Transportation in cuba

Transportation in Cuba – All you need to know


Cuba is an amazing country. The climate is wonderful, the cities are vibrant and if you like rice and beans for every meal of the day, you’re going to have a blast. But unfortunately, Cuba is not all fun and games. We’ll highlight one of those not-so-fun sides of the country: transportation. How do you get around? What does transportation in Cuba cost? And what’s our advice on the subject? 


One thing you should know beforehand is that everything in Cuba is regulated by the government. In other words: it’s a mess. People survive on the bare minimum, the internet is basically nonexistent, it’s easier to get your hands on rum than it is to find clean drinking water and the roads… The roads are the absolute worst. Keep that in mind. 



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Option 1: rent a car in Cuba 


You want freedom. Understandably so. Being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want is priceless. Literally, in this case. Renting a car in Cuba is not cheap. The smallest model goes for around 65 euros a day. And this doesn’t include insurance (which you’ll need) and fuel. 


Renting a car is not only expensive, they’re also very rare at the moment. Why? Well, you – the tourist – are not the only interested in a car. The locals are as well, to use as a taxi. Our advice if you really (REALLY) want to rent a car? Start looking three months in advance. Don’t think you’ll manage to find something the week or even the month before. You won’t. We learned that the hard way. 



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Where do I rent a car in Cuba? 


Don’t expect a Sixt or a Hertz car rental in Cuba. These worldwide organizations are nowhere to be found on the island. So, instead get your car via REX (via this website) or via TUI cars. Important side note: as I’ve mentioned before, internet is rare. This means the websites of these rental agencies are not always up to date. We tried to rent a car with TUI cars three times but received a cancellation every time since the cars were already gone. 



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Option 2: Cuba by bus (Viazul)


The Viazul, to be exact. This is an ‘organized’ way of travel. You buy your ticket a few days in advance at the ticket office, or book them online (find prices etcetera here). These busses have limited travel times, so choose wisely and think ahead. The busses itself appeared to be gifts from communist China. Old, dirty and overall just not great. 


And this is exactly why traveling by buss is a hit or miss in Cuba. Some days you’ll travel semi-comfortable across the island without any fuss. Other days your seat is broken, the air conditioning is leaking, and the other passengers don’t care about anyone but themselves and the person on the other side of the line. Add a screaming baby into the mix, and your 15-hour night drive (saves you an overnight stay though) is great fun.



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Viazul tips and tricks: 


  •     Dress for the occasion. Think layers. The temperature on the bus will vary multiple times an hour. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re in a freezer, other times you’ll scream ‘get me out of this oven!’. All in a timeframe of 20 minutes. 
  •     Invest in some quality noise cancelling headphones. These things are worth their weight in gold. Especially in a country like this. Additional benefit? You won’t hear it when the bus starts making some really strange noises. 
  •     Buy your tickets to your next destination when you arrive. The Viazul ticket office is not necessarily located in the city center and opening hours are limited. Trust me when I say, you don’t want to be traveling half an hour in the scorching heat to find the office closed. 
  •     The Viazul is your best bet for long distances. Want to go from Santiago de Cuba to Varadero? Take the night bus. As mentioned, it saves you the overnight stay. Just jump in the ocean as soon as you arrive in the morning to freshen up.   
  •     Don’t forget your motion sickness medication. The roads are bumpy, and the bus drivers don’t care about your stomach. 


Option 3: Cuba by Taxi Colectivo 


Our final option (I’m not mentioning public transportation since we didn’t use it) is traveling by Taxi Colectivo. Perfect for relatively short distances (Havana – Viñales, for example). It’s a bit more expensive than traveling by bus, for a reason. While the Viazul takes you from bus station to bus station, the Taxi Colectivo drops you off right where you need to be. 


The Colectivo part of this taxi service comes from the fact you’re sharing it with other passengers. It’s really not that uncommon to see a car filled with four people and six massive suitcases drive around. It’s Cuba! 


Again, don’t forget those little motion sickness tablets. You’ll need them. 



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Prices Taxi Colectivo 


Prices may vary. Did your casa particular host arrange your taxi? More expensive. Did you arrange your taxi via some sort of taxi pimp? More expensive. Arrange the fairest price by talking to the chauffeur directly. Just be sure to brush up your high school Spanish, since most don’t speak English. Here are some estimations (per person) for prices: 


Jose Marti Airport – Centro Havana = 25 CUC

Havana – Viñales = 15 – 25 CUC

Viñales – Cienfuegos = 30 CUC

Cienfuegos – Trinidad = 10 – 20 CUC

Varadero – Havana = 25 CUC


Some of the more well-known cities in Cuba are flooded with people trying to sell you a cab. Trinidad, for example. You won’t have any problems finding one for a good price here. But other places, like Holguìn, are not as popular which makes finding a Taxi Colectivo a lot harder. Keep this in mind. 



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Our advice about transportation in Cuba 


Unfortunately, I can’t give you any advice about renting and using a car in Cuba. Why? Well, we just were too late. 


The other two methods of transportation in Cuba each have their charm. Like mentioned above: the Viazul is perfect for long distances. And since Cuba is bigger than you think, you’ll probably use this method quite a bit. 


A Taxi Colectivo is perfect for when you don’t want to think too much about next steps and want to be taken directly to your place of residence. It’s a bit more expensive, a bit less comfortable, but quick and semi efficient. 


My suggestion? Try them both and find out what your preferences are. Just don’t expect any luxury whatsoever. 


Do you have questions about transportation in Cuba? Don’t hesitate to ask. I’m happy to help. 



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Want to read this blog about transportation in Cuba in Dutch? Go here.

Curious about Cuba, and want to read more? Check out our previous blog on the subject here. Or watch our video.

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