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Long distance train travel in Cuba
The main Long Distance service in Cuba is the 'Express' service running much of the length of the island between Havana in the West and Santiago in the far east on 2 out of every 3 days.
The best of the long distance ‘Express’ services is the ’Tren Frances’ operating every third day between Havana and Santiago. Journey time for the 530 mile route is about 15 hours, average speed around 35 mph!

Principal places served by this service are Havana, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Santiago

Train 3
operates Havana to Santiago and leaves Havana late afternoon arriving in Santiago around breakfast time (that’s about as precise as it gets)

Train 4
operates Santiago to Havana and leaves Santiago early evening arriving in Havana mid morning the next day.

The train uses up to 3 different engines to haul a collection of comfortable air-conditioned coaches bought second-hand from French Railways. The coaches were originally used on the Trans-Europe Express service between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam before being shipped to Cuba in 2001
There are no sleeping-cars or couchettes on any trains operating in Cuba, and on the ’Express’ services there are just seats in two classes - 'primera' (first class) and 'primera especial' (special first class). 'Primera' is effectively European second class with vinyl padded seats 2 abreast on either side of the aisle. 'Primera especial' with much more space and fabric seats arranged 2 abreast on one side of the carpeted aisle, with a single seat on the other is the old European First class style carriage
The carriages definitely look second-hand but the seats are comfortable, the carriages are all air conditioned and there is a cafe on board. A hostess looks after each coach which also has a toilet but bring your own toilet paper..!

Fares Havana - Santiago
Tren Francès
62 CUC in 'primera especial', train 3 or 4
50 CUC in 'especial', train 3 or 4

Other ‘Express’ services
30 CUC in 'primera' class

Above all, do not plan a train journey back to Havana at the end of your trip without building a few days leeway into the itinerary. All timetables are 'Approximate’ times and some days these can be 'very approximate'. If you miss your flight home the airline will almost certainly be unmoved by your stories about train delays, breakdowns and cancellations.

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