Internet in Cuba … ahhhhh you feel projected back to the time of AOL, where you had to save every minute, where you downloaded your email, logged out, wrote the answer, and reconnected just to send it.
What you need to know is :
(1) Forget 3G,
it doesn’t exist ! Update 2020: yes there is! 3G exists and even 4G, but only locals have access to it for the moment
(2) forget about unlimited Internet
(3) be patient
There are three ways to connect to Cuba :
(1) Go to a hotel and pay for a 4.5 CUC/h wired connection at the business center at that hotel
(2) Buy a 1.5CUC/h Wi-Fi card at ETECSA and connect to ETECSA Wi-Fi hotspots (government hostpots available in some hotels and public places)
(3) Find an Internet dealer on the street
I did not test the first method (too expensive), but I tested the last two methods
- Go to an ETECSA center: In Habana Vieja (Old Havana), the ETECSA center is located at number 406 Calle Habana, at the intersection with Obispo street.
- Be prepared to stand in line. We waited 1h30 in the street.
- There are 2 types of cards :
- Tarjeta Internet 1 hora (one hour Internet card) at 1.5 CUC
- Internet Tarjet 5 horas (5 hours internet card) at 7,5 CUC -> at the time of our passage, there were only 5 hours cards left. Because of the long wait, we did not want to start the experience again and preferred to buy 2 5h cards, at the risk of not using all of them. For information, even if we go as fast as possible, we need at least 20 minutes of connection per day to download all our emails, answer emails and check our Facebook email.
- Connect to an ETECSA wifi. In Havana, we often connect from the lobby of the Florida hotel (we enter there like in a mill, there are super comfortable armchairs moreover, the Wifi is super fast).
- A page will open to ask you for the login & password. If this page does not open, open your browser and enter http://22.214.171.124
- You don’t have to use the 5 hours all at once. You have 30 days to use them from the 1st use. To end the session, go to http://126.96.36.199 and click on “Cerrar la session”. If this address doesn’t work, go to http://login.nauta.cu:8088. If it doesn’t work either, turn off the Wi-fi on your phone, the session will end automatically.
The Internet Black Market: Finding an Internet dealer on the street
We were made aware of this good plan by observing the premises. In two different places, while there were only encrypted Wi-fi (there was no open ETECSA Wifi), we could see a lot of premises in the street with their smartphone on. How do they get the password?
We ask them which wifi they connect to and they show us a guy. We have to pay him 1 CUC, he enters the password on our phone, and we have access to one of these Wifi in an unlimited way.
Technically speaking, the “dealer” in question also passes through the ETECSA network. But his genius lies in “transporting” the ETECSA wifi to here, via relays installed along the way. Or via a relay antenna that he bought and paid for to ETECSA.
Thus, he pays only 1.5 CUC/hour, i.e. 7.5 CUC per evening max to resell his connection to 30 people and pocket 30 CUC. In one evening, he has to pocket the average monthly salary of a Cuban.
The speed is super slow. But locals don’t care because it’s much cheaper than buying ETECSA cards at 1.5 CUC/hour. Here, they can stay as long as they want for 1 CUC. Most of the time, it consists in waiting for a page to load. Instead, people log on to talk to each other via instant messaging, instead of consulting web pages.
Note: How could we guess that the dealer was going through ETECSA? Because at one point, he ran out of lol credit and everybody fell on ETECSA’s login page. Frankly, I recommend the experience, it’s so cute to see and sit next to about 30 Cubans in the street, their eyes glued to their smartphones. 5m away, the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) holds their weekly meeting, it doesn’t care about the dealer in fact 😀
Note 2: I won’t give you the locations where these dealers can be found, because I don’t know if it’s a good thing that tourists find out about this deal and that the government starts to prohibit this kind of activities etc. If you want to find them, just one piece of advice: open your eyes, observe the locals.
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Gmail… aren’t blocked in Cuba. We were able to access our accounts without any problem.
- This Wifi card works everywhere in Cuba. A card bought in Havana will work in Vinales, Trinidad etc. In short, you understood what I meant.
- It’s not very clear where the Wifi spots are. A good way to spot them is to look at the locals. If there are 2 of them with their eyes glued to their smartphones, it’s because there is a hotspot (or a dealer) not too far away.
- There are some dealers in front of the ETECSA store. They sell the Wifi card 2 times more expensive (3 CUC instead of 1.5 CUC for one hour). If you don’t like waiting in line, this can be a good option. Make sure that the password field on your card isn’t scratched off yet.
- Geoloc does not work everywhere, while roaming is active (we are picking up the signal from Cubacel). We had to wait for 12 hours before we could be geolocated and use the pre-downloadable map on Maps.me
- It goes without saying: download the map of Cuba on Maps.me before coming to Cuba to be able to consult it offline (JB had downloaded Cuba on Google Map but once there it is indicated as “not available offline”. We don’t know if it’s because of a false manipulation or a restriction related to Cuba)
- Roaming rates: 3.96 €/min call and 18.48 €/Mo with SFR (!!!!!)
- The use of cell phones is becoming more and more popular, but phone booths are numerous and inexpensive. I advise you to also buy, at the ETECSA office, a phone card for national calls, at 10 CUP (national moneda) – to call your particular casas if needed (at 5 cents/minute, 10 cents if calling another city). Be careful, you must have national currency, so exchange beforehand about 20 CUC in C UP to be able to pay your phone card purchases and especially to enjoy the street food at a low price.
- To call from a (blue) phone booth, dial 166. You enter the code of your phone card followed by a #. Then, enter the number of your caller followed by a #
- Keep your ETECSA cards until the end, there is a Wifi ETECSA at the Havana airport, you can connect while waiting for your plane
If you like this guide, check out our article: Ultimate Guide: Cuba in 27 days