Viazul-bus-ultimate-guide

How to Book the Viazul Bus in Cuba – [Viazul Bus Cuba Guide]

As a 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.

You can sign up (see below) and we will send you a copy of the current Viazul bus timetable.

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED AND AFFILIATE LINKS. MORE INFORMATION IN OUR DISCLAIMER

The Ultimate Viazul Bus 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 and this guide.  (PS you’re going to want to do this before you arrive in Cuba > here are more things you need to do before you arrive in Cuba too).

As with many of your activities and transport in Cuba sorting it out is something that you’ll want to do BEFORE you arrive in Cuba.  The first step is to get hold of the timetable for the bus services.

Want the Viazul Bus Timetable? And all these details? You can get it here

Get the Viazul Bus Timetable BEFORE you arrive in Cuba.

You will probably want to do this before you arrive in Cuba.   So when you log on and find that the route that you want is not available, then don’t panic.  Because for me a lot of the timetable is NOT logical, but this is the timetable.  And so long as you know that ahead of time you can contemplate other Cuban transport options.

You can find all the Viazul Bus routes 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 that we’ll send to you.  We also include the individual Viazul route maps. In reality, the timetable only changes once a year and usually the ONLY thing that changes is the published date, but if and when things change we’ll also send you a copy of the new and updated timetable.

Use our sign-up form and we’ll send you the full timetable.  Our Viazul timetable download also includes the Viazul routes on a map that the buses take, so you can see which towns and cities they go through. Click Here to get the Timetable.

How to Book Viazul Bus Cuba Tickets

It is imperative to make Viazul booking in advance.  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 to 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.  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.

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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.

VIazul-Bus-Online-Timetable-271x481

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 here.  Here’s the link to register.  You can also get it from the home page.

VIazul-Bus-Registration-required-271x481

You will at this point be putting in your date of birth and passport details.  We strongly advise you to use a VPN while doing this.  DEFINITELY if you are using a public wifi connection.

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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.  Booking Viazul online tickets is similar, and it’s very obvious if there are no seats available to be booked online.

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Booking your Viazul Bus at a Viazul Bus Station

You’ll probably arrive in Cuba by way of 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 and you don’t need to have data or wifi to access the maps once they’ve been downloaded.

So if you arrive into Havana, get yourself to the Viazul bus station, Havana and book your tickets in person. (it’s 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.

VIazul-Bus-Line-for-TIckets-Havana

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

  • The route that you require
  • Date (and time) that you require
  • Number of tickets
  • Full name of passengers (per passport).
VIazul-Bus-Write-down-your-booking-1-e1498401399241-361x481

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 will be very 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 (colectivo) will cost around 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:

We’ve outlined the prices for the tickets for Viazul buses in the equivalent to US dollars.

  • Viazul Havana to Varadero –  10 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Viñales –  12 USD$ > check out our guide of what to do in Vinales here
  • Viazul Havana to Trinidad – 24 USD$ > read about things to do in Trinidad here
  • Viazul Havana to Playa Giron – 13 USD$ (dive the Bay of Pigs from here)
  • Viazul Havana to Cienfuegos – 20 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Baracoa – 66 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Holguin – 44 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Guantanamo – 57 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Camaguey – 33 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Sancti Spiritus  – 23 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Santa Clara – 18 USD$
  • Viazul Havana to Santiago de Cuba – 51 USD$
  • Viazul Vinales to Trinidad – 37 USD$
  • Viazul Baracoa to Santiago de Cuba – 15 USD$
  • Viazul Cayo Santa Maria to Trinidad – 20 USD$
  • Viazul Varadero to Trinidad – 20 USD$

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 handwritten.  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 Cuba and timetables, then use our sign up form and we will email it to you – when the updated Viazul Timetables are published we’ll also send you a copy of the new timetable.

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.  You’re likely going to spend several hours on this bus that you’re getting onto.  So follow our guidelines on how to pick your seat.

How to pick a seat on the Viazul Bus

  • 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 headroom.  (Invest in earplugs 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 mean more legroom.    These buses were not designed for anyone over 1 metre 60 centimetres in height. 

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.  My experience is that the shorter the person the more full reclined the seat will be.

VIazul-Bus-inside-the-bus

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 colectivo.

Or, of course, you can skip all the lines and use a pre-booked transfer – check prices and book Cuban transfers here.

What to do if there are no tickets left on the Viazul bus?

If there are no tickets available on the particular Viazul bus route that you want to take, then this is when you need knowledge of the alternative buses that you can take.  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 will have to ask specific questions.  You’ll have to ask when the next free seat is.  Or if it’s possible to go to a different place.  

The reason for this is that the person on the other side of the ticket counter doesn’t have the data in front of them about what is available.

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 it’s job security.

Here’s what their screen looks like.

VIazul-Bus-Ticket-Seller-Screen-e1498401498543-361x481

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 booking Viazul Bus Tickets

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 NOT booking Viazul Bus Tickets

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.

FAQs about the Viazul Bus Service in Cuba

Got questions about the Viazul Bus Service in Cuba? Or want to know details on Cuba’s Viazul Bus Service and we haven’t answered your questions?  Check out our frequently asked questions about the Cuban Viazul Bus below, or ask us yours in the comments.

What is 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. You’ll likely 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.

VIazul-Bus-Check-in-Havana

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

Is there 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.  You need to retain them. You *may* need them to retrieve your bags.  Equally, you may not need them.

VIazul-Bus-Luggage-Tags

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.

Where is the Viazul Bus Station in Havana?

The Havana Viazul Bus Station is in Plaza de La Revolution Havana.    The address of the Viazul Station Havana is Estación central de ómnibus Nacionales, Ave Independencia #101, esq. 19 de Mayo, Havana.

Where Do 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.

VIazul-Bus-Stop-En-Route-1
VIazul-Bus-Stop-En-route-Menu-and-Prices

What Do I do if the Viazul Bus is Full?

Don’t worry if there are no tickets on buses going to where you want to go.  There are other Cuban transport options and other Cuba buses too. There will be a bunch of colectivo 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.  Or find a colectivo who is likely to want to go further down the island.

Your alternative, of course, is to prebook a transfer. We use and recommend transfer booking in Cuba with Civitatis – get a quote and book here.

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?

Final Words on The Ultimate Guide to the Viazul Bus in Cuba

The Viazul Bus network is a great way to travel around Cuba.  It does, however, have its quirks and idiosyncrasies despite being specifically designed for tourists to get to locations around Cuba.   We hope you’ve found this Viazul Bus network guide useful and that it helps you to plan your trip to Cuba.

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