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Best Time To Go
Best time to visitCarnival is in July but it is not on the scale of Santiago’s or Havana’s. At any time of year you can find something going on in and around the city. Expect storms between September and November, although heavy showers can happen at any time, usually in the afternoon. This area was badly hit by the hurricanes in 2008.
Getting aroundThe town is one of several that have changed street names but continue to use the old ones as well as the new official names. It can be confusing when names on the map conflict with what people really call the streets, for example 20 de Mayo is now Primero de Mayo, Vélez Caviedes is also Ormani Arenado, while Virtudes is also Ceferino Fernández. Pinar del Río is not large and it is easy to walk around the centre and to most of the places of interest, such as the rum and tobacco factories. For a short excursion out of the town, it is easy enough to get a bus to Viñales, but public transport is very limited to towns in other directions. Car hire is the most convenient way of getting about, or hire a taxi.
There is an airstrip but services are not well developed. There is a train from Havana, which is cheap but has the disadvantage of being very slow with lots of stops and is very dark, so there is a risk of theft. You have to hang on to your bags all the time and take particular care of your pockets in the tunnels. The bus station is reasonably central and all buses use the same terminal. Víazul air-conditioned buses come from Havana on a route that continues to Viñales. On arrival in Pinar del Río you must expect to be hassled by crowds at the bus or train stations, who are touting for your business . Even if you come in by car they will be waiting for you at the road junctions. Young men on bicycles are a particular hazard and very persistent. Always say you have a reservation.
Alvaro Barba airport is on the road to La Coloma, 8 km from town, T48-755542/750106. Domestic flights only and not many of them.
The bus station is on Colón, north of José Martí, near Gómez. It has been recently renovated and is under constant police surveillance. Downstairs for tickets for provincial buses and trucks, upstairs for buses to Havana. A new boulevard has opened at the bus terminal, where you can get a quick meal, lunch for 30 pesos cubanos, just by where the buses from Havana come in. Also a 24-hr café opposite the bus station. Víazul, T48-752572/755255, runs a daily bus service from Havana to Viñales, see page . It stops on request at Las Terrazas and San Diego de los Baños. There are no buses to María La Gorda; you have to get an official transfer from Havana with a package tour or rent a car.
If you get a local peso bus your name has to be on the list. To La Palma, 1730, 2 pesos, Bahía Honda, 1820, 4 pesos, Puerto Esperanza, 1930, 2.60 pesos, Sandino, 1800, 2 pesos, Guane, 2 pesos, Mantua, 3 pesos.
Transtur, Martí 109 near Restaurant La Casona, T48-750104, commercial.pri@ transtur.cu. Distances from Pinar del Río are 157 km to Havana, 159 km to María La Gorda, 103 km to Las Terrazas, 88 km to Soroa, 25 km to Viñales. From Havana to Pinar del Río takes around 2 hrs 50 mins by the highway, 4 hrs 10 mins on the main road. Servi Cupet station on Calle Rafael Morales esq Frank País, on the road to San Juan y Martínez.
Long-distance travel by taxi is possible but you will need very good Spanish to negotiate effectively. Cubataxi has an office in the bus station at Pinar del Río with an a/c waiting room and an officer who can show you a brochure of trips and fares (no English spoken), open 0700-1800 Mon-Sat 0700-1200 Sun. Taxi to Havana bus terminal CUC$100, to María la Gorda CUC$120 (4 passengers), to Viñales CUC$20 one way, CUC$60 round trip with waiting time.
TrainThe railway station in Pinar del Río is on Av Comandante Pinares, T48-752106/752272. From Havana at 2140, arriving at 0310. Take a torch, hang on to your luggage, don’t sleep, noisy, train stops about 29 times, very slow. The line continues to Guane, CUC$3, 1830. Trains to Havana leave at 0800 on alternate days, and cost CUC$7. There is also an overcrowded train to Bailén for the beach, departs 0720, returns 1630, 2 pesos cubanos.
Music, Movies & Literature
The town is very lively on Sat nights and, to a lesser extent, on Fri. There is live music everywhere, salsa, son, Mexican music, international stuff. During the day in Parque Roberto Amarán you can hear traditional music (mambo, rumba, cha-cha-cha, danzón) Sun 0900. Baseball fans gather here for heated discussions about sport. Late at night it is a gathering spot for the gay community.Parque de la Independencia is quieter and a place to enjoy the breeze at night, a popular hangout for the young crowd.
Stay In Touch
Banco Financiero Internacional (BFI), Gerardo Medina, opposite Coppelia, T48-778183, open Mon-Fri 0800-1500. Cadeca, Gerardo Medina 43N, next to Coppelia, T48-778247, open 0830-1800. Also on Martí 46 next to Artex bar, T48-778357. Banco Popular de Ahorro, Martí 113, opposite the chess academy, Mon-Fri 0800-1700.
Martí 110, Mon-Sat 0800-2000.
Etecsa, on Av Alameda. CUC$6 for 1 hr with tarjeta. Cubanacán , Martí, internet access 0830-2100, 3 terminals, prepaid cards CUC$6 for 1 hr.
Andrés Bello, Maceo 20, Mon-Thu 1730-2030. French, German, English, Italian and Spanish classes.
Policlínico Turcios Lima, opposite cathedral, Gerardo Medina 112, open Mon-Sat 0800-1700. Dentist, Martí 162, T48-773348, open 0800-1700. Pharmacies: Camacho, Martí 62, daily 0800-2300. Piloto, under El Globo Hotel, daily 0800-2400 with emergency service.
Martí esq Isabel Rubio, Mon-Sat 0800-1700.
Telephone/faxEtecsa, Av Alameda IIA, Parque de la Independencia, T48-754585-7. A Telepunto 24-hr phone centre is at Gerardo Medina esq Juan Gualberto Gómez, T48-754051, domestic and calls abroad, phone cards for sale.
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