Join Vagabondish on Twitter and Facebook.
(NOTE: Everything about Cuba — including the Internet and WiFi situation — is rapidly changing. This information is current as of May 2017, but we can’t promise next month will be the same!)
If you’re headed to Cuba, you already know that there is (finally!) Internet service in Havana, Santiago, and other cities. Beginning in early 2015, WiFi hotspots began popping up around the country.
But finding it can be a daunting task and the service isn’t free. Unlike most countries, Cuba has one of the lowest rates of Internet connectivity in the world. So, Wi-Fi service isn’t readily available in many hotels, apartments, cafes, etc.
However, it’s not quite as difficult as you might think. Here’s what you need to know.
There are two things required to get online in Cuba:
Sound easy? Not so fast …
Cuba’s Internet service is provided by the government-owned ETECSA which serves all of Cuba’s telecommunications needs, including WiFi and internet.
The first thing you’ll need to get online is a prepaid NAUTA Internet card from ETECSA. These are basic, credit card-sized cards with a scratch-off username (usario) and password (clave or contraseña). Like so:
ETECSA stations are located throughout Havana and most other cities in Cuba and they’re typically easy to spot. Just look for the buildings with the longest lines outside or ask any local where the nearest station is. They’ll know.
The process of buying a prepaid Internet card in Cuba can be frustrating, particularly if you’re purchasing directly from an ETECSA office. The bottom line is: be patient. Like most of life in the Caribbean, things in Cuba move very, very slowly. The lines are often frustratingly long with waits of two hours or more at peak times. But your wait will pay off because purchasing your card at an ETECSA station (versus a hotel) is much cheaper — just $1.50 US per hour.
Our recommendation is to guesstimate in advance how much time you plan to spend online while in Cuba. Then, buy your NAUTA cards in bulk to save yourself the hassle of waiting again and again.
NAUTA cards are also available at most modern and upscale hotels where the process is far quicker and easier. But you’ll pay for that convenience — often $4 USD (or more) per hour. On the upside: you won’t have to wait in line.
Even as of May 2017, there are few Wi-Fi hotspots throughout Cuba. Thankfully, this is changing, but, for now, here’s where you can get online:
Click here for a thorough (though not quite complete) list of more than 200 WiFi hotspots in Cuba.
Even the process of logging on and off the Internet in Cuba is often complicated.
Once you’ve found a place to logon, scratch the password box off your prepaid internet card to reveal your unique password like so:
Once you’ve completed your session, be sure to log out!
This ensures that you won’t continue to be charged for minutes you aren’t technically using. To do so:
And finally, just a few miscellaneous tips …
Because Cuba’s Internet service is such a hot commodity, there are plenty of scammers looking to sell you fake cards. They might approach you in the street or outside ETECSA. They may offer a seemingly great deal, but don’t fall for it. Our recommendation is to only buy from hotels and/or legit ETECSA stations where you know you’re getting the real deal.
Download or screencap your most important info/documents to your laptop or mobile device before leaving home. Things like: a copy of your passport, restaurant/POI recommendations from TripAdvisor, your flight details, etc. Just assume you won’t have easy online access to any of this information while in Cuba.
Tourists must present their passport when purchasing a NAUTA card. This means that everything you view online can be tracked back to you. While the Cuban government is unlikely to actually make arrests for looking at “forbidden” sites, it’s worth noting that they have the power to do so.
So: protect your card (including your WiFi username and password) at all time! Don’t give it out to anyone and don’t leave your NAUTA card in a conspicuous place (like face up on the table of a hotel lobby) where sneaky bypassers can see it.
The post Everything You Need to Know About Internet and WiFi in Cuba (Updated May 2017) appeared first on Vagabondish.