Internet in Cuba

Published 6 years ago, updated 5 years ago

This report was published on the Facebook Group: Cuba, Land & Sea

By Addison Chan

The internet in Cuba is still in its infancy, but as a result of a government initiative that was started over a year ago, the number of publicly available access points is increasing by the month. See The ETECSA website for the current list.

Here are a few pointers about using the internet that will make your surfing experience more pleasant.

1. Bandwidth is still limited. The published spec for public wifi access is 1.0 Mbps. Often the speed is better, but when the access point is loaded down, performance deteriorates quickly. In the world of fibre to the home, the speed seems slow but it is perfectly functional for most tasks except heavy uploads and downloads. Even Skype and Facetime audio works. (See point 2 below)

If you find that sites are slow to load you should log off and wait. Since you buy internet in Cuba based on time instead of the amount of data transfer, struggling with a slow connection just means getting less for your money.

2. Many US-based web sites such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Skype, iTunes, Appstore etc. and many banks block access from Cuba. You will need to have a VPN client such as Tunnelbear to access these and similar type sites from Cuba. To minimize the hassle, you should have your VPN clients on your devices before you eat Cuba, especially if you are using IOS devices.

3. One thing to note if you are using online travel services to book travel while you are in Cuba, you will have difficulty completing the transaction because your payment will be rejected if you are accessing via VPN. If you are not using VPN then your payment may still be rejected because it will be originating from a Cuban IP address. Paypal seems to be OK provided you are paying non-Cuban vendors.

4. The fee for internet access is $ 1.00 CUC per hour (as of Aug 1, 2018) and the service is provided by ETECSA the Cuban telephone company. You will need to purchase internet access cards before you can access the internet.

Cards are available in 1 hour and 5-hour denominations and are priced at $ 1 and 5 CUC respectively. We do not recommend buying the 5-hour cards unless you are planning on a longer session online. The reason is that the logout process, especially over wifi is fragile. Often a card which I believe has been several minutes left will be rejected as “no available balance” because the log out procedure was incomplete and the clock kept running.

5. You will get many security warnings from your browser when you try to log on to the internet. Some will be related to invalid or unverifiable security certificates and others will refer to pop up windows. The reasons for these warnings are too complicated for the purpose of this discussion, but if you do not accept the warnings and proceed, your device will prevent you from logging on. For convenience, I have loaded the invalid certificates on my device and I have allowed pop-ups for the time being.

6. Keep this IP address handy It is undocumented or rather poorly documented a way to sign off the internet. When you are done with your internet session and you do not already have a sign out screen in a pop-up window, enter the above address into your browser and allow an unsecured window to open. When the window opens click on the button that reads “Close Session” you should get a message that says you have signed out. If you do not get the message you may have to repeat the previous steps. If you do not get the “disconnected” message you may still want to try opening another web page just to be sure. I have received the message only to find that my session was still active and my time was still running. Just keep disconnecting until you are unable to open an additional web page… It’s Cuba!

7. We are in Cuba for extended periods so it is necessary to log into our bank accounts periodically to pay bills and to obtain funds. We have accepted the fact that it is not worth the risk, but we have decided that it is worth the risk. If you are more cautious, avoid doing financial and other secure transactions while you are in Cuba.

8. Keep a few extra internet cards on hand. Once you get away from Havana they are more difficult to find. In Cienfuegos last month the local entrepreneurs had bought all of the stocks and they were reselling them on the street corner for $ 3-5 / hr, a big premium. They are easily sold if you find that you are ready to leave. They also make nice gifts for just about anybody, cruiser or Cuban alike.

9. If you are in Marina Hemingway the current SSID is “wifi_Acuario2”. If you see one that reads Marina Hemingway, notes that this is currently used internally by the marina and is not available for public use. Also access from your boat in most of the slips in the marina will require some type of booster antenna for a reliable connection. If you do not have a booster, the lobby of the Hotel Acuario, which is also the place to buy internet cards, is a pleasant place to sit.

10. Keep smiling when it does not work. It’s only the internet!

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