As we were a little wary of the collectivo taxis we initially used the Viazul bus service for our Cuba transportation. But after using a collectivo we preferred them to the bus.
Our Cuba transportation itinerary was Vinales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, back to Cienfuegos and finally back to Havana.
Viazul Bus Travel
Booking and Tickets
The ticketing is a 2 step process. First you make a booking and then 30 minutes before the bus is scheduled to leave you get a ticket. These tickets are marked with seat numbers but seating on the bus is “libre” (sit anywhere!).
Another anomaly is that the seat numbers are like aircraft seating but the bus seat numbers are numbered sequentially!
The waiting rooms have the customary Cuban lines (queues) which can be a bit confusing. All announcements are made in Spanish so you have to listen for your destination name. Or the final destination if your destination is en route.
On The Bus
The buses are Chinese made. They are as comfortable as you’d expect with Chinese made buses on poorly maintained Cuban roads.
Seating works if everyone is sitting up. With a seat reclined there is very little leg room for the passenger behind. You feel like they are lying in your lap! Another issue is that some seats are damaged and the recline is involuntary … the mechanisms have long since failed.
The interiors of the buses are grubby.
This extra charge seems to have been introduced sometime during our travels. This was the history.
- Havana to Vinales – Issued with luggage tags – not matched when off loaded – no fee
- Vinales to Havana – issued with luggage tags – then matched when off loaded – CUC1/bag fee
- Havana to Cienfuegos – no luggage tags - no fee
- Cienfuegos to Trinidad – no luggage tags – CUC1/bag fee
The Bus Stations
These are characterised by poor signage, people with bad attitudes, toilets you have to pay for, announcements you can’t understand and staff who care less about any customer service.
No, or inconsistent, systems. Very complacent disinterested staff. The toilets are horrible!
We took a “collectivo taxi” from Santa Clara to Cienfuegos and then from Cienfuegos back to Havana.
We were warned that we should only pay when we arrive at our destination. However in one case we paid 50% upfront and 50% when we arrived.
The advantages are a faster door to door trip. In addition you don’t have to go through the hassle of negotiating taxi rides to and from the bus stations or paying their inflated charges.
The price is negotiated and agreed up front. It’s important to clarify this so that there is no aggravation later.
Summary of Cuba Transportation
From our experience – recommended.
- Sometimes crowded
- They can be unreliable
- Many are not air-conditioned
- Riding in an old American car is an exhilarating experience.
- People have had unpleasant experiences and these are made more harrowing if you don’t speak Spanish.
- Some drivers are chancers and may try to get additional payments.
From our experience – the second choice.
- The buses are not well maintained – they are often (always) dirty, the seat mechanisms might not work, the ride is rough.
- It is not the easiest process to follow.
- Signage is very poor.
- The waiting rooms leave much to be desired.
- Unless you speak Spanish the announcements are confusing.
- Like public transport in many parts of the world the air-conditioning can be quite cold … be prepared.