Visiting Cuba soon? Then, you could be a little bewildered about what you have heard over Internet in Cuba for tourists. Some reports come about low speed, others on the high connection costs. At the same time, there are people who assure the wireless service is pretty good, while some others feature the hazards at the recently-opened hotspots.
Let’s be factual enough, creating neither panic nor pipe-dreams about Cuba Internet access.
Does Cuba Have Internet at All?
Yes, it does. The isle connects basically via satellite and recently by an optical-fiber cable from Venezuela.
Nonetheless, in practical terms, the web is useless to almost 80% of the local population because of the high cost of the service, insufficient coverage and limited bandwidth. Cuba ranks 129 in the Global ICT Development Index by the International Telecommunications Union, the worst in Latin America and the Western world.
Moreover, there is no free Internet in Cuba for tourists or the general public access. These restraints are as crushing to the locals as to tourists. However, most international visitors take a better part of the pie, because the best wired points in Cuba are top hotels and resorts .
Who Provides Internet Service in Cuba?
A state-owned corporation called Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, ETECSA (in English: Telecommunications Company of Cuba) is the only provider for telephone, Internet and wireless services. ETECSA exerts an absolute control over telecommunications in the island.
The Internet in Cuba for tourists and local people is submitted to the same rules and limitations.
Is There Some Kind of Censorship?
ETECSA had publicly advised political and moral conditioning for the use of Internet by Cuban residents and tourists. There are some websites censored (e. g. some websites critical of the Government) and others unavailable because the U.S. embargo (e. g. PayPal and online stores).
Anyhow, major services are fully offered, like every social network, browsers and free email services. In this regard, the situation is boundlessly better than in China, North Korea or Saudi Arabia.
Where Can I Access the Cuban Internet?
Accessing the Internet in Cuba requires finding the spot to make the connection via Wi-Fi, cable or dialing-up. Coverage is limited to those few places. They are mostly located in urban areas and have different speed levels, from 56Kb/s (dial-up modem) to 3-4 Mb/s at the best tourist installations.
So, you can connect to the Internet throughout the island at:
- Best hotels and resorts (Wi-Fi and cable)
- Dozens of public hotspot (Wi-Fi) including all international airports.
- Cyber cafes (cable) mostly in big cities.
How to Get Connected?
In any case, you have to purchase an Internet access ticket, called tarjeta de navegación. This ticket has a veiled username-password set that will allow you to connect to Internet from 30 minutes on at any of the access points throughout the country.
If you are to stay for several weeks or months, you better open up a permanent Nauta account with the amount of money you prefer. It is the best way to avoid purchasing Internet access tickets every other day. These tickets are not always available and sometimes require waiting in long lines, especially in Old Havana.
Once your gadget finds the supplier signal, you will probably search for where to write down your username-password set. But, the ETECSA window to do that would only appear when you try to open your browser. Then, you will be ready to start your session. Sometimes, it could get hard to connect or disconnect.
While you are trying to get connected on public hotspots, some people may get close to lend you a hand, even to sale Internet access tickets. Most of them are second-intentioned, so better be careful and keep trying. Be patient or visit ETECSA website to learn the basics.
What Is the Price of the Internet in Cuba for Tourists?
Connection price varies from $2 CUC an hour ($2.26 US dollars) at the public hotspots, cyber cafes and some hotels, up to $7 or $8 CUC per hour at some luxurious beach resorts, like Playa Blanca, in Cayo Largo, or Meliá Sol Palmeras, in Varadero. The quality of the connection also varies, of course.
(TIP: Need help to understand the Cuban currency? Check out the 5 facts you must know about the Cuban money)
Is Any Kind of Device Able to Connect to the Internet in Cuba?
This is one of the biggest problems to access the Internet in Cuba for tourists, since the Wi-Fi signal in Cuba works through channels 14 and 15. Some late gadgets had been removed from scanning those frequencies, so they will not be able to access a wireless connection in Cuba. This affects Android 5 and 6 devices, such as Samsung Galaxy 6, Note 4, Nexus 7, and so.
(TIP: Is your cellphone something that you need to pack to Cuba? Know what other things are indispensable on a Cuba vacation)
Could I Enjoy My Usual Online Services?
No way, especially those demanding high speed (4 Mb/s or superior). No mobile broadband is available, so to stay always on is simply impossible.
Consequently, forget about instant contact via web if you are far from an access point. Overlook your cloud services at all. Also, you can’t buy from American online stores because of the U.S. embargo to Cuba. Streaming, online gaming, even uploading middle-size files are very difficult things to do.
At most of the Cuban territory, phone will be the only useful interactive application from your gadget. That is possible, even if you live in the U.S., thanks to the recently provided roaming service by Verizon and Sprint in Cuba.
Then, What Can I Do on the Internet in Cuba?
It depends on the speed connection. In general, once connected you will be able to open websites and access your email accounts. You can also search on the Web using any browser available online. Downloading middle-size files and even small multimedia archives is also possible if speed allows. You could even book the best to do in Cuba through Tour Republic :).
Webcam chatting, entering your social networks and consulting the weather are common uses too.
What Are the Best Spots to Get Connected?
Best locations to get connected are hotels and resorts with their own Wi-Fi signal or cable service.
On the contrary, public hotspots (design to be used for no more than 100 people) are the worse sites to connect. Quality of connection on public hotspots depends on how many people are online at the same time. Wobbly signal is not unusual, and sometimes, it gets hard to get on. Besides, there has been some robbery incidents at these places.
Which Are Some of These Access Points?
The Internet in Cuba for tourists is available at a few hotels and resorts, including connection price. Here is a list, by location:
-La Habana: Presidente (4.50 CUC/h), Parque Central (8-10 CUC/h), Nacional (10 CUC/12h).
-Cayo Largo: Playa Blanca (8.00 CUC/h).
-Varadero: Blau Marina (4.50 CUC/h), Blau Varadero (4.50 CUC/h), Iberostar Varadero (5 CUC/h), Iberostar Laguna Azul (5 CUC/h), Meliá Las Americas (5 CUC/h), Meliá Sol Palmeras (7 CUC/h), Memories (4.50 CUC/h), Ocean (4.50 CUC/h), Paradisus (4.50 CUC/h), Royalton Hicacos, Villa Cuba (4.50 CUC/h), Roc Barlovento (4.50 CUC/h)
-Trinidad: Iberostar Grand Hotel (2 CUC/HR)
-Cayo Coco: Iberostar Mojito (4.50 CUC/h), Meliá Cayo Coco (2.00 CUC/h), Meliá, Jardines del Rey (4.50 CUC/h), Memories Flamenco (6 CUC/h), Memories Caribe (4.50 CUC/h), Playa Coco (4.50 CUC/h), Sol Cayo Coco (4.50 CUC/h), Tryp Cayo Coco (2.00 CUC/h), Colonial Hotel (4.50 CUC/h)
-Cayo Santa María: Husa (4.50 CUC/h), Meliá Buenavista (free), Royalton (4.50 CUC/h).
-Cayo Ensenachos: Iberostar Cayo Ensenachos (2.00 CUC/h)
-Cayo Guillermo: Iberostar Daiquiri (4.50 CUC/h)
-Guardalavaca: Blau Costa Verde (6.00 CUC/h), Memories Holguín (4.50 CUC/h), Paradisus Rio de Oro (4.50 CUC), Playa Costa Verde (6.00 CUC/h), Playa Pesquero (5.00 CUC/h)
More Access Points: Public Hotspots by Province
See below a list with most of the public hotspots by province, where Internet in Cuba for tourists is also possible. Remember, price here is always 2.00 CUC per hour:
-Pinar Del Río: Parque Amarán, Parque de la Independencia, Parque Maceo in Consolación del Sur.
–La Habana: La Rampa, Parque de 51 in La Lisa, Parque Fe del Valle in Centro Habana, Marianao´s amphitheater, Paseo in Villa Panamericana, Parque Mónaco La Víbora, Expo Cuba.
-Artemisa: Boulevard, Parque de la Iglesia, Parque San Antonio.
-Mayabeque: Parque Central in Güines, Boulevard in San José de las Lajas, Parque central in Madruga
-Matanzas: Parque Libertad, Parque Peñas Altas, Parque Todo en Uno in Varadero, Parque J. A. Echeverría in Cárdenas.
-Villa Clara: Parque Vidal, Parque de los Flamboyanes, Parque Central in Remedios.
-Cienfuegos: Parques Martí, Parque Villuendas, Rápido in Punta Gorda.
-Sancti Spiritus: Parque Serafín Sánchez, Plaza Yayabo, Parque Céspedes in Trinidad.
-Ciego de Ávila: Parque Martí, Parque Máximo Gómez, Parque Central in Morón.
-Camagüey: Parque Agramonte, Plaza del Gallo, Plaza de los Trabajadores.
-Las Tunas: Plaza Martiana, Parque Antonio Maceo, El Tanque.
-Holguín: Parque Calixto García, Parque Julio Grave de Peralta, Parque Rubén Bravo.
-Granma: Boulevard, Boulevard in Manzanillo, Parque Calixto García in Guisa.
-Santiago de Cuba: Parque Alameda, Parque Céspedes, Parque Ferreiro, Plaza de Marte.
-Guantánamo: Parque Martí, Avenida Camilo Cienfuegos, Parque Central in Baracoa.
-Isla de la Juventud: Boulevard.
Accessing the Internet in Cuba is easier than ever before
As you can see, the Internet in Cuba for tourists is a reality, as well as for more Cubans every day. Many obstacles still persist tough, affecting the optimum use of the Internet and its amplification.
To the eyes of most international tourists, even from other underdeveloped countries, the situation could look pretty bad. For those arriving from the U.S. or Europe, it could seem really crummy.
Anyway, this could be an excellent moment to take a technology break, put aside your gadgets and give a chance to the human touch… something the Cuban people is always eager to offer. Good luck connecting!
Do you know another trick to enjoy a better Internet in Cuba for tourists? Leave your comment below!