Bus travel is a dependable way of getting around Cuba, at least in the more popular areas. Víazul (www.viazul.com) is the main long-distance bus company available to non-Cubans, with fairly punctual and reliable air-conditioned coaches going to destinations of interest to travelers.
Víazul charges for tickets in convertibles. Buses schedule regular stops for lunch/dinner and always carry two drivers. Bring warm layers – the air conditioning blasts an Arctic chill. Reserve ahead on the more popular routes, particularly in high season. A handy new route from Trinidad goes daily to Santa Clara, Remedios, Caibarien and Cayo Santa Maria.
Note that the demand in high season outstrips availability. If you can't get a seat on the bus you want, look for other stranded travelers to join for a shared taxi to your destination.
Conectando, run by Cubanacán, is a newer option set up to relieve some of Víazul's overcrowding. The pros are that they run between city center hotels and can be booked head of time at Infotur and Cubanacán offices. The cons are that the schedules aren't as reliable or extensive as Víazul. Check ahead that your bus is running.
Many of the popular tourist areas now have 'bus tours,' hop-on/hop-off buses that link all the main sights in a given area and charge CUC$5 for an all-day ticket. The services are run by government transport agency Transtur. Havana and Varadero both have open-topped double-decker buses. Smaller minibuses are used in Viñales, Trinidad, Cayo Coco, Guardalavaca, Cayo Santa María and Baracoa (seasonal).
Cubans travel over shorter distances in provincial buses. These buses sell tickets in moneda nacional and are a lot less comfortable and reliable than Víazul. They leave from the provincial bus stations in each province. Schedules and prices are usually chalked up on a board inside the terminal. Sometimes travelers are not allowed on these buses or preference is given to locals getting a seat.
|Route||Duration (hr)||Price (CUC$)||Stopping at...|
|Havana–Holguín||10½||44||Santa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas|
|Havana–Santiago de Cuba||15½||51||Entronque de Jaguey, Santa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Bayamo|
|Havana–Trinidad||6||25||Entronque de Jaguey, Cienfuegos|
|Havana–Varadero||3||10||Matanzas, Varadero Airport|
|Havana–Viñales||3¼||12||Pinar del Río|
|Santiago de Cuba–Baracoa||4¾||15||Guantánamo|
|Trinidad–Santiago de Cuba||12||33||Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Bayamo|
|Trinidad–Varadero||6||20||Cárdenas, Colón, Entronque de Jaguey, Cienfuegos|
|Varadero–Santiago de Cuba||16||49||Cárdenas, Colón, Santa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Bayamo|
Reservations with Víazul are necessary during peak travel periods (June to August, Christmas and Easter) and on popular routes (Havana–Trinidad, Trinidad–Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba–Baracoa). You can usually book a day or two beforehand.
The Víazul bus out of Baracoa is almost always booked, so reserve a seat on this service when you arrive. It is now possible to make reservations online at www.viazul.com if you register with the site. However, like all Cuban websites, it is prone to 'crashing.'