Kim, Lucas and I recently got back from our final trip of 2015 to Cuba.
Cuba has long been a country that I’ve wanted to visit and it was exciting from the moment the plane touched down. (That might also be due to the fact that we flew on Air China’s inaugural flight from Montreal to Havana!)
You might also be interested in finding out 14 Things We Learned From Visiting Cuba.
It was also nice to disconnect from the online world for a bit. I didn’t get on the internet or even attempt to until the last few days of our trip. Not having internet allowed me to catch up on sleep and finish off a book in no time!
What if you plan to visit Cuba and want to get online? I’ll tell you how to use WiFi in Cuba. (Or at least the way that I did.)
Back in June, I wrote about how Cuba was getting WiFi hotspots around the island.
Like I mentioned above, I didn’t think much about getting online for the first few days of our trip. Then, on New Year’s Eve, we were having dinner at a small restaurant in Trinidad. Another traveler started chatting with us and ended up also being from the states, living not so far from where we live.
He mentioned something about wi-fi and said that a street close by had a connection. I pretty much shrugged it off since it was getting late and we were also leaving the following morning for our next destination, Cienfuegos.
After driving a little over an hour, our driver found our casa particular and we went inside. The family was very nice and the woman running the business, Dileys, happened to speak excellent english.
After chatting a bit, she mentioned that there was wi-fi on her whole street but that it did not work in the home. I jokingly asked if it was free and she smiled and explained how it works.
Here is how you can connect to Cuba’s Public WiFi:
To get online with public wi-fi, you’ll first need to buy a card which has a code and password to connect. The cost to connect is 2 CUC ($2) per hour. Cards come in one hour and 5 hour increments.
Our host Dileys mentioned how it was very had to find the cards for sale at the regular price. We were told that at the local park, a couple of minutes away or in the main square, people sell the internet cards for 3 CUC!
Basically, locals are snatching up the WiFi cards at cost and making a business for themselves by reselling them. I’d consider them something like ticket scalpers for WiFi not a game or concert!
While walking past the park we saw lots of people on their phones, tablets and even laptops. We then headed to main square, Plaza Jose Marti.
In one section of the square and on the main shopping street close by, it seemed like everyone was there to connect to the internet. Smartphones, tablets and laptops were out. Many people were making calls, I’m guessing through Skype.
It was pretty funny. I guess you could say that in Cuba, the park is the internet cafe.
Within minutes, we were offered to buy an internet code but we decided to wander around a bit before making a purchase. It was pretty easy to tell who the dealers were.
Later on I purchased a card so that I could check my e-mail and share a few photos from our trip.
How to activate your account:
This was actually a bit annoying. Connecting to the internet entailed putting in a lengthy login and password. We’re talking 12 digits for each!
- The internet connection seemed to work pretty well and fast. All I did was check some e-mail, check Twitter for a few minutes and upload a few photos to Instagram.
- The code could be used for a few minutes at a time. For example: I could use WiFi for 15 minutes in Cienfuegos and then save the rest of the time for the following day in Havana.
- Each time you want to connect you need to enter the login and password.
- WiFi connections can only be found in a limited amount of locations and from what I understand, all are outdoors.
Purchasing the WiFi card:
Like I mentioned above, your best bet is to pay a little extra and buy the codes from one of the scalpers. A one hour card is going to cost 3 CUC ($3) from them.
While in Havana I decided to ask around at a bunch of different stores to see if I could find a card for cost. I checked at supermarkets, small convenience-style shops and more. I struck out at all of them.
I then asked the security guard outside of a telecom store. I think it was a place to pay the phone bill, maybe buy a new phone etc… I was told that they only carried the 5 hour card which cost 10 CUC ($10).
If we weren’t flying home the following day I would’ve bought one of the cards but I wasn’t about to sit outside for 5 hours playing online!
Overall, I have to say that I was impressed by the public WiFi service in Cuba. However, it would be nice to see it working indoors in the near future.
I also thought it was really funny to see how busy some blocks were with people sitting around, glued to their phones and tablets.
At times I even noticed that people had laptops sitting out but not being used. The reason for this- you could pay them just 1 CUC ($1) per hour to use the internet on their computer.
Look at the industry public WiFi is creating in Cuba!