Heading to Cuba? Bags packed, ready to go, hotels booked or family to stay with. How will you get around?
There are many means of transportation around the island. Here are a few:
Bus: If you speak Spanish, have time to spare and are street-savvy, you will be able to navigate the bus system. Astros is the main national line and is a budget friendly option for long-distance trips. It is mostly aimed at locals and uses Chinese buses. It is a bit more difficult to use and advance purchase is recommended for tickets. Few tourists are permitted to purchase tickets and are usually redirected to Viazul.
Viazul has a more modern fleet and is focused on the tourist market. Booking and scheduling information can be found online. Book your ticket ahead of time, print out a confirmation and arrive at the station early to avoid any mishaps.
For those wanting to get around the capital, urban buses are plentiful, if difficult to navigate. You may need to hop off and on multiple buses to get to your destination. They are called “gua guas” and cover most of the main cities. They are very budget friendly, but crowded, lacking in A/C, and not as safe as some other options.
Train: Not the best transportation option, as they tend to be slow, unreliable and lacking in amenities. It is a unique way to see the country, however, for those looking for an adventure.
Trucks: Large trucks have taken on a role in the transport system of the country, due to the unreliability of public buses. They are quite popular and run routes between most cities. As hitchhiking is extremely popular, you will most likely get picked up if you try. The trucks can be crammed full of people. Not for the faint of heart.
Private Car Hire: You can also go this route if you prefer ease and safety and have cash to spare. There are several companies that will arrange this for a fee. You can hire for the day or for an entire island tour.
Taxis: The most famous sights of Cuba are of course the colonial architecture and classic cars. Tourist taxis are different from local taxis. This can be a fun day out. Keep in mind that the cars are very old, as all were imported from America before 1960, and no replacement parts have been available since. Shared taxis are popular, and often cars will congregate in busy places and put together multiple people heading to the same destination. You all cram in the same taxi and off you go!
If you want freedom to explore and are familiar with the island, you will want to rent a car in Cuba. Rent a car in Havana to get you started. There are three Cuba Car Rental companies in existence today. They are Rex, Cuba Car and havanautos. They are all run by federal government, however. They do have websites, which are not very user-friendly. Prices are set due to a state monopoly. Available cars for rent are few and far between in Cuba. What to do?
I found a gem of a website called cubacenter.com. There are plenty of websites and blogs and advice online about traveling in Cuba. It can get confusing. But these guys are local, and can take care of all of your travel needs in a clear, concise manner. Hotels? Check. Car? Check. Insurance, Visa, Local information? Check, check, check. The simple, easy to use design and excellent information make this site clear to navigate as your one stop shop for your visit to Cuba.
As mentioned earlier, the main car rental agencies are state owned with very few options. The process to rent one is also time consuming. There are forms to fill out, then waiting to see if any cars are available, and you have no idea if there will actually be a car waiting for you upon arrival.
By all means, look around online, do your research, but with such a unique destination as Cuba, having local experts is enormously valuable. Their powerful and intuitive search engine consistently brought up the best options for each category, making planning significantly less frustrating. Their FAQs will answer your most pressing questions.
The site is broken into sections as follows: Hotels, Cars, Visa & Insurance, Discover Cuba, and Blog and News. If you need more than just a car rental, start with Hotels and go from there.
They also offer Visa and Travel Insurance options, further streamlining your travel planning process. Read about the different visa requirements and receive your visa and mandatory insurance right on the same website.
The best part of this site are the next two tabs with a wealth of information. Discover Cuba and Blog and News. Internet, Communications, Climate, Packing, Cuban Holidays, Currency Exchange lay in the Discover Section. Who needs a guidebook with this much real time information?
The delightful blog discusses Havana itineraries, where to sleep, holiday tips, best bars of Havana, and more.
The Car Rental section not only boasts an enviable search engine, but offers more options than going to any of the individual state-run agencies. It also has insider tips and tricks on renting a car in Cuba, from where to rent a car to gassing up to the state of the roads. Due to the difficulty of renting a car in Cuba, I found this section to be extremely helpful and easy to navigate.
Simply enter your dates, drop off and pick up times, and location, and then filter as much or as little as needed depending on your preferences. Available cars and prices will pop up. You can filter down to type of car and company, with dozens of choices. Read this before you head off with your rental car.
Once you have placed your preferences, you will receive a confirmation booking. In 48 hours you will be informed whether or not your requested car is available. If your car is confirmed you will receive another email with a voucher and final reservation. If they are unable to find the car you want, you will get a full refund if there is no alternate available, or a second email with an alternate car offer. If you do not accept this alternative, you will receive a full refund. So you are protected in any situation.
You can search here your rental car in Cuba