Travelling Around Cuba - Your Transportation Options
Cuba is a big and diverse island and it is a great idea to visit more than one locale. From the cobblestoned streets of colonial Trinidad to empty beaches on the Cayos on the north coast to the lush green and tobacco fields of Vinales, there is so much to see.
In the City of Havana
Remember that there are no flat rate taxis from the airport so insist on the meter - if the driver says there is no meter or it is broken, politely refuse and find another taxi. We have been told that of the companies that service the airport, Habanataxi (648-9086) is the cheapest at 52 cents/km and then OK Taxi, Tel: (53-7) 877 -B666 and Fenix, Tel: (53-7) 866-B666 is next at 56 cents/km. Panataxi, Tel: (53-7) 855-5555 from the airport is more expensive at 75 cents/km but back down to 56 cents/km in the rest of the city. The white Lada Panataxis are the cheapest in the city at 45 cents/km and they can bring you to the airport but they can't pick you up there.
For touring the city, Gran Car, Tel: (53-7) 641-7980 is a great option at CUC$ 25.00 to 30.00 per hour. They use antique cars, some from 1919, and come with a driver. They can pick you up at the Melía Cohíba Hotel, Parque Central, Hotel Nacional, Hotel Sevilla, and the Capitolio.
Renting a Car and Driving
Cars can be rented from one of three companies. Transturs main office is at Malecón & Linea, Vedado, Havana, Tel: (53-7) 835-0000 www.transtur.cu and their prices start at CUC$ 55.00/day for a compact car on a short term rental. Via Habana has a convenient office at the Habana Libre Hotel at Calle L & 23, Vedado, Havana, Tel: (53-7) 204-3606 and their prices start at CUC$ 65.00. Rex Auto has offices at Malecón & Linea in Vedado and at the cruise ship terminal in Old Havana across from the Plaza de San Francisco, Tel: (53-7) 836-7778 and they have more upscale cars with prices starting at CUC$ 98.00. These prices include full insurance, something which you should get as your credit card auto rental coverage won't apply in Cuba. Driving can be very difficult in Cuba since there are few road signs, other drivers can be unpredictable, roads can be in bad shape, and the traffic signs are different from Canada. And if you don't speak Spanish, get yourself a very good map or you will get lost. Even with a map, it's quite a challenge. If you do get a car, remember that you cannot turn right at a red light unless there is a rectangular blue sign with a red triangle inside it that says "Derecha con luz roja." Also, you cannot turn left at a intersection unless it is marked on the road or if the traffic light has an arrow pointing left. The most important traffic sign is the yellow diamond. If the power goes out (not an infrequent occurrence), watch out for the yellow diamond at intersections which will indicate that you have priority and the other direction will have either a stop sign (that says "Pare") or a yellow diamond with a black line through it which means that they have to stop until the way is clear.
If you are going to drive on the highways in the countryside, please don't drive at night and don't speed - you're on vacation, don't rush yourself. Watch out for pedestrians, animals, cars doing U-turns, and tree branches on the road which will signal that a car has broken down further along in that lane. Also, when passing a school or a police officer, you have to slow down to 50 km/hr.
Traveling Between Cities
Aerocaribbean has daily flights to Santiago de Cuba, Cayo Coco, and Holguín and the prices are around CUC$ 100.00 each way and they use modern ATR planes. Their office is on La Rampa at Calle 23, No 64 at the corner of P, Vedado, Havana, Tel: (537) 879-7524, 879-7525, & 870-4965. Cubana has daily flights to Gerona on the Isle of Youth, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, and Guantanamo and twice weekly to Moa, Bayamo, Las Tunas, Camagüey, Cayo Largo del Sur, Ciego de Avila, Cayo Coco, and Manzanillo and the prices are also around CUC$ 100.00 each way. They use both modern planes and older Russian ones so you should try to check to see what plane is going to be used. Their office is in the same building as Aerocribbean, Tel: (53-7) 834-4446. Your best option for inter-city travel is the bus. Viazul's main Havana terminal is located at 26th Avenue and Calle Zoológico, New Vedado, Tel: (53-7) 881-1413 and is primarily a hard currency bus line set up for foreigners. Viazul has daily buses that service Havana, Pinar del Rio, Matanzas, Varadero, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritus, Camagüey, and Santiago de Cuba. These buses are clean and safe and normally on time. Astro (and a secondary Viazul office) is located at Ave. Independencia 101, between 19 de Mayo and Bruzón which is just east of the Plaza de la Revolución, Tel: (53-7) 870-3397 and serves both Cubans in National Pesos and foreigners in CUC with their new fleet of buses and serves more destinations but may be a less timely. Regardless of how you travel, always give yourself plenty of time and be prepared for some scheduling changes. This is a big island full of friendly people – get to know your travel companions, take your time, and stay safe.