Cuba • Getting Around the Island

Cuba, famous for cigars, communism and classic cars… but unfortunately not public transport. It’s perhaps the most interesting of all the Caribbean islands and subsequently there’s a lot to explore. And if you like cramming in as much exploration as possible, there’s only one way to do it.

Trains do exist; at least I’m told they do. I did see some tracks leading into the wilderness but I never actually saw a train… so that mode of transport is a no! Cuba has a somewhat genius taxi scheme, Taxi Colectivo. Essentially taxi drivers offer to take you wherever you want for a certain price; then the fuller the taxi the lower the price per head. This seems like a good idea and if you aren’t going massive distances it can be. However, while cars in Cuba are fantastic to look at, they’re not so great to travel in. As most cars hail from ‘50s or ‘60s the interior is more shabby eek than shabby chic. Of course there are some more modern cars cruising around but sadly they never seem to be the taxis.

Now, as some of these cars are pushing 70 the interior and seats are well worn to put it politely and Cuban roads aren’t the smoothest. An hour crammed in the back of a 1963 Chevrolet Bel Air isn’t pleasant; throw in the lack of air con and you’re in for a somewhat interesting ride and one you probably won’t want to repeat after you peel yourself out of the leather seat. Enter the luxurious, the lavish, the opulent Viazul tourist bus. With 18-degree air con, window blinds and reclining seats you’ve never known a coach of such comfortable. No seriously, these buses are genuinely heavenly compared to the hot, sticky taxis. Running fairly regular and punctual(ish) service (one bus was nearly two hours late), you can catch a coach to any town or city worth going to with a fair amount of ease. Viazul has offices located in the major bus terminals, but be sure to go there the day before you want to travel to find out the departure times (yes, there is usually only one bus a day) and you reserve your seat.

Cubans might be the only people who love queuing more than us Brits. I have never seen anything like it and I still don’t even partially understand the queuing system after partaking in it for 2 weeks. Essentially you queue to tick your name off the reservation list, then you queue to pay, then you queue to have your bag checked (sometimes) then you queue to get on the bus…

Travelling around Cuba you will find yourself in a lot of confusing and seemingly pointless queues. But hey, you’re on holiday so when in Rome etc? But once all the queuing is complete you will be on the bus, riding in air-conditioned luxury, by far the best way to travel long distances across this beautiful island.

Featured Photo Credit: Flickr/cowboybeeboop

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