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Transportation in Cuba

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Visitors to Cuba are often confused by the many different modes of Cuba transportation. Getting around Cuba can be a headache, but with so many types of Cuba transportation, finding a way from one place to another should not be too much of a problem.

Most Cubans rely on public transportation in the form of buses or collective taxis for their journeys. There are several types of buses in Cuba. Local town buses in Cuba are generally reserved for Cuban travelers, but there is nothing to stop foreign visitors from using them if they can navigate the confusing and rarely posted timetables. If you can get travel advice from a local and do not mind sharing a ride with lots of people, local buses are the cheapest way of getting around Cuba, especially in Havana and other large cities.

There are two types of buses in Cuba for interprovincial travel. The Viazul service is the nicer, but more expensive of the two. Viazul buses only accept payment in dollars, which means they are beyond the means of most Cubans. They run on nine routes across the country, mostly from Havana to such other major cities as Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. One-way tickets vary from about $10 between Havana and Varadero to about $55 between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. If you want to travel to less frequented places, you will need to take the most common type of buses in Cuba, the Astro. A trip on an Astro bus cost about one half of a trip on a Viazul bus, but are generally older and more crowded; finding a seat on an Astro can be difficult and necessitates turning up to the station well in advance.

Another option for getting around Cuba is the Cuban train system, the only one of its type in the Caribbean. In Cuba trains generally run along the main route connecting Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Although aging, Cuba trains are generally comfortable and reliable, and provide great views of the island landscape. Service from Havana to Santiago de Cuba is about $45 each way, making the train system an affordable mode of Cuba transportation.

Most tourists choose to use rental cars or taxis for getting around Cuba. Car rental in Cuba is opetated by state-run agencies. Havanautos and Transautos are among the biggest; Rex agency is more expensive but has better cars. Prices for car rental in Cuba start at about $50 a day (payment in dollars is required), but $20 for insurance and a $200 deposit. Check all bills before leaving the agency and be on the lookout for hidden costs. Drivers must have a valid drivers license and must be over 21 for car rental in Cuba. Most Cuban resorts will have someone on hand to help book rental cars.

Taxis are another good option for Cuba transportation. Except for rental cars, most modern Western cars in Cuba are tourist taxis, which charge between 50 cents and $1.50 a mile, depending on several variables. Conditions on Cuban roads vary widely and signposts are few and far between, so it is often best to have a Cuban driver to help navigate a longer journey, especially at night.

Visitors to Cuba are often struck by the large number of aging American cars, holdovers from the days before the Cuban revolutions. These cars are generally not available for rent, but many owners operate them as private taxis or as chauffeured services, often for little more than state-run taxi services.

With all the choices for Cuba transportation, visitors should have no problem getting from their hotels or resorts to the many things to do in Cuba.

OVERVIEW for your visit to Cuba:

introduction *  when to go * things to do * events * getting there * getting around * food * history * attractions * music * cities * hotels