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Cuba - Getting there & away, getting around

Cuba - Getting there & away

Almost all visitors to Cuba arrive by air, with scheduled flights arriving from Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Europe. The main gateways for US travelers continue to be Cancún, Nassau and Toronto. There are direct flights available from the USA, but US citizens will need the permission of the US Treasury Department, which restricts travel to Cuba to journalists, researchers and a handful of other groups. There's a US$20 airport departure tax.

Thanks to the US blockade of Cuba, very few cruise ships call into Cuban ports, and there are no scheduled passenger ships that service the country. Private yachts regularly call into Cuba's plentiful harbors and anchorages.

Getting around Cuba

Cubana airlines has an extensive domestic air network that services all of the regional centers, and flights within the country are not expensive, but prices have been on the rise. Most domestic flights are on smaller propeller aircraft, which can be a little hair-raising.

Viázul is the bus company in Cuba that is geared towards tourists. Its buses are air-conditioned and uncrowded and all passengers are required to pay in dollars. Privately owned trucks (camiones particulares) have taken over much of the passenger transportation business, especially in eastern Cuba.

The train system has deteriorated rapidly over the past several years. Although there are still some inexpensive, comfortable routes, particularly between major cities, bus is now the way to go.

Cuba boasts Latin America's most extensive system of roads, and renting a car is definitely the easiest, if not the cheapest, way to see the country. Many Cubans hitchhike as a means of getting around and locally the activity is known as hacer botella (literally 'to make a bottle' with the hand). Government vehicles are legally required to pick up hitchhikers if they have the room, and town exits and major crossroads often have yellow-clad amarillo officials armed with clipboards to organize the Cubans waiting for a ride.

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