UNCOMFORTABLE, UNSAFE, NOISY AND NOT SO FAST AS THEY PRETEND, BUT WITH PLENTY OF ANECDOTES VS COMFORTABLE AND SAFE BUT LACKING CHARM: HOW TO GET AROUND IN CUBA: BUS OR TAXI COLECTIVO

ESPAÑOL

Getting around in Cuba is generally a slow, uncomfortable and full of anecdotes process, and these two are the most used transportations.

BUS

In Cuba they are called guaguas. There are several companies, the main ones being:

  • Viazul: mainly intended for tourists:
    • They are the newest buses, with air conditioning and toilet.
    • The prices are more expensive, but they are more reliable and less slow, so there’s a high demand, and in high season some routes are full, needing to buy the tickets up to 4 days in advance.
    • They can be bought on the official website, although Cuban websites are not usually reliable.
  • Cubanacán. This government-owned travel agency uses the buses of wholesalers Transtur and Transgaviota under the name of Conectando Bus:
    • They are just as new as those of Viazul, although they are somewhat more deteriorated.
    • They offer the same routes for a 2 or 3 $ CUC higher price, with the advantage that in cities of a certain size they stop at the main hotels, so although it may not be yours, there will always be some stop close to your accommodation; this is especially useful in Havana, as Viazul office is far from everything. On the other hand, this makes it take a little longer to get your final destination.
    • Advantage over Viazul: most tourists do not know Conectando Bus because it does not have a website, nor does Cubanacan itself advertise it. Thanks to that, it is possible to get transportation to wherever we want even at very short notice. We did get Trinidad – Havana for the next day, while in Viazul we’d had had to wait for 4 days.
Autobuses guaguas transtur Conectando Cuba Trinidad
Transtur buses in Trinidad
  • Astro, the latter used by locals, less reliable:
    • The vehicles, although recently renovated, are more basic (most have no toilet nor air conditioning), slow, unpunctual and tend to suffer more breakdowns.
    • One important advantage is that it goes to places that Viazul does not, as its network is more extensive.
    • You can not book online.
    • Tickets cost about 2/3 of the price of Viazul; may seem little difference, but for Cubans it can make a big difference. Recommended for those whose time is not a limitation but their budget is.

SHARED TAXI (COLECTIVO)

Of course, you can use a private taxi (Cubacar) to go anywhere, but it is very expensive. A popular way to get around in Cuba is to rent a sit in a shared taxi, which accommodates 4 to 8 tourists, depending on the vehicle. You’ll end up using them a lot:

  • Because for a price not much higher than the bus you are picked up at your accommodation and left at the next, and at the end vagrancy will beat you and you’ll end up accepting. Besides, who’s not looking forward to their first ride on one of those great old American cars?
2. Taxi colectivo coche antiguo americano Cuba. Old car (2)
Who can say no to this beauty?
  • Owners of the private houses (casas particulares) know this, and therefore it is the option they usually recommend, as they can organize the transportation of their tenants with a phone call and get a commission. It is always recommended to book your colectivo from an agency or from your private house, since your transportation is for sure, otherwise neither the house nor the agency will get their commission. On the other hand, it would not be enough to approach any taxi and offer the usual price; most taxi drivers will not make the trip if they do not have it planned at least 12 hours in advance, since during that time they will try to arrange customers who want to make the journey in reverse.
  • Frequently, individuals, often without a license, offer to take tourists to destinations for a reduced price. It is totally discouraged to book a colectivo with someone who approaches us in the street, because if he finds other tourists who pay him half a CUC more for the same journey, he will let you down. Apart from this, there’s another important disadvantage: if the police stops the vehicle, the tourist must get out of the car; you will not be fined, but we could see ourselves in the middle of nowhere without transportation, condemned to hitchhiking.

But in comparison to the buses type Viazul and Cubanacan, colectivos have even more inconveniences than they may seem, you’ll become aware the more journeys you take:

  • They’re more expensive. They are uncomfortable and noisy, the more the older the car.
3. Taxi colectivo coche antiguo americano Cuba. Old car
Believe it or not, 8 tourist plus their luggage plus the driver fit in there. In the pic, Pili trying to lean out her head in the tiny window
  • They presume to be faster, but that’s not completly true, the time saved is scarce:
    • Although they pick you up at your house and therefore you do not have to go to the bus stop, they are always late because:
      • 1, Cubans are generally unpunctual and
      • 2, they have to pick house by house between 2 and 6 more customers. Conectando bus does not take you to the house, but it stops at all the main hotels, so there is always a more or less near stop.
    • The fact is that they break down frequently, which causes more delays. On our way from Havana to Viñales, the taxi, which was one of the less old ones we used, warmed up and had to stop. The driver pulled out a 40-cm machete and made a wooden plug with a branch, which he put in the radiator to fix it, and we had to give him our drinking water to fill it, all this stopped at the roadside while it was raining.
  • Safety. The condition of the vehicles oscillates between regular, bad and directly “I’m afraid to get into this”, let’s not talk about traveling 300 km in it. And is not that you may ask for a seatbelt any more, I would have been satisfied just not feeling that my door would open at any moment and I would fall off the car. On another occasion, we went in a colectivo that smelled like exhaust pipe even with all the windows open at 80 km / h (I calculate, the speedometer did not work). We wanted to know the authentic Cuba… there it is…
4. Cristal ventanilla taxi colectivo Cuba window
A charming old car is not so charming when your window is like this

But in the end you remember it with a smile; it is a beautiful experience, very Cuban and recommended at least once. Hurry up because if Cuba continues to change like this, you will miss it.

MORE ABOUT HOW TO MOVE AROUND IN CUBA:
<TRAIN AND AIRPLANE                    RENTAL CAR, HITCHHIKE AND BICYCLE>

∇ Destinations / ∇ Cuba

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