Direct international scheduled and charter flights arrive at the Aeropuerto Internacional Antonio Maceo (tel. 22/69-8614; airport code SCU). Airlines regularly servicing Santiago include Aerocaribbean from Santo Domingo and Cubana. Charter flights run between Miami and Santiago several times each week.
Daily flights connect Santiago with Havana via Cubana (tel. 22/65-1578 in Santiago, or 7/838-1039 in Havana; www.cubana.cu) for CUC$116. AeroCaribbean (tel. 22/68-7255 in Santiago, or 7/870-4965 in Havana) flies on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday for CUC$115. Flights are about 2 hours.
The airport is 8km (5 miles) south of the city. There are several car-rental agencies at the airport. The quickest and safest way to the city is by registered taxi; the trip into town is CUC$6 to CUC$9.
Víazul's (tel. 22/62-8484 in Santiago, or 7/881-1413 in Havana; www.viazul.com) Havana-Santiago de Cuba line, with stops in Santa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Avila, Camagüey, Bayamo, and Holguín, is the best way to get to Santiago by bus, especially if you're planning to see any points of interest between Cuba's two main cities. For the trip from Havana, buses depart at 9:30am, 3:15pm, 6:15pm, and 10pm, and arrive at 1:20am, 7:20am, 7:15am, and 12:35pm respectively; the fare is CUC$51 one-way. From Trinidad (tel. 41/99-4448), a bus leaves daily at 7:40pm and arrives at 7:05am; the fare is CUC$33 one-way. From Varadero, buses leave at 9:25pm and arrive at 12:10pm; the fare is CUC$49 one-way. (Buses depart Santiago for Havana at 9am, 3:15pm, 6:15pm, and 10pm).
Víazul also has once-daily service between Santiago and Baracoa, leaving Santiago at 7:45am and returning from Baracoa at 2:15pm. Duration is 4 hours and 50 minutes; the fare is CUC$15 one-way.
The Terminal de Omnibuses (tel. 22/62-8484) for Víazul is located on Avenida de los Libertadores at the corner of Avenida Yarayó, about 2km (1 1/4 miles) from Parque Céspedes. A taxi to downtown costs about CUC$3, but the private taxistas who mob the exit will demand up to CUC$5. Only pay CUC$3.
The Cuban ferrocarril (railway) is not dependable, and delays, midrun breakdowns, and other problems are quite common. Taking the train is a potentially adventurous experience for those who wish to see the "real Cuba," but can be frustrating for those who need to adhere to a schedule.
A special fast train, also known as the "French Train" or "Tren Francés," travels from Havana to Santiago when it can (12 hr. with stops in Santa Clara and Camagüey); check the schedule before you leave, since it varies. It offers primera especial (first-class) service for CUC$62 and segunda clase (second-class) service for CUC$50, featuring reclining seats, air-conditioning, and cafeteria services. Prices are discounted by 50% for children under 7 years old, and Ferrotur claims it will refund the fare if arrival is more than 1 hour late. Daily departure from Havana in the high season is at 6:05pm, arriving at 6:30am in Santiago.
In Santiago, the large, modern Terminal Central de Ferrocarriles is located on Avenida Jesús Menéndez at Paseo de Martí (tel. 22/62-2836), across from the Caney rum factory.
Driving to Santiago is a good way to see the breadth of the country. The six-lane, toll-free Autopista Nacional (A1) and the Carretera Central run the length of Cuba, straight down the spine of the country from Pinar del Río to Santiago. However, east from Sancti Spíritus, it is just two lanes almost the entire way to Santiago, and the going can be slow at times, since there are equal numbers of cars, trucks, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, and pedestrians making use of the Carretera Central. Santiago is 860km (534 miles) east of Havana, 127km (79 miles) east of Bayamo, and 134km (83 miles) southeast of Holguín.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.