Cell phone & Internet in Cuba
Like many of us you are probably “wired” to your cell phone for everything from simply calls to email to even the internet in Cuba. Unfortunately, your cell phone will not work in Cuba. In fact, no US carriers offer any type of roaming in Cuba. If you have family or friends in Canada then they could get you a Canadian line and phone which will work in Cuba and also provide slow but reasonable data services. One such carrier who offers this type of roaming is Rogers. If you don´t have a Canadian friend then there are two ways for an American to stay in touch in Cuba. The first is to take a cheap cell phone which accommodates GSM communications. All tri-band GSM phones from the US will work in Cuba. Obviously, the phone would need to be liberated (not tied to a specific operator) for it to work. Such phones can be bought on Ebay for almost nothing on Ebay and will make an excellent gift to a Cuban when you leave. With the phone in hand, simply visit any Cubacel office and purchase a line for 40 CUC. This line will then be able to be “topped up” with credit using abundantly available recharge cards sold almost everywhere. Some enterprising Americans have managed to sell the line for half its cost upon departure but, again, this can be gifted to the Cuban of your choice when you leave.
The second (and cheaper) option is to forfeit cell phone usage all together and use either your hotel lobby or casa particular as a message center. You will be unable (in most cases) to call abroad from your casa particular and rates at hotels are around 2 USD per minute. Many who don´t need to be in immediate touch with the States are quite comfortable with this option.
Accessing the Internet in Cuba
First off, forget about home internet in Cuba. Very few Cubans have access to the internet in Cuba and those that do tend to be high ranking staff that only has access during work hours. This rules out using a “friends” connection while on the island. However, like anything which is aggressively controlled by the state, you will sometimes find “resolvers” who can lead you to somewhere that offers open internet connections at somebody’s home. While extremely rare this is becoming more and more available these days.
For those who simply want a sure fire way of getting online & internet in Cuba then Hotels such as Havana´s Parque Central Hotel or any of the Melia Hotels across the island offer both WiFi and fixed business center type PC connections. The going rate for a 30 minute card is 5 CUC. But, don´t expect to achieve anything more than 56K at any of these locations. 56K is the type of connection you had back in the early nineties and something you wished you´d never have to experience again…In Cuba you will and, all the time.
This is a list of Hotels which offer WiFi internet in Cuba
Most other hotels offer the fixed type PC/connection scenario however
Ciudad de La Habana
(Correct as of May 2011)
Dial Up connections seem to be coming on stream but, generally, are not available to tourists. If you have a student visa or are participating in educational studies in Cuba “sometimes” there can be the option of contracting a dial up connection with Cuba´s Enet. Enet Cuba is the company which controls and provides all internet connections in Cuba and is owned by Cuba´s state run/owned Etecsa. Etecsa is a joint venture between Italia Telecom and the Cuban government.
To connect to Cuba´s dial up network you will need a standard modem which allows for automatic speed reduction within the firmware. This sounds complicated but basically most mid 90´s until the present day modems will fit the bill. Try to find one which is V.90 chipset and you´ll be good to go. These can be had on eBay second hand for pennies and buying a second hand one will give you exactly the same speed as a new one. Any Casa Particular will allow you to connect and this will be by far the cheapest route for you. This is because private homes in Cuba pay for phone calls in Cuban pesos at around 5 cents per minute. As there are about 24 Cuban Pesos to 1 USD then this makes the cost to dial the server very cheap. It can work out very very expensive calling dial up from a hotel however as local calls can be anything from 20-30 cents of a dollar per minute. Keep this in mind of your one of the lucky few who can get Dial up connections in Cuba.
Cell phone & Internet in Cuba 101