This post is intended to help travelers who want come to Cuba but aren’t yet familiar with the transportation options inside the country. The choices are limited and easy to understand. You can travel by taxi, bus, or rent-a-car.
Taxis in Cuba can be found almost anywhere, excluding some remote locations like Guanahacabibes where population is very low. Otherwise, not a problem. You can easily call a taxi from your hotel, casa particular, restaurant, bar, or club, or just find one on your own off the street. Be prepared to be surprised; your taxi could be a modern car (modern in Cuba, of course) with air conditioning, comfortable seats, in perfect condition, or it might be exactly the opposite. There’s also a good chance it will be a gorgeous classic American car, or it could be falling to pieces. If you aren’t up for a surprise, just ask for a nice car when you order a taxi. The prices vary quite a bit, depending on several factors, including the point of departure, distance to destination, the road conditions, time of day, and, of course, the driver’s discretion. It is a good idea to know roughly how many kilometers you will be traveling. A good baseline price estimate might be around 0.50 CUC per km.
Then there are collective taxis, which are cheaper because they go with all seats occupied and divide the price in 4, 6 or 8 people, depending on the size of the car. There is the private taxi too, where you always choose the time to be picked up, what music you want to hear, but you pay for the trip yourself. Lastly, there is the luxurious the hired car, which is quite expensive but still cheaper (at least in most cases) than renting a car. With this option, you have a private driver to take you wherever you want, whenever you want, for as many days as you want. In some cases, the driver might speak your language (or the other way around) and work as a guide.
The bus is definitely the cheaper and more common way to travel in Cuba. Bus travel normally takes 1 or 2 hours longer than a taxi, depending on the number of stops it makes on the route, but the buses are very comfortable, have air conditioning (note: it is sometimes so cold inside that you might want to bring a sweater), and they always leave on time. Bus tickets can be purchased online (www.viazul.com – buy one week in advance, and always print your tickets), in person at the Viazul office, Cubanacán office, Infotour office, and in some hotels. When buying in person during the low season, you can usually buy just one day in advance of your trip, but you should plan to buy your tickets two days ahead of time during the high season (December through March).
Renting a car is certainly the most expensive option. Car renters must pay the daily rate for the car, the insurance, and the fuel (1.30 CUC per liter of diesel and 1.25 CUC per liter of unleaded fuel). Before choosing this option, you might consider you destination. For example, in Viñales, most activities don’t require a car (hiking, horseback riding, etc), so you might end up paying for a car you don’t use. However, car rental is a very appealing option for travelers with children, the elderly, travelers with disabilities, or those who need to travel long distances quickly. The primary advantage of a rental car is the independence that comes with it (albeit, at a price). Be aware that some rental car companies use Chinese cars, like the Geely, which have a reputation for being unreliable.