Cuba transportation is made relatively easy by the country's small size. This island nation certainly has its fair share of fantastic destinations, and getting to all of them is a pretty easy endeavor. If you have booked cruises to Cuba or a full tour that involves your airfare, accommodations, and getting around, then your transportation concerns will be practically non-existent, but if you are going it alone, then you might be interested in the options available to you. By sea, by air, or by land, Cuba transportation is available in a variety of sorts.
Car Rentals in Cuba
Thanks to its far-reaching road system, renting a car in Cuba is among your options for how to get around in Cuba, but this is typically the least common option among travelers. Relative to buses and other options, renting a car in Cuba is expensive, and it’s important to book ahead of time, as there is a limited number of vehicles and they do sell out. While renting a car is often a budget-friendly choice when traveling in the US, that’s not so in Cuba. That said, it can be a pleasant way to explore the island on your own schedule. Get a good map and drive carefully; it’s likely you’ll be sharing the road with other vehicles such as horse carriages or bicycles.
Tourist Buses in Cuba
Viazul Bus Station
Buses are a pretty popular way of getting around, particularly on the Viazul buses. Viazul is the only bus line offering regular service throughout the island, and it’s strictly for visitors. The buses are air-conditioned and there is beverage service. If you’re traveling during the peak season, it’s wise to make your reservations at least a day in advance if you want to ensure that you’ll get a seat. The company’s main station is in Havana, in the Nuevo Vedado district.
Public Buses in Cuba
If you’re unable to get a seat on the Viazul bus, or are interested in trying some of the local services, there are a couple of options for this. These include ASTRO, which runs from Havana to the other thirteen provincial capitals in the country. Do keep in mind that the service can be spotty and vehicles may not always be in the best repair (they can be crowded and quite hot), and you need exact change for the fare. There are some minibuses operated by state owned travel companies that sell tickets on certain routes and offer tours; these companies are almost all headquartered in Havana.
Trains in Cuba
The railway is another option for how to get around in Cuba, but the trains can be plagued with delays, as the country's train system has suffered markedly in recent years. Between major cities like Havana and Santiago de Cuba, the trains can be pretty comfortable, as well as reliable, but otherwise, you might be prepared to rough it a bit. Bringing refreshments and snacks is always a good idea if you plan to travel on one of the trains.
Bicycles and Bike Rental
Cycling in Cuba
Cuba is a great island for cycling because of the beautiful countryside and the low traffic volume. There are a number of good bike routes, including La Farola and the UNESCO World Heritage Vinales Valley. You can rent bikes for day trips from resorts and outlets in Havana. This can be fairly expensive if you are touring for a week or more. If you plan on this, you might consider purchasing a bike in the large Transval Shopping Center in Havana and donating it to a poor Cuban when you leave. If you bring your own bike, be aware of transport costs. It is also possible to book package bike tours that can include a bike.
Taxis in Cuba
There are taxis in all the tourist towns and cities, some of which are the classic old cars from the 1950s. Other are Ladas from Russia, and most will be modern Peugots, Mercedes, and Skodas. Although there are private drivers who will accept a passenger, this is technically illegal. But do ask at your hotel, as the restrictions on this practice are under review by the Raul Castro government and could be loosened at any time; for instance, the taxi collectivo in Havana has been illegal, but there are no consequences for hailing a cab. They have a taxi sign on the roof and fixed fares. Carry small change, as the drivers do not carry much money.
Domestic flights are an ideal way of getting around Cuba effectively and efficiently. While prices have risen lately, it's still pretty affordable to fly your way around Cuba. Small, propeller-driven aircraft are used for many domestic Cuba flights. As is the case for those looking for flights to Cuba, you can often find them with the country's primary carrier, Cubana Airlines, as well as Aero Taxi, Aero Caribbean, and Aerogaviota.
Public Transportation Etiquette
Something to remember if using any form of public transportation in Cuba is the queuing method—there is no queue. When you arrive at the bus stop you'll see a completely disorganized group of people sitting and standing around. Call out "who is last," and the person to arrive before you will say "I am." Now keep an eye on this person. If a newcomer arrives, remember that you are now "last." When the bus comes, everyone falls into an organized line behind the person who was last before them. You don't have to follow this etiquette for the Viazul bus, as it's strictly for tourists who will undoubtedly be queuing in the more familiar way.