25 Best Tips for Cuban Travel Now Tip #3 – The Internet


Tip #3 – The Internet? Meh…
Internet – not available widely in Cuba, sorry. Only posh hotels downtown had it available and you can find sites by looking for folks crouched around a building’s perimeter on the street with their cell phones, laptops, etc. In order to use the internet anywhere – you need a scratch off coded internet card from Etesca. Etesca has an office on the main drag (Obispo street) in old town Havana (la habana vieja). You queue in the line (often long) and wait, much like the DMV office in the U.S.A.  Slowly, you are ushered in the building to wait a bit longer on a bench, the ‘tellers’ finally calling you up. You can buy one hour cards to use, your passport is essential, they won’t give you cards without it – it’s $2 CUC an hour (about $2 U.S.) Buy as many cards as you think you’ll want – the lines are long. And yes, Big Brother is watching – remember your passport number is attached to the code you input for internet usage. I was told that Cubans can only get 2 hours at a time, then…back in line.

Bonus Tip: Other Internet options – posh hotels offering internet will sell you cards but it’s $3-5 CUC an hour (but no line)! Sometimes just to get off the street and onto comfy upholstered seating in a quiet setting, I’d go into the nice hotels and sit in their lounge to soak up the A/C and quiet atmosphere while using my internet time. Order a beer and relax and recharge.


Internet in Cuba? Meh…

Etesca Card
Internet usage is fairly new in Cuba, so forget the ease and freedom of wifi in the rest of the world. There are wifi hot spots near big hotels and a few other places. Look for Cubans crouched around the perimeter of a building on their phones and you have it. In all cases, you need to buy a wifi card to use the wifi. This is not an easy task. The Etesca office on Obispo in Havana has a long queue all day long – and you need to bring your passport. Much like an old bank teller window deal, you stand outside and are slowly let in, waiting to buy one hour internet access cards ($2/HR.). Internet cards look like lottery cards, with scratch off passwords or tear off tabs. They will register your passport number when you are issued the cards. A Cuban buddy told me that Cubans can only buy 2 hours at a time and need to stand in line again. (1 hr. +) I’m not sure if the passport registration is to ensure more control over the internet or what, but the Cubans I talked to are sure their usage is monitored and controlled and seemed to think ours might as well. Hard to say – but I certainly kept any outgoing messages on the happy channel. You can also buy them at the upscale hotels much easier, but at probably double the price. 


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