The Autopista Nacional, a multilane, central artery designated A-1, connects all points in Western Cuba. For speed and safety, this is undoubtedly the best route to take, although the Carretera Central (Central Highway)—a standard two-lane highway that traverses the Cuban mainland from one end to the other—is more scenic, winding through little towns and villages. The road to take between Havana, Matanzas, and Varadero is the Vía Blanca, a four-lane freeway in even better condition than the A-1. The Carretera 3-1-16 (also known as Carretera de la Ciénaga de Zapata) connects the Autopista Nacional A-1 at Australia with Playa Girón.
Provincial roads in Western Cuba are usually in fair to good condition, though even the Autopista Nacional, the island's greatest freeway, has occasional heaves and holes and should never be driven at high speeds. Stray animals, horse-drawn carts, hitchhikers, and (on the Península de Zapata) migratory crabs are the worst driving hazards. There are no toll roads.
Gasoline availability is generally good with stations distributed around Matanzas, Havana, and Pinar del Río Provinces. The only ones not to pass without filling up are at the town of Isabel Rubio in western Pinar del Río Province and at Australia, the turnoff for the Península de Zapata.
Outside Varadero and Nueva Gerona, car rentals are difficult to arrange. They're available in the town of Pinar del Río and Playa Girón.
Car Rental Contacts
Transtur. All car rentals in Cuba are made through the state-owned national car rental agency, under different brand names, with offices in some hotels in Varadero, the town of Pinar del Río and a very small office in Playa Girón. 4561--4410; 8277--1454; www.transtur.cu.