tourist card (which is your visa for Cuba). You can easily order your tourist card online through CubaVisa.
🛏️ Accommodations: To book your accommodations in Cuba, the Captain recommends Expedia.
📸 Activities: To book your activities, the Captain highly recommends Civitatis.
Renting a Car in Cuba
This is the favored option for many tourists. Renting a car provides independence, but it is also a pricier alternative compared to buses or collective taxis.
Rates fluctuate based on the season (high or low), rental duration, and car model. As a rough estimate, anticipate around 60 CUC per day (inclusive of rental, insurance, fuel) for a two-week rental of a compact car during the low season.
Before you embark, ensure you have offline maps downloaded on your phone or carry a physical road map. For high-quality road maps, we highly recommend visiting the CubaVisa website. They offer packages that include tourist cards for Cuba and a road map: it’s a convenient option if you cannot personally visit the Cuban Consulate in Paris.
👉 More info: Road map of Cuba / Package with road map + visas
For comprehensive details on car rental in Cuba, we invite you to explore the Captain’s dedicated article.
Buses in Cuba
When it comes to getting around Cuba on a budget, taking the bus is the most cost-effective option.
Buses operate in the majority of Cuban cities.
Viazul is the primary bus company in Cuba, and you can purchase tickets at Viazul agencies located at bus stations across the country.
It’s important to note that Cuban buses can often be crowded. Therefore, it’s advisable to reserve your tickets in advance. However, be aware that Viazul’s computer systems are not the most efficient, so booking bus tickets may take some time.
Some travelers prefer to reserve all their bus journeys in Cuba upon arrival. This approach guarantees seats but may limit flexibility.
|Bus Journeys in Cuba||Duration||Price (CUC)|
|Havana – Viñales||4h||12|
|Havana – Cienfuegos||4h30||20|
|Havana – Trinidad||6h30||25|
|Havana – Varadero||3h||10|
|Havana – Santiago de Cuba||15h30||51|
|Havana – Baracoa||18h45||66|
|Cienfuegos – Trinidad||45 minutes||6|
|Cienfuegos – Santa Clara||1h15||6|
|Santa Clara – Trinidad||3h||8|
|Trinidad – Camagüey||5h30||15|
|Trinidad – Camagüey||5h30||15|
|Camagüey – Bayamo||4h||11|
|Bayamo – Santiago de Cuba||6h15||18|
|Santiago de Cuba – Baracoa||5h||15|
⚠️ Cuba is currently experiencing severe fuel shortages, and some bus routes are suspended until further notice. As a result, booking bus tickets is more challenging than usual.
“Collectivos,” Collective Taxis in Cuba
Cuban collective taxis offer a viable alternative to buses. While they are more expensive, they provide added convenience. You can arrange them directly through your casa particular, where they will pick you up at the agreed-upon time and drop you off at your desired destination, eliminating the need to travel to bus stations (which, in Havana, for example, are located far from the city center).
In tourist areas of the country, especially in the eastern regions, finding collective taxis is relatively easy. If buses are fully booked, you can always rely on this Plan B.
However, things can be more challenging in the eastern part of the country. Finding collective taxis becomes more difficult as fewer tourists venture into the east, resulting in fewer available taxis. Nonetheless, buses usually have available seats, so getting stuck is unlikely.
Unlike buses but similar to casas particulares, collective taxis appear to be primarily used by either tourists or Cubans. It’s uncommon to encounter locals on these journeys, apart from the drivers themselves.
Private Taxis in Cuba
If, unfortunately, you’re unable to secure a bus or collective taxi, you still have the option of a private taxi. It will certainly be more expensive but will ensure you don’t get stranded.
Private taxis are also a great choice if you want to take day trips with complete freedom. For instance, you can visit:
- Topes de Collantes from Trinidad (45 CUC)
- La Cueva de los Peces and Playa Giron from Cienfuegos (60 CUC for the day)
- El Cobre and La Gran Piedra from Santiago de Cuba (50 CUC)
Domestic Flights in Cuba
Don’t let Cuba’s small size deceive you! The island stretches over a length of 1250 km / 775 miles (with an average width of 200 km / 125 miles). Its shape has earned it the nickname “crocodile”!
Not all roads are well-maintained, and most buses and cars are in a state of disrepair. Short distances can turn into never-ending journeys. To save time during your stay, consider domestic flights. For example, it takes 15h30 by bus to travel between Havana and Santiago de Cuba, but only around 2 hours by plane.
Cubana de Aviacion operates domestic flights between the cities of Havana, Baracoa, Bayamo, Camagüey, Guantanamo, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba, and Varadero. If you’re flying with Cubana, be prepared for frequent delays, as they are quite common.
Aerogaviota used to offer domestic flights as well. However, as of the time of writing, only flights between Cuba and Jamaica are available for booking.
⚠️ Update: Since the airplane crash on an internal flight between Holguin and Havana in May 2018, Cubana de Aviacion has taken some of its aging fleet out of service. As a result, the number of domestic flights operated by the airline appears to have decreased. If you plan to take a domestic flight, we recommend making your reservation well in advance.
In Summary: How to Get Around in Cuba?
Here’s a summary of the different modes of transportation in Cuba based on price, flexibility, and speed:
- Price: Expensive (++++)
- Flexibility: High (++++)
- Speed: Average (+)
- Price: Affordable (–)
- Flexibility: Low (–)
- Speed: Slow (—–)
- Price: Moderate (+)
- Flexibility: Moderate (+)
- Speed: Average (-)
- Price: Moderate to Expensive (++)
- Flexibility: High (++)
- Speed: Average to High (-)
- Price: Expensive (++++)
- Flexibility: Low to Moderate (–)
- Speed: High (++++)
Please note that the ratings are subjective and based on general observations. Your experience may vary depending on specific circumstances and preferences.