Is there WIFI in Cuba? The short answer luckily is YES, there is WIFI and internet in Cuba. While I was all for a little rest, relaxation, and disconnection from my cell phone, my partner couldn’t imagine a two week tech break. There are a few options if you would like to stay connected while on your Cuba vacation.
The three most common ways for tourists to get WIFI & Internet in Cuba are:
- Buy Internet (Nauta) Cards and Use WIFI Hotspots
- International Roaming
- Computer at your hotel / resort
Getting WIFI is a bit trickier than at home, so I’ve put together some information I found helpful to know before our trip, as well as other considerations to get you started on your “How to get Internet on your Cuba adventure”.
How to Get Internet & WIFI in Cuba and the Cost
Internet in Cuba is available at WIFI hotspots in hotels, resorts and at designated outdoor parks and squares. Tourists can also access internet through desk top computers at their hotel or resort, and at some ETESCA stores. The average cost for WIFI access ranges from $1- $5CUC per hour.
Internet in Cuba is run by the state owned Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETESCA). While Internet is improving across the country, don’t expect the free, easy WIFI access at cafes, restaurants and airports you may be used to at home. Internet is limited, with slower connections and more expensive to access than you are likely used to in Canada, Europe or the US.
The best connections are often in touristy places like Havana and Varadero, especially at resorts and hotels.
We stayed in casa particulares in both Havana and Varadero who had home WIFI networks. These generally worked well for us for browsing the interwebs (yes facebook and instagram worked), and checking texts, although everything was slower than were used to. We only had difficulty getting on to the network a couple of times.
The other option is international roaming, either buying “vacation” data, or using data from your home plan (Canada) or expensive per use charges (US). More on this below.
1. Buy Internet (Nauta) Cards and Use Public WIFI Hotspots.
Internet (Nauta) Cards allow you to access public WIFI hotspots around the country by buying minutes. First you need to buy the card, then log-on to the ETESCA WIFI network in designated spots.
There are 1047 WIFI hotspots in Cuba, where the magic happens.
Where Can I Buy Internet (Nauta) Cards & The Cost?
There are three main options of where you can buy the NAUTA internet cards in Cuba. They can be purchased in ETESCA stores, at Hotels, or through locals reselling the cards at Parks and Squares at slightly marked up prices. A Nauta card will cost you anywhere from $1 – $5CUC per hour.
Internet (Nauta) cards cost $1CUC / hour at the ETESCA stores, which are government run. This is the cheapest option, and they come in 1 hour and 5 hour denominations. Bring your passport, as you will need it to buy these cards.
These temporary cards are good for 30 days after first activation.
Many ETESCA stores also have desk top computers you can use to acess internet, but not all.
You can find the full list of ETESCA stores and outlets on their website for all of Cuba.
In Varadero, we only found 1 hour cards at a kiosk and the ETESCA store in the Commercial Centre dowtown. Both were off the main street, Primera Avenue (1st Avenue). The kiosk often had at least a 20 – 30 minute wait, the ETESCA store less, but they seemed to run out of cards frequently, had inconsistent hours and only let 2 people in at a time.
Here are a couple of main Varadero stores:
- Centro Comercial Hicacos – Av. 1ra. y 44 in downtown Varadero. Open 10am – 6pm every day except Sunday. This was the easiest to find, with less of a line up. It is in the Shopping Centre with the unique architecture of 5 round buildings sunk into the ground. They also have a small market, cadeca, shops and restaurants.
- Calle 30 esq. a 1ra., Varadero
- Centro Comercial Plaza América
- Hotels: Meliá América, Sol Palmeras, Meliá Antillas, Sandals
Or if you are in Havana start here, or search their website for the closest store:
- Telepunto Obispo y Habana – Obispo No. 351 e/ Habana y Compostela. (Old Havana)
- Centro Multiservicios ASTRO – Av. Independencia No. 101 esq. a 19 de mayo ( One of a few near the Plaza de la Revolución)
Major hotels and resorts also typically sell NAUTA cards which can be used at public WIFI hotspots and/or at their hotel. Ask at the front desk if you aren’t sure. You don’t necessarily need to be a guest to buy one. Advantages are it often saves waiting in long line ups at the ETESCA store. They may charge a premium of $2CUC or more per hour.
PUBLIC WIFI HOTSPOTS (Parks or Squares)
At WIFI Hotspots which are most often parks or squares, you will often see enterprising individuals walking about calling out Wee-Fee (Wifi in Spanish), or Tarjeta de Internet (Internet Card). The cards are sold at a marked up price (varies).
Some people say this is a safe option that helps avoid long line ups at the ETESCA stores, though check to make sure the password isn’t scratched off. Others don’t recommend buying cards off of random people.
Where Can I Find WIFI Hotspots in Cuba?
WIFI Hotspots can be found at major parks and squares throughout Cuba, and in most major hotels and resorts. The hotspots will be easy to spot as there will be groups of Cubans checking their phones.
A list of WIFI Hotspots can be found on the Etesca website.
Where Can I Find WIFI Hotspots in Varadero & Havana?
Resorts with WIFI – Varadero
Most resorts /hotels in Varadero offer WIFI access in some public areas and it’s less common to have WIFI available in your room. While the following is not an exhaustive list, it will give you an idea of what’s available. Keep in mind that this is Cuba, so access may not always be reliable.
In my research I found the following resorts had wifi available in some public areas at various costs: Memories, Be Live Los Morales, Turquesa, & Varadero, Ibostar Varadero & Laguna Azul, Royalton Hicacos, Roc Barlavento, Los Delfines, Meliá Las Américas and Blau Marina.
WIFI was noted to be available in all rooms at Ibostar Bella Costa.
“Free” WIFI in all the rooms is usually reserved for the more expensive all inclusive resorts; Blau Varadero and Meliá Internacional Varadero.
Public WIFI Hotspots in Varadero (off resort)
For your off resort adventure, choose one of these hotspots in Varadero, or stay at a casa particular that has a home network.
- Plaza América
- Plaza las Morlas.
- Centro Comercial Plaza Hicacos
- Centro de la música Varadero
Public WIFI Hotspots in Havana
In Havana there are over 125 hotspots to choose from as you make your way around town. I have included a few popular ones below.
In Old Havana check them out at:
- Plaza Cristo
- Parque San Juan de Dios
- Cruise Ship Terminal
In Central Havana you can find them at these popular tourist spots:
- Malecón. Exterior area of Hotel Deauville
- Parque Karl Marx
- Parque de los Martires
- Malecón. Exterior area of Hotel Deauville
- Parque Karl Marx
- Parque de los Martires
How do I get on the Internet in Cuba with the Nauta card?
- Buy a NAUTA card then scratch off the username and password on the back.
- Visit a WIFI hotspot
- Turn on your WIFI, and select the ETESCA network.
- A Log-in screen should pop up. If the log-in screen does not pop up, type in 126.96.36.199. in your browser.
- Enter your username (usario) and password (contraseña) found on the back of your internet card.
TIP: Always remember to Log Out of your session to save your minutes. Type 188.8.131.52. in your browsers search bar and click “cerrar sesión”, or alternately you can disconnect from the network. I only used a NAUTA card a couple of times, and I found this the hardest to remember, coming from a land of almost unlimited internet.
2. International Roaming in Cuba
Before you leave on your holiday, look into whether or not your carrier has international roaming packages for Cuba.
International Roaming – Canada
Coming from Canada the major carriers like Bell, Rogers, Telus etc. all offer roaming packages with per day charges, and you can even use your home data. Per day charges only occur for the days you roam, and reset each day at midnight. This can quickly add up if you have multiple family members using roaming each day.
Here are a few roaming options for Canadians. Prices in CAD:
- Bell: $8/day or $12/day packages
- Rogers: $12/day
- Telus: $12/day
This was the option we chose for the most part, as we were willing to pay more for the flexibility and didn’t have our phones on roaming every day. It also came in handy when our furnace broke down in -30C (-22F) temperatures, and we had to keep in touch with our house sitter to make sure it was fixed so our pipes didn’t freeze.
International Roaming – USA
For the US, some cell phone carriers offer pay per use options for Cuba. Here are a few popular carriers with prices in USD:
- AT&T offers Cuba Roaming at $3/min for calls, $0.50/text, $1.30 picture/video and $2.05/mb data
- T-Mobile: $2/min calling, $0.50/text, $2/mb data
- Verizon: $2.99/min calling, $0.50/text, $2.05/mb data
TIP: Turn roaming off on your cell phone to avoid unwanted charges on the days you don’t want to roam.
3. Use the Public Computer At Your Hotel To Get Internet
Many hotels and resorts in Cuba cater to guests by having desktop computers tourists can use to access the internet. Prices vary and can cost anywhere from $2 – $10CUC/hour. Sometimes you can use them even if you aren’t staying at the hotel.
Writing this reminds me of visiting internet cafes in Ecuador back in the early 2000’s to send messages back home to my family to let them know I was alive and well.
4. Other Options – SIM Card
Buying a SIM card in Cuba is another option, however not recommended for a short stay in Cuba, as it is a complicated and time consuming to get one. The base activation cost is $40CUC which gives you a $10CUC of calls, text and data. For a full list of prices check out the ETESCA website.
What Can / Can’t You Do On The Internet in Cuba
Strength & Speed of WIFI
The strength of WIFI in Cuba can be poor, and is not always reliable. Speed varies, so one day it will be relatively fast, the next slow or unresponsive.
Video or live streaming and online gaming is difficult because of the available internet speed/strength.
What Works – Email, Browsing, Apps
Checking and sending email, or downloading small files is usually possible.
You can also use available browsers to search and view websites. Most of the websites and social media platforms you are used to such as Facebook, Instagram , WhatsAPP and Facebook Messenger will work. Video calls may also work.
What Doesn’t Work
Financial institutions or payment companys like PayPal or Venmo that are linked to the US, won’t work in Cuba due to the embargo. This means you won’t be able to send or receive money, or log into your bank account while in Cuba.
I didn’t try logging on to my Canadian bank account from Cuba as we brought all our spending money with us as recommended, nor did I want to access my account through an unsecured network. Cuba is a cash only country for the most part, and getting money out of ATMs or at the bank can be hit or miss.
I hear Netflix, YouTube and Amazon sites also don’t work.
The AirBnB App doesn’t work properly, but making new bookings through their website is possible.
To get around blocked sites and to protect personal data from Cuba’s unsecured network, use a VPN.
10 Tips to Make Your Cuban WIFI & Internet Experience Easier
Before You Leave Home Try these Tips
Before you leave home there are a few things you can do to make your life easier once in Cuba.
1. Download Helpful Apps.
It won’t be easy, or likely possible to do this once you get to Cuba. We liked and used these:
- Maps.me – Great offline maps that can be used to find streets, accommodations and restaurants. I researched places before hand, and marked them on the map, with notes about why I wanted to go there, so I didn’t need to use WIFI to look them up once I was in Cuba.
- Google Translate – Not always the most accurate, but I used this App most when at restaurants to figure out menu items.
- AlaMesa – Restaurant finder App with reviews.
- Kindle – Thousands of books at your fingertips. Remember to download what you want to read before you go.
- Weather+ – For when you want to forecast the best day for the beach or a day trip to the museum. Available on the Apple Store & Google Play
2. Download Your Favorite Shows
Streaming your favourite movies or TV shows on Netflix or Disney+ won’t likely work in Cuba. If you want a relaxing movie night after a long day on the beach, or a few minutes of peace while your kids are entertained, download what you want to watch before you go.
3. Download your favourite Audiobooks, Podcasts, Books, Music
4. Do All Your Research Beforehand & Bring a Guidebook
I downloaded a couple of Cuba Guidebooks on my Kindle to keep down on the weight. I also kept notes of where I wanted to go and why on the Maps.me App, which was a handy offline resource.
5. Make Copies Of Your Documents and Itineraries
There are a couple of options for keeping copies of your records with you when you travel.
The old school way is to print out paper copies of all your documents and intineraries before leaving for Cuba (and make sure you pack them).
Or try out the newfandangled method of taking screenshots and saving photos in a notes or photo app on your phone.
Whichever one you choose, this will come in handy if you don’t have access to internet as you travel or if you lose important ID and need to replace it. Hopefully that never happens, but I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry.
When In CUBA Try These WIFI Tips.
1. Avoid Crowded WIFI Hotspots
Big crowds equals slower internet. Try using less frequented WIFI hot spots, or go earlier in the day to avoid the sea of internet seekers you will be sharing the signal with.
2. Write Offline – Copy & Paste Online
To reduce the amount of time you are on the internet, write texts & emails in a notes app beforehand, then copy, paste and send once online.
3. Make A To – Do List & Stick To It
To avoid the Facebook and Instagram vortex of lost time, write out a list of things you want to accomplish while on the internet, and only do those things. Set a timer to keep you on track.
4. Edit Photos Offline
Edit photos offline before posting, texting or emailing when back online.
5. Take a Digital Break
Maybe it’s time to break up with your digital habit, or at least put it temporarily on pause. You’re on holiday, enjoy the beautiful sites, sounds and culture of all Cuba has to offer.
Accessing WIFI & Internet In Cuba Is Possible
While WIFI and the Internet is a bit trickier than home, it is possible. Don’t let that scare you off. Cuba is such an amazing place to visit, and well worth a few minor inconveniences.
If you have any tips around your experiences with internet in Cuba, let us know in the comments below.
Featured Image: Canva / Brendan Humphries