Hacking the transport system in Cuba

Long distance transport in Cuba was something that played on our nerves a lot at the beginning. With time we learned how to deal with it and how to bend the system.

There are several means of long distance transportations that don’t really meet tourists needs. (Unless you are happy to pay loads in exclusive Supraturs). Best option is Omnibus reaching to every town and with frequent runs. Unfortunately it isn’t an option anymore. All foreigners got banned from them as they complained about the service quality and timetables. You need a Cuban ID to buy the ticket. Your pretty eyes won’t help. We tried all! They will always send you to ViaAzul which is infrequent and always booked in advance. Trains are poor option too as they run as they wish – once daily or even once fortnightly, or don’t if they break.

More about transportation in Cuba here.

Knowing that all, taxi drivers are trying to rip you off, and badly. They are hunters that you want to escape as soon as they show up. They are bold and rude.

So how to get to your destination quick and seamlessly and on a tight budget? Hard if you have so little options!

It took us half a day to work it out going from place to place and bargaining prices, asking out the locals, listening to the stories etc. To make things ‘easier’ every terminal (station) is far away from the other company so it was going back and forth.

Best deals to us turned out to be taxis colectivos, hitchhike (and guaguas for shorter distances).

  • taxi collectivo – take it from the side of the Terminal de Omnibus (not any other terminal for the price’s sake). Look around for fellow travellers. Make a group of 4 to 9 people. Decide on a fare you want to pay per person (make it less than viaAzul). Go to the side of the terminal and let the hunt begin. Say you are 4-9 people and you only have this amount per person. Be patient. It may take even an hour but an interested driver will come back.

Sometimes you just need a luck. If a colectivo is nearly full they grab you quickly and off you go.

It turned out that you will get better deals on colectivo in less touristic places and if you are not a white one with packs (bit hard to change the last one 😦   )!

  • hitchhiking – you can count on:

other tourists that have mercy on you,

taxi drivers with some people already on board that want to make more CUC (bargain hard if you really want to go with them)

or…. the famous banned Omnibus National – these will only stop on the bus stop and charge you close to ViaAzul rates.

Amarillos – are not that frequent and helpful anymore. The guy will only go to the vehicle we have already stopped to check if they take us or not

Oh, and one thing, if locals without taxi licence are caught taking a tourist on board they have to pay a high fine, so they won’t stop. Patience is needed when hitchhiking as the traffic is sparse sometimes.
Short distance guaguas are quite frequent and reliable. You have to ask locals where to stop them and at what time they pass. They are very easy to use. Bring your CUPs with you as they cannot accept anything else. Read the survival guide on how to get cups here.

One more tip – you can get to Havana airport for 2CUP. Bus P12 from city centre goes to Terminal1 (domestic flights) from which you have to take the ‘conexiones’ bus that will take you to your terminal. The later bus runs every 30-45min and takes some 10-15 min. P12 takes around an hour. It stops quite frequently on the way from the Havana Vieja – ask your casa for the nearest ‘parada’. You can try to do it from the airport too if you are adventurous. You won’t be able to get any CUP on the airport so it depends on your luck if the ‘conexiones’ bus driver will take you for free. You can try to exchange your CUC to CUP with the locals too.

We succeeded with this transportation both ways.

Viva la Cuba!

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