A Trip From Havana to Santiago de Cuba: 717 Pesos by Bus, 6,000 Pesos by Truck

Days of waiting at Havana’s Villanueva bus terminal to get transportation

Those who arrive here have to sign up on a list and wait for the buses from the National Bus Terminal / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 21 June 2024 — If there is a place in Cuba where the transportation crisis becomes apparent, it is the Villanueva station in Havana. Periodically, and coinciding, as now, with school holidays – in December or the months of June, July and August – the networks and independent media are filled with images of hundreds of people crowded together – adults, children and the elderly – sitting on their suitcases, sleeping on the floor, between the heat and the flies, waiting for days and days to board a vehicle that will take them to the province.

The state-owned Empresa Viajero has designated this terminal for its “waiting list.” Those who arrive here have to sign up on a list and wait for the buses from the National Bus Terminal that have a free seat to pass, either because a ticket has not been sold, or because the traveler has not shown up. Given the scarcity of fuel, the number of vehicles decreases and, therefore, the option of getting a seat. Thus, in Villanueva the crowd gathers, increasingly tired, increasingly sweaty, in a picture typical of Calcutta.

This is what happened this Wednesday, when the line for signing up did not move. Those who were tired of waiting had two alternatives: either leave or travel in uncomfortable trucks without air conditioning at an astronomical cost when compared to bus prices. By bus, the trip to Santiago de Cuba was 6,000 pesos, the trip to Holguín, 5,000 pesos.

A more than considerable difference if one thinks about the prices of official buses: 717 to the first destination and 615 to the second. “We’re on board,” one man lamented to another, who was also waiting and who refused to get on those old, dilapidated vehicles: “Chico, I don’t have any money. And, frankly, if I had it I wouldn’t pay it to leave under those conditions either.”

The state-owned Empresa Viajero has designated this terminal for its “waiting list” / 14ymedio

Between the departure bays, walking with a cigarette in his hand, an old man dressed in military green was shouting: “Long live the Revolution, Díaz-Canel and I rule here, you don’t rule here.” The people, exhausted, laughed at him. In the terminal, only one of the bathroom sinks had a trickle of water. As for the snacks that can be purchased, they are not cheap either: a milkshake or a soft drink, 250 pesos; pizza, 120.

Why are there citizens who lower themselves to these conditions, without even obtaining a minimum benefit, for example a cheaper ticket? The general response is that it is very difficult for them to acquire it the formal way, through the Viajando app . “It is an almost impossible mission online because the application collapses and the tickets disappear in seconds,” explains Lucía, who also says that she lives far from a ticket sales agency. “Maybe buying them there also means sleeping there because of the few opportunities. It’s all the same: very few buses and seats available.”

Those who got tired of waiting had two alternatives: either leave or travel in uncomfortable trucks / 14ymedio

Traveling also requires updating your phone’s operating program, something that is not available on all mobile phones and that has left many customers out. That was one of the complaints that users left on the official on-line press release that included the content of this Wednesday’s Round Table State TV program, dedicated to transportation.

Because, in effect, while citizens face the disastrous situation every day, the Government tries by every possible means to make it seem kinder. Thus, in the last Round Table, where in the midst of figures that sought to praise the Automotive Business Group – such as that it is “made up of 18 companies divided into four large blocks,” that the company is “one hundred percent Cuban” and that it has 16,487 workers and more than 12,000 “automotive vehicles,” which makes it “leaders within the sector in the country” – nothing at all could hide the reality.

The Villanueva terminal information board / 14ymedio

“Today we are hit with technical aspects related to vehicle stability, steering, suspensions, clutch systems and access to lubricants. All of this affects transportation levels,” lamented Aidel Ramón Linares León, director of the National Bus Company, appearing on television. The data provided are eloquent: “In 2019 the company transported 13.2 million passengers, while at the end of last year 7.1 million passengers were transported.”

On the other hand, Walter Luis Duverger, general director of the Viajero Company, said on the TV show that “one of the greatest dissatisfactions” expressed by customers was “how unscrupulous elements have manipulated the online reservation service for their own benefit.” He did not give details of what he was referring to or how the problem was going to be solved.


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