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HOW DO I CONNECT TO THE INTERNET IN CUBA?

June 21, 2022 | by Lucy Davies

Is it possible to connect to Wi-Fi in Cuba?

You’re getting ready for your trip and you want to connect to the internet in Cuba.  You’ve heard the horror stories of internet connection at your destination.

So, if your question is – is it possible to connect to Wi-Fi in Cuba? The answer is …

Yes, you can!

…but with limitations, because connectivity is only a very recent thing.The least (and last) connected country in the Western world, 4G only came to Cuba in 2019, the same year that Cuba legalized private Wi-Fi in homes and business.Today, Cubans connect through mobile phone data packages but don’t expect to get online throughout the country.

Connectivity is patchy and usually limited to larger towns and cities.  Cuba only has one State-controlled mobile phone provider – ETECSA/CUBACEL – and although prices are much more reasonable than a few years ago, there’s no competition and therefore no immediate rush to improve services or connectivity.

 

Cubans connect to the internet

TO CONNECT OR DISCONNECT – IS THAT THE QUESTION.

The technological revolution which swept through the rest of the world passed us – in Cuba – by. Whilst you were buying your first smartphone and using apps like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, Cubans were using their hardy Nokia 3310’s or their slicker, more futuristic, Motorola Razr.   To call and to text only.   Expensively.

Now that it is possible to connect to internet in Cuba, Cubans are truly hooked on social media and have discovered the power and freedom of being connected to the entire world.

 

 

Cubans connecting to the internet via data packages

Disconnect from your phone and reconnect with the real world

If you’re travelling with Cubania, you’ll be looking for authentic experiences that bring you day-to-day contact with local Cuban people, often right in their homes and with their families.  And if you want to share these experiences with loved ones at home, Cuba is a very good place to visit right now.   Because you’ll be able to connect to the internet in Cuba, and you’ll be able to give yourself clear limits on your daily screen-time.

And isn’t that where we all want to be?  To have the time and means to connect when we want and need to – but also have the will/discipline to disconnect from your smartphone and truly engage with the world around you.

Cuban family enjoying offline time together

We know what that means, and especially when we travel. It may sound clichéd but it means we read a book, or two. That we are more present with the Cuban family we stay with, or the young man we dance salsa with. That we Do It the Cuban Way  – offline, chatting, enjoying a coffee, sharing a beer or rum, eating with family, working, playing dominoes, hanging out or studying. We take the time to see what’s really happening, rather than relying on Google or Trip advisor to tell us what we should be doing or seeing.

The idea that we can enjoy life without being connected to social media seems, to use a Cuban word, REVOLUTIONARY  🇨🇺 to so many of us.

 

And yet, disconnecting from our phones is one of the surprising gifts you receive with any trip to Cuba. 

 

SO, HOW DO I CONNECT TO INTERNET IN CUBA – FOUR WAYS

1.Roam, but expensively using your Mobile Network.  📱

Check with your provider before you leave home, and make sure you check roaming charges too.   Typically, UK network providers can charge £12.50 per MB of data and up to £5 per minute to call home

My advice?   Turn off Mobile Data and Roaming as soon as you land in Cuba. 

2.Connect in your hotel.  🏨

Most hotels now offer free internet access either in reception or throughout the hotel.

When you check in, ask the receptionist for Wi-Fi network access and code.  This should be free of charge (but might cost around $1 per hour to connect in smaller, provincial hotels).

  • When it’s free, you’ll be given a connection URL , a login and a password.
  • If you have to pay, you’ll buy a NAUTA wifi card ( $1 per hour of internet access) Scratch off to reveal access code and follow the instructions.

Please be aware that any NAUTA cards bought in a hotel may only give access to Wi-Fi in that particular hotel, so make sure to use all your time allowance before checking out.

3. In Casas Particulares. 🏠

Most casas particulares in Cuba now have Nauta Hogar – monthly internet access like the one you have at home except for slower and more expensive –  which allows you to connect directly to the internet, using the casas owner’s password.  When you check in, ask for network name and password.

Don’t even try to download videos!  Stick to scrolling, WhatsApp calls and messaging.

4. Buy a Local Sim Card 📲

ETECSA/CUBACEL now offers a CubacelTur SIM card, designed specifically for travellers who visit Cuba for a limited time.  The card can be ordered online prior to departure or you can buy once in Cuba.  You can use your  CubacelTur SIM for 30 days.

  • Prices start from $29.95 and include 6GB of data, 100 minutes talk time and 100 SMS.
  • When you run out of data it’s easy and relatively cheap to top up.
  • If you have an unlocked smartphone this might be the easiest way to stay in touch with loved ones while in Cuba.

You can either buy CubacelTur SIM cards Cubacel offices in main Cuban cities ( You’ll need to show your passport and pay by credit card to buy one.

Or you can order online and pick up in the Cubacel office in Terminal 3 of Havana’s Jose Marti Airport.* There are a number of sites that offer this service .  SUENA CUBA , CUBA CALLS both offer this service.

Officially, a pickup is only possible at the Cubatur counter at Havana Airport (Terminal 3) before actually entering the country. The Cubatur counter is open 24 hours a day. If you miss this pick-up point or arrive at a different terminal, there is also the option of picking up the Cubacel Tur starter pack at the ETECSA branch at the same airport.

Upon collection, please show your ID and the reference number you received after placing your order. The actual issue and reservation should only take a few minutes.

*This is a new service and although it looks quite easy, we haven’t actually tried and tested the airport pick up part.

However you choose to connect,  don’t forget that you’ll be on an unsecured network.   And since you’re IP address will show your location in Cuba, you will have your own experience of the US Embargo!   Access is blocked to many US owned businesses and websites, so you won’t be able to login to your Amazon site or catch up on Netflix unless you have a VPN installed. 

And as Cuban Wi-Fi isn’t that fast best to forget videos, multimedia, or live blogging your Cuban adventure.  Facebook, Instagram, Google, Gmail etc are all easy to access.

FINALLY, only connect…

So now you know how to connect to the internet in Cuba, and maybe you’ll connect most days. No problem there. But I imagine you’ll be looking to switch off, too – for travellers looking for a more off-grid, non-touristy experience something more digitally-free is normally a real bonus.

I love my phone, but I love how I can Digitally Detox whenever I travel to Cuba. So, here’s your chance!  Read that book or local Cuban newspaper.   Sit and people-watch in the shade of an old town square. Chat to whoever comes your way. Cycle through the lush, tobacco-growing countryside. Walk, wander, look and listen. Dance, or learn how to. See what’s really happening. Enjoy watching kids play with a ball or practise some new moves – instead of watching those things on their mobiles or tablets. Disconnect!

 

Written by

Lucy Davies

Lucy Davies is the director of Cubania Travel. Currently she lives in London and travels regularly to Cuba, to lead tours, explore the island by bicycle and swim in Cuba's pristine oceans.

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