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Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.

To/From Havana Airport on the Cheap

August 19, 2013 | Print Print |

Graham Sowa

graham-1HAVANA TIMES — Anyone who comes to Cuba who isn’t part of a tour group has two pre-ordained methods of leaving the airport: a rental car (80-100 CUC a day) or a taxi (15-25 CUC).  To solve this problem I’m going to share some information on how to get transport to/from the airport to La Havana for only a couple of dollars, and maybe even pennies.

If you arrive from almost anywhere in the world to Havana your flight will arrive at Terminal 3 of the Jose Marti International Airport. As soon as you step outside there will be probably be lots of people, noise, exhaust and cigarette smoke. In the midst of this assault on the senses several people will persistently try to get you into a taxi. Resist the urge.

If you are arriving in the afternoon or evening you should wait near where the taxis load passengers (to the left of the main exit as you walk out) and try to get on the airport workers bus.

The workers bus is a long white bus (usually the kind that bends in the middle) and passes every half hour or so. It costs 40 centavos Cuban Pesos (0.40) or 5 centavos CUC (0.05) to ride.

The workers bus usually follows Boyeros Avenue (AKA Independence Avenue) all the way to the Plaza of the Revolution (with the tower and giant Che face). From there you should get off the bus at the National Bus Station where local city busses pass frequently. Check with the driver and/or other passengers to be sure of the route.

If the workers bus is out of action, or you are not successful in boarding, the other option is to get to Boyeros Avenue from terminal 3 and get a bus or maquina there.  The walk is not bad, about 2 km. Just turn right when you exit the airport doors and ask someone how to get to Terminal 2 following the airport access road. NOTE:  Don’t be surprised, or dissuaded, if the Cubans tell you it is too far to walk. For many people living in Havana walking more than 2 blocks is an unimaginable distance.

graham-2You can also get a taxi to terminal 2, which is on Boyeros, and should cost 0.50 or 1 CUC. Once at Boyeros find the bus stop for the P12 or P16, either of which will take you to the Plaza of the Revolution. If you get a maquina you will most likely wind up at Capitolio.  The bus costs 40 centavos Cubanos and the maquina costs 20 pesos Cubanos, respectively.

To make the return journey from Havana to terminal 3 you basically do the same thing, in reverse. The workers bus runs the length of Boyeros so you can jump on at any bus stop.  I usually have the best luck at Boyeros y Cerro.  But you can also take a number of city buses from Havana to terminal 2 and then proceed to terminal 3.

To take the city bus I usually go to the bus stop at Boyeros y Zapata (near Plaza of the Revolution) and get on the P12 or P16.  Both have bus stops near Terminal 2. As you are walking (less than 500 meters) from Boyers to Terminal 2 on the airport access road you will see a small bus stop on your right.  Wait there for a bus or maquina (collective taxi) to terminal 3.

You can also get a maquina to terminal 2 from Capitolio (near the Palacio de Computacion and the Parque de Fraternidad) or from anywhere on Boyeros Ave. Once you get to terminal 2 just repeat the same story as above: go to the bus stop and then get on transport to terminal 3.

There is also the option of walking to terminal 3 from Boyeros. Instead of entering the parking lot of terminal 2 keep following the airport access road (passing the big anti-imperialist and tourist billboards) until you get to Terminal 3.

Getting to terminal 2 from Capitolio via maquina takes 30-45min. The bus from Zapata y Boyeros takes 45 min to 1hr.  From there factor in walking and/or other transport to calculate how long the adventure will take.

If you bring your own bike to Cuba just assemble it and hit the road. Not a lot of shade. Plenty of nasty exhaust. Relatively little traffic.

If none of the above options work out, or you don’t feel like putting up with the hassle of cheap transport, you can still cut the cost of your cab by splitting the fare with other travelers.  It is best to coordinate this inside the airport at baggage claim, as outside the airport is hectic.

Not using taxis between the airport can significantly cut back on your arrival and departure expenses when visiting Cuba. If you know of any other ways to save money on airport transport please share in the comments.


What's your opinion?

  • Dave Chapman

    Surely good tips when travelling on a budget, but I do not mind paying for a reasonable fare (compared to my home town) when travelling in Cuba.

  • Bob J

    Yes, but the workers bus is just that: for workers.

  • Hubert Gieschen

    For ecological reasons alone a taxi
    should be the last option to pick (other than a private car of
    course). Tourists paying taxi drivers roughly a monthly salary for a
    ride into Havana only exacerbate income difference.]

    It would be worthy of an article in Havana Times on how someone becomes
    a taxi driver. Who pays for the driving lessons?

    I once landed in Varaderro, got myself on a coach to Matanzas (tourist coach
    to Havana really but Matanzas is well worth visiting) for a fiver and
    the next day paid three CUC for a Hershey train into Havana. (well,
    the wrong side of the harbour really).

    The tips are good, provided you do not have loads of luggage- say for
    your Cuban family etc.

    • Griffin

      There are two kinds of taxi-drivers in Cuba. The state-owned enterprise Cubataxi, is run by the FAR (the Cuban army). The drivers are employees of the army and learn to drive as part of their military training. The money they collect from tourists goes into the FAR coffers, which helps makes the FAR the wealthiest institution in the Cuban economy. The FAR also owns restaurants, gas stations, resorts & hotels, farms and trucking companies.

      The other taxi drivers are self-employed Cubans, driving family owned cars. One driver I spoke with was a recent engineering graduate who either could not get a job in his field, or made more money driving cab than as an engineer. The car belonged to his uncle and several members of his family took turns driving the car, keeping it on the road as much as possible. The money he makes goes toward paying for gas, maintenance on the car, and a small profit for the family.

      • Jesse

        That’s a lie, most of the tourism related services are offered by enterprises that are runned by the cuban Ministry of Tourism

        • Griffin

          GAESA is the largest corporation in Cuba, a holding company owned by the FAR, the Cuban army. GAESA runs businesses in tourism, transportation, retail sales, wholesale distribution, gas stations, farming and manufacturing.

          http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu/FOCUS_Web/Issue46.htm

  • Cubanadecorason

    Is 25 USD a reasonable fare to pay for a cab ride from the airport to the city center in a country where the average wage is 19 USD a month? Yes, I said month! This is the price you would pay in Paris, France, 5th “potencia mundial” (world power)… It’s good Dave you don’t mind paying to the Cuban State that reasonable fare. Have you ever noticed that there are no old American cars outside the airport which are the local cabs in Havana? The old American cars, called almendrones or maquinas in Cuba are private cabs. They are forbidden at the airport so that the hard currency goes directly into the State pockets…follow me?
    There used to be bici-taxis also from the airport to avenida Boyeros so that workers could get to the terminal more easily but they are forbidden too now…whenever there is a way to make money, please move along Cubans, the State has the monopoly of capitalism…

  • Sandra Rae

    Sounds like fun, learning how to navigate Havana like a “local”