Cuba is a great place to drive if you can handle the often perilous conditions. There are no restrictions on where you can go. Cuba has 31,000 kilometers of roads (15,500 kilometers are paved), though even major highways are deteriorated to the point of being dangerous (a major upgrade of roads nationwide was launched in 2008).
The main highway, the Carretera Central (Central Highway), runs along the island’s spine for 1,200 kilometers from one end of the country to the other. This two-laner leads through sleepy rural towns. For maximum speed take the A-1, or Autopista Nacional (National Expressway), the country’s only freeway—eight (unmarked) lanes wide and fast. Construction came to a halt with the Special Period; about 650 kilometers have been completed, from Pinar del Río to a point just east of Santi Spíritus, and from Santiago de Cuba about 30 kilometers northwestward. Warning: It is extremely dangerous!
Only a few highways are well signed, although things are improving. You can buy the Guía de Carreteras road atlas at tour desks and souvenir outlets. It’s extraordinary how little Cubans know of regions outside their own locale. Rather than asking, “Does this road go to so-and-so?” (which will surely earn you the reply, “¡Sí, señor!”), ask “¿Dónde va esta ruta?” (“Where does this route go?”).
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition