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Cuba is a fantastic country, with very friendly and hospitable people - and Havana has to be one of the most vibrant cities worldwide. It's a safe place to visit, too, unless you fall down one of the many potholes in the street. Cuba's rail network runs the length of the island linking the main cities and towns, and it's an interesting way to get around, especially if you want to travel with Cubans the way Cubans do, not in a tourist bus. Don't expect western standards, take your own toilet paper and allow for the odd breakdown - all part of the experience. However, brand-new Chinese-built cars entered service in July 2019 on all the main routes across the island, with air-conditioning and cafeteria, fewer stops, faster journeys, increased frequency. Taking the train across Cuba is much better than taking a cramped long-distance Viazul bus or worse, a flight... Havana - Santa Clara - Camagey - Santiago de Cuba & branches to Holguin, Bayamo, Guantanamo - A new dawn for train travel in Cuba? - Train times & dates of running - How much does it cost? Havana - Cienfuegos Havana - Pinar del Rio Hershey Railway: Havana - Hershey - Matanzas Useful country information Hotels in Havana - some classic places to stay Foreigners used to pay in US dollars until 2004 when dollars ceased to be accepted. There then followed a period of dual currencies, Local Pesos which locals used and Convertible Pesos (CUP) which tourists used. From January 2021, Cuba now only uses one unified currency, the Peso, where S = 24 pesos. UK & most other western citizens need a 'Tourist card' to visit Cuba. You can get a tourist card direct from airlines & tour agencies serving Cuba, or via Cuban consulates, or from agencies such as (for UK residents) Forget everything you read about train travel in Cuba before July 2019, it's all changed! In July 2019 a whole tranche of brand-new Chinese-built cars entered service, with air-conditioned seating, non-air-con seating and a cafeteria car. Speed and frequency was increased, new fares and new booking arrangements introduced, with the booking horizon extended from 5 days to 30. If you have any more information or photos that might help other travellers or keep this page updated, please email me! The timetable above is the new timetable dating from early 2020. If you find times have changed from those shown here, a photo of the departure notices would be much appreciated. In early 2021, the same basic timetable is in operation, but some timings have changed a bit so check locally. A notice at each station tells you what dates each train runs. Unfortunately I have been unable to get details as information on Cuban train services is difficult to confirm. When first introduced in July 2019, these new trains ran every 2 or 3 days. The shortage of fuel in Cuba sometimes affects buses & local trains, but these mainline trains have priority. However, in late September 2019, a 'temporary' (which in Cuba means indefinite) nationwide fuel shortage means that these trains are reduced to running every 4 days and this is still the case in early 2021. Incidentally, there are no couchettes or sleeping-cars in Cuba, only seats cars. A = NEW CHINESE-BUILT TRAIN, should run every 2 days but currently every 4 days. *** = For Moron, travel to Ciego de Avila & change for the local line to Moron. Known train departure dates are as follows while this situation persists, these dates allow you to work out later departure dates. 1st class air-conditioned seats, 2nd class non-air-con seats, cafeteria car. * = Havana's main Estacin Central is temporarily closed for major renovation, see the note below. There are several daily trains Ciego to Moron & back. Tip: Use count the number of days between one of the 'reference point' dates shown below and the date you want to travel (leave the 'Include end date in calculation' box un-ticked). Children aged 0 to 4 travel free, children aged 5 to 11 travel at half fare, children aged 12 and over pay full fare. B = NEW CHINESE-BUILT TRAIN, should run every 3 days but currently every 4 days. If the train you want runs every 4 days, then if the number of days between the reference date and your travel date is divisible by 4, the train runs. Havana Estacin Central is closed for a major renovation from June 2015, originally until summer 2018, this has now overrun and shows every sign of continuing all through 2021. Tickets can be cancelled & refunded without penalty until 24h before departure. 1st class air-conditioned seats, 2nd class non-air-con seats, cafeteria car C = Runs every 3 days, see the dates below. Older cars, may receive new cars some time in 2020. During this period most trains are using the nearby La Coubre station instead, although those to Cienfuegos & Pinar del Rio are using Havana's 19 de Noviembre station, known locally as Tullipan station after the road it is in. A 10% fee is deducted if cancelled 24h or less before departure, rising to 25% from 1 hour after departure until 15 days after departure. Note: It remains to be seen if classes will be called primera especial and primera or 1st (primera) and 2nd (segunda). There is no online booking, you must buy in person. Just to confuse you, Le Coubre may be referred to in timetables as Central station, so stay alert! Since July 2019 tickets are sold by State-owned travel agency Viajero which has offices all over Cuba, including at or near most major rail stations. A number of seats on each train are set aside for foreign visitors, so you may well find tickets available even at short notice even when seats are sold out for locals. A waiting list is kept even for trains that are full - several correspondents have reported that they got places on the train easily enough even after being waitlisted. In Havana, you can buy train tickets at the Viajero office at La Coubre station on the Avenida del Peurto, see the photo below left. You get a number from a staff member at the door, they call out your number when it's your turn to be served. It's now reported that this office is only for last-minute tickets on the day of travel, if you want to book tickets in advance you should use on of the other Viajero offices around the city. Booking for the new Chinese-built trains opens 30 days before departure, and you can book both an outward and a return journey from the station you're at. Pre-2019 booking only opened 5 days ahead (it's still 5 days ahead for other trains) and you needed to book your return journey at the destination station when you got there. You must arrive at the station at least 1 hour before the train leaves, to have your ID checked and your ticket stamped at the confirmation counter. This allows people on the standby list to be given tickets when there's a no-show. The ticket confirmation counter usually opens 2 hours before the train leaves. You can take 1 small item and 2 larger bags, not exceeding 35Kg in total (children under 12 get half this allowance). The total dimensions of any bag (length width height) must not exceed 160cm. You take your bags with you onto the train and place them on the racks above or near your seat. Back to top Brand new trains built in China went into service on Cuba's premier train routes in July 2019, with more due to be delivered in 2020. Each train consists of 12 cars, made up of a generator car, 7 x 2nd class cars with opening windows & ceiling fans and 4 air-conditioned 1st class cars, one of which contains a cafeteria. Note that the two classes are sometimes called primera & primera especial and sometimes called segunda & primera, which can be confusing! The seats are arranged 2 2 across the car width in both classes, they all recline and can be rotated to face the direction of travel. There are drop-down seat-back tables and individual reading lights. Legroom is the same in both classes as all cars have 72 seats, the real difference between classes is that 1st class is air-conditioned with red leather seats and 2nd class isn't air-con and has blue fabric seats and opening windows. There is an audio system and TV screens in 1st class, but only audio in 2nd class. Each car has two toilets and an attendant's room, plus a cold water drinking fountain. The trains are all non-smoking, and bringing alcohol or sharp objects such as knives is not permitted. This first batch of new cars do not have at-seat power sockets, but later deliveries may have. A refreshment package costing 20 CUP is optional, can be bought when you buy your ticket or can be bought on board. A request: If you get any photos of these new trains in service, including scenery, the refreshment package, or cafeteria car, please get in touch! Other trains consist of older cars, in many cases bought second-hand from Germany, Mexico or Japan. In spite of travelling overnight, there are no sleeping-cars or sleeping accommodation of any kind - the trains just have reclining leatherette seats. These trains are an experience - don't expect them to be the cleanest or best maintained trains you will see! These older cars will eventually be replaced as more Chinese-built cars are delivered. Note D = Normally runs every 3 days, primera class seats only, but CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Trains 73 & 74 were reported as cancelled until further notice in June 2018, and are not currently running. Map of Havana showing stations Note G: Runs every 3rd day. Ran from Havana on 11 September 2019 then every 3 days. Ran from Pinar to Havana on 10 September 2019 then every 3 days. This train was suspended in June 2018 but it is now confirmed as having resumed running from September 2019. It uses four blue Mexican carriages with buffet car released by the new Chinese cars on the mainline trains. It uses Havana 19 de Noviembre station, also known as Tulipan. An electric railcar runs on a railway originally built by the Hershey Corporation (the chocolate company) from Havana's Casablanca station, across the harbour from Havana itself, to Hershey and Matanzas, see map of Havana showing Casablanca station. The timetable changes every so often, so always double-check train times locally, although these are February 2015 times. To reach Havana Casablanca station, take the frequent ferry across the harbour from the foot of Santa Clara Street in Havana old town. The ferry runs every 20 minutes, only costs a peso or so, and gives great views of the bay - although it can be interrupted in bad weather. There's an airport-style security check for the ferry, implemented after a ferry was hijacked and sailed to Miami in 2003, and items such as razor blades are not allowed, so be prepared and allow plenty of time. Havana to Hershey is 1.40 pesos, Havana to Matanzas is 2.80 pesos. IMPORTANT UPDATE: SERVICE SUSPENDED HAVANA-MATANZAS. The line sustained hurricane damage in late 2017, with extensive damage to the overhead electric wires. Once on the other side, Casablanca station is immediately west of the ferry dock, looking more like a tram stop than a conventional station, but just follow the overhead electric wires along the street. In Matanzas, the Hershey railway station is about 2 km from Matanzas mainline station. You can check locally whether the line has been repaired, but it' was still out of action through 2020 and shows no sign of resuming in 2021. However, it seems the section between Hershey & Matanzas is running, this was reported in July 2018 and this section is still believed to be running now in 2021. Take a good guidebook to get the most from a trip to Cuba. For independent travellers I'd recommend either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, both guidebooks provide an excellent level of practical information and historical and cultural background. Lonely Planet Cuba - Rough Guide to Cuba my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here. You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens. It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together. I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0. Tip: It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: Hotels is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others. Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at Overland travel by train & bus around Cuba is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground! But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Cuba in the first place. Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover. It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself. Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links. In the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see You can use to compare prices & policies from many different insurers. If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites. Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve Master Card - they send to most European addresses including the UK. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app. Now use the Curve Master Card to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal Master Card. A Curve Master Card means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month at time of writing. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose. The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards. You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction. I have a Curve Blue card myself - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because it's great. See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you 5 cashback through that link, too. When you're travelling you often use free Wi Fi in public places which may not be secure. A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured Wi Fi. In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions. And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN. Express VPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an Express VPN affiliate, and if you go with using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site. Cuba is a fantastic country, with very friendly and hospitable people - and Havana has to be one of the most vibrant cities worldwide. It's a safe place to visit, too, unless you fall down one of the many potholes in the street. Cuba's rail network runs the length of the island linking the main cities and towns, and it's an interesting way to get around, especially if you want to travel with Cubans the way Cubans do, not in a tourist bus. Don't expect western standards, take your own toilet paper and allow for the odd breakdown - all part of the experience. However, brand-new Chinese-built cars entered service in July 2019 on all the main routes across the island, with air-conditioning and cafeteria, fewer stops, faster journeys, increased frequency. Taking the train across Cuba is much better than taking a cramped long-distance Viazul bus or worse, a flight... Havana - Santa Clara - Camagey - Santiago de Cuba & branches to Holguin, Bayamo, Guantanamo - A new dawn for train travel in Cuba? - Train times & dates of running - How much does it cost? Havana - Cienfuegos Havana - Pinar del Rio Hershey Railway: Havana - Hershey - Matanzas Useful country information Hotels in Havana - some classic places to stay Foreigners used to pay in US dollars until 2004 when dollars ceased to be accepted. There then followed a period of dual currencies, Local Pesos which locals used and Convertible Pesos (CUP) which tourists used. From January 2021, Cuba now only uses one unified currency, the Peso, where S = 24 pesos. UK & most other western citizens need a 'Tourist card' to visit Cuba. You can get a tourist card direct from airlines & tour agencies serving Cuba, or via Cuban consulates, or from agencies such as (for UK residents) Forget everything you read about train travel in Cuba before July 2019, it's all changed! In July 2019 a whole tranche of brand-new Chinese-built cars entered service, with air-conditioned seating, non-air-con seating and a cafeteria car. Speed and frequency was increased, new fares and new booking arrangements introduced, with the booking horizon extended from 5 days to 30. If you have any more information or photos that might help other travellers or keep this page updated, please email me! The timetable above is the new timetable dating from early 2020. If you find times have changed from those shown here, a photo of the departure notices would be much appreciated. In early 2021, the same basic timetable is in operation, but some timings have changed a bit so check locally. A notice at each station tells you what dates each train runs. Unfortunately I have been unable to get details as information on Cuban train services is difficult to confirm. When first introduced in July 2019, these new trains ran every 2 or 3 days. The shortage of fuel in Cuba sometimes affects buses & local trains, but these mainline trains have priority. However, in late September 2019, a 'temporary' (which in Cuba means indefinite) nationwide fuel shortage means that these trains are reduced to running every 4 days and this is still the case in early 2021. Incidentally, there are no couchettes or sleeping-cars in Cuba, only seats cars. A = NEW CHINESE-BUILT TRAIN, should run every 2 days but currently every 4 days. *** = For Moron, travel to Ciego de Avila & change for the local line to Moron. Known train departure dates are as follows while this situation persists, these dates allow you to work out later departure dates. 1st class air-conditioned seats, 2nd class non-air-con seats, cafeteria car. * = Havana's main Estacin Central is temporarily closed for major renovation, see the note below. There are several daily trains Ciego to Moron & back. Tip: Use count the number of days between one of the 'reference point' dates shown below and the date you want to travel (leave the 'Include end date in calculation' box un-ticked). Children aged 0 to 4 travel free, children aged 5 to 11 travel at half fare, children aged 12 and over pay full fare. B = NEW CHINESE-BUILT TRAIN, should run every 3 days but currently every 4 days. If the train you want runs every 4 days, then if the number of days between the reference date and your travel date is divisible by 4, the train runs. Havana Estacin Central is closed for a major renovation from June 2015, originally until summer 2018, this has now overrun and shows every sign of continuing all through 2021. Tickets can be cancelled & refunded without penalty until 24h before departure. 1st class air-conditioned seats, 2nd class non-air-con seats, cafeteria car C = Runs every 3 days, see the dates below. Older cars, may receive new cars some time in 2020. During this period most trains are using the nearby La Coubre station instead, although those to Cienfuegos & Pinar del Rio are using Havana's 19 de Noviembre station, known locally as Tullipan station after the road it is in. A 10% fee is deducted if cancelled 24h or less before departure, rising to 25% from 1 hour after departure until 15 days after departure. Note: It remains to be seen if classes will be called primera especial and primera or 1st (primera) and 2nd (segunda). There is no online booking, you must buy in person. Just to confuse you, Le Coubre may be referred to in timetables as Central station, so stay alert! Since July 2019 tickets are sold by State-owned travel agency Viajero which has offices all over Cuba, including at or near most major rail stations. A number of seats on each train are set aside for foreign visitors, so you may well find tickets available even at short notice even when seats are sold out for locals. A waiting list is kept even for trains that are full - several correspondents have reported that they got places on the train easily enough even after being waitlisted. In Havana, you can buy train tickets at the Viajero office at La Coubre station on the Avenida del Peurto, see the photo below left. You get a number from a staff member at the door, they call out your number when it's your turn to be served. It's now reported that this office is only for last-minute tickets on the day of travel, if you want to book tickets in advance you should use on of the other Viajero offices around the city. Booking for the new Chinese-built trains opens 30 days before departure, and you can book both an outward and a return journey from the station you're at. Pre-2019 booking only opened 5 days ahead (it's still 5 days ahead for other trains) and you needed to book your return journey at the destination station when you got there. You must arrive at the station at least 1 hour before the train leaves, to have your ID checked and your ticket stamped at the confirmation counter. This allows people on the standby list to be given tickets when there's a no-show. The ticket confirmation counter usually opens 2 hours before the train leaves. You can take 1 small item and 2 larger bags, not exceeding 35Kg in total (children under 12 get half this allowance). The total dimensions of any bag (length width height) must not exceed 160cm. You take your bags with you onto the train and place them on the racks above or near your seat. Back to top Brand new trains built in China went into service on Cuba's premier train routes in July 2019, with more due to be delivered in 2020. Each train consists of 12 cars, made up of a generator car, 7 x 2nd class cars with opening windows & ceiling fans and 4 air-conditioned 1st class cars, one of which contains a cafeteria. Note that the two classes are sometimes called primera & primera especial and sometimes called segunda & primera, which can be confusing! The seats are arranged 2 2 across the car width in both classes, they all recline and can be rotated to face the direction of travel. There are drop-down seat-back tables and individual reading lights. Legroom is the same in both classes as all cars have 72 seats, the real difference between classes is that 1st class is air-conditioned with red leather seats and 2nd class isn't air-con and has blue fabric seats and opening windows. There is an audio system and TV screens in 1st class, but only audio in 2nd class. Each car has two toilets and an attendant's room, plus a cold water drinking fountain. The trains are all non-smoking, and bringing alcohol or sharp objects such as knives is not permitted. This first batch of new cars do not have at-seat power sockets, but later deliveries may have. A refreshment package costing 20 CUP is optional, can be bought when you buy your ticket or can be bought on board. A request: If you get any photos of these new trains in service, including scenery, the refreshment package, or cafeteria car, please get in touch! Other trains consist of older cars, in many cases bought second-hand from Germany, Mexico or Japan. In spite of travelling overnight, there are no sleeping-cars or sleeping accommodation of any kind - the trains just have reclining leatherette seats. These trains are an experience - don't expect them to be the cleanest or best maintained trains you will see! These older cars will eventually be replaced as more Chinese-built cars are delivered. Note D = Normally runs every 3 days, primera class seats only, but CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Trains 73 & 74 were reported as cancelled until further notice in June 2018, and are not currently running. Map of Havana showing stations Note G: Runs every 3rd day. Ran from Havana on 11 September 2019 then every 3 days. Ran from Pinar to Havana on 10 September 2019 then every 3 days. This train was suspended in June 2018 but it is now confirmed as having resumed running from September 2019. It uses four blue Mexican carriages with buffet car released by the new Chinese cars on the mainline trains. It uses Havana 19 de Noviembre station, also known as Tulipan. An electric railcar runs on a railway originally built by the Hershey Corporation (the chocolate company) from Havana's Casablanca station, across the harbour from Havana itself, to Hershey and Matanzas, see map of Havana showing Casablanca station. The timetable changes every so often, so always double-check train times locally, although these are February 2015 times. To reach Havana Casablanca station, take the frequent ferry across the harbour from the foot of Santa Clara Street in Havana old town. The ferry runs every 20 minutes, only costs a peso or so, and gives great views of the bay - although it can be interrupted in bad weather. There's an airport-style security check for the ferry, implemented after a ferry was hijacked and sailed to Miami in 2003, and items such as razor blades are not allowed, so be prepared and allow plenty of time. Havana to Hershey is 1.40 pesos, Havana to Matanzas is 2.80 pesos. IMPORTANT UPDATE: SERVICE SUSPENDED HAVANA-MATANZAS. The line sustained hurricane damage in late 2017, with extensive damage to the overhead electric wires. Once on the other side, Casablanca station is immediately west of the ferry dock, looking more like a tram stop than a conventional station, but just follow the overhead electric wires along the street. In Matanzas, the Hershey railway station is about 2 km from Matanzas mainline station. You can check locally whether the line has been repaired, but it' was still out of action through 2020 and shows no sign of resuming in 2021. However, it seems the section between Hershey & Matanzas is running, this was reported in July 2018 and this section is still believed to be running now in 2021. Take a good guidebook to get the most from a trip to Cuba. For independent travellers I'd recommend either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, both guidebooks provide an excellent level of practical information and historical and cultural background. Lonely Planet Cuba - Rough Guide to Cuba my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here. You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens. It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together. I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0. Tip: It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: Hotels is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others. Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at Overland travel by train & bus around Cuba is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground! But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Cuba in the first place. Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover. It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself. Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links. In the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see You can use to compare prices & policies from many different insurers. If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites. Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve Master Card - they send to most European addresses including the UK. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app. Now use the Curve Master Card to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal Master Card. A Curve Master Card means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month at time of writing. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose. The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards. You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction. I have a Curve Blue card myself - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because it's great. See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you 5 cashback through that link, too. When you're travelling you often use free Wi Fi in public places which may not be secure. A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured Wi Fi. In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions. And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN. Express VPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an Express VPN affiliate, and if you go with using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

date: 25-Aug-2021 22:02next


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