Find out how to connect to the internet in Cuba, where to buy internet 3g SIM and internet cards, how much it costs, detailed instructions + using mobile and landline phones in Cuba.
Internet in Cuba
The internet in Cuba is run by the government and highly regulated so getting connected is not as easy as youre used to in your own country. Although this seems to be changing very rapidly.
The only way to get connected is through a WiFi hotspot using a card with an access number and password, limited to 1 or 5 hours.
Thank goodness the Cuban government opened a network of public WiFi hotspots throughout the island to allow easier access. Still not that easy but much easier than before.
Digicel Cuba Roaming 3G SIM Card
US Digicel has rolled out a new SIM card for use in Cuba on their 3G network. At the moment its only being shipped to the US, but this will change. Heres some specs on it:
- Digicel Cuba Roaming SIM Card is Pre-loaded with 100 MB of data
- FREE incoming SMS.
- No contract required.
- Rates as low as $0.17 per MB.
- VOIP calling is available using data on WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, etc.
- SIM card is activated in Cuba.
- Compatible with all UNLOCKED DEVICES on the GSM 850/900 and WCDMA 900 frequencies.
- Activation instructions included.
- Speeds are dependent on the local network in Cuba
There is usually no free WiFi in Cuba, having said that, when we were having dinner at Mâ¦. to connect to their WiFi I had to use their own access number and password, this gave me free access for 72 hours.
The waiter very kindly offered it, Im pretty sure youd have to be buying lunch or dinner before youd get this.
The Cuban Government lowered the price for a one hour connection from $1.50 CUC to $1 CUC too which was excellent news for everyone.
These can be a bit tricky to find but the number of hotspots is growing and now many hotels and lots of restaurants can give you access to the internet.
Dont expect to get a connection from your hotel room, youll need to go to the lobby.
If you’re staying in a Casa Particular the chances are you won’t have access to a WiFi hotspot as it’s too expensive for the locals to install the right equipment.
Even if you do book a casa near a WiFi hotspot the signal strength will probably be pretty weak, you might get emails but too slow for much else.
Havana Public WiFi Hotspots
Havana has the largest public WiFi zone located in Vedado on 23rd street, from the Habana Libre Hotel all the way down to the waterfront.
There is also another WiFi hotspot located in the park on the corner of Galiano and San Rafael St in Central Havana. This park is usually packed with locals, best time to go is in the morning.
My routine is a short 5 min walk to the Hotel Parque Central where I tuck myself away upstairs on one of the back couches in the aircon, I can sit here for a few hours doing my work.
The staff dont seem to mind, sometimes I buy a very nice burger for lunch, sometimes just a coffee or nothing. The signal is very good and I have no problems uploading and downing loading data, its not that slow.
So long as youre right where the WiFi hotspot is youll get good speeds, having said that when I connected in the park along with 100s of others the internet was slower.
It was much quicker where there were less people like at the hotel. If you have anything less than the full set of bars its going to get slow quickly
Prepaid Internet Cards
You need to buy an internet card from the government shop called ETECSA, its the national telecom provider.
These shops are all around although can be a bit hard to find. There is usually a big queue as well, better if you can buy the cards at your hotel, yes they will cost a bit more but its worth it to avoid standing in the hot sun before you even get into the shop.
There are touts that will ask you if you need an internet card and take you to an agency, it will cost you a lot more here. But again you will skip the queue.
Current cost is now $1.00 CUC for 1 hours worth of internet, doesnt appear to be any restriction on the amount of data you use, just the amount of time.
You can buy a 1 hour card or 5 hour card. Get the 5, itll save you going back and forth, you dont need to use it all up in one go.
No need to worry about the expiry date, I was using the card below in Sept 2017 without a problem even though it was meant to expire a year earlier!
Internet Connection Instructions
- Click on your WiFi icon to see the selection of hotspots available. Usually you will see the word ETECSA in the name but not always, depends on where you are. It should say Open under it.
- Click on the WiFi name and click Connectâ. It can be a bit slow but should automatically open a new browser page with a login required. I found this works first time every time on my phone but not on my laptop. Dont despair if it doesnt work, just disconnect and reconnect again, that should do the trick. It can be a bit slow also changing from no internet to Connected on your laptop, phone seems to have no problem. This doesnt mean you can now surf the internet, you must sign in first using your ETECSA card.
- Scratch off the silver strip to reveal the password.
- Click on the English button
- Type the Login number on the first line and Password on the second line.
- Click on Accept and wait for the the timer numbers to appear. One number will be ticking over the seconds to show how much time youve used and the bottom number is the amount of time you have left on your card.
- You can log in and out as many times as you like within your cards time limit. But do remember to logout once youve finished a session otherwise it will continue to tick away and use up all your credit.
- Click on the Cancel to stop your session. I always like to Disconnect as well just to be sure Im not using any more credit.
If you book your accommodation through AirBnB, ask your host to buy you some internet cards before you arrive. This way you shouldn’t pay the higher price and it’s much more convenient. My host had no problem providing me with 10 hours worth of internet on my arrival. And if I want more, he’s happy to go get them and bring round, in his local town there is no queue and no extra cost.
Forget about buying anything online while in Cuba! Once connected dont expect to surf every single website like you do at home, below is a list of sites Ive personally experienced having trouble with.
It shouldnt worry most of you if youre just on holiday and really only use emails. But if youre trying to keep an eye on your business while on holiday you need to be a bit careful especially if you use more American based websites.
In fact Ive come to the conclusion that any American based website will not allow you to buy anything from it while youre in Cuba and some will not even how their website. However if you have one of the new Cuba Roaming SIM Card you can still access these.
- Facebook – yes and the only way to really communicate quickly with the outside world.
- Airbnb – yes, but the booking button is missing – so pretty useless
- Skype – nope, no go
- Facetime – nope, no go
- Booking.com – yes but cant book anything
- Paypal – nope, no go
- Amazon – yes, but you cant buy anything
- Viber – nope, no go
- Zoho Mail – yes
- Google – Yes
- Stripe – nope, no go
Online Booking Tips
If you really need to book things online in Cuba or access any of the other blocked sites, you will need to subscribe to a VPN service so your IP address is different.
Good question, yes, for a small number of you and no for most depending on your country. Please check before you leave home and see if your phone provider offers it and for how much.
Were from New Zealand, unfortunately there is no roaming for us here in Cuba. Our friend from England, seemed to have roaming ok, not sure of the cost though.
If you’re from the US you can buy one of the new Cuba Roaming SIM Cards
If your hotel or casa has a land line phone then you can use it to make local calls to other land lines and mobile phones in Cuba. Calls are super cheap from a landline to other land lines or mobiles locally.
You can also use it to make international calls but must have a phone card to do this. Buying a phone card is the same as buying an internet card also controlled by the government at the ETECSA shop.
Again you can bypass the queue to buy your card, but usually at double the price. Phone cards are expensive and dont last long, you can buy a $5 or $10 CUC card which only lasts 5 or 10 mins.
Youll notice as you walk around there are plenty of public phones and all in good working order. We even saw the maintenance guys dusting down the phones with tiny brushes once.
Cubans purchase calling cards (called Tarjetas Propia) which are super cheap and last for hours.
Foreigners can also purchase these and very handy to have if youre casa doesnt have a phone. You wont be able to use these phones for international calls.