The Cuba train is a good way to get around the island if you plan on visiting more than one city while you are on vacation. There are rail lines running along the length of the island, so you should be able to go just about anywhere by train. It’s generally cheaper than taking the bus, but its also not as comfortable.
The train is commonly used by local Cubans for transportation, so you won’t be surrounded by tourists like you will on the more expensive bus lines. None of the trains have sleeping cars, so if you are on an overnight train, be prepared to sleep in your seat. And you’ll need to bring your own toilet paper.
The timetables for the various routes and stops can be quite variable, so check at the station right before you plan your train ride. The best line to take is the Tren Frances (the French Train). They have the most comfortable cars, with air-conditioning. There are other trains, but take the Tren Frances if you can.
The following cites are serviced by the train:
- Santa Clara
- Sancti Spiritus (only one line stops here)
- Ciego de Avila
- Santiago de Cuba
The main Tren Frances stops in Havana, Santa Clara, Canaguey and Santiago de Cuba. The other cities and towns are serviced by the smaller rail lines. Not all trains run every day, and the routes are usually run every 2 or 3 days.
The Cuba train fares are in convertible pesos (CUC) for tourists. You should always check the fares at the station before buying your tickets, but here is a rough guide. To go from Havana to Santiago de Cuba (one end of the island to the other, more or less) will cost you 50 CUC in regular class on the Tren Frances, or 62 CUC for first class. One one of the other trains, it will be closer to 30 CUC.
And about the “first class”. On the Tren Frances, a first class seat (primera especial) is one that sits in a single aisle by the window. You won’t have anyone sitting directly beside you but you’re still in the same car as the regular class passengers.
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