Does Cuba have internet? Does it work like it does anywhere else too? Here you will find some information about going online on Cuba.
On a trip through Cuba you will see a certain “spectacle of nature” on a regular basis, that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. It can be at crossroads, on public squares or in front of hotels. You will see a whole bunch of people crowded in a small area that do not communicate which each other but obviously with someone else. All of them have one thing in common: They all stare at their cellphones and were connected to the internet. As an outsider you ask yourself why all those people hang out so cramped in such a small area. They would have enough space to spread out a little. The explanation for that phenomenon is rather simple though.
There is no mobile data network on Cuba. Therefor all the locals, as well as some tourists of course, gather up at the WiFi hotspots of ETECSA, the local telephone company. In order to use those hotspots, you have to purchase a prepaid card that you can buy at the reception of some hotels or in public sales offices of ETECSA. Each card has one hour of internet for the price of 1,50 CUC. You can access the internet on every hotspot, in a hotel as well as in public areas, with those prepaid cards.
To buy those cards at the front desk of the hotel is quite simple. You ask for a card, pay and start surfing the internet for one hour. Usually the hotels have a hotspot.
To buy the prepaid card in public storeson the other hand, for example across the street from Sercotel Paseo Habana, can be a little bit more complicated. You recognize the shop by the long lines of people in front of it, although this is the case with many different shops on Cuba. The entrance is usually guarded by security staff that decide if and when you are allowed to enter. You should definitely not just go ahead and open the door. Wait until they allow you to go in and just wait in line. Once you are inside the building you do not really have the impression anymore that you came there for buying a prepaid card for the internet. The office has the charm of an official agency paired with a postal office.
A “clerk” in a uniform is seated behind a counter and asks you what you want. As soon as you make understandable that you just want to buy a prepaid card for the WiFi hotspots they ask for your passport and check it thoroughly. After that they tell you to fill out a form where they basically ask for the data in your passport and want you to sign it. At this point you start feeling a little weird because it is a very bureaucratic and strict process that resembles more the “going through customs” when you enter the USA. But do not be afraid. The washing machine was not delivered to our door and we were also able to proceed our trip through Cuba without any problems. After the, let us call it registration process, was taken care of, they hand you the prepaid card. Now you just rub the field with the log-in-data free, follow the steps that are mentioned, also in English language, on the card and start surfing the internet. If the log-in is not successful the first time, just keep trying. It will work eventually.
The speed of the internet is not super-fast but it is sufficient for sending a few WhatsApp messages and some pictures back home. Other than you have the unique possibility of enjoying internet-free time on Cuba.
And here are the Key-Facts:
1.) 1 hour on the internet = 1 card, costs 1,50 CUC.
2.) If you are buying the card in pubic sales offices make sure to bring your passport.
3.) You will notice any Hotspot outside hotel easily because of the crowds of people on the street.
4.) The WiFi Pass you purchase is valid in every Hotspot. It does not matter if it is in a hotel or on public ground.