The main routes into and out of Eastern Cuba are well maintained, and once you're out of the cities, traffic is light (your biggest concern will be the occasional stray sheep or cow). Renting a car is the best way to cover vast distances, but you're better off hiring a car and driver for short journeys. Note that signage is poor, and it's easy to get mixed up when passing through a city. Ask directions: Cubans will gladly help you out of a mess.
The Autopista Nacional runs from Havana to Santiago (860 km [534 miles]), mostly two lanes through this part of Cuba, but expanding to four between Guántanamo and Santiago de Cuba. You're much more likely to take the northern highway to Bayamo (127 km [79 miles]) and then onward to Holguín (140 km [87 miles]), the gateway to the north coast region. The stunning 200-km (124-mile) road that runs west from Santiago along the coast is squeezed between the Sierra Maestra and the Caribbean Sea. Equally impressive is the road east to Baracoa (250 km [155 miles]), which runs along the arid coastline before turning north and becoming La Farola highway, which winds through mountains.
State-run Servi-Cupet gas stations line major routes. Many are open 24 hours and sell food and beverages; only convertible pesos are accepted. Stations are also abundant in cities.