(Updated 10 April 2021)
Havana is an incredible city, but after a couple of days you’ll most likely be needing a break (trust us). Viñales is a 2.5 hour scenic drive from the capital, and if done right, can be the best day of your trip (check out our reviews in our IG Highlights, TripAdvisor & AirBnB page – we’re not just blowing our own trumpets, we promise!).
There are a few different ways of travelling between Havana and Viñales, but not all of them work for a day trip. We often have visitors try and come on the Viazul bus or in ‘taxi colectivos’ (shared taxis with other tourists) and wish they’d have spoken to us beforehand, so we thought we’d put together this blog to give you some guidance and inside information.
This is a great option if you are on a lower budget, no time restraints, can book in advance but are staying the night in Viñales. The timetable doesn’t allow you to return to Havana in the evening.
Staying the night: You can get the morning bus from Havana arriving at 12:40 in the center of Viñales, check in to your accommodation, and then come and have an afternoon/sunset adventure with us that same afternoon. If you’re staying in one of our casas, even better! The host will meet you at the bus stop and show you to the casa personally. The guide will then come to the casa to collect you – the personal service for no extra charge! (Basically Loly the casa owner is amazing and always gives us the most amazing coffee when we pop round…!)
Returning to Havana the same day: the Viazul bus timetable doesn’t return in the evening. So, you’ll end up paying a private taxi to return making your travelling more expensive & challenging than if you just paid a private car for the whole day. Make sense?
(shared taxi with other tourists)
These used to be great and the most popular way of travel around the island (for tourists). The current reality? They’re a nightmare. Here’s why: firstly, a journey of what should be 2.5 hours will soon turn in to 3 or 4 at least. You’ll spend an hour in the morning cruising Havana picking up the other eight million tourists crammed into the uncomfortable car that’s about to fall apart. You’ll then escape the city and be on your way to Viñales, but you’ll stop at a restaurant to try to get you to buy food. Why? The driver will be in cahoots with the restaurant owner and will receive a hefty commission of whatever you buy. You’ll often feel pressured and uncomfortable. As you arrive nearer to Viñales, he’ll ‘kindly’ whisk you into ‘his cousin’s tobacco farm’. Translation: a mate who he’s also in cahoots with, who runs a (possibly illegal) tobacco farm. This friend will show you how a cigar is made and talk to you about the process of how they make them: DING DING that’s what you’re about to go and do with us, so don’t ruin the surprise for yourselves! And finally, they’ll pressure you to buy the cigars but they’ll really sell you fakes: banana leaves instead of tobacco leaves. This scam has been done far too many times, and as well as rinsing you for your money and time, they’re also putting farmers and local guides out of business.
IMPORTANT: whilst you think you might arrive to Viñales cheaper with Viazul or ‘taxi colectivo’, you will still have to pay a private taxi to return after your excursion with us. The price? 100CUC one way – it’s slightly more expensive because it’s at night time. SO, by the time you’ve paid your bus ticket or your taxi colectivo ride, and then the 100CUC for the return private taxi, you will have paid the same (if not more) for a more uncomfortable, unreliable and longer journey.
Private Taxi – the best & only option
(but not just with any old guy you find on the street & I’ll explain why…)
Our friend Roberto has a beautiful, high quality classic car (1954 Oldsmobile restored). He and his team (who also have incredible cars) are legal, licensed, responsible and friendly. They’re also extremely timely which is a very rare commodity in Cuba! We have worked with Roberto for a year now and he has the best reviews ever. He’ll know if it’s your birthday, your honeymoon or you’re just along for the ride and some rum, and he’ll cater for all with surprises!
He’ll collect you in the morning, bring you directly to Viñales, stop off at the infamous viewpoint of Los Jazmines so you can stretch your legs and get some photos in, before bringing you directly to us. He’ll then wait for as long as necessary whilst you have the time of your life. Want to drink 86 mojitos and ride back in the dark? No problem – he’ll wait, happily, and won’t demand more money at the end of the day.
If you come in any old taxi that you or your host in Havana organise, 98% of the time – and we speak from bad experience – a similar thing that we explained above with the ‘taxi colectivos’ will happen. They will also speak rudely to your guide to order them to only do an excursion of 2-3 hours (not what you paid us for!), and then when you arrive back after 5 hours (at least), they’ll be angry and try to get you to pay more money. We have had countless experiences like these and it just puts a downer on your day (and ours).
SO, if you’re looking for a seamless day trip from Havana to Viñales, with enough time to make the most of it rather than being scammed and wasting your time & money, you want to hire a private car. If you want a trusted car and driver, send us a message.