Nowadays a great part of the world’s population has been enslaved by social media and Internet surfing. Cuba, though, still remains an isolated spot in terms of the Internet and has only recently established connection with the World Wide Web.
There are various reasons for such delay in this aspect: many years of an enclosed society, lack of infrastructure to popularize the internet and the existence of only one company that provides all internet and telephone services (both cellular and landline).
This is a guide that assumes that you are a tourist. How Cubans get online is interesting, but a different story.
Table of contents
- There is no free WiFi in Cuba
- You can find WiFi in many public parks, hotels and some casa particulares.
- To get online you have to buy scratch cards with log in details for 1-5 CUC an hour.
How do I connect to the internet in Cuba?
Buy a scratch card from ETECSA office, a reseller or your hotel. You can identify resellers because they will have signs saying NAUTA or ETECSA. ETECSA sells 1 hour for 1 CUC, everyone else will sell it for a bit more. The scratchcards look like this:
In the picture the two most important details are already scratched off: the username and log in. This is what you will use to access the internet. Importantly, there are temporary and username based cards. You want the temporary card.
If you don’t use up the entire quota (i.e. you are online for only 30 minutes out of 60) you can log out and spend the remaining amount later.
Where can I access an internet connection in Cuba?
You can choose between three options, based on your budget and needs.
- Public Parks. This is the official guide of all public WiFi locations.
- Hotels & Internet Rooms
You can also use the internet cards in the internet rooms or Wi-Fi spots belonging to hotels (1,5-5 CUC an hour). You often will have to buy a drink or consume something if you are not a guest.
Computers in Internet rooms automatically show the page from which you can log into the network using the numbers that appear on the ticket. You only have to remember not to close the page, as you will have to use it to disconnect once you finish.
- Casas Particulares
If you are lodged in a Casa Particular, ask whether they provide Internet connection services. Some casas have internet connection through nauta-hogar, and they sell the service to the guests at the same price as hotels (1,50-2 CUC an hour).
Parks have other peculiarities. First of all, you have to make sure you have disconnected the “proxy connection” option. Then you have to turn on the Wi-Fi on your device. Usually, you will get a notification about available Wi-Fi networks. It is important to verify that you select the option of “ETECSA”, as no other network will work with the ticket you have bought.
Warning: scammers sometimes try to copy the ETECSA internet log in to steal your log in details. They are mostly targeting locals who can have dozens of hours on their internet accounts, but you could also lose internet.
Afterward, you only have to introduce the username and password, and then you can start Internet surfing. In this case, you don’t have to keep the starting page opened, because you only have to turn off the Wi-Fi when you finish. The same rules apply to Wi-Fi spots in hotels: the only difference is that you have to select the network with the name of the hotel. There are sites, such as the corner of 23 and L in Vedado, where you will see the networks of both ETECSA and the hotel Habana Libre together. You should be careful to connect to the network your ticket belongs to because they are not interchangeable between networks.
Map of Public Wifi Spots in Havana
Check here for a list of all WIFI locations in the country.
Tips for using the internet in Cuba
- Be careful when using iPhones. Most of its applications will not work in Cuba, and it is advisable to have a VPN installed if you are going to connect to the Internet.
- Scrape the tickets carefully, as you can delete the password, losing both the ticket and the money.
- At most Wi-Fi spots there are salesmen who offer tickets for twice as expensive as they cost and sometimes even fake them, making you lose your money. Even if it lets you avoid the long lines of the official offices, there is a risk that you will be scammed.
- Be patient, because the connection will never be as fast and stable as the one you are used to in your country. Also, some sites that use VPN will be blocked (for example, you can’t book with Airbnb once you are already in Cuba).