Planning a road trip around Cuba

Driver waiting next to a pink vintage car in Havana, Cuba

This post is part of our Cuba series and focuses on planning a road trip around Cuba. We will release more details and impressions on each location we visited soon, so stay tuned for more! 

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Planning your road trip around Cuba

Cuba is an amazing country to explore. Especially going a bit further than the main tourist spots can be very much rewarded with incredible experiences and a new insight on the country. But as we pointed out in our last article, travel in Cuba also has its challenges. So good planning is key!

Travel routes

Which route you take around Cuba largely depends on your travel preferences, and on how much time you have available. Many people are going on a small tour around Havana, Trinidad and Varadero, which is a great start to explore the country. If you have more time, we would definitely recommend to add Vinales – it has been one of my absolute favorite places on this trip, and gives a different perspective on Cuba.
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Cuba Road Trip

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Havana: 23.133020, -82.383040
Vinales: 22.630667, -83.716165
Cienfuegos: 22.146110, -80.435560
Camaguey: 21.380830, -77.916940
Trinidad: 21.802169, -79.987529
Sugar mill valley, Trinidad: 21.866670, -79.500000
Santiago de Cuba: 20.024720, -75.821940
Santa Clara: 22.400000, -79.966670
Valle de la Prehistoria: 19.944659, -75.653530
Cayo Largo: 21.626950, -81.574170
Varadero: 23.180159, -81.180943
For the roadtrip lovers and explorers, the south of Cuba also has a lot of great places to explore. We went via Camaguey to Santiago de Cuba, and explored some places in the area on the way. Our full roadtrip included:
  • Havana

    The city with so many things to do, from vintage car rides to nice bars and restaurants to impressive buildings and museums.

  • Vinales

    Amazing landscapes and nature, tobacco plantations, horse riding tracks and caves to explore.

  • Cienfuegos

    Cozy small town with nice center square, art markets, and nature to explore around.

  • Trinidad

    Wonderful colonial town with a sugar mill valley and waterfalls to explore in the area.

  • Camaguey

    A short stop on our route – this city is full of history, culture and has a great art scene.

  • Santiago de Cuba

    The second largest city of Cuba is a cultural hotspot, and has many interesting and strange spots to explore around.

  • Varadero

    Beach break for a few days of sun.

  • Santa Clara

    Another lovely colonial town that is great for some relaxation.

  • Havana

    Another stop in this lovely town – there are many areas to explore!

  • Cayo Largo

    An island full of beautiful beaches.

  • Havana

    Time for last explorations and flying back home

Modes of transportation

If you want to see more of the country, a road trip around Cuba might be a great idea! You can do this in different ways, depending on how comfortable you are with driving through the country yourself – bus, taxi or driving yourself can all be options. 

Taking a road trip by bus

If you prefer to not do the driving yourself, you can book busses to all major destinations around Cuba. Viazul is a good option for long distance bus travel in Cuba. This limits your flexibility a bit, but can be a comfortable way to manage long distances. 

Renting a car

If you are alright with doing the driving yourself, renting a car can be a good option. Do not expect to get anything fancy – our car was a quite new Peugeot 206, and it was seen as a very modern drive. Be sure to check that you have insurance coverage. We found our car via an international comparison site, and paid with a credit card that includes insurance, which can be an easy solution. However, you might still need to pay upfront in the country in case of an accident.  

Renting a car with driver

A more expensive but extremely comfortable option – it is quite common in Cuba to rent a car with a driver, who will take you around from spot to spot based on your wishes. You can do this for a short time (driving you to a sight outside the main city) or for a longer period. Be aware that you will need to cover accommodation for your driver as well.

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Accomodation: Hotel vs. Casa particular

In Cuba, your options to do online bookings are quite limited. Especially while you are there, your internet card might just not work, so you end up not reaching the site you want. Booking locally while you are there can be a good choice if you speak Spanish well, and if you are ok with taking some risks.

Book a hotel

You can book hotels in all major cities and tourist areas in Cuba. But you need to be aware that the standard of hotels might not live up to your expectations at all times. While major tourist areas like Varadero have some modern choices, many hotels in Cuba have not been renovated for quite some time. The prices can get quite expensive as well. For us, hotels were a nice added bonus for a few nights close to the beach. You find hotel availability on sites like booking.com, and we advice you to book through a site like this (because we didn’t and got into trouble, a story for another time…!)

Stay in a Casa Particular

As you might have guessed or read in our previous post, we absolutely loved the casa particular experience. This is the way to travel we really can recommend. If you speak Spanish, you can book via casasparticulares.com directly with the hosts. For everyone else, Airbnb might be a good option! If you do not have an account yet, you can get 30€ / 36$ off of your first stay via this link!
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How to navigate

With internet only available in few spots, it is really important to have a way of navigation in Cuba. We often missed out on major turns on the way as there were no signs, so we were glad to have a map to follow. The best experience we had was with maps.me – it works really well in Cuba and recognizes addresses, sometimes even casas particulares by their name.

Our backup option was here maps. It can be useful to have two options of offline maps, as accuracy varies for some places. With these two ready, we never had to search long for our way.

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