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Internet in Havana

This $6 card give you 1 hour of Wi-Fi access, where available (hotels, etc)
This $6 card give you 1 hour of Wi-Fi access, where available (hotels, etc)

Wi-Fi in Havana

It is not too hard to find Wi-Fi spots in Havana now (April 2015). Many tourist-oriented hotels have it. You just have to pay for it. I saw lots of tourists using Wi-Fi in the reception area/bar area of the Parque Central hotel in downtown Havana. And also in their downstairs bar.

The Hotel Copacabana in the outlaying Havana suburb of Miramar also offers Wi-Fi.

In both of these locations (and I suspect most others), the price for the card, which you purchase at the reception desk or cashier, was the same -- 6 CUC (about $6) for a card that gives you one hour of internet time. (You can divide this time into any number of sessions of any length, adding up to 60 minutes. The card does have an expiration date on it. But that date was a couple of months away when I bought mine.) You also must use your 60 minutes within 30 days of your first session.

This Cuba internet card is sold by the hotel, but it comes from the state phone/internet company called ETECSA. The card comes with a User code and then also a scratch-off password to go with it. These seem to work just fine for me, on an iPad, an iPod and a Windows laptop PC.

There is one trick to using this Havana internet card -- it an be tricky to log off of your session (which wastes an unknown number of your 60 minutes each time you quit usingn it. -- until it figures out that you must have gone away.) Here is the trick to making sure your account is logged off at the end of a session. You need to have 2 devices handy (such as a laptop and an iPad). You use the internet on whichever device you want. Then, when you are done, you attempt to use the 2nd device (using the same User ID and password.) At that point you will get an error screen that says that User ID is already in use and a button to terminate the session. Now you can click that button and end the billing on your card.)

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Wi-Fi in Havana (continued)


Office of ETECSA, the Cuban phone and internet company
Office of ETECSA, the Cuban phone and internet company

Generally it does not seem to be the case that you must be a guest at a hotel to buy the Cuban state internet card there. However, I was once declined for not being a guest - maybe they indicated that it was because so many people were using the internet that it was going slow and having problems. The receptionist told me the internet was down, even though I saw people in the lobby using it. They then also told me that they were out of internet cards.

Note that the speeds were not great. I did not try streaming anything, but I was able to able to download mail including PDF and Word attachments just fine. Note also that not all of the internet seems to be available. What worked for me was: e-mail (both Gmail and a provate POP3 account); the New York Times iPad app, the Washington Post iPad app. What did not work on the internet in Cuba was: Skype (sorry!); the Wall Street Journal web site; downloading some free iTunes podcasts (news and talk shows). When it does not work, you get a message indicating some error number, which I had never seen in the US.

If you have slow internet connection speeds, you may want to set your mail reader to not load attachments automatically. Then you can select the ones you actually need to see right away. You may also want to set your browser to not download images automatically for the same reason.


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