For overland travel, your best bet is the tourist bus company Víazul, which has comfortable, air-conditioned coaches that depart fairly punctually and connect all major cities. (The biggest visitors' complaint about Víazul is the icy air-conditioning. You'll appreciate a jacket and long trousers.) Víazul offers daily service between Havana and Varadero, Viñales, Trinidad, Holguín, and Santiago de Cuba, plus daily service between Varadero and Trinidad and between Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. Fares range from CUC$10 (Havana–Varadero) to CUC$51 (Havana–Santiago). Note that most cities have two types of terminals: the terminal de omnibus interprovincial serves long-distance buses; the terminal de omnibus intermunicipal serves buses to nearby towns and beaches.
Outside the Víazul orbit, Cubans contend with an unreliable bus system—one with crowded, badly maintained vehicles and slow service. (The 2000 Cuban film Lista de Espera, or “The Waiting List,” detailed the trials and tribulations of local bus travel and teetered tantalizingly close to commentary on the problems with Cuban socialism.) Even long-distance buses, called especiales, are well below North American and European standards.
In most of the country, the only way to reserve seats is to buy your ticket in person at the bus station. In Havana, you can also purchase tickets at Infotur offices and at a Víazul counter in the arrivals area of Terminal 3 at Havana's Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí, though the company does not serve the airport and you'll still need to take a taxi to the bus terminal in town. Tickets should be purchased several days ahead of time in high season; for much of the year, however, tickets are available only on the day you plan to depart or the day before.
Though public buses charge Cubans in CUP pesos, tourists tend to pay much inflated prices in CUC pesos. Víazul accepts credit cards.
Pickpocketing and groping are common on Havana's city buses. Avoid them and take a taxi instead.
Víazul. 7883–6092; www.viazul.com.