For most travelers, you can use “tourism” as your reason for traveling to Cuba, and you don’t need to fill out any visa forms, just a straightforward Tourist Card which can usually be purchased at the airport before boarding your plane to Cuba.
In June 2019 the State Department announced, "Going forward, the United States will prohibit US travelers from going to Cuba under the previous 'group people-to-people educational' travel authorization. In addition, the United States will no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft."
If you are making bookings via a trusted travel agent who is experienced in picking the best direct flights, they can help find a flight with the simplest route to get you to Havana. Finding flights that fly directly from whereever you are in the world to Cuba without the help of an expert can be tricky, but it's not impossible.
From Central America: Copa Airlines flies via Panama to Havana, while AeroMexico flies from Mexico City to Havana.
From Canada: American Airlines and Air Canada fly to Havana, while WestJet flies to Varadero (and other cities), but not Havana.
From South America: LATAM Airlines offer flights from Lima direct to Havana. Most flights from other major cities around South America will include a stop-over in Lima before continuing to Havana.
You will also need to have travel insurance in order to be allowed to enter into Cuba. If you arrive and you don’t have proof of travel insurance, you will receive the only travel insurance policy on offer - for US $5 per day!
Make sure to get insurance coverage before you leave for Cuba.
Having your own wheels to explore a destination is something we always advocate. Being able to pull over where you want to, take that random dirt road if you feel like it, and get off the beaten path – it’s what travel is all about.
Unfortunately, in Cuba it costs quite a bit to rent a car - around US $80 per day, and because rentals are government-run, they are the same price all around the country.
A cheaper option is to rent a motorbike for US $25 a day. Us $20 if you rent it for 3 or more days.
Viñales is a great spot to have a motorbike. You can head out to the San Tomas Cave, drive somewhere for sunset, or venture off on the two-hour trip to Cayo Jutias, a beautiful nearby beach!
You can also hire a driver for the day, or for an hour or so, to take you around in one of Cuba’s famous classic cars.
For tourists, the most common form of inter-city transportation is the bus. Viazul is the tourist bus on offer and it’s actually quite decent. In my experience, the bus runs on time and was clean and comfortable. They make various stops along the way for travelers to get some lunch and take a look around, but pack some snacks for the drive in case you get peckish.
You can purchase your Viazul bus tickets at the bus station, or check with an Infotur office. Bus tickets sell out fast during peak season, so book online prior to arriving in Cuba to avoid disappointment when you get to the bus station and they don't have space on the bus.
Some example journeys and costs:
Another option for traveling between cities is a shared car. These can be arranged at Infotur offices, and at your casa.
It’s basically just a normal car or van that can fit about five people. You’ll be picked up at your casa, and dropped off at the next one. Door to door service!
The cost is the same as the bus. For example: from Trinidad to Havana, expect to pay around $35.
Local busses are always very full, but are very cheap (US $0.04), paid for using CUP. Some travelers have reported saying that when they turn up to the local bus depot, locals pretend the buses aren't running, forcing travelers to catch the more expensive option. If you speak great Spanish, you might get around this barrier, but do be aware some locals don't want travelers onboard their local bus services.
In Havana, there are round tricycles that resemble a yellow coconut. This is a very gimmicky way to get around, but fun nonetheless. Beware of inflated prices – many coco taxi drivers try to charge travelers a large fee for a short ride. Try to agree on a price before you get in.
In Havana, you can jump on this bus at Parque Central and take a tour around the city.
We suggest getting on at Parque Central and hopping off at Playas del Este beach, which is 20min outside of the city!
Collectivo cars run on set routes around the major cities. Tell your casa or hotel your destination and they should be able to help you with what number of collectivo to take and how much the price should be.
The cost is very low at US $0.50 per ride. Paid with CUP currency.
This manpowered mode of transport is affordable and good for a quick ride.
Old cars are used as taxis in Cuba, whether it’s for an intercity trip, or a local journey, you can find yourself in a car that’s much older than you are.
This is the most tourisy way to get around. Tour rides in a shiny car are about an hour and cost US $15 or so.
There are some old locamotive trains putting around Cuba, but for the most part, you have to be pretty patient to be a train traveler on this Caribbean-paced island. They are somewhat infrequent (running every two to three days), and evne then, are often delayed.
Even though there have been improvements to fuel supply and the rail fleet, the trains are still often unreliable and not the most comfortable, so most travelers opt for planes, buses, cars, and taxis.
Hitchhiking is almost a form of public transport in Cuba: It is legal, free and safe. You will see lots of people lining the streets and highway trying to catch a ride - join them by sticking your thumb out.
Don't forget the cheapest transport out there: walking. Get a feel for Cuba's sights, sounds and smells, wandering through streets with fruit and vegetable vendors, cafes and people watching the world go by from their doorways. Best of all, it is free. Download an offline map before arriving in Cuba to help you navigate the streets.
Cuba has some of the most interesting transportation options in the world. From classic cars to coco taxis, it’s always an experience getting around. While Viazul buses do run on a pretty reliable schedule, it’s always worth keeping in mind that you’re in the Caribbean. Things may not run like they’re supposed to, so keep a relaxed attitude and enjoy the ride.
From hostels to hotels and casa particulares, our partners Goats on the Road share their essential tips on how to book accommodation in Cuba.
Our friends from Goats on the Road help explain what you’ll need to budget for on your travels to Cuba. With essential info on ATMs, and a guide to understanding the currency.