Even if you’re a seasoned traveler, getting from place to place in Cuba can be a struggle, yet an enjoyable one. The country’s transport network can be laid back and even vaguely frustrating sometimes. So let’s help you to avoid that frustration. Here are the best ways to get around Cuba. Plane, train, bus and car.
Arriving for the first time in Cuba can be overwhelming. Unless you will be spending all of your holiday in Havana in, you’ll need to find your way around the country. This will mean using a variety of modes of transport. We know that simply getting from the airport to your accommodation can be an enough of an epic journey! It’s when you need to get from one town to another that the fun truly begins. It can be difficult to just pronounce the name of the place you need to go to! Especially if you don’t speak Spanish!
Choosing the right transportation methods is half the trick. So what’s the best way to travel around Cuba?
Travel Around Cuba By Air
Air travel in Cuba is relatively cheap, provided you book well in advance. Most routes are operated by the country’s main airline, Cubana de Aviación S.A aka ‘Cubana’. Although there are a few other smaller airlines that serve the smaller regional airports.
Cuba’s somewhat economic situation has meant that there hasn’t been a surge in budget airlines. Unlike in many other parts of the world there are not many options in economy airflines. Having said that, the overall prices are not that high when compared to many other countries. Last minute travel bookings can mean costly tickets but there are bargains to be found when you give yourself enough time.
This of course removes a lot of the spontaneity of travel, but that’s sometimes how it is traveling. Especially when flexibility is an important factor.
A bus journey across Cuba is often the most cost-effective option and a safe transportation in Cuba. Viazul is the only provider of long journey bus services in Cuba but their network is extensive. So you will almost certainly be able to get you where you need to go. Viazul allows you to reserve a seat via their website, which is a fairly recent development. This is not always possible in Cuba, since internet access is not that easy to come by. You can also just head to the local bus terminal to book and pay for your seat.
It’s advisable to do this the day before you travel as sometimes you will have to wait in line for a while. Some larger bus terminals have two ticket windows – one for same day travel and one for travel on a later date. Ensure that you go to the right window so you don’t have to wait in line twice. The service is efficient if nothing special. It’s simply a safe and straightforward way to get from A to B.
The bus is one of the few places in Cuba where you might want a coat. The reason is because the air conditioning is often cranked up to its maximum setting. You should also bring snacks, since it’s not always possible to buy food at the bus terminal.
Renting a car in Cuba can be problematic, and yet it’s still possible to get around the country by car, even though this is not the quickest option. Hitchhiking is a way of life in Cuba, and many travellers have had a happy road trip with some new Cuban friends. Many towns and cities have designated areas where hitchhikers can wait for a ride.
Sometimes there might even be drivers waiting there, much like a taxi stand. It’s not a free service, and a small payment is expected. It’s best to agree upon the price before you leaving. But you will be able to cross a huge chunk of Cuba without spending too much cash at all. For the small amount of money it costs you will travel a long way in Cuba (no bad pun intended).
It’s not mandatory for private vehicles to pick up hitchhikers, but you’re unlikely to be waiting for long. It is however mandatory for government-owned vehicles to pick up hitchhikers. Still, it’s a unique and gloriously inefficient way to get around Cuba.
Getting Around by Train
Getting around Cuba by train isn’t something that you should attempt unless you have a lot of time on your hands. The train services are infrequent, and the rail network is rather limited. You might have difficulty reaching some places by train. There’s also the often mentioned idea that the Cuban train timetables are merely a suggestion. It can be a more-or-less comfortable way to see the countryside. However it’s really only practical for a short trip. Please be aware that while many long distance train services are overnight journeys. There are no sleeping carriages and seats often do not recline.
Having said all that, it can be a memorable way to travel. But be wary about your return journey as many train services will only operate every few days.
Please remember your visiting someone’s home so try to be a responsible traveler!