The East of Cuba (Oriente in Spanish) is the farther region to travel within Cuba if you leave from Havana. The distance to the city of Bayamo, in the province of Granma, is 733 km, to Santiago de Cuba is 869 km and to Guantánamo is 910 km.
How to get to Santiago de Cuba from Havana
For the comparison we took the route Havana to Santiago de Cuba:
|Price||51 per person||30 per person||12 per person||100+ per person|
|Duration||16 hours||20 hours||12 hours||1 hour|
The safest way to travel by bus is with Viazul. Three buses from this company leave Havana for Bayamo (44 CUC) and Santiago (51 CUC) every day. The duration is 13 hours for Bayamo and 16 hours for Santiago. These buses make several stops in every province from Santa Clara onwards. One bus a day travels to Baracoa (66 CUC), making stops in Camagüey (33 CUC), Santiago, and Guantánamo (57 CUC). Traveling to Guantanamo takes 15 hours and to Baracoa, 18 hours.
Up to four buses from Astro company to Santiago and Guantánamo leave Havana daily. To Bayamo there are three buses. They only offer seats for foreigners if they are students, have identification as Cubans or have Cuban residence. The price for locals is 144 Peso Cubano to Bayamo, 169 to Santiago and 175 to Guantánamo. The bus terminal (Havana National Terminal) is near Plaza de la Revolución. You have to book the tickets several days before at the main station or the agency offices, spread all over the capital.
If you enjoy driving by your own, hire a car at REX, Cubacar or Havanautos. The fare is roughly 40 CUC a day, plus fuel and insurance.
Trains to the East of Cuba (Santiago and Guantanamo)
The trains to the East (Santiago and Guantánamo) leave Havana every three days. You need to inform yourself at the Central Railway Station (aka “La Coubre”), in Old Havana, about the exact date they leave.
Cuban trains are not comfortable at all. Seats are bad and toilets are a mess. They usually delay and break down frequently.
The trip is on a night train and it could last from 16 to 20 hours, with several stops. Price for Cubans is from 26 to 32 Peso Cubano, but foreigners have to pay this amount in CUC. Trains are not recommended, but if you are in a group and want to experience the unexpected, take the risk.
The camión is a means of transport that is very popular amongst Cubans. The reason is that they are cheap and the destinations they cover are diverse. The truth is that they are not really comfortable and secure, but still remain a useful means of transport for huge amounts of passengers. A camión to Bayamo and Santiago costs 10-12 CUC, and to Guantánamo 14 CUC. The travel duration is approximately 12 hours, but the seats (bus soft seats) are more comfortable that those of the camiones that cover shorter distances (most of them are benches). If you want to get off in a place before the final destination (Camagüey, Las Tunas, etc.) you have to pay the full amount anyway.
How to find the camionstop to the East (Santiago, Guantanamo) in Havana
Camiones that cruise the highway depart from “terminal de Omnibus en VillaNueva” in Old Havana.
Camion Stop in Havana – View Larger Map
You can access this terminal by taking the local buses P1, P6 or P9 if you are in Vedado or Centro Habana; and the P7, P8, P13, A2, A5, A30, A60, A66, 15 and 23 if you are in Old Havana. The proper stop to get off the bus is La Lechera, except for the P13 and the A66, since you have to get off in Arenal. The A2, A5, A30, A60 and 23 have a stop in Gancedo Street, near the very Villanueva station. Any option you choose, always walk just a few blocks seeking for Gancedo Street, where you will find the main entrance of the station. The P buses (P1, P6, etc) are bigger and pass more frequently. In Havana, a ride on local buses costs 40 cents of Peso Cubano (5 cents of CUC), and most of them are jam-packed with people. For this reason, it is not recommended if you don’t know how public transport works in Cuba.
The national airline, Cubana de Aviación, has 12 flights a week leaving from Havana to Santiago, mostly departing in the morning.
Cubana has a somewhat spotty safety history, and its planes are generally old Russian ones that have been decommissioned everywhere else. Prices are relatively high as well, a one way flight will easily be more that 100 EUR.
Check the exact times of departure and prices at their website.