How to use Wi-Fi in Cuba
In 2015 Cuba started rolling out Wi-Fi zones. They are still at it, and every city has at least one.
Simple Wi-Fi access
The principle is simple. You find yourself a Wi-Fi zone by looking at the people. If they are browsing or talking with their device, they are online and thus in a Wi-Fi zone.
You connect your device by logging in using a scratch card from Etecsa (Cuban telecom monopolist).
And that’s it… You would think… Nope, think again.
Wi-Fi in real life
Wi-Fi scratch cards
So you need a scratch card, to begin with. They sell them at the Etecsa shop, and waiting lines are impressive. Once inside (make sure you stand in the right cue) you will find the cards sold our 80% of the time, due to the Cuban Black market principle. (More about that in our book.) Officially Etecsa sells the cards for 1,50 CUC, and that gives you 1 hour of Wi-Fi Internet. In reality, they sell the cards for 2 to the street dealers, who in their turn sell them on the streets for 3.
Update Nov 2017: Etecsa lowered the price of the internet to $1 per hour. Prices of cards on the street went down imediatly to $2.
So don’t wait in line and just buy them on the street. The vendors hang around in the Wi-Fi zones and will approach you… Pay 2 CUC, that’s the price. Everybody has to make a living.
Scratch the card
You will see two large numbers. One for the user name and the other one is the password. (In that order). Connect your device with the Wi-Fi-Etecsa network and the login screen will appear. (More about the other networks that appear later in this article). Fill in the user and password, and you are online! Well eh…
Your device will refuse to connect because you are trying to access an insecure network. (And it is insecure! You are being monitored.) If you select ‘connect anyway’ things get interesting. You should switch off all security settings and accept and ignore all warnings. Your device will help you to do so… Switch them all off! Probably that still is not enough!
This is because the time on your device does not match the network time. Switch automatic time setting off and put the right time manually. Now you are online! Enjoy.
If you observe the people in the Wi-Fi zones, you will see guys (and sometimes a girl) sitting there with laptops equipped with a little Wi-Fi antenna. Those are the Internet dealers. They will connect you for half the price. 0,5 CUC per hour. They just create a network and you are connected to their account.
The best thing about these dealers is that they will set up your device so that it can connect to their private network. Don’t worry they all are IT professionals, probably better than the IT guys at your work. You don’t have to buy a card; you don’t have to break all kinds of security settings. Great!
You don’t have to find a scratch card; you don’t have to enter long numbers (in which you always make a mistake) or play with your settings.
The drawback is that the dealers share their connection with as many people as possible. That’s their business. Connect at 1 CUC/hour and sell 6 connections at 0,50… make 2 :-).
Video chatting, watching Facebook clips or going on YouTube is a problem due to the band with. Mail will do fine!
Some Samsung phones just don’t want to connect with their original operating system. They just can’t find the WiFi. Update your phone before you go and you should have no problem.
Want even slower but cheaper Internet? There’s even a FREE Wi-Fi zone in Havana! (It’s not for you)…
Try ‘No Wi-Fi’
Cuba is one of the last places on earth that is not Internet dominated. Go off line for a while. People back home will understand that when you’re in Cuba, the Internet is a difficult thing. They will forgive you for not liking their new profile picture within an hour!
Go cold turkey for a few weeks! You will find it relaxing after a while!
On this page, we’ll try to sell you our book (you should read it, by the way, it will add a dimension to your stay in Cuba) and give you a relaxing tip that will save you a few hours on the airport…
You will run into the jineteros (and if you don’t know what that are you’re not ready to go to Cuba yet.) We don’t agree with most main stream sources and we think you should handle them this way: How to deal with jineteros?