by Female Abroad

With technology these days we really do take for granted the ease of being able to log into the internet whenever and however we want. In Cuba, it is a little different. Introduced in the 90's before the Russians left, the internet infrastructure had not changed much prior to 2015 but it is slowly improving with over 650 locations that offer access across the country. Most locals will gather in the heart of the communities - a plaza outside of a church - as these were some of the first places to offer Wi-Fi connectivity because these were where people usually gathered anyways.

When the first internet expansion happened around 2015, Hotels & Casa Particulars (think BnB's) and all parks on the island were given Wi-Fi hot spots and in 2018 the number of hotspots has grown well above the 650 locations with even more on the way. Plus just two months ago they tested free Wi-Fi access on cell phones but the locals think it will take about another decade or so for the infrastructure to catch up.

If you are not staying in a casa particular, hotel, resort, or don't feel like sitting in a plaza/street then there are "internet cafes" called telepuntos / service centers that are sponsored by ETECSA which are open 7 days a week from 8:30am until 7:00pm. They usually charge CUC 2 / hour to connect to the internet although some charged more. Also, not every town has Wi-Fi so you really can't plan on having access. Currently cities / towns like Havana, Vinales, Trinidad, some parts of Varadero, and all the airports have access currently but keep in mind that this access is not free nor reliable.

Hint: Before you leave make sure that you either screen grab, download, or print them off any confirmations (hotel, tours, transfers, tickets, flights), contact information (tours, transfers), reference websites / emails as you might not be able to access this information.

Keep in mind; there is no free internet anywhere in the country (if you get it at your resort then it is built into the package cost) and most cell phone providers that do allow you to use data on your plan will either charge you up the nose, you won't be able to connect, or it will be so slow you won't be able to open / download anything.

To connect to the internet as a tourist you need to buy an internet card which looks like the photo I have posted above. Generally you will see the 1 hour cards or the multipacks but you can get cards that are valid for 5 hours. Each 1 hour card costs 2 CUC but some hotels and Casa Particulars will sell them to you for 7 CUC each. It just depends on if you want to pay for convenience or want to find a shop in the area that sells them.

I found that for our just over 48 hour stay 1 hour was enough as I just used it to emails / messages to everyone to let them know I had arrived, attempted a few apps, tried to log in for the next flight, and checked out the hurricane updates. It took all of about 30 minutes to do this which was faster than I had expected but since I didn't know how slow the internet would be, I had pre-typed my emails and WhatsApp messages so as soon as I was logged in, I could hit send. I didn't find the internet that slow but it was still handy to do as I'd rather be safe then run out of time (if you are staying on a resort I would recommend doing this as the internet tends to be a lot slower than in towns).

Beware: There are a lot of people that also sells their partially used cards on sites like TripAdvisor or Craigslist but be careful as they are only valid for 30 days from the first day of use.

Beware: Just like a gift card, you would scratch off the silver bit to reveal 12 numbers that you need to log in with so make sure that the card you buy does not already have this silver part scratched!

To use the card, find a Wi-Fi hot spot and turn on your Wi-Fi connection on your phone. Select the access point and a log in website will pop up. If the website doesn't pop up then your phone may say "click here to log in". On the site that pops up, you might need to sign up for a temporary account depending on where you connect. (For me, our Air BnB hosts already had a general log in that I could use connected to their router so I just had to enter the card numbers.)

The page that pops up for the log in is in Spanish but you do have the option to turn it to English. On this page it will as for your log in number (the top 12 digits on the back of the card, mine started with 18) and your password (the 12 digits under the silver scratched off area). Then click the log in button but keep this log in page open as you will need it to log out.

Once connected, there is no timer countdown as to when the card will run out so to keep track, it is helpful to set a timer on your phone to keep track. Also, no matter how much time you buy, you don't have to use it all at once.

One main point to remember is that this is a communist / socialist government so they do control what sites you can log into as well as how / when you can so don't be surprised if there are interruptions in the connections depending on the time of day. Since the speed hasn't caught up with the number of users there can also be slower times to use the internet than others as well. When using it I found that most text based sites worked but photos would not load.

Sites that worked without issues:


Most news sites


Air Bnb

Google maps - although it was a little slow to load (you can download pages that you need for access, that is what I did. And yes, I do reference my own site when travelling. It has a lot of helpful information that I use myself.)

Sites that didn't work properly:

Hotmail / Outlook: could send text based emails but not any attachments

Facebook: could post text but no photos. Photos / video's uploaded by other people did not load

WhatsApp: gave a warning it wouldn't work, asked for me to disconnect from the "unsafe" internet connection, and then ended up sending the messages 10 minutes later

Sites that didn't work at all:

Airline websites; couldn't check in for our Delta flight nor could we check our other flights to see if there were any changes

A lot of apps (from games to cruises to airlines) - assuming bandwidth

YouTube - assuming bandwidth

If there is time left and you need to disconnect, there are quite a few ways to do this:

  1. If you still have the log in page open then you can just click log off / cerrar session

  2. If you closed it by accident or it closes ones you log in (which it did to me) then you can type "" into your URL bar and hit enter (if might take you to a search engine so just enter it into your URL again) and click click log off / cerrar session

  3. If that doesn't work then manually turn the Wi-Fi off on your phone which will disconnect you

  4. If you are using a Casa Particular's then you might be able to turn off the router (depends on where it's located / what the rules are) which would also end the session.