Taxis are the most convenient way to get around the cities. There are official government taxis, private, potentially unlicensed taxis running in the classic 1950s American cars, and small, three-wheeled coco-taxis. The typical fare is CUC$1 per kilometer, and it’s always wise to negotiate and agree on a price before you enter the cab.
For transportation between cities, taxis can be expensive, costing upward of CUC$100 or more. Buses are more common for inter-city travel, and cost much less. Buses in Cuba are called “guaguas,” and applies to local buses (guaguas local), or bigger, fancier guaguas de tourismo. Víazul is Cuba’s hard-currency bus line designed for tourists, and runs air-conditioned long-distance coaches between most places of interest to visitors. Complete schedules and a list of stops can be found at their website, viazul.com. Though the buses do not serve refreshments, they make stops for food, but the food can be rather unpalatable, so it’s always wise to bring snacks.
Another bus line, called Astro, has a much more extensive network than Víazul, but is used primarily by Cubans, rather than tourists. Nevertheless, it is possible to buy tickets for Astro buses.
It is possible to rent cars in Cuba, with rates starting at CUC$65 per day, plus the cost of a full tank of gas. You’ll need to put down a refundable deposit of CUC$200 and any traffic tickets received will be deducted from your deposit. Rentals are fairly new European or Asian models. If you’re involved in a serious accident resulting in injury or death, you will be detained in Cuba until the legal process resolves, which can take many months or up to a year. Roads in the cities are fairly well maintained but rural roads can be in need of serious repair.
By far the most economical way to get around Cuba is by hitchhiking, but it requires an adventurous spirit, flexibility, and a healthy knowledge of Spanish. The government actually has a formal system for facilitating this, known as “El Amarillo,” or “the yellow guy,” referring to the yellow-beige uniforms of the officials who run the system. El Amarillo consists of points along main routes and highways where certain vehicles are required to sop and pick up hitchhikers. These “Puntos Amarillos” are often full-service rest stops, with water, CUP-priced food, and a 24 hour indoor waiting area. Tell people that you’re a student, not a tourist, to avoid price gouging and funny looks.
There are trains in Cuba, but the only relatively reliable one is the overnight Tren Francés, between Havana and Santiago, with major stops in Santa Clara and Camaguey. All other trains are unreliable, and many Cubans prefer hitchhiking to taking the train.
Cycling is popular in Cuba and a great way to get off the beaten track. It’s advised that you bring your own bike instead of renting one, which will leave you quite stiff and sore. Spare parts aren’t readily available in Cuba, and obtaining bottled water outside of the cities can be a challenge, so make sure to bring your own and plenty of it. It’s possible to bring your bike on a Víazul bus, but your driver will expect a little bonus in return.