Car Travel

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Car Travel

The Autopista Nacional, a multilane, central artery designated A-1, connects all points in western Cuba. For speed and safety, this is undoubtedly the best route to take, although the Carretera Central (Central Highway)—a standard two-lane highway that traverses the Cuban mainland from one end to the other—is more scenic, winding through little towns and villages. The road to take between Havana, Matanzas, and Varadero is the Vía Blanca, a four-lane freeway in even better condition than the A-1. The Carretera 3-1-16 (also known as Carretera de la Ciénaga de Zapata) that connects the Autopista Nacional A-1 at Australia with Playa Girón and Cienfuegos is only good as far as Caleta Buena. To reach Cienfuegos, resist the temptation to push through to Jaragán and go back around through Playa Girón and Abreus.

Provincial roads in western Cuba are usually in fair to good condition, though even the Autopista Nacional, the island's greatest freeway, has occasional heaves and holes and should never be driven at high speeds. Stray animals, horse-drawn carts, hitchhikers, and (on the Península de Zapata) migratory crabs are the worst driving hazards. There are no toll roads.

Gasoline availability is generally good at the Servi-Cupet stations. Payment is in U.S. dollars only. Western Cuba, at this writing, had 16 stations distributed around Matanzas, Habana, and Pinar del Río provinces. The only ones not to pass without filling up are at the town of Isabel Rubio in western Pinar del Río Province and at Australia, the turnoff for the Península de Zapata.

Outside Varadero and Nueva Gerona, car rentals are difficult to arrange. They're available in Pinar del Río, Varadero, and Nueva Gerona through Havanautos. In Playa Girón, Transauto has an office across from the Villa Playa Girón. Costs run between 50 cuc and 80 cuc a day.

Car-Rental Contacts

Havanautos. Hotel Pinar del Rio, Calle Marti, Pinar del Rio. 48/778015. www.havanautos.cu. Av. 1, e/Calle 55 y Calle 56, Varadero. 5/66-7094. Aeropuerto Juan Gualberto Gomez. 45/253-630. Servi-Cupet, Calle 39 y Calle 32, Nueva Gerona. 61/24432. Villa Gaviota, Autopista Nueva Gerona-La Fe, Km 2. 61/3256.

Transauto. Carretera 3-1-16. 59/4144.

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