Viazul Cuba Buses
Viazul Cuba Buses are a hard currency bus line and is by far the best choice of public transportation to tour the island. They run comfortable air-conditioned long-distance coaches with washrooms and televisions to most places of interest to tourists. The Viazul Cuba Buses are getting a bit grubby, but they are reliable and punctual. Complete schedules can be found on the Viazul Cuba Buses website (the Varadero – Santa Clara – Cienfuegos – Trinidad and return service is missing from the website but runs daily). The Viazul Cuba Buses can be used theoretically by anyone, including Cubans, but in reality, few Cubans can afford the convertible peso fares. Viazul Cuba Buses reservations can be made in advance, but are usually unnecessary except at peak travel times. Do not waste your time making an on-line reservation on the website — that features rarely works. Refreshments are not served, despite what the website says, but the Viazul Cuba Buses stop for meal breaks at highway restaurants with bad food. (Bring your own food!) The buses are often over air conditioned, so bring along something warm to wear. Note that most westbound buses from Santiago de Cuba run overnight.
Viazul Cuba Buses the cheapest way to travel around Cuba!
Astro is the bus line that most Cubans use as opposed to Viazul Cuba Buses. Astro recently renewed their fleet with 300 new Chinese coaches that are as comfortable as Viazul Cuba Buses (without the washroom). Although the new buses have proven to be unreliable and often break down, they are still better than the old buses that Astro used to run. Astro has a much more extensive network than Viazul Cuba Buses, and contrary to popular belief depending upon the vendor and your ability to speak Spanish, especially if your destination is not covered by Viazul Cuba Buses, it is possible to purchase tickets.
In La Habana routes are covered by newer YuTong Chinese buses throughout the city, and are a welcome respite from the extortionate taxi fares. Each fare costs 0.40 CUP however far one travels. This is particularly useful in getting to the airport, where the official rate is 20-25 CUC from Centro or Vieja via taxi (although patient bargaining can lower this to 15 CUC); any bus to Santiago de Las Vegas such as P-2, P-12 and P-16, which run from Parque Fraternidad next to the Capitolio and anywhere along Avendida de la Indepencia, can take you near the airport to Boyeros (again for 0.40 CUP or 0.02 CUC, a thousandth of what you’d pay for a taxi). From Boyeros outside the Psychiatric Hospital, or a few stops before, or one after, one can walk, flag a taxi down, or if going to Terminal 3 take the ‘Connexions’ bus. People will be helpful when asking for advice about this whilst on the bus, even without Spanish skills. To reiterate at the time of writing this option will cost you from 0.02GBP as opposed to 20GBP.
There are also local provincial buses, consisting of overcrowded old beat-up eastern European buses that may or may not be running but they are very very cheap. Each town will have a “terminal terrestre” where buses or trucks (large pre 1960s vehicles) serve local destinations and usually neighboring provinces (for example from Santiago you can get to Bayamo or Guantanamo). They are usually quite easy to find – in La Habana it is found in the Lido, in the Marianao (the P-9, P-5 or P-14 will get you close), whilst in Santiago it is found on Calle 4 (along from La Plaza de la Revolucion).
It is important to note that queues will be lengthy (it is best to arrive in the early hours of the morning, or alternatively give the chauffeur a tip to allow you to jump the queue) and you should always say that you are a student, as tourists are theoretically forbidden from using this transport. You may occasionally need to pay a little extra by virtue of being a tourist, but this should never be more than 1-2 CUC for long journeys (as opposed to 5-10 CUP for locals).
It is also possible to travel between some popular tourist destinations, such as Havana and Varadero, on special tourist minibuses carrying 4-5 people. The cost is a few dollars more but highly recommended if you are not planning to sleep the whole distance – plus you can ask the driver to stop along the way!
Viazul Cuba Buses from just 1 CUC per ride!
Alternatively there are some collectivos which might acutally be cheaper than the official bus. The advantages of these collectivos is that they bring you exactly where you want, they can be cheaper and they run and stop for a snack when you want them to. Example Santa Clara – La Habana: Viazul Cuba Buses costs 18 CUC and leave at 3:15AM and 5PM, the collectivo costs 40 – 50 CUC (if you fill it up with 4 people it is 10 to 12 CUC each or alternatively you can wait for the driver to look for other passengers). While this transport (like many things in Cuba!) is illegal in theory, remember that the money goes directly to the owner (as opposed to the Cuban government) and the chances of any problems are minimal.
Thanks to http://wikitravel.org for this excellent article
Viazul Cuba Buses 101