Attendant boards one of the new Cuban trains
 

A train attendant ready to board one of the new Chinese-built Cuban long-distance trains.

Experience the real Cuba by train...

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...

small bullet point  Havana - Santa Clara - Camagüey - 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?

    -  How to buy tickets

    -  What are the trains like?

small bullet point  Havana - Cienfuegos

small bullet point  Havana - Pinar del Rio

small bullet point  Hershey Railway:  Havana - Hershey - Matanzas

small bullet point  Useful country information

small bullet point  Hotels in Havana - some classic places to stay

 

large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operator:

Ferrocarriles de Cuba.  No official website.

 

 

Time zone:

GMT-5 hours (GMT-4 hours first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October).

Dialling code:

 

+53

Currency:

Foreigners generally used to pay in US dollars, but in 2004 US dollars ceased to be accepted.  Dollars, pounds or euro can be converted into convertible pesos (CUC) where 1 CUC = $1.  A 10% tax applies to conversion of US dollars into convertible pesos (plus the bank's fee), so assume in practice that $1=0.87 CUC.  The 10% charge does not apply to conversion of euro or pounds into pesos.  Cuban citizens use 'ordinary' pesos, abbreviated as CUP, where (at time of writing) 26 CUP = $1.

Tourist information:

 

www.travel2cuba.co.uk     Recommended guidebooks

Flights:

 

Find flights to Havana

Hotels:

 

Recommended classic hotels in Havana & Cuba

Visas:

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) www.visacuba.com.

Page last updated:

4 July 2020


large bullet pointHavana - Santiago main line

A new dawn for train travel in Cuba?  Click for route map...

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.  More new cars are due to be delivered in 2020 and 2021.  If you have any more information or photos that might help other travellers or keep this page updated, please email me!

Timetable eastbound

 Havana ► Santa Clara ► Camagüey ► Santiago de Cuba   

Km

Train number:

1

7

5

3

103

101

See note below for days of running:

A

B

B

B

C

D

0

Havana Estación Central depart

*

*

*

*

*

 

-

Havana La Coubre station

15:30

18:10

18:40

20:50

22:20

 

90

Matanzas

17:29

20:09

20:39

22:49

00:45

 

286

Santa Clara

20:22

23:09

23:39

01:42

06:25

12:26

??

Guayos

21:42

00:38

01:10

03:10

08:29

??:??

-

Sancti Spiritus

|

|

|

|

09:45

|

436

Ciego de Avila

23:03

02:11

02:48

04:26

 

??:??

-

Moron***

|

|

|

|

 

|

538

Camagüey

01:25

04:40

05:17

06:51

 

21:28

714

Bayamo

|

09:45

|

|

 

|

-

Manzanillo

|

  12:00**

|

|

 

|

652

Las Tunas

03:37

 

07:29

09:03

 

??:??

729

Cacocúm

|

 

09:00

10:32

 

|

-

Holguin

|

 

09:45

|

 

|

884

Guantanamo

|

 

 

14:34

 

|

854

Santiago de Cuba arrive

07:20

 

 

 

 

06:00

Timetable westbound

 Santiago de Cuba ► Camagüey ► Santa Clara ► Havana   

Train number:

2

8

6

4

104

102

See note above for days of running:

A

B

B

B

C

D

Santiago de Cuba depart

17:10

 

 

 

 

07:15

Guantanamo

|

 

 

11:50

 

|

Holguin

|

 

21:35

|

 

|

Cacocúm

|

 

22:20

16:03

 

|

Las Tunas

20:40

 

23:56

17:32

 

??:??

Manzanillo

|

 17:55*

|

|

 

|

Bayamo

|

20:30

|

|

 

|

Camagüey

23:05

00:28

02:33

19:57

 

16:02

Moron***

|

|

|

|

 

|

Ciego de Avila

01:17

02:38

05:13

22:09

 

??:??

Sancti Spiritus

|

|

|

|

15:05

|

Guayos

02:33

04:00

06:29

23:37

16:21

??:??

Santa Clara

03:49

05:16

07:45

00:53

18:25

23:35

Matanzas

06:41

08:03

10:42

03:43

00:46

 

Havana L Coubre

09:05

11:50

12:35

05:35

03:15

 

Havana Estación Central arrive

*

*

*

*

*

 

Timetable notes...

This is the new timetable for the main line linking Havana, Santa Clara, Camagüey & Santiago de Cuba, with branch lines to Sancti Spiritus, Holguin, Moron, Bayamo & Guantanamo.  Information on Cuban train services is difficult to confirm, so check times locally.  The shortage of fuel in Cuba sometimes affects buses & local trains, but these mainline trains have priority.  Incidentally, there are no couchettes or sleeping-cars in Cuba, only seats cars.  Fares for foreigners are shown here See Cuba railway route map.

A = NEW CHINESE-BUILT TRAIN, should run every 2 days but currently every 4 days.  1st class air-conditioned seats, 2nd class non-air-con seats, cafeteria car.

B = NEW CHINESE-BUILT TRAIN, should run every 3 days but currently every 4 days.  1st class air-conditioned seats, 2nd class non-air-con seats, cafeteria car

C = Runs every 3 days, see the dates below.  Primera class seats only.  Older cars, may receive new cars some time in 2020.

D = Runs every 4 days, see the dates below.  Primera class seats only.  Older cars.

* = Havana's main Estación Central is temporarily closed for major renovation, see the note below.

** = For Manzanillo, change trains at Bayamo.  Connection Bayamo-Manzanillo by train 50/51.

*** = For Moron, travel to Ciego de Avila & change for the local line to Moron.  There are several daily trains Ciego to Moron & back.

? = Guesstimated time.  ??:?? = intermediate stop time not known.

Can you help keep this page updated?  If you find times have changed from those shown here, a photo of the departure notices would be much appreciated.

On what dates do these trains run? 

A notice at each station tells you what dates each train runs.  When first introduced in July 2019, these new trains ran every 2 or 3 days.  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 2020.  Known train departure dates are as follows while this situation persists, these dates allow you to work out later departure dates.

Tip:  Use www.timeanddate.com/date/duration.html to 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).  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.  Simple, really!

Havana Estación Central temporarily closed...

Havana Estación 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 2019.  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 (Tulipan) station.  Just to confuse you, Le Coubre may be referred to in timetables as Central station, so stay alert!

How much does it cost?

Foreigners pay the same fares as Cubans, previously in convertible pesos where 1 CUC = approx US$1, but now pay in local pesos where 26 CUP = $1 making train travel incredibly cheap.  Feedback appreciated.

 Fares

 One-way fares in CUP,

 in either direction...

 $1 = 26 CUP

Older trains

New Chinese-built trains

Primera class

(non-A/C)

2nd class

(non-A/C)

1st class

(air-conditioned)

 Havana - Santiago de Cuba:

-

70

95

 Havana - Holguin

-

60

80

 Havana - Bayamo / Manzanillo

-

65

90

 Havana - Guantanamo

-

75

100

 Havana - Matanzas

5

7

10

 Havana - Santa Clara

13

20

30

 Havana - Sancti Spiritus

14

-

-

 Havana - Ciego de Avila

-

35

45

 Havana - Camaguey

-

45

60

 Havana - Las Tunas

-

55

70

 Santa Clara - Santiago de Cuba

-

47

61

 Santa Clara - Camaguey

-

21

27

 Camaguey - Santiago de Cuba

-

26

33

Children aged 0 to 4 travel free, children aged 5 to 11 travel at half fare, children aged 12 and over pay full fare.

Tickets can be cancelled & refunded without penalty until 24h before departure.  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.  After that, tickets cannot be refunded.

Note:  It remains to be seen if classes will be called primera especial and primera or 1st (primera) and 2nd (segunda).  Both versions are being used at present!

How to buy tickets...

There is no online booking, you must buy in person.

From 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 should buy train tickets at the Viajero office at La Coubre station on the Avenida del Peurto, see the photo below left.  Feedback would be appreciated.

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.  Remember to bring your passport.

Viajero ticket office at Havana La Coubre station   Entrance to trains, Havana La Coubre station

The Viajero office at Havana La Coubre station.  Courtesy of David Bramwell.

 

Entrance to platforms at La Coubre.

You must confirm your ticket 1 hour before departure...

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.

Luggage limits...

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.  You may not bring alcohol or sharp items on board.

Back to top

What are the trains like?

New Chinese-built trains (trains 1-8)...

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.  For luggage limits, see above.

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!

New trains for Cuba

The new Chinese-built trains, newly-delivered.  Photos in this section courtesy of Oscar Jalice.

1st class seats on the new trains   2nd class seats on the new Cuban trains

1st class seats, air-conditioned.  The red leather reclining seats are rotatable to face the direction of travel.  See larger photo.

 

2nd class seats, non-air-con, with opening windows.  Blue fabric reclining seats, rotatable to face direction of travel.  See larger photo.

On board one of the new trains   Train attendants

1st class on the first train to run with the new cars.

 

Carriage attendants on the new trains...

Refreshment trolley in 1st class.  

Refreshment trolley on one of the new trains...

 

2nd class seats on the new trains, in service.

1st class seats   Train at Havana

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

 

New Chinese-built 1st class car in service...

Other express trains...

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.

Old Cuban train seats    Old Cuban train

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large bullet pointHavana - Cienfuegos

 Havana ► Cienfuegos

            

 

 Cienfuegos ► Havana

Train number:

73

Train number:

74

Notes:

D

Notes:

D

 Havana 19 de Noviembre Tulipan depart:

07:15

 Cienfuegos depart:

07:00

 Cienfuegos arrive:

17:45

 Havana 19 de Noviembre Tulipan arrive:

17:30

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.

 One-way fares for foreigners

 Havana - Cienfuegos

 Not known

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large bullet pointHavana - Pinar del Rio

 Havana ► Pinar del Rio

            

 

 Pinar del Rio ► Havana

Train number:

101/209

Train number:

102/208

Notes:

G

Notes:

G

 Havana 19 de Noviembre

09:05

 Pinar del Rio

09:00

 Pinar del Rio

15:10

 Havana 19 de Noviembre

15:05

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.

 One-way fares for foreigners

 Havana - Pinar del Rio

  6.50 CUP in primera class

Buy tickets at the station as shown above.  Tickets can be bought from 3 days before departure date until the day before, or on the day of travel within 2h of departure.

The train from Havana to Pinar del Rio

The newly-reinstated Havana to Pinar train, in September 2019.  It uses Mexican carriages.  Courtesy of Oscar Jalice.

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large bullet pointThe Hershey Railway

Havana Casablanca station - Hershey - Matanzas

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.  The timetable changes every so often, so always double-check train times locally, although these are February 2015 times.  See the Hershey Railways photos below...

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.  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.  Buy tickets on the train.

In Matanzas, the Hershey railway station is about 2km from Matanzas mainline station.  Buy tickets on the train.

 Havana ► Hershey ► Matanzas

  

 Matanzas ► Hershey ► Havana

Havana Casablanca 

04:45

12:21

16:35

Matanzas Hershey station

04:39

12:09

16:25

Hershey

06:24

14:00

18:16

Hershey

06:30

14:00

18:16

Matanzas Hershey station

08:07

15:41

19:59

Havana Casa. 

08:01

15:31

20:07

Fare:  All passengers should pay in local pesos. Havana to Hershey is 1.40 pesos, Havana to Matanzas is 2.80 pesos. Tickets go on sale 1 hour before departure.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  SERVICE SUSPENDED HAVANA-MATANZAS.  The line sustained hurricane damage in late 2017, with extensive damage to the overhead electric wires.  You can check locally whether the line has been repaired, but it' was still out of action in January 2020 and shows no sign of resuming.  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 2020.

The Hershey RailwayHavana - Hershey - Matanzas

Hershey train at Havana Casablanca station   Inside a Hershey train

A Hershey train at Havana Casablanca station...

 

Inside a Hershey train...

Hershey train at Hershey station

The Hershey train at Hershey station...  Photo courtesy of Kees Lafeber

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large bullet pointGuidebooks

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

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk

Lonely Planet Cuba - buy online at Amazon.co.uk   Rough Guide to Cuba - buy online at Amazon.co.uk

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large bullet pointHotels in Cuba

Recommended hotels in Havana...

There's no shortage of historic hotels in Havana, many with movie star or Hemingway connections. 

The Inglaterra Hotel, Havana, Cuba   Classic car in Havana

The Inglaterra Hotel, Havana

 

Vintage Cuban car taken near the Havana seafront...

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is 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 never book hotels non-refundably.  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:  HotelsCombined.com 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 www.booking.com.

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large bullet pointFlights

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.  For flights to Havana, compare airlines at Skyscanner.net.

skyscanner generic 728x90

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large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN...

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

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.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flagIf you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

  Australian flag New Zealand flag  Irish flag    If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

A Curve card saves on foreign transaction fees...

 

Curve card

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee.  A Curve MasterCard 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.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  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.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  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.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com 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.

 


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