Accessing the internet in Cuba: A how-to guide

Updated January 2019

To access the internet in Cuba, you’ need to buy a wifi card. They only be used in wifi zones—usually public squares. You can also access wifi in most hotel lobbies (though these should be avoided if you’re an American on the “Supporting the Cuban People” visa like I was). Read how I used a service to build an approved itinerary here.

You’ll know you’ve found a wifi zone when you see a bunch of people with their heads bowed down toward their smartphones. Everyone—local and tourists alike—must access the internet this way. Locals do not have data plans on their smartphones.

Buying a wifi card to access the internet in Cuba

Cuba is known to have some of the most expensive internet in the world. You can purchase the internet at a state-run telecom office (search “ETECSA” in your offline map app to find one) where it can be purchased for 1 CUC/hour.

Personally, I found it easier to buy a wifi card from one of the sellers standing in the parks. They will charge you 2-3 CUC, but the convenience is worth it if you will not access the internet often during your trip.

On the card, you’ll find a grey scratch-off area. It is best to remove this lightly with a coin. After we purchased our first card in Havana, Ethan scratched too hard and ended up partially rubbing off some of the numbers. We spent a good 20 minutes guessing what the letters until we finally got them right.

Luckily, your time doesn’t start until you’re actually logged in. Remember that you can turn your wifi off at any point and use your remaining minutes at another time. You can also use it to log in to another device. This worked well for Ethan and I as we only needed about 30 minutes online each.

Screenshot accessing the internet in Cuba using a wifi card

Issues with speed

Be prepared to be patient, because Cuba also has some of the slowest internet in the world.

I only accessed the internet three times while in Cuba, mostly to assure my family that I was safe. Being accustomed to my adventures in Europe, my parents tried to call me via Facebook but the calls were dropped, even when they were voice-only, no video. Sending a Facebook message with just text, however, presented no issues.

There’s really nothing you can do to get around the slow loading. You can’t pay to upgrade your speed. This will likely improve over the years and wifi may even become free eventually.

Strategy—making the most of your hour online

Before you log in and start your hour of internet time, you should strategize. Write down what you intend to accomplish ahead of time. Leave any web surfing time, like social media, for the end.

And, again, remember that you can always turn your wifi off and use your remaining minutes at another time.

Read about the 4 other major challenges I faced during my trip to Cuba here.

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