The Adventure of Wi-Fi in Cuba

It is better to come to Cuba to disconnect, with everything that the word “disconnect” implies. There is lots to see and enjoy, but it’s true that people also like to check in with work, communicate with relatives, or the most commonly: upload the incredible photos you took this morning at the Malecón.

In some hotels the Wi-Fi is part of the service, and in others, they offer you at least one hour of courtesy Wi-Fi.  However, this is not the norm, and you should expect to use a Nauta internet service card.

Nauta cards include the username and password you will use to get Internet access. To get a Nauta card, you have to go to a Telepunto or an ETECSA office, which is the telecommunications company in Cuba.  You can also get one from someone selling them in parks, cafes, or public spaces where there is wireless network, but generally they cost a little more.

You can also purchase Internet, again for slightly more, in hostels and hotels.  It’s a good idea to keep the official price in mind - 1 CUC for each hour of Internet.  Nauta cards are temporary, and last from 30 minutes to 1 hour to 5 hours. The browsing time is only used up by the time you spend online, meaning you can disconnect and reuse the card later if you only used a few minutes.

Where can you connect? If you are staying in a hotel, the Wi-Fi will most likely be in the lobby. Either way, ask at the front desk because some accommodations have Wi-Fi in the rooms as well.  While a few years ago Internet was not even an option in Cuba, today there are more than 300 Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots are mostly in parks or squares, although some cafes, like in Hotel Colina for example, have Wi-Fi.

You’ll know when you’re at a Wi-Fi hotspot when you see a mass of people talking to a screen, using cell phones, tablets, or laptops. Some people don’t even have front facing cameras and instead face the camera and put a mirror in front of the screen in order to see the other person.  These conversations almost always take place using the free calling app IMO, and almost never by Skype.  “That doesn’t work here!” as any Cuban would say.

But you really need to have patience. Sometimes it is frustrating to type in the username and the code over and over again, and sometimes you think you haven’t even connected yet and you’ve already used half an hour. That’s the Cuban Internet connection: popular, but slow and chaotic, much like the pace of daily life. But there will always be someone who can explain how to get Internet in detail.  It is a good idea to always check if your wireless signal is active, and once you’re in the ETECSA network, verify activating DHCP, disable the use of Proxy, and in the browser, enable cookies.

The Wi-Fi will be just another Cuban adventure, another part of your trip.  Take it in stride and you’ll be fine.