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Local transport

Local Transport

Taxi

Car taxis are metered and cost CUC$1 to start and CUC$1 per kilometer in cities. Taxi drivers are in the habit of offering foreigners a flat, off-meter rate that usually works out very close to what you'll pay with the meter. The difference is that with the meter, the money goes to the state to be divided up; without the meter it goes into the driver's pocket.

Colectivo & Taxi

Colectivos are taxis running on fixed, long-distance routes, leaving when full. They are generally pre-1959 American cars that belch diesel fumes and can squash in at least three people across the front seat. State-owned taxis that charge in convertibles hang about bus stations and are faster and usually cheaper than the bus.

Horse Carriage

Many provincial cities have coches de caballo (horse carriages) that trot on fixed routes, often between train/bus stations and city centers. Prices in moneda nacional cost around one peso. Many horses are overworked and in lamentable condition. It's best to give your business to healthy ones if there's an option (or better yet, a bici-taxi!)

Boat

Some towns, such as Havana, Cienfuegos, Gibara and Santiago de Cuba, have local ferry services that charge in moneda nacional.

Bus

Very crowded, very steamy, very challenging, very Cuban – guaguas (local buses) are useful in bigger cities. Buses work fixed routes, stopping at paradas (bus stops) that always have a line, even if it doesn't look like it. You have to shout out ¿el último? to find out who was the last in line when you showed up as Cuban queues form in loose crowds.

Buses cost a flat MN$0.40 or five centavos if you're using convertibles. Havana and Santiago de Cuba have recently been kitted out with brand new fleets of Chinese-made metro buses. You must always walk as far back in the bus as you can and exit through the rear. Make room to pass by saying permiso, always wear your pack in front and watch your wallet.

Bici-Taxi

Bici-taxis are big pedal-powered tricycles with a double seat behind the driver. They are common in Havana, Camagüey, Holguín and a few other cities. In Havana drivers want a CUC$2 minimum fare (Cubans pay five or 10 pesos). Some bici-taxistas ask ridiculous amounts. The fare should be clearly understood before you hop aboard.

Ferry

The most important ferry services for travelers are the catamaran from Surgidero de Batabanó to Nueva Gerona, Isla de la Juventud, and the passenger ferry from Havana to Regla and Casablanca. These ferries are generally safe, though in 1997 two hydrofoils crashed en route to Isla de la Juventud. In both 1994 and 2003, the Regla/Casablanca ferry was hijacked by Cubans trying to make their way to Florida. The 2003 incident involved tourists, so you can expect tight security.

Truck

Camiones (trucks) are a cheap, fast way to travel within or between provinces. Every city has a provincial and municipal bus stop with camiones departures. They run on a (loose) schedule and you'll need to take your place in line by asking for el último to your destination; you pay as you board. For many destinations, the majority of departures leave in the early morning.

Camion traveling is hot, crowded and uncomfortable, but is a great way to meet local people, fast; a little Spanish will go a long way. A truck from Santiago de Cuba to Guantánamo costs five pesos (CUC$0.20), while the same trip on a Víazul bus costs CUC$6.

Sometimes terminal staff tell foreigners they're prohibited from traveling on trucks. As with anything in Cuba, smile and never take 'no' as your final answer. Striking up a conversation with the driver or appealing to other passengers for aid usually helps.

Hitchhiking

The transportation crisis, culture of solidarity and low crime levels make Cuba a popular hitchhiking destination. Here, hitchhiking is more like ride-sharing, and it's legally enforced. Traffic lights, railroad crossings and country crossroads are regular stops for people seeking rides.

In the provinces and on the outskirts of Havana, the amarillos (official state-paid traffic supervisors, so-named for their mustard yellow uniforms) organize and prioritize ride seekers, and you're welcome to jump in line. Rides cost five to 20 pesos depending on distance. Travelers hitching rides will want a good map and some Spanish skills. Expect to wait two or three hours for rides in some cases.

Hitchhiking is never entirely safe in any country in the world, and we don't recommend it. Travelers who decide to hitchhike should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. People who do choose to hitchhike will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go.