matanzas-to-havana

How to Get from Matanzas to Havana – Taxi, Colectivo, Bus

Matanzas is a little off the beaten track and most visitors to Cuba won’t make it here.  It’s about halfway from Varadero to Havana and there a few attractions of interest here.  Mainly, though, you’ll come to Matanzas for a slice of local life in Cuba that’s not too far from Havana.  However, this being Cuba there are a variety of options for travelling between Matanzas and Havana, so here are all the details of how to go from Matanzas to Havana, complete with the story of our trip with the one-legged driver.

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How Far is Matanzas from Havana Cuba?

The distance from Matanzas to Havana is almost irrelevant because you can’t ever equate the distance with how long it will take like you would in other countries.  In Cuba, it’s much more appropriate to ask “how long does it take to get from Matanzas to Havana?”    And then the answer depends on the mode of transport that you take.  So.

How Long does it Take from Matanzas to Havana?

A private taxi to Havana from Matanzas will take just over an hour, depending on where you want to be dropped in Havana.  A taxi colectivo from Matanzas Cuba to Havana (central park) takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes.  The Viazul Bus, which will take from Viazul Matanzas station ONLY to the Viazul Bus Station in Havana, where you’ll either need to walk or take a taxi to the centre will take significantly longer – it’s timetabled to take 2 hours and 25 minutes. There’s a new Viazul timetable out now (November 2021) and you can get a copy of it and our full guide to the Viazul Bus Network here.

Matanzas to Havana Transport Options

There are several options when working out how to get to Havana from Matanzas (and also vice versa getting from Havana to Matanzas).

Here are the details on the transport options you have when travelling to Havana from Matanzas.

Viazul Bus Matanzas to Havana Viazul

This is the route that most visitors on a budget will use to travel to Havana from Matanzas.   As with all Viazul bus stations, you’ll need to work out how to get to the bus station as they’re not always in the centre where you want them to be.

Where is the Matanzas Viazul Bus Station?

The Matanzas Viazul bus station is a short walk from Parque Central in Matanzas.  When we arrived the buses were sold out for two days and so it was there that we put our names on the reservations list for a bus two days into the future.  This Viazul bus would take us from Matanzas to Havana.  We planned to take a bus from Havana to Baracoa at the far end of the island in two days.  If we caught this bus that we’d put our name down for then we would arrive in Havana with 30 minutes to spare before our Havana to Baracoa bus.  If you’ve read our ultimate guide to the Viazul Bus network, you’ll know that we don’t like the reservations list.  It’s not worth the paper it’s scrawled on.

The Viazul Bus Reservations List

The reservations list in Matanzas is a handwritten note detailing our names and the date of the bus we wanted to take.  No money exchanged hands.  Our confidence in getting onto this bus and therefore meeting all our other connections was at zero.

After the hard work of booking the Viazul buses for the remainder of our time in Cuba, we had to meet the connections. If we missed the bus to Baracoa, then we’d have been scuppered.

So we decided to head back to Havana the day before our Baracoa bus left and stay overnight to be sure that we’d catch our bus from Havana to Baracoa.  When we get back we only have to make it to the Havana Viazul bus station by 1100 to check in for a 1200 noon departure.

Matanzas to Havana by Colectivo

When we arrived at the Matanzas Viazul Bus Station attempting to get to a same-day bus from Matanzas to Havana we weren’t in luck.  Full.  Said the guy in a dodgy-looking Viazul T-shirt as we stood in line waiting to try and buy a ticket for the 1300 Viazul Bus from Matanzas to Havana.  He’d asked us where we were going, as it was 1030am, we had full packs and there was no imminent bus in sight.  Colectivo?  He said hopefully. And then told us in Spanish that the bus was US$7 and the Colectivo would only be US$10 per person.

Matanzas to Havana Colectivo Prices

Matanzas to Havana on the bus is US$7.  A colectivo would be US$10.  Colectivo prices in Cuba are similar to about 25-30% more than a bus ticket. 

Colectivo Area Matanzas Viazul Bus Station

And so we followed him out to a tin roof covered waiting area beside the ticket office to stand with all the taxi and collective drivers.   It was hot and getting hotter.  We were in the shade.  The drivers and their runners approached each arriving local bus.  No other independent tourists in town meant this could be a long wait.

Matanzas-to-Havana-colectivo waiting area

Negotiating a Colectivo in Matanzas

“Hey bebe, you and me, 30”, said the one-legged man sitting on the seat behind us.  Our hustler repeated the offer in Spanish.  Quinze cada persona.  Ahorita. 15 per person, right now.  We stuck it out another 15 minutes before we cracked when they mentioned air conditioning.

And so we left Matanzas in a mostly air-conditioned manually geared car driven by a one-legged man.  To his credit, he fumbled only one gear change and overtook everything.  His driving method being to slow only for the regular roadside police checks

Taking a Colectivo from Matanzas to Havana?

Journey time from Matanzas to Parque Central in Havana in a colectivo was for us 1 hour and 8 minutes.

Sure we might have got on a bus the next day for US$7 each.  And if we’d waited there might have been two other folks arrive to go to Havana and our fare would have US$20 in total.  But, it all depends on who cracks first.  And we did and were drinking Cristal beer in Havana for lunch rather than rapidly warming bottled water outside a bus station in Matanzas.

Matanzas-to-Havana-in a colectivo

Matanzas to Havana by Prebooked Transfer

Of course by far the easiest way to travel from Matanzas to Havana is by a prebooked (and prepaid) transfer. We use and recommend Civitatis – who partner with locals in Cuba to provide this service. Check prices and book transfers in Cuba here.

Transport Options Matanzas to Havana Costs

  • Private Taxi:  US$70 arranged through a casa particular in Matanzas
  • Prebooked transfer – why not check out real time prices for your EXACT transfers?
  • Colectivo:  US$10 per person (four people), or US$30 for the two of us when the driver wanted to go anyways.  Arrival in Parque Central Havana
  • Viazul Bus:  US$7 per person – book in advance.  Bus leaves Matanzas at 0900, 1255, 1450, 1650 and 1850.  It takes 2 hours 25 minutes. Arrives into the convenient for no one, apart from taxi drivers, Viazul bus station.

There’s more here about the different transport options that Cuba has.

Final Words on how to get from Matanzas to Havana

One of the best things about getting off the beaten track in Cuba is the transport that you’ll take to get there and the tales you’ll have to tell afterwards.  We definitely experienced local life in Matanzas and it’s a laidback break before we headed back into Havana.   So we hope you’ve enjoyed our tales or our one-legged driver and how not to catch the bus back to Havana, but to take a colectivo instead!

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