The Viazul is a charter bus that is similar to the Greyhound bus in the United States and they offer service to many cities across the island.
It is an amazing and cost effective way to get from city to city.
During our trip to Cuba we took the Viazul twice; once from Varadero to Vinales (which included a quick stop in Havana to pick up additional passengers) and the a second bus ride from Vinales back to Havana.
BOOKING YOUR VIAZUL BUS TICKETS
We had read that some of the more popular routes (like the route from Vinales to Havana) tend to be filled to capacity. Not wanting to risk it by booking our seats at the bus station, we decided to take a chance and pre-book our tickets online. The process of booking was very straightforward and I was left with an order confirmation which had a note to print out and bring that with you to the bus station. If you are planning to book your ticket online you must do so at least 7 days before the departure.
Viazul Route Table as of February 1 2018
Havana – Viñales $12 (3.5 hours)
Havana – Varadero $10 (3 hours)
Havana – Trinidad $24 (6 hours
Havana – Santiago de Cuba $51 (15 hours)
Havana – Holguín $44 (11 hours)
Varadero – Viñales $22 (7 hours)
Varadero – Santiago de Cuba $49 (15 hours)
Santiago de Cuba – Baracoa $15 (4 hours)
Santiago de Cuba – Trinidad $33 (11 hours)
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE VIAZUL BUS STATION
Get to the bus station early. When you arrive you will be required to check in and get your boarding document. To get your boarding document you need to have you payment confirmation and your passport. You will be given a boarding document which is really just a piece of paper with some basic information and a seat assignment. Don’t be fooled by this...there are no assigned seats.
About 15 minutes before departure the bus driver will start tagging bags to be put underneath the bus. (Side note the Viazul website has a weight limit of 20kg, but we never even saw a scale for weighing baggage) If you are travelling with someone else, I recommend one person be responsible for getting the bags under the bus and the other wait in line at the the bus door to grab seats...remember no assigned seats and the bus will most likely be full.
If you book a trip on the Viazul do not be late...the bus will leave you! In Varadero we definitely saw them leave people behind that had not checked in early enough.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE VIAZUL BUS
The bus driver will collect your boarding ticket either once everyone is on the bus or as you are boarding the bus. We had it both ways so I guess it varies by driver. Overhead there are some small storage spaces, kind of like a long shelf that can hold small bags, such as a backpack or a purse. There is also some space by your feet but it is pretty minimal. The seats are pretty comfortable, with large windows for watching the countryside go by.
Be warned that on both of our bus rides the bathrooms were locked. Although based on others experiences I’m not sure I would wanna go in there anyway. Some of the seats would not stay upright so you might have someone in front of you that has a seat that won’t stay upright so they are basically in your lap. Lastly, the wire flip down cup holders were more of a bother than anything else...most of them do not stay up and you end up bumping into it constantly.
With the bathrooms on the bus not being available most drivers will make a stop about halfway thru the trip for restrooms and food. During the trip from Varadero to Havana we made one stop and then from Havana to Vinales we made another stop. Unfortunately most does not mean all, from Vinales back to Cuba we did not make a stop. Make sure you have coins for restroom stops as toilet paper is usually not available without paying a small fee.
TIPS TO REMEMBER
Get to the bus station early. They will leave on time and will not wait for late arrivals.
Bring coins for restroom stops along the trip.
Book you tickets online to ensure you are able to get seats on the bus you want.
You must have your passport and booking confirmation to get your boarding ticket
If you are traveling with someone, divide up between getting luggage on the bus and the other get in line for grabbing seats.