Transport in Cuba

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Transportation in Cuba is composed of a system of railways, roads, airports, waterways, ports and harbours:


Main article: Ferrocarriles de Cuba
Railway network in Cuba
  • total: 11,968 km (4,226 km + 7,742 km)
  • standard gauge: 4,226 km 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge (140 km electrified)
  • note: an additional 7,742 km of track is used by sugar plantations; about 65% of this track is standard gauge; the rest is narrow gauge (2003)

Cuba built the first railway system in the Spanish empire, before the 1848 start in the Iberian peninsula. While the rail infrastructure dates from colonial and early republican times, passenger service along the principal Havana to Santiago corridor is increasingly reliable[citation needed] and popular with tourists[citation needed] who can purchase tickets in Cuban convertible pesos. As with most public transport in Cuba, the vehicles used are second hand, and the flagship Tren Francés ("French train") between Havana and Santiago de Cuba is operated by coaches originally used in Europe between Paris and Amsterdam on the ex-TEE express. The train is formed by 12 coaches and a Chinese-built locomotive.

With the order of 12 new Chinese locomotives, built specially for Cuban Railways at China Northern Locomotives and Rolling Stock Works, services have been improving in reliability.[citation needed] Those benefiting the most are long distance freight services with the French train Havana-Santiago being the only passenger train using one of the new Chinese locomotives regularly. Various orders are in place for 100 locomotives from China and various freight wagons and passenger coaches.

Metro systems are not present in the island, although a suburban rail network exists in Havana.[1] Urban tramways worked until the half of 20th century in the cities of Havana, Matanzas, Cárdenas, Cienfuegos, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba.[2]


See also: Roads in Cuba
Via Blanca highway near Matanzas

The total length of Cuba's highways is 60,858 km, including

  • paved: 29,820 km (including 915 km of expressways)[3]
  • unpaved: 31,038 km (1999 est.)

Expressways (autopistas) include:

Older roads include the Carretera Central, and the Via Blanca from Havana to Matanzas.

Long-distance and inter-municipality buses in Cuba[edit]

Private owned truck-bus ("Camion") Ford in 2014

There are two national bus companies in Cuba. Viazul operate a fleet of modern and comfortable coaches on longer distance routes designed principally for tourists. Schedules, prices and ticket booking can be done on line, at any of the major international airports or National Terminals across Cuba.

AstroBus, a bus service in Cuban National Pesos, designed to bring comfortable air conditioned coaches to Cuban locals at an affordable price. The AstroBus lines operate with modern Chinese YUTONG buses, and are accessible to Cuban Residents of Cuba with their ID Card, and is payable in Cuba Pesos. Routes that have benefited most so far are those from Havana to each of the 13 provincial capitals of the country.

Urban buses[edit]

Camel bus in Havana
Ferro Bus in Levisa near Mayarí in Holguín Province
A decommissioned bus from Seville, now operating in Havana

In Havana urban transportation is provided by a colourful selection of buses imported from the Soviet Union or Canada. Many of these vehicles are second hand (such as the 1500 decommissioned Dutch buses, which the Netherlands donated to Cuba in the mid-1990s) and despite the United States trade embargo, American-style yellow school buses (imported second-hand from Canada) are increasingly common sights. On seven key lines in and out of the city, service is provided by Chinese Zhengzhou Yutong Buses. They replaced from 2008 the famous camellos ("camels" or "dromedaries", after their "humps"), trailer buses that hauled as many as two hundred passengers in a passenger carrying trailer.

After the upgrading of Seville's public bus fleet to CNG-powered and new vehicles, many of the decommissioned ones were donated to the city of Havana. These bright orange buses still display the name of Transportes Urbanos de Sevilla, S.A.M., their former owner, and Seville's coat of arms as a sign of gratitude.[4]

On 18 July 2007 it was reported that Cuba will receive 100 urban buses from Belarus before years end, destined for use in Havana.[5]

Cuban State Council Vice President Carlos Lage declared in 2007 that Cuba would receive 1,142 more Chinese buses for urban transport before years end[6]


2011 A Cuban car
See also: Yank tank

Cuba is famous for its old cars and trucks, which can be seen in daily use throughout the country. For the first part of the 20th century, most new vehicles came to Cuba from the United States. The flow stopped in late 1959 when economic reforms by the then-new government of Fidel Castro prevented Cubans from buying cars on credit.[7] A subsequent U.S. trade embargo, instituted in October 1960 in response to Cuba's seizure of U.S.-owned properties,[8] not only ensured that new vehicle exports would remain halted, but also denied Cuban motorists a direct source of replacement parts. As a result, Cubans became expert at adapting or fabricating parts to keep on the road cars that in other countries would long since have been recycled.[9] Their pastel colours, tall fins and extensive chrome make them a favourite subject for tourist photographs.

The Soviet Union supplied the island with Volgas, Moskvich 1500s, Ladas and other Eastern Bloc cars, mainly for state use. The Soviet Union also sent heavy trucks such as the ubiquitous ZIL and the rugged KrAZ.[10] Cars also trickled in from Europe and, in later years, Asia. Since 2009, Cuba has imported sedans from Chinese automaker Geely to serve as police cars, taxis and rental vehicles.[11]

As many as 60,000 American vehicles are in use on the island,[12] nearly all in private hands. Pre-1960 vehicles remain the property of their original owners and descendants, and can be sold to other Cubans providing the proper traspaso certificate is in place. Such transactions can be difficult,[13] but in 2010, reforms approved by a Communist Party congress were expected to legalize the sale between Cuban citizens of all cars, as well as real estate.[14]

Of Cuba's vintage American cars, many have been modified with newer engines, disc brakes and other parts, often scavenged from Soviet cars, and most bear the marks of decades of use.[15] Others, however, have been lovingly preserved in their original condition, and would be coveted by collectors in other countries.[16] Apart from a brief period in the 1990s, however, the Castro government has forbidden the sale of Cuban vehicles to foreigners.

Hitchhiking and carpooling[edit]

Official hitchhiking and carpooling point, Santiago de Cuba. The man in the yellow uniform stops a state-owned car to take passengers for a small fee

Since the start of the "Special Period" in 1991 (energy shortages caused by the loss of the Soviet Union as a trading partner), hitchhiking and carpooling have become important parts of Cuba's transportation system and society in general. In 1999, an article in Time magazine claimed "In Cuba[...] hitchhiking is custom. Hitchhiking is essential. Hitchhiking is what makes Cuba move."[17]


Ports and harbors[edit]

Merchant marine[edit]

Total: 13 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 54,818 GRT/81,850 tonnes deadweight (DWT)

Ships by type[edit]

Registered in other countries: 35 (2003 est.)


Besides the state owned airline Cubana (Cubana de Aviación), the two other major Cuban airlines are Aero Caribbean and Aerogaviota, both of whom operate modern European and Russian aircraft. One other airline is Aerotaxi.


  • 170 (2003 est.)

Airports with paved runways[edit]

  • total: 70
  • over 3,047 m: 7
  • 2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
  • 1,524 to 2,437 m: 20
  • 914 to 1,523 m: 6
  • under 914 m: 37 (2003 est.)

Airports with unpaved runways[edit]

  • total: 95
  • 914 to 1,523 m: 29
  • under 914 m: 62 (2003 est.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See: es:Red del ferrocarril suburbano de La Habana and File:Esquema ferrocarril habana.png
  2. ^ "The tramways of Cuba" by Allen Morrison: Infos, maps, pictures.
  3. ^ Source: Mapa de Carreteras de Cuba (Road map of Cuba, including the roads officially classified as Autopistas). Ediciones GEO, Havana 2011 - ISBN 959-7049-21-X
  4. ^ The last lot was delivered in 2006: "Entrega de 16 autobuses de TUSSAM a la Habana como gesto solidario", nota de prensa del Ayuntamiento de Sevilla
  5. ^ "Belarus to ship 100 urban buses to Cuba by late 2007" Cuban Daily News
  6. ^ Cuba praises high quality of Chinese-made buses
  7. ^ Don't blame Dwight
  8. ^ Gebler, Carlo. Driving Through Cuba (an East-West Journey). London. Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-241-12286-4 p.12
  9. ^ Schweid, Richard. Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile (On the Road in Cuba). Chapel Hill, London. University of North Carolina Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8078-2892-0 p.196
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Schweid, Richard. Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile (On the Road in Cuba). Chapel Hill, London. University of North Carolina Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8078-2892-0
  13. ^
  14. ^ Associated Press, May 9, 2011, "Cuba publishes awaited details of economic changes",
  15. ^ Schweid, Richard. Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile (On the Road in Cuba). Chapel Hill, London. University of North Carolina Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8078-2892-0 p.196
  16. ^
  17. ^,9171,36287,00.html#ixzz1Ch67vm4p

External links[edit]