Transportation in Havana

Transport is very creative activity in Cuba, which requires knowledge and ability to take things easy. In Havana, main way to move from one point to another is to use public transport (buses and collective taxis). Bus services cover almost all of Havana, but there are two main problems in traveling with buses. At first, busses are mostly overcrowded and there is not much air for breathing in hot days (most days are hot in Cuba). Secondly, it is not possible to find any information about routes or a timetable. The only way to get some information is to talk with local people hoping they can help. Usually they know about routes, but nobody has information about the timetable. It probably doesn’t exist at all. It is very positive that travelling with busses is very cheap. A ticket costs 0.4 CUP (0.02 EUR). Actually, you don’t get any ticket when you enter the bus as money is needs to be put into a box next to the driver. I have travelled with busses sometimes to learn about the routes. It is a miracle, if there is a diagram of the route on some of the busses. However, you cannot rely on this 100% as the route may have changed over time.

A comfortable way to travel is collective taxis. These are mainly old US cars made before 1960, as well as some Russians Ladas and Moskviches. They have set routes and travellers can hitchhike to get on them on the streets. Regular users of collective taxis use certain hand signals so that taxi drivers could understand in what directions they would like to go. I’m not so skilled; therefore, I wave with my hand on the roadside. When taxi stops, I ask whether it goes to the direction where I would like to go. These are called collective taxis as you travel with other people in the taxi, who are going to same directions as you. The taxi picks up as many people from the roadside as it has available seats. When somebody gets off from the taxi, a new passenger may take the seat. Payment for ride is based on people – 10 CUP (0.4 EUR) per person. The price is same whether you want to drive 100 meters or 5 kilometers.

Of course, there are also private taxis where you can travel alone. In private taxis, the price needs to be agreed before the ride or it is based on a taximeter. During the time I have been in Cuba, I have not used taxis where the fare has been calculated by the taximeter. The main reason for this is that those taxis are more expensive as they are primarily meant for tourists. This type of taxis are pretty modern, mainly Peugeots and Hundays.

In Centro Havana, it is also possible to travel by bicycle taxis, which cost more than collective taxis (1 EUR or even more).

Between different regions in Cuba, people can travel with buses and trains. There are two different types of buses: Autobus Nacional and buses meant for tourists (for example Viazul). As the name indicates, only Cubans and foreigners who have a Cuban identification card can use Autobus Nacional. For example, travelling to Santiago de Cuba with Autobus Nacional costs approx. 7 EUR, but with Viazul around 50 EUR. The price cap is very large. One interesting way to travel between regions is in a box of a truck, where seats have been installed. Adventurous tourists can use this way of transportation as well. It is a bit more expensive than Autobus Nacional, but cheaper than Viazul.

A bit of information for tourists who would like to go to the beach (Santa Maria del Mar) in Havana. There are different options how to go to the beach. The most convenient way is Transtur’s tourist bus, which departures from Central park almost in every 30 minutes. The return ticket costs 5 CUC (roughly 5 EUR). Also, is possible to take a private taxi from the street. One-way ticket costs around 15-20 CUC and it doesn’t matter how many people are in the taxi (1 or 5). I have used two options to got to the beach: I take a collective taxi which costs 1 CUC for one-way ticket (however sometimes they want to blackmail 2 CUC from the tourists) or I go with a bus (number 400). The price on the bus (1 CUP (0.04 EUR)) is the same for Cubans and tourists.

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