cuba internet

Internet in Cuba: The Ultimate Guide (From a Local!)

Does Cuba have Internet? YES… Cuba has internet! Internet in Cuba has been getting better and more easily accessible in the past few years, and although we’re still always asked if there is wifi in Cuba, internet access in Cuba for tourists and locals is easier than ever.

However, using Cuban internet and getting internet access in Cuba is still more challenging than you’re probably used to, and there are still a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to travel here.

We put together this ultimate guide to Cuba internet use to help travelers navigate how to get wifi in Cuba. We’ve included everything from data roaming in Cuba to how to get Cuba wifi cards that will let you connect around the island. Keep reading for this and more!

havana cuba

Cuba Internet

Internet in Cuba is getting better and easier to access every day. In the past several years it has gone from being extremely expensive and largely non-existent to widely available.

When I first came to Cuba in 2013 on a college trip, it was a true nightmare to connect to the internet in Cuba. Internet in Cuba for tourists was via a dusty desktop in a dark corner of a hotel lobby that – for an exorbitant fee – could maybe load one email.

However, by the time I was back less than two years later I was connecting to wifi in Havana via my iPhone, freely scrolling Facebook and email.

Is There Internet in Cuba?

Yes – there is internet in Cuba! Internet is still not as fast or ever-present in Cuba as it is in most of the rest of the world.  But, it is not bad.

When the internet first came to Cuba, internet access in Cuba for tourists was the main goal, as was providing corporations with a way to connect to the outside world and with each other. In Cuba internet was quite restricted in use for Cubans, or entirely impossible to access.

However, Cubans are now able to access the internet largely as they would anywhere else, though internet costs and access points are still limitations.

Today, Cuba internet access is much better, and users can pretty much do everything they’d want to do, but with some longer-than-average page loading speed. While there is some degree of Cuba internet censorship (keep reading for more on this!), it will unlikely be something you’ll encounter.

Internet in Cuba is mostly fine for any normal use – you might have a problem streaming videos or downloading large files, but you’ll likely be fine.

Internet in Cuba

Most Cubans and visitors connect to the internet in Cuba through public hotspots in Havana and across Cuba. While internet access in Cuba for tourists is also offered through hotels or in some private apartment rentals like Airbnbs, these public hotspots are still the most common way to connect to the internet in Cuba.

Public internet hotspots in Cuba are mostly in parks or other gathering spots like the Malecón in Havana. You can check out a complete list of all locations for public wifi in Havana and throughout Cuba on the ETECSA website. You’re also welcome to sit in a hotel lobby or rooftop bar and use Wi-Fi here.

If you find yourself wandering around to suddenly be greeted by dozens of people entranced by their cell phones or laptops, you’ll know you’ve probably stumbled upon a wifi hotspot.

More and more, owners of Airbnbs and guesthouses for rent are purchasing their own wifi equipment and paying for their own wifi networks, as in-home and private wifi access expand across the country. Make sure to check with your accommodation beforehand to inquire about what type of internet access you’ll have where you’re staying.

Cuba Internet Cafes

While some “internet cafes” in Cuba exist, Cuba internet cafes are generally non-existent, and this is not a common way to connect to the internet. Nearly everyone connects their device through wifi at a hotspot or a private network in a home or business.

cuba

Wifi in Havana

Of everywhere in Cuba, Havana is by far the most connected area of the country, and wifi in Havana is the easiest to come by. There are public wifi points across the city, as well as at the many hotels around the city. Private accommodations like apartment rentals or Airbnbs now regularly offer private wifi connections as well. Many neighborhoods in Havana are becoming some of the first in the country to have pilot programs for open internet access.

These are some of the most common or popular internet spots in Havana. Make sure to check out the complete list of locations on the ETECSA website!

  • Plaza del Cristo, in Old Havana near the Capitolio Building
  • Along the Malecón sea wall
  • Next to the Coppelia ice cream shop in Vedado
  • La Rampa – all of Avenida 23 between the Malecón and Coppelia

Cuba Internet Access

To access wifi at public hotspots like internet parks or gathering places, you’ll have to purchase an internet card to connect to the internet – even in spaces like hotel bars and lobbies, you’ll need to purchase an internet card to access the internet.

These Cuba internet cards include a password on the back that you’ll enter on your internet browser, and will give you a certain time in which to use the internet.

If you’re staying at a hotel or private apartment rental that has its own internet network, you’ll have to check with your accommodation regarding how to connect. Some offer unlimited internet cards to guests, others don’t require the use of an internet card at all.

Cuba Wifi Cards

Nauta Cards

You’ll need to buy an internet access card called a NAUTA card to access the internet from any public wifi network. These NAUTA cards include a scratch-off section on the back of each card – these provide users with a numerical code that will allow them to access the internet.

To use Cuban internet, first open any internet browser on your device. Once you open your internet browser, you’ll be taken to a website that will prompt you to enter the code on the back of the NAUTA card. Upon entering the code, you’ll be granted access for the amount of time the card is valid.

After entering the code on the back of the card, you can use the internet through any apps that you might have – but keep reading to see how certain apps are affected by Cuba internet censorship! – rather than being restricted to just using your internet browser.

Once your time is up, pages will no longer load and you’ll need to get another internet card.

havana cuba morro

These Nauta internet cards are available through ETECSA Cuba. ETECSA is Cuba’s state-owned telecommunications company. There are countless ETECSA locations around the island where you can purchase these cards. In addition, plenty of people buy Cuba wifi cards in bulk and resell them for a slight upcharge.

Ask at your casa particular or hotel where you can find the nearest ETECSA store or place to buy Cuba wifi cards and they’ll probably be able to direct you to several options. Make sure to ask for a couple of options (if they’re available), as the ETECSA stores can sometimes have long lines even for simple transactions.

Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, at home or abroad. 

Where to Get Cuba Internet Cards

ETECSA Cuba

Visit any ETECSA Cuba store, and you’ll be able to get one of the Nauta cards that you’ll need to access the internet – there are many in Havana and in major cities throughout Cuba. However, be aware that lines at ETESCA locations can often be long, even for a simple transaction like purchasing an internet card. You may want to purchase several at a time if you plan on using them throughout your trip.

Individuals who buy internet cards and resell them in bulk at corner stores or homes for a small fee are a good bet if the lines at an ETECSA location are long. Ask your casa particular host or at your accommodation if they know of any spots to buy these Cuban internet cards.

Internet in Cuba Hotels

You can also sometimes purchase ETECSA cards from hotels directly. If you want to access wifi from a hotel lobby or bar, just make sure that you purchase your internet ETECSA card from the hotel itself or verify beforehand that you can use an internet card purchased somewhere else in that hotel.

I’ve brought internet cards I’d purchased from ETECSA Cuba locations or in parks into hotels to use the internet and been disappointed to learn that I’d only be able to connect with an internet card purchased from that hotel.

Internet Hotspots or Parks

In my opinion, if the line at ETECSA Cuba is long when you’re trying to buy an internet card, you can’t find one at a hotel, and you can’t find someone who resells them from their corner store, you can generally purchase one at a public wifi hotspot. Once you’re there, you’ll probably have someone come up to you and say “wifi?” and offer to sell you a card. This is quite common!

People always resell internet cards in parks or internet hotspots – just make sure the card you’re buying hasn’t been used (the scratch-off section on the back is still intact). I’ll admit that I’ve purchased internet access cards from internet hotspots like parks many times – you may be paying $0.50 or $1 more for an hour of internet, but it will save you the hassle of having to wait in line for one.

What to Pack for Cuba

Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.

Cuba Internet Censorship

You may be wondering about Cuba internet censorship, and if / how this may impact you when traveling to Cuba. While there is some degree of internet censorship in Cuba, it is almost exclusively limited to political information, especially relating to online publications that have been critical of the Cuban government.

You may have heard that websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google are blocked in China – this is not the case in Cuba. While internet censorship in Cuba does occur and is certainly a concern, it most likely won’t impact the average visitor.

However, you may face certain internet usage restrictions you would not experience elsewhere, though this is not caused by internet censorship in Cuba. Due to the U.S. blockade of the island and sanctions against Cuba’s banking sector, certain websites and internet services aren’t usually accessible to internet users in Cuba.

PayPal, for example, can’t be accessed from Cuba due to U.S. sanctions and the decades-long embargo. Other payment transaction services or banking services are also generally blocked by the United States from being used in Cuba.

To avoid being unable to access certain websites, you can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) while using the internet in Cuba. Using a VPN is extremely simple, and allows you to access the internet as you otherwise do at home. I recommend thinking about getting one before you visit Cuba if you don’t already have one.

Using a VPN in Cuba

Due to restrictions and limitations on internet use and access in Cuba, I highly recommend using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) while in Cuba.

Using a VPN is an important internet safety measure to protect you and your personal data while online, whether you’re using Cuban internet or the internet anywhere. VPNs encrypt your data as you use the internet so that hackers can’t access your information while connecting to public Wi-Fi.

It is very easy for hackers to access others’ data when using a public wifi network, so it is particularly important to use a VPN when connecting to any unfamiliar wifi network… your only option in Cuba!

Not only does a VPN keep your information safe on the internet, but it allows you to set your browsing location to dozens of different countries, allowing you to use the internet as if you were there. This means you’ll have no issues when accessing websites from Cuba! We use a VPN when traveling or at home, and love the benefits and the added layer of security they provide, most especially in Cuba.

I wrote an entire guide to using VPNs in Cuba and the best VPN to use in Cuba, so make sure to check it out if you’re interested in learning more about which VPNs are the best for a trip to Cuba. I personally recommend and love NordVPN, which we’ve used for years, and love for its super fast speed.

Data Roaming in Cuba

It is now possible to use data roaming from international cell phone plans for internet access in Cuba for tourists! This is true even for those traveling from the United States with AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint cell phone service. You may want to check with your cell phone company prior to arriving to verify specifically, but you shouldn’t have an issue.

However, roaming data in Cuba will be slow and costly. I almost shudder to think how expensive it would be, and I don’t recommend relying on it as your sole method of accessing the internet in Cuba.

My recommendation is – both in terms of the internet speed you’ll get and cost-effectiveness – to build a chunk of time into your day to spend connecting to wifi in Cuba via an ETECSA internet card than trying to roam data while out and about.

Cuba SIM Card

Many well-seasoned travelers and digital nomads know that often one of the cheapest ways to stay connected while traveling is to purchase a SIM card from the country you’re visiting and add it to your unlocked cellphone.

While it is now possible for short-term visitors to purchase Cuba SIM card, it still isn’t generally recommended or cost-effective for a short trip.

A few years ago, Cuba began allowing mobile internet access to Cubans by allowing Cuba SIM cards to include data packages. However, SIM cards are expensive (around the equivalent of $40 USD each) and require doing some paperwork. The combination of long lines at ETECSA Cuba stores, the cost, and the paperwork required to get one have never justified it for those simply on short trips.

CubaCel SIM Card

In February 2020, Cuba’s phone carrier, Cubacel, launched a new “Tourist SIM Card” program that fills this mobile accessibility gap for temporary visitors. You can now pre-order a 30-day SIM card with 1GB of data, which you can pick up at the airport in Havana when you arrive. It costs $26, and more data can be added if needed for an additional charge. However, the lifetime of the SIM card can not be extended beyond 30 days.

This is a great new option for those looking for mobile data access while traveling to Cuba. It seems quite expensive to me, honestly – you could probably get by on an hour of internet access at ~$1 per hour per day and for the duration of your trip still probably not spend that much.

However, it’s an exciting new option for those that are interested in having internet access in Cuba on the go. Check out the details on the Cubacel website.

cuba beach

Before You Depart

While it’s easier than ever to get internet access in Cuba, it’s important to remember that in Cuba internet isn’t everywhere like you may be used to. Because of this, I like to prepare as if I’m mostly not going to have wifi and then be pleasantly surprised when you do.

Make sure you download apps you think you might need while in Cuba ahead of time, including any banking apps, mapping apps (Maps.Me!), or anything else you could use. Check out our guide to the Top 10 Apps for Cuba Travel to see the exact apps we use to make Cuba travel easy.

Another favorite recommendation, I also love suggesting that you take a screenshot of things you might need to reference on your trip. In case you can’t access important web pages, you can check back in your photos on your phone to reference important phone numbers, addresses, and more.

Here are some examples:

  • Your homestay or hotel reservation confirmation, address, and phone number details of your host.
  • Flight and transportation details and reservations.
  • Any details of places you’d like to visit on your trip each day. If you have wifi in your accommodations, you can screenshot information about the places you’ll to see that day and how to get there before you head out in the morning.

Whether you have easy access to these details on the internet when you need them later or not, you’ll be happy you have a copy saved for reference.

Does Cuba Have Internet?

Yes – Cuba has internet. It may be harder to access the internet in Cuba than it is in other countries, but Cuba is getting online more and more with each passing day. This is great for travelers and locals alike.

It may no longer be true that you can’t access the internet in Cuba, but I have a challenge for you… go without using the internet as much as you normally do anyways. Seriously, try it! Try going an entire day without finding a public wifi hotspot or checking your email – it’s fantastic.

Try to embrace being disconnected … even if times are changing and it’s easier than ever to connect on your trip! Internet or no internet, one of the things that I have always loved about spending long chunks of time in Cuba is being more disconnected than usual.

It is absolutely astounding the impact you’ll feel almost immediately upon getting “off the grid.” We weren’t made for constant content consumption and constantly being in the know about EVERYTHING – and this is coming to you from someone who literally makes their entire living from behind the screen of a laptop!

I challenge you to take at least a day and not connect to the internet while you’re in Cuba. Don’t read the news, don’t look at texts. I can promise you will not miss anything – you won’t. It might just end up being one of your favorite parts of your travels in Cuba.