When traveling abroad one of the first things that come to your mind is how would you let people know you arrived safely. You also have some emails to send and read. And last but not least you might post photos of your trip to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For this, you would need to connect to the internet in Cuba.
When you arrive to Cuba your phone will normally work by (automatically) switching to a Cuban GSM network carrier. You will be available to accept calls and call back home, just be sure to add your country code prefix to the number you are calling. Also, you will be able to receive SMS and MMS messages and even browse the internet – it’s called roaming. Cuba is still in the early days of the digital era, but many casas already have internet websites, are featured on Airbnb and Tripadvisor. But let us see also some alternative ways to stay online in Cuba.
You could just use your phone in Cuba and pay the price to your carrier for roaming. It would be 20 times more expensive than if you would find a local way of connecting to the internet. Roaming is the best for emergency calls and internet access, but there are some more price-friendly methods available in Cuba.
Local SIM card
Yes, you can buy a prepaid SIM card in Cuba and have it for internet browsing. It is normally limited to 200 Mb per month, so after that, you buy another one. The price is about 10 USD per card and it is advisable that you have a dual SIM phone so you can switch easily between carriers.
Connecting to the internet via Wifi networks is one of the fastest and cheapest ways. You should also know that the Wifi signal has only about 100 meters range in outside use, so you always have to be near the access point and not move a lot. in Cuba two WIFI methods are popular:
- Home wifi – is the internet access you can get when staying in a casa particular like Sergio’s house in the Old Havana. In their home usage, they use it for smartphones.
- public wifi spots – you buy a plastic card with a password on it and then you can connect to one of the public WIFI spots. When you will see many local people around one place all looking down into their phones, this is the spot. In the nearby shop, they will sell you the card. that is around 8 USD for 500 Mb. You can connect for 10 minutes and then again the next day, so it will last until you burn all the data you have available on the card.
Satellite internet phone? Do not bring special communication devices to Cuba
This last option is the best regarding reliability and you would get signal everywhere except some underground caves, but it lacks some benefits. It is the most expensive and you need special phone equipment to connect to the satellite internet. One last thing to remind you is the border control. They might temporarily confiscate you the satellite internet equipment since it’s not allowed to bring to Cuba any sort of device that has an antenna or look like they are special connectivity devices.
A friend of mine wanted to bring a WIFI extender to Cuba to have internet signal extended from the casa particular he was staying at to the beach. Border control officers didn’t like the gear so they took the piece from his bag and let him go without it. He was offered to pay 30 USD to get the extender device back on his departure from the same airport.