Pinar del Río

The capital of Pinar del Rio province gives a good taste of provincial Cuba. It is a lively city and there is always something going on but it is not particularly attractive. The centre consists of single-storey neoclassical houses with columns, some with other interesting architectural detail. Under the porches, there is a thriving trade in one-person businesses, from selling snacks to repairing cigarette lighters. Horse-drawn vehicles vie for space alongside bicycles and battered old cars on the roads, while the pavements are full of people jostling and weaving in and out of the pillars and other obstacles.

Ins and outs

Getting there

There is an
but services are not well developed. There is a
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.
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.

Getting around

The 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.

Best time to visit

Carnival 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.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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