As a budget tourist in Cuba, your main mode of transport is likely to be the Cuba Viazul bus network. The Viazul Cuba Bus network is specifically designed for tourists to get to various points around the country. However, in recent years the number of tourists arriving in Cuba has sharply increased. The number of Viazul buses available hasn’t. Here’s our ultimate guide to the Cuba Viazul Bus Service. The Viazul 2019 timetable is different to 2018 – with new locations added, so you can see the Viazul schedule updated as of July 2019.
We’ve also (as of July 2019), included an alternative online booking service for the Viazul bus in Cuba, read on to find out more!
Viazul Bus 2019 Cuba Guide
You can visit the Viazul Bus Cuba website and see all their Cuba bus routes – or complete the following and we’ll send you a PDF copy of the Viazul timetable valid from January 2019 and this guide. (PS you’re going to want to do this before you arrive in Cuba > and there are 11 things you need to do before you arrive in Cuba too).
Get the Viazul Bus Timetable BEFORE you arrive in Cuba.
You will probably want to do this before you arrive in Cuba. If you need to read more about Internet Access in Cuba in 2019, we put a great guide together. So when you log on and find that the route that you want is not available, then don’t panic. But, as with everything else in Cuba, contemplate other options.
You can find all the Viazul Bus routes in 2019 online at www.viazul.com – BUT you have to search each individual route. We’ve made it easy for you and have a download of all those timetables stored in our subscriber area. We also include the individual Viazul route maps. We check and update this every 60 days, but in reality the timetable only changes once a year. (at the end of the calendar year).
Use our sign-up form below and we’ll send you the full timetable. Our 2019 download also includes the Viazul routes that the buses take, so you can see which towns and cities they go through.
How to Book Viazul Bus Cuba Tickets
Unless you are very, very lucky you will be unlikely to get a seat if you just turn up. In fact if you are trying to book a bus with FOUR (4) days or less notice you are unlikely to find a seat. It is imperative with Viazul to book in advance, the further ahead of time the better. So, one of the first things that you should do when planning your trip to Cuba is get on with booking a Viazul bus. Here’s how:
How to Book Viazul Bus Tickets Online with Viazul
The simplest way to book your Viazul bus is to do it online. The website is available in English and Spanish and works pretty well. That said, Viazul Cuba only releases a small number of tickets for each route online. If you can’t see availability that does NOT mean that the bus is sold out, it just means that the online allocation has been sold. In the past this meant that your only option was to wait until you arrived in Cuba to try and buy your Viazul tickets. That is no longer the case. Read on for more details.
If you’re booking ANY tickets online you really should fire up a VPN before putting any of your personal details into any site. And especially if you’re using a public wifi connection.
- Don’t know what a VPN is? Read more in our Common Sense Guide to VPNs to find out how it helps you.
- Get the best VPN that we’ve found – that works very well in China, Turkmenistan & Cuba – get 3 months for free for a limited time!
The best thing about the Viazul bus is that it gives you the routes that the buses take from say, Havana to Santiago de Cuba. So you can figure out if you’re likely to be able to get from, say Playa Giron to Trinidad. And when. Having some knowledge of the routes is IMPERATIVE especially when you need to figure out an alternative to your original plan.
You should also try and book at least your first night in Cuba in advance, while you get the lay of the land. Check out the best Casa Particulars and Hotels that you can prebook here.
Register on the Viazul Website
You must create a registration on the site in order to attempt to book the tickets. It’s not possible to even see availability until you login to the site. You need to input your passport number and details into the website in order to create a login. It is a simple step through process, so I won’t repeat it on here. Here’s the link to register. You can also get it from the home page.
You will at this point be putting in your date of birth and passport details. If you’re connecting to any site via public wifi you should also fire up a VPN.
The Viazul website has all the details and prices in US dollars or Euros. If there are seats available you can pay online, print your tickets and then turn up for the “check in process” an hour before the bus departs.
The registration is simple. Follow the instructions online. The booking process is similar, and it’s very obvious if there are no seats available to be booked online.
Our Alternate Online Viazul Bus Ticket Booking Recommendation
Since June 2019 we have been working with zunzuncar and are now offering a service where you can book the Viazul bus, even when the online allocation of tickets has been exhausted. Here’s how to book your Viazul bus tickets when Viazul says there are none left.
It is really important to note that if you are trying to book at bus that is leaving within the next FOUR (4) days, then it is VERY unlikely that this will be possible, even with the services of Zunzun, or if you were there in person. (Note this 4 day figure comes from on the ground discussions with the Zunzun team in Cuba, we’ll update it if and when it changes). If thisis the situation you find yourself in, then we recommend you book a colectivo or private transfer instead.
Zunzuncar also provides private car and driver options – so if there are no Viazul tickets available, then you’ll be offered the driver option too. Zunzun works directly with local Cubans to provide this service.
- Go to zunzuncar
- Click to make a booking
- Select your date – if you have a specific time requirement add this in.
- Select where you want to depart from (pick up)
- Select where you want to arrive (drop off)
- Select how many people are travelling. If there are more than 2 people, it is often cheaper to have a private car and driver – and zunzun will offer this option to you
- Remember if the bus you are wanting to book leaves in four days or less, it will likely be impossible to get a ticket for you. A colectivo or private transfer will be a better option.
- Select find a transfer (even if you simply want bus tickets)
- If Viazul have a route, then the times of that route will be displayed in the departure time. If there is no Viazul route, then you will see the car and driver options.
- Select your chosen transport option
- Then if there is more than one bus running that day you will need to select which timed departure you want.
- If you want a return, then one you check the return box, you’ll have to put in your return dates.
- Zunzunsend you an email asking for a) your nationality, date of birth & passport number (necessary for the booking) b) the name, address and phone number of the casa where you’d like your physical ticket delivered.
- Once you reply to that your card is authorised your card although the card is not charged until the ticket has been bought).
- Once the Vizul ticket has been bought you will be sent an email copy of it.
- Your Viazul ticket is physically delivered to your casa before you travel (in Havana, Santa Clara or Santiago) or you have the digital copy only if you leave from elsewhere
How buying Viazul tickets this way works.
It’s a simple process. The team at zunzun work with locals in Cuba who will go to the Viazul offices and buy your tickets for you. Book your tickets now. That’s why they need your passport/ID details, as all tickets require this information to be purhcased. They will then deliver your Viazul bus tickets to your Casa Particular or Hotel ready for your arrival in Cuba.
Does this buying Viazul tickets this way cost more?
Yes it does. And we want to be totally transparent about this. You will see the total cost of the tickets in the zunzun system and their costs include the labour costs of their team going to the Viazul offices, buying your ticket and then delivering it to your Casa Particular or hotel. The additional cost per ticket is US$10 at this time. This additional fee pays for the time taken to purchase, to deliver your ticket and transaction fees. Check out your Viazul options now
We think this is a fabulous service, delivered through partnership with local, in country Cubans to make your travel to Cuba a better experience!
Booking your Viazul Bus at a Viazul Bus Station
You’ll probably arrive in Cuba in Havana or Varadero. And it is most likely you will want to travel from Havana to Varadero or Varadero to Havana at some point in your trip. This is the Viazul Bus route with the most options – and the most taxis waiting outside the Viazul bus stations too!.
We recommend that you download maps.me for your trip to Cuba, the locations of the Viazul bus terminals are accurate on the app.
So if you arrive into Havana, get yourself to the Viazul bus station, Havana and book your tickets in person. (its easier to take a taxi to get there). ASAP. They’re generally open to sell tickets from 0830 until 1630. Be prepared to stand in a line. It will likely be noisy and unless you’re proficient in Spanish, it will be stressful.
In order to buy your tickets, your best bet is to write down the following
- Route that you require
- Date (and time) that you require
- Number of tickets
- Full name of passengers (per passport).
You may be asked for your passport – we were NOT, but we’d written down all the details above and handed over the paper to the ticket seller. (I had the names on a second sheet of paper). If the ticket seller speaks English it is limited. So embrace your Spanish and if all else fails, write it down!
Viazul Bus Timetables
The timetables online are accurate. Uncannily the buses run to time, so you can generally rely on getting in when it says it will. There will also be a timetable displayed in each bus station that you go to, printed or hand written. They are posted up in prominent places and they don’t change very often. Timetables for Cuban buses will detail the options from that particular office. This is the timetable posted in the Viazul Varadero office.
If you’d like a full copy of Viazul Buses Cuba and timetables valid for 2019 , then use our sign up form and we will email it to you.
How much are Viazul Bus Tickets?
Viazul publishes the ticket prices on their website. A shared taxi (collectivo) will cost round about the same amount as a Viazul bus, but budget another 25%. Shared taxi costs are usually per person, unless you negotiate for the whole car.
Viazul Bus Tickets Prices – January 2019:
- Havana to Varadero – 10 CUC
- Viazul Havana to Viñales – 12 CUC
- Havana to Trinidad – 24 CUC
- Havan to Playa Giron – 13 CUC
- Havana to Cienfuegos – 20 CUC
- Havana to Baracoa – 66 CUC
- Havana to Holguin – 44 CUC
- Havana to Guantanamo – 57 CUC
- Havana to Camaguey – 33 CUC
- Havana to Sancti Spiritus – 23 CUC
- Havana to Santa Clara – 18 CUC
- Havana to Santiago de Cuba – 51 CUC
- Vinales to Trinidad – 37 CUC
- Baracoa to Santiago de Cuba – 15 CUC
- Cayo Santa Maria to Trinidad – 20 CUC
- Varadero to Trinidad – 20 CUC
No seats available on that Viazul bus?
This is when you need knowledge of the alternatives. It is extremely unlikely that the information on when the next available seat or an alternative route is going to be given to you. You’ll have to ask when the next free seat is. Or if it’s possible to go a different place. The reason for this is that the person on the other side of the ticket counter doesn’t have that information available.
They work off a DOS based computer screen. Each time they want information about seat availability, they have to input codes to ask about a specific time and route. It’s horrific. I’m amazed these people retain their sanity. Mind you I suppose its job security.
Here’s what their screen looks like.
So that’s why you need to know what your other options are. So you can reel off another 6 different options. And that’s why you need to book your tickets as early as possible.
Our Experience Booking Viazul Bus Tickets
A successful experience
On arrival in Havana at the end of April 2017, we went in person to the Viazul offices in Havana (having already explored the sold out tickets online while in Mexico). We had three lots of buses mapped out – all within the following two weeks – we got tickets for all the buses that we wanted.
A frustrating experience
Ten days later in Varadero, as we were about to bid goodbye to our family and continue our exploration of Cuba we headed to the Varadero Viazul Bus Station again. Our family decided to take a taxi as the Varadero to Havana bus was full. We spent 90 minutes in the bus station, going through every possible option to get us from Varadero to Baracoa. In the end, we lost two days because we had to hang around. (We headed to Matanzas for this time).
Our final route from Varadero to Baracoa involved getting to Matanzas, then Matanzas to Havana and then Havana to Baracoa, although we did book all the Viazul tickets we required in Varadero for that second leg of our trip.
What does a Viazul bus ticket look like
If you’re old enough to remember dot matrix printers, this is going to be a blast from the past. If you’re not old enough, then this is going to amuse you. Here’s what a ticket looks like. Check your ticket carefully! And keep it safe. If you lose it you’re stuffed. You may be able to get it reprinted if you can prove that the ticket is for you. There may be a fee. Or you may just end up buying another ticket.
If you’re buying multiple tickets at the same time, they will scroll forward the paper but you’ll probably end up with multiple bus journeys on the same piece of paper.
You will also get a boarding pass (once you have checked in)
Viazul Bus Reservations List
If you can’t buy a ticket, then you might get on the list. Each bus station office maintains what they euphemistically call a “reservations list”. This isn’t what you and I would deem a reservation. They will take no money for the reservation. They will scribble your name on a piece of paper. (literally) You will turn up an hour before the bus is due to leave and attempt to pay for your ticket. If there’s a seat available they will let you pay. If not, then you’re not getting on the bus. Being on the VIazul reservations list does NOT guarantee you a seat. Book your tickets early! Or you’ll end up in a different location, or in a collectivo.
The Viazul Bus Check in Process
There is a strictly followed procedure for check in on all Viazul buses.
- You are to arrive at least an hour before the bus is due to depart and form a line. You then hand over your tickets. Your details are input into the system and you’re presented with “boarding passes”. They will all have a seat number on them. The seat numbers are completely irrelevant.
- Next, you need to take your luggage and your boarding passes to the luggage counter, where your luggage will be tagged and loaded onto trolleys to be taken to the bus. It’s likely that you’ll be asked for a tip. You cannot load your own luggage onto the bus. You do not have to tip. The service won’t improve if you tip. It can’t get any worse if you don’t.
- Now you need to line up to get onto the bus. Remember I said that the seat numbers on your boarding pass are irrelevant? That’s why you need to line up. If there’s more than one of you, you should have split up at the check in process and got into any of the relevant lines. The seat allocation is a free for all. And not all seats are equal.
Luggage Storage on a Viazul Bus
Once you’ve checked your luggage into the “under the bus storage” you’ll get bag tags for it Hang onto them. You *may* need them to retrieve your bags. Keep your valuables with you, although we didn’t find any problems with petty theft in Cuba, it’s a good habit to have.
There is overhead storage inside the bus and a decent sized day pack will fit up there.
On arrival at your destination (the drivers will call out where you have arrived at), just go to the under bus storage area and point out your bag and hand over your tags.
Viazul Bus Seat Reservation & Selection
Your ticket does not give you a specific seat on a Viazul bus. You simply get a seat on the bus. Or the floor if it is full. It’s likely that you’re going to spend several hours on this bus that you’re getting onto. So follow our guidelines on how to pick your seat.
- Get to the front of the line. If you are not travelling solo, split up, have one person check in and one person join the line for seats.
- When you get on the bus check the seat that you get is not broken and doesn’t just fall back into the lap of the person behind. Many are.
- Check that the seat in front isn’t broken and doesn’t fall into your lap
- Avoid the area around the toilet. Just because. We had one bus in four weeks with a working toilet (only pee), but they all stank horribly.
- Avoid the seats near the TVs. They’ll be on a lot of the way and you get less head room. (Invest in ear plugs if bad movies aren’t your thing).
- The first row of seats will be allocated for the drivers (there are two drivers on each bus) and their friends.
- When you get on the bus do a quick count of the number of rows on EACH side of the bus. Seriously, trust me on this one. Some buses have more rows on one side of the bus than the other. You will thank me for this when you realise that fewer rows means more leg room. These buses were not designed for anyone over 1 metre 60 centimetres. And just because the person in front is short, doesn’t mean that they don’t recline their seat FULLY into you as soon as they feel your kneecap starting to crack.
Where Viazul Buses Stop
Each bus has two drivers, so one will drive and one acts as a conductor of sorts. They will *usually* stop every two hours or so and let you off to stretch your legs, get something to eat or drink. When the stop is at a major town, you will be UNLIKELY able to get off. The bus won’t be stopping for long, unless the driver specifically tells you so.
These stops on the longer journeys are at specific roadside cafes. There is PLENTY of time to get something to eat and drink. There’s always a toilet. You’ll always have to pay for the toilet. Keep your smallest, smallest change for this.
If the Viazul Bus is Full.
Don’t worry if there are no seats going to where you want to go. There are other Cuban transport options and other cuba buses too. There will be a bunch of collective drivers standing around outside the bus station, suggesting that they can take you. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find someone in Havana who will be prepared to take you to Baracoa at the other end of the island, but Santa Clara or Trinidad is on the way and, well once you get there you can try again for the bus.
So there you are. Our Ultimate Guide to Viazul buses in Cuba. We hope you’ve made it this far and that you’re already logged onto their website and are booking buses left right and centre. Let us know if we missed anything. And after your travel let us know how it was! Did you spend 18 hours with someone reclined into your lap?
- Where we stayed in Havana – Casa Rafaela (we LOVED it and Rafaela is amazing)
- Consider learning a little Spanish before you come to Cuba – we went to Guatemala to learn Spanish