The transports available in Cuba for travel: buses, rent a car, taxis, bicycles or any other, the best ways to travel between cities, recommendations, pros and cons and usual prices from common destinations from Varadero are discussed in this guide.
Roads and highways in Cuba
Cuba is a long island east-west oriented; in the 30's a central road was built to connect all major cities and towns from east to west named the Central Road, officially the N1, but no one calls it by its name, it’s named “Carretera Central” (central road). Traveling for the central road can be slow because of the many curves, the narrow width of the road (only two ways, no middle division), the amount of local traffic and people, and the large number of towns it crosses. This is a slow way but a good way for admiring the typical Cuban town, the people and the way they live.
After 1959, the national highway A1 was built, from Havana to Taguasco in Santci-Spiritus province. This highway was designed to be 8 ways but only a few miles are 8 ways, most of it is 6 ways only and from Santa Clara to Sancti-Spiritus it’s 2 or 4 ways only. Now it’s the fastest way to travel by car between provinces. The maximum speed is 100 km/h and the road’s condition is acceptable, but it has a lot of holes and drivers should be very carefully and pay a lot of attention. This is a faster way and good to admire the Cuban landscape. It has some points to eat through the entire highway.
Cuba has different medium of transportation, some of them are funny, and every province has its own characteristics and style in transportation. During the special period (from early 90’s) the situation became very hard and public transport got a high negative impact, forcing different ways of transportation to gain attention and use.
Tourists and Cubans should use different transportation mediums as described below.
One of the best balanced ways to travel Cuba using public transport (in terms of price and comfort) is via a Bus. The bus company that tourists should use is named VIAZUL. You can visit VIAZUL official website for more information on routes and prices. Their buses are very comfortable: air conditioning, bathroom, TV… and reach almost every touristic area and major cities in Cuba. You can check buses schedules, prices, bus stations locations and more information by reading the Travel in VIAZUL Guide.
Traveling using a VIAZUL bus can be an economic way, for example from Havana to Varadero it’s only $10 CUC per traveler (infants pay half). Buses have a schedule and they are punctual. You can buy tickets from every bus station in major cities or in any INFOTUR point near your location. VIAZUL buses are recommended for your young couple (or single person) with short budget traveling long distances in Cuba.
There is another bus company named ASTRO, but only Cubans or residents can use it since a Cuban ID card is needed to travel. There are buses for traveling inside each city as well.
Bus tours are available in Havana and Varadero. These buses has open roof for best views, also known as Hop-on Hop-off bus. You can get a one-day-valid ticket and take the bus tour the entire day for interesting places in the city. The Varadero Bus tour visits all hotels and travels through the entire peninsula. For more information read the Bus Services In Varadero: the Hop-on hop-off Bus guide.
Rent-a-car is available for tourists and Cubans (opened to Cubans in 2010). There are lots of rent-a-car brands and you can rent one in any rent-a-car facility near you. There are facilities in all airports. This is more expensive than using a VIAZUL bus but gives you the freedom of movement.
You can refuel your car in any “ORO NEGRO” or “Servi CUPET” and get other services like air or washing. Fuel prices are the same for Cubans and for tourists. In Cuba most cars are not automatic. Many rent houses has parking as a service, generally included in price, checkout at the rent house description the rent houses with parking garage included where you can stay and keep your rented car secure. The regular price starts from $70 to $150 per day in high touristic season (November-April), this depends on the car type, services includes, the number of days etc. Out of season you can get it $10 - $15 cheaper.
Rent-a-car is recommended when you want full freedom of movement and don’t want to wait for a bus or other transportation, or if you have to visit a lot of distant places out of VIAZUL routes; it’s more expensive than buses or others.
Taxis & private taxis
There are different taxi services in Cuba: HabanaTaxi, CUBATAXI, Panataxi and others. These taxis are run by the government and prices are higher than “Private Taxis”, the price is set by distance covered.
Private taxis in Cuba are small individual business generally run by the car owner. Mostly they are old vintage American cars from before 1959 like the one shown in this picture. Private taxis are a cheap way to travel between provinces or inside a city (for inter-province travels they are more modern than old vintage cars, which are generally used for travels inside a city).
Private taxis have a fixed rate and a regular fixed route and location where they start or finish, but you can rent some private taxis for a custom travel. Always contact the rent house owner in which you’re staying for advice and contact of a private taxi driver for your custom travel; or some rent houses offer taxi services; or we can arrange your travel from one point to another.
Horse cars are used country-wide and in some locations as a touristic and funny way to get a promenade, but in others is one of the most used transports. For example: people in cities like Santa Clara, uses horse cars extensively for moving inside the city. In Havana you can take a horse car ride for old Havana and get a wonderful tour experience. In Varadero you can get the tour through the Varadero village.
Bicycles are extensively used by Cubans for moving inside cities. Some tourists comes to Cuba and travel in bicycles with backpacks. If you’re traveling Cuba in a bike staying in a rent house is a very good idea, and getting rent houses connections from one city to the other is ideal. Usually the rent house owner has contacts in other cities you may want to visit and can arrange your stay in all those other cities.
Comparison of some trips
|Trip||in Viazul||in Taxi||in Private Taxi|
|Havana - Varadero||$10||$70-$130||$50-$100|
- Central road can be slow for the number of town it crosses but is better for closer look to Cuban’s different ways of living.
- Highway A1 is faster; it has some holes, best for travel fast.
- VIAZUL buses are a good way for traveling between cities, good comfort and price.
- Bus tour in Havana and Varadero are good for city travel a one day tour for admiring the interesting point.
- Rent a cars are available in a lot of points country wide, recommended for free travel.
- Taxis are available but more expensive than private taxis (generally old vintage American cars).
- Traveling in Bicycles through Cuba can be a fun and enjoyable experience.