Is there internet in Cuba? Yes, but it isn’t always easy! Here’s an overview of how to connect to Wi-Fi when you are in Cuba so you can get those vacay pics to Grandma. I realized how much I take being connected for granted on this past trip to Cuba. It’s good to shake up the “always-connected” routine, but still…
Get NAUTA cards when you first get to Cuba
Una tarjeta de NAUTA is a card (it looks like a flimsy credit card) that you purchase. It has two codes that you’ll need to connect to almost all Wi-Fi spots across Cuba including private homes, hotels, restaurants, and public parks.
The NAUTA card – here the usuario (login) and clave (password) are the two numbers you’ll need. I adjusted the image to highlight the relevant numbers. Also, the cards have both English and Spanish instructions.
Because all communications and internet in Cuba are run by the government agency ETECSA and its affiliate NAUTA, using Wi-Fi just about anywhere requires the card. You can buy the card from most hotels and sometimes from folks selling them at public parks for a slight profit.
The cost for a card at the time of our visit, December 2016, was 4 CUCs (about $4 US). That gets you about an hour’s worth of internet connectivity. We were told it was as much as 10 CUCs over a year ago. We typically found the connectivity to be sluggish – but it allowed us to check and send email as well as post a photo from the day’s adventures.
Get a few of these cards when you first find them – busier hotels are known to run out. For example, one afternoon while exploring Vieja Havana, we had to visit four hotels before we found one with any cards – a cruise ship had landed that morning and tourists had quickly bought them all up.
How to use the NAUTA card
- After getting the card, scratch to reveal two long number codes on the back – “login” and “password” numbers.
- With your phone or laptop Wi-Fi settings, find the Wi-Fi connection you want to join (likely named “ETECSA” in the public parks) and connect to it.
- Go to your device’s browser (e.g., Safari or Chrome) and you should be taken straight to a page to enter both codes. If you are not prompted to enter both codes, try going to http://220.127.116.11 in your browser where you should be prompted to enter both codes.
- If your time runs out, you’ll need to go back to the browser page to enter new codes from a fresh card. When you are done posting to Facebook or sending emails, go back to your browser and make sure to sign out before putting your phone back in your pocket or else your time on the card may run out and your card will be empty the next time you try to use it. Typically, we were able to sign out by going to http://18.104.22.168 in the browser and then clicking a sign out button.
- Know that it may not work exactly as planned. You may get kicked out unexpectedly and have to sign in again. You may not be able to sign out. That’s ok. You’re living la vida cubana!
You will likely need the cards when connecting to WiFi at your hostel or casa particular.
Even at our fancy hotel in Las Terrazas, we needed the NAUTA card to post the day’s zip-lining adventure.
Across our two-week stay in Cuba, there were only two places where we did not need the card. The first was at the Kcho Art center in Havana where Google is sponsoring internet for education – as a visitor, we were able to just join the Wi-Fi and connect without a NAUTA card. The second location was a fancy restaurant in Trinidad where the waiter gave a simple password to connect to their Wi-Fi and we were connected directly to the internet. Hopefully both experiences are a sign of making it easier for folks to connect to the internet.
Locals outside of the Kcho art center in Havana, taking advantage of the center’s free Wi-Fi
I realized how much I take always being connected for granted when we were in Cuba.
Connecting to the internet in Cuba using the cell network
You might be able to use the cell network and your carrier’s international data plan to connect to the internet, however, we couldn’t get it to work (this was December 2016 using T-Mobile). Check with your phone carrier before you go to see if that’s an option.
- Swing by any hotel when you get to Cuba in order to buy several tarjetas de NAUTA (depending on how much time you expect to be on the internet). That way you’ll have them when you need them. Try the front desk or concierge and say Hay tarjetas de Nauta, por favor? (Are there any NAUTA cards, please?).
- Be on the look-out for public park enabled Wi-Fi spots – you’ll know by all the faces looking down at phones. (See our previous post on how to spot Wi-Fi in Cuba).
- Check with your mobile carrier before you go, whether you can use your cellular data connection (when there is no Wi-Fi) to get to the internet and if so, how much it costs.