For me the transportation in Cuba has been like a mind game: you had to be really creative, calm and persevere to find the right people, in the right place at the right place, which meant passing over the jenesteros (touts, the direct translation is gigolo).
It is unbelievable, but in Cuba the entire tourism world is built so perfect parallel with the Cuban reality than one as tourist could almost never reach the Cuban society.
Transportation for foreigners and Cubans:
They say Viazul is for foreigners and Astro is for “nacionales”. The true is that Viazul is for everybody who is willing to pay, and for some routes (Santiago – Havana) there are far more Cubans travelling than foreigners, but Astro indeed is only for Cubans.
- Flights from outside Cuba. The cheapest way to get into Cuba is still Mexico (about 200 USD round ticket). Then you have direct flights from Bogota, Lima, Paris, Madrid, Montreal, Miami. Yes, there are several daily flights from Miami to the big Cuban cities.
- Flights inside Cuba. The most common is Havana – Santiago (about 300 USD round ticket). It’s a good way to save time and be hastle free. You can buy the tickets from internet, in or out of Cuba
- Intercity: The only real bus transportation for foreigners is Viazul. Their network gets into most of the touristic places in Cuba. Reliable and enough confortable buses. They are the only ones I personally recommend if you want to travel overnight.
- Inside the city: some will tell you that you can’t use the public transportation, especially in and out of the airport of Havana. This is completly faulse. If you can sacrifice a bit of comfort, use it and beat the tourist ripoff. I used it, and it is like a normal city bus anywhere in the world. I costed me 1/25 CUC or 1 CUP (25 CUP = 1 CUC =~1 EUR)
Trucks and jeeps
This is the way Cubans travel the country because even Astro is cheaper, some routes are too overbooked.
The trucks connect all the big cities in Cuba with their proximity big cities. If you go longer distances, you need to change the trucks. They can only be taken in the bus terminals for the Cubans. Ask simple people to indicate you. They are reliable, but very uncomfortable. For the backpackers it is a very good option.
Some routes don’t have trucks, only jeeps, but some will have both. Jeeps are a bit more expensive.
Some examples of connecting inside Cuba: Cienfuegos -> Guardalavaca, There is no direct trunk, so you do:
Cienfuegos -> Santa Clara, Santa Clara -> Camaguey, Camaguey-> Holguin, Holguin -> Guardalavaca
Taxi Colectivos – Shared Taxis
They run between several big cities, but not everywhere. They are the taxis for which the driver is responsible to fill in the car. There are 2 different prices of course. The price for Cubans is around 2 to 5 CUC, and for foreigners is usually 20, 40, 60… depending on the city.
Normal hired taxi which charges you a fixed amount of money independent on how many of you are in the car. Of course you must not be more than the total allowed number of passengers. You can rent them to go between the cities, for the entire day to do day trips, etc.
Be aware that for longer distances they are uncomfortable, and they charge almost double for night drives.
Travel More. Live!