How to Book the Viazul Bus in Cuba – Viazul 2019 Bus Cuba Guide   Recently updated !


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As a budget tourist in Cuba, your main mode of transport is likely to be the Cuba Viazul bus network.  The Viazul 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 timetable updated as of January 2019

Viazul 2019 Cuba Buses Guide

You can visit the Viazul Bus Cuba website and see all their 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 check and update this every month.

Use our sign-up form below and you’ll get a link to download the full timetable.

 

Checking out local transport is one of the key things we do when researching a trip – check out our Ultimate Guide to Travel Research and Trip Planning.

How to Book Viazul Bus Cuba Tickets

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

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’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.

    • Get the best VPN that we’ve found – that works very well in China, Turkmenistan & Cuba

 

 

 

VIazul Bus Online Timetable

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.



Booking.com

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.

VIazul Bus Registration required

 

 

Viazul_Registration_1

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.

Viazul_Bus_book_online

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.

VIazul Bus Timetable Varadero

If you’d like a full copy of Viazul Buses and timetables valid for 2019 , then use our sign up form and you can download it from our subscriber area.

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!.

So get yourself to the Viazul bus station and book your tickets in person.  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.

Viazul Station Havana

In order to buy your tickets, your best bet is to write down the following

  1. Route that you require
  2. Date (and time) that you require
  3. Number of tickets
  4. Full name of passengers (per passport).

VIazul Bus Write down your booking (1)

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!

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, 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
  • 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

 

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.

VIazul Bus Ticket Seller Screen

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 Havan 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.

 

 

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.

VIazul Bus 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 Boarding Pass

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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

VIazul Bus Check in Havana

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Check that the seat in front isn’t broken and doesn’t fall into your lap
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. The first row of seats will be allocated for the drivers (there are two drivers on each bus) and their friends.
  7. 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.

VIazul Bus inside the bus

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 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?

Resources:

 

 

 

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20 thoughts on “How to Book the Viazul Bus in Cuba – Viazul 2019 Bus Cuba Guide

  • Julia

    Hi,

    Thank you for the great post! But if I look at the Viazul website right now, some routes seem to be not available anymore.
    For example when I click on the route from Trinidad to Cayo Santa Maria the search engine cannot find any route.
    Are these routes not available anymore in 2018?

    Greets.

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      Wow that was a quick change, I just updated the post last week! I can’t find any routes in or out of Cayo Santa Maria now. It might be that when you get to Trinidad that there is a different local timetable. The great thing about Cuba is that there will always be a way. Your options will be 1) try the Cubancan hotels, they can book you the connectando buses (you can’t book these online and neither are there published schedules). 2) get to Santa Clara and then find a colectivo to Cayo Santa Maria 3) Ask your casa particular in Trinidad (or Santa Clara) to organize a colectivo to Cayo Santa Maria.

      I’ll get the timetables updated again!

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      You should see an optin either in the side bar or within the text, pop your email address in there, and then confirm your subscription and you’ll get a link to download the timetable. Let me know if you have problems.

      • Sophir

        Maybe I’m being blind, but I can’t find the link and would love to have the timetable.
        Thanks for the very useful posts! We fly to Havana from Mexico City in a couple of days! We will never feel prepared enough for this trip!

  • Natasha Maria Knudsen

    Hi.
    Thanks for the post about Viazul. When I try to enter their website, it says “IT WORKS!” and that’s it. I can’t open it. And sometimes it says that it’s not a secured website.
    Do you know if their website is down or if Viazul isnt’ not running anymore?

    Best regards
    Natasha

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      Hi Natasha
      I just tried and it looks like they are havng big problems with their website. The HTTPS part of it never worked for me until you got to payment. Viazul still runs as buses, but their technology isn’t great. It looks like they have made some changes that have not worked. I advise, keep trying, but don’t hold your breath. If you have booked to stay in a Casa Particular ask your Casa owner to check bus availability and possibly book for you. And think of it this way, if you can’t book, neither can anyone else. Good luck i’ll keep checking to see if anything changes and update the post when I get further information.

  • Marcus

    Hey, thanks for such an amazing post letting us see what’s behind the sign up process.

    The Viazul website really is obscure as you have to sign up to get information that should be readily available. Thanks for opening the curtains 🙂

    Also, your explantion is very detailed. Thanks for that!

    About colectivos, what are the prices of shared taxis outside the Viazul station? Are they the same or approx. the same as the bus? Because I cheked http://viazul.com and then found http://pickocar.com/en (which says it is a shared taxi service) and the prices are much bigger in some routes.

    Thanks!

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      Hi Marcus, thanks, it was a labour of love 😉 The only transport that we booked beforehand (apart from the Viazul buses) was a classic car trip from Havanna to Vnales. We found that we could have got it cheaper in person, when we got there by working with our casa owner (however, our trip was amazing and the car was superb). I’ll give you some examples – the bus from Matanzas to Havana was 7 cuc, we ended up just the two of us getting back for 10cuc each. If we’d found another two people it would have been 30 cuc for four of us. Partly depends on your negotiating skills, and partly supply and demand, but the prices will be “roundabout” the same or just slightly higher. If you have four people you’ll get a better rate than 2 people, on a per person basis. We found that asking several people, also walkng a block further away and asking different folks, also helped. You will definitely pay more by pre booking things (which seems illogical for the rest of the world, but here in Cuba, there is more supply on the street than there is online, when you’re online there are more people taking a cut of the money available..). I know that’s not a cut and dried answer, but I hope it helps. It’s definitely best IMHO to chill out, slow down and take life as it comes..hopefully you have time to do that!

  • Mer

    Hello! Thank you for this article!

    I’ve heard from other travellers that booking ahead online doesn’t guarantee your seat. If enough people are ahead of you at the station to fill the bus your pre-bought ticket won’t matter? What is your take on this?

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      You will need to arrive at the bus station and confirm your seat, that it probably what they are talking about – Even if you;ve bought a paper ticket, you need to confirm your seat when you check in at each bus station. 60-90 minutes before its due to depart is usually fine. Unfortunately you can’t just rock up at the last minute. There are four stages to getting on the bus 1) buy your ticket either online or in advance at a station 2) check in 3) check your luggage on (most places they wont let you put your own bags on the bus someone has to do it for you) 4) line up to get on the bus. If there is more than one of your travelling, I advise a person in each line. The seat number printed on your ticket means nothing. Getting to the front of the queue means everything!

  • Francesca

    Hi,
    thank you so much for this post 🙂
    I’m going to visit Cuba on January 2019. On Viazul website is impossible to book bus for 2019.
    When do you think it will be possibile?
    I would like to take my reservation now because January is a such busy period.
    Best Regards
    Francesca

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      Hi Francesca – they only make a small number available to book online, your best bet would be asking your hostel or Casa Particular to book the seats for you – most Casa’s will do this for you – for a small fee, its the best way to guarantee getting a booking! Sarah

  • Barry Lewis

    We’re an adventurous couple, having backpacked around the World for 6 months in 2007 with our children (13 and 14). However, would you recommend hiring a taxi (95 CUC) instead of the Viazul bus (20 CUC for 2 people) to travel from Varadero Airport to Old Havana if money isn’t really an issue? We’re only there from December 29 to January 5 (4 nights Havana, 3 nights Varadero – both in Airbnb accommodations), so we want to minimize hassle and maximize enjoyment!

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      Hi Barry – I really would, if you go for the bus you need to get to the bus station and do all the hanging around associated with it. We put our sister in law in a taxi from a village just outside Varadero to go back to Havan (we got dropped off at Matanzas enroute and it was 45CUC booked through our airbnb host), so its not megabucks and it is way more convenient. The Viazul bus doesnot end up in Old Havana, you’re a 10 CUC taxi into the centre from the bus station, so its well worth the taxi from Varadero!

  • Claus DONAU

    The Viazul service somehow is puzzling. Since three weeks we try to book our backwards tickets from Santiago to Habana on January 2nd. We already have our tickets down on Dec 24th, we have an account, we paid, we received a confirmation. But to book back to the capital was impossible. But to book backwards was impossible. So we‘ve sent an email to the customer service and they said: „Tickets will be available in December. Now it IS already December, but it is still impossible. Again we got in touch with the service desk, and they said: „You vave to book via Internet by doing this and that…“ and so on. We tried again. It failed again. No Jaunuary schedule available. OMG. This is frustrating. We now consider to take a taxi ….

    • ASocialNomad Post author

      I am afraid that they are a law until themselves. I think you can see the system that they work with themselves, it is VERY clunky. Just because there is no ticket available online doesnt mean there is no ticket available (although Jan 2 might be quite busy). Are you staying i a casa particular or hotel? You can ask them to go to the Viazul office and buy you a ticket. In Cuba there is always a way, so you will always be able to arrive at the bus station and there will be taxis waiting, or you can askmyour cas particular for find out how much a taxi to La Habana.