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...

  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?

  Havana - Cienfuegos

  Havana - Pinar del Rio

  Hershey Railway:  Havana - Hershey - Matanzas

  Useful country information

 

Useful 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 convertible peso = US$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.

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:

15 July 2019


Havana - 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 has been 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

3

7

5

103

See note below for days of running:

A

B

B

B

C

0

Havana Estación Central depart

*

*

*

*

*

-

Havana La Coubre station

16:15

18:05

19:00

20:30

22:20

90

Matanzas

18:08

20:03

20:58

22:28

00:45

286

Santa Clara

20:59

22:54

23:54

01:24

06:25

??

Guayos

|

00:12

01:12

02:51

08:29

-

Sancti Spiritus

|

|

|

|

09:45

436

Ciego de Avila

|

01:46

02:42

04:12

 

-

Moron***

|

|

|

|

 

538

Camagüey

01:28

03:41

04:59

06:20

 

714

Bayamo

|

|

09:30

|

 

-

Manzanillo

|

|

  11:45**

|

 

652

Las Tunas

03:27

05:40

 

08:19

 

729

Cacocúm

|

06:57

 

09:42

 

-

Holguin

|

|

 

10:20

 

884

Guantanamo

|

10:50

 

 

 

854

Santiago de Cuba arrive

06:55

 

 

 

 

Timetable westbound

 Santiago de Cuba ► Camagüey ► Santa Clara ► Havana   

Train number:

2

8

6

4

104

See note above for days of running:

A

B

B

B

C

Santiago de Cuba depart

17:00

 

 

 

 

Guantanamo

|

 

 

20:40

 

Holguin

|

 

20:55

|

 

Cacocúm

|

 

21:36

00:41

 

Las Tunas

20:27

 

22:59

01:56

 

Manzanillo

|

 17:26*

|

|

 

Bayamo

|

19:40

|

|

 

Camagüey

22:42

00:28

01:10

04:42

 

Moron***

|

|

|

|

 

Ciego de Avila

00:38

02:38

03:18

06:28

 

Sancti Spiritus

|

|

|

|

15:05

Guayos

|

04:00

04:41

07:41

16:21

Santa Clara

03:04

05:16

05:57

08:57

18:25

Matanzas

05:46

08:03

08:44

11:39

00:46

Havana L Coubre

07:40

09:55

10:40

13:35

03:15

Havana Estación Central arrive

*

*

*

*

*

Timetable notes...

This is the new 2019 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, runs every 2 days.  1st class air-conditioned seats, 2nd class non-air-con seats, cafeteria car.

B = NEW CHINESE-BUILT TRAIN, runs every 3 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.

* = 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? 

Most trains run every 2 or 3 days, a notice at each station tells you what dates each train runs.  However, the trains listed below ran on the dates shown below and they will then run every so many days throughout the rest of the year and beyond, so if you have a calendar (and can count!) you can easily work out what dates it will run until further notice.

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, but in convertible pesos, not local pesos.  1 CUC = approx US$1.

 Fares for foreigners, one-way

 One-way fares in CUC,

 in either direction...

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.

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.

In Havana, foreign visitors cannot buy train tickets at the Estación Central, but should walk on round the corner to the Le Coubre station on the Avenida del Peurto.  From the Estación Central, continue down Egido Street along the Old Wall towards the harbour and then turn right, and it's about 100m away.  Feedback if you buy a  ticket in Havana would be appreciated.

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 CUC is optional, but must be bought when you buy your ticket.  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, 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.

 

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

 

Carriage attendants on the new trains...

Trolley refreshments in 1st class.  

Refreshment trolley on one of the new trains...

 

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

 

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.

Seats on an ordinary overnight Havana-Santiago train    The ordinary overnight train from Santiago approaches Havana

Back to top


Havana - 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 = Runs every 3 days, primera class seats only.  Train 73 shown as cancelled until further notice in June 2018, no further info available.  Train 74 therefore also probably cancelled until further notice.

 One-way fares for foreigners

 Havana - Cienfuegos

 Not known

Back to top


Havana - Pinar del Rio

 Havana ► Pinar del Rio

            

 

 Pinar del Rio ► Havana

Train number:

101

Train number:

102

Notes:

G

Notes:

G

Havana Central/Est

07:00

Pinar del Rio

09:00

Pinar del Rio

14:12

Havana Central/Est

14:55

Note G: Runs every second day, ask at station to find which days it runs.

Train 101 (and therefore presumably 102) were shown as cancelled until further notice at Havana station in June 2018.  No further information available.

 One-way fares for foreigners

 Havana - Pinar del Rio

  7 CUC in primera class

Buy tickets at the station as shown above.

Back to top


The 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 2019:  The line sustained hurricane damage in late 2017, with extensive damage to the overhead electric wires.  You'll need to check locally whether the line has been repaired.  It' was still out of action in March 2019, although the section between Hershey & Matanzas was reported as running in July 2018 and this section is still believed to be running in 2019.

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

Back to top


Guidebooks

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

Back to top


Find hotels in Cuba

    

Favourite hotel search & price comparison: hotelscombined.com

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It's been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site in the World Travel Awards and I recommend it to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling the same hotel for less.

Favourite hotel booking site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings 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.

Personal hotel recommendations in Havana...

There's no shortage of historic hotels in Havana, many with movie star or Hemingway connections.  The oldest hotel in Havana is the venerable Hotel Inglaterra, very central near the Capitolio and walking distance from Old Havana.  The most celebrated hotel, even today, is the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, once the haunt of Sinatra and Ava Gardner, although it's quite a hike from the Capitolio in central Havana, and further still from Old Havana.  The Hotel Sevilla is also a good choice, not far from the Inglaterra and once Al Capone's favourite.  Finally, there's the comfortable Hotel Ambos Mundos, located right within Old Havana, where Hemingway's room can still be seen, complete with typewriter, an excellent choice.

The Inglaterra Hotel, Havana, Cuba  

The Inglaterra Hotel, Havana

 

Vintage Cuban car taken near the Havana seafront...

Back to top


Flights

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

Back to top


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

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.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

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

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

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

Get a VPN for safe browsing when you travel.  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 them myself.

 


Back to home page