Cuba is inherently one of the most expensive and difficult places to communicate.
In Cuba, internet is provided by the state-owned telecommunications company ETESCA (under the brand name Nauta) and is only available at airports, upscale hotels and government communication centres. Finding a high-end hotel or government communication centre in big cities is actually quite easy, as you will literally see a lot of locals and tourists on the street with their mobile phones and laptops to access WiFi. Note, however, that this system is relatively new and has not yet spread throughout the island. If you visit small, non-touristy towns, don’t expect them to have an internet communication centre.
Buy a prepaid scratch card
Before you can connect to WiFi, you must purchase a prepaid scratch card. The main way to buy a card is through the government communications centre, which is branded ETESCA. The cost of a one-hour scratch card is CUC$2. There is also a 5-hour scratch card for CUC$10. If you want to buy more than one, don’t forget to bring a photo ID as the staff will need to take down your details for this. Be aware that the lines in the middle are quite long and move quite slowly.
You can also buy a Nauta internet card at an upscale hotel. The price of these cards varies from hotel to hotel and can range from cost price (CUC$2) when buying a drink at the bar to over CUC$8. There are also a number of unofficial vendors on the street or in small discreet shops selling the same Nauta internet cards. The prices for these cards are higher than those in the communication centre, but almost all accept CUC$3 after a little haggling.
Connect with WiFi
Once you have purchased the card, simply log into the hotspot, scratch your card to reveal the username and password and enter them into the Nauta login screen (which should appear automatically). If the login screen does not appear automatically (which is common on some phones and laptops), simply type 188.8.131.52 into your browser and the Nauta screen will appear.
If the time has expired, the internet will no longer work and you will have to enter the user name and password for a new card. If, on the other hand, you do not want to use the entire time card, you must log out. To do this, enter 184.108.40.206 in your browser and click on the “Log out” button.
In the evenings, between 8pm and 10pm, the internet tends to be slow as everyone tries to connect.
The country code for Cuba is 53.
The emergency number is 116. The information number is 113.
To use your mobile phone in Cuba, you must have a 900 MHz GSM phone (or a quad-band world phone). If you want to use international roaming, check with your phone company as most providers do not offer roaming in Cuba. You can also buy a SIM card for C$111, plus your prepaid minutes. If you don’t have a 900 MHz phone, you can rent one from various shops in Havana, including the airport. The charges are 9 CUC per day (6 CUC for the phone and 3 CUC for the SIM card), plus about 36 cents per minute for prepaid cards.
If you plan to stay in Cuba for more than two weeks, you can bring a phone, buy a SIM card and prepaid minutes, use it and then give the phone to a Cuban friend when you leave. Mobile phones are one of the most coveted items by Cubans (bring a case for the phone too, they are very fussy about not scratching their phones). You will need to go to a mobile phone shop with your friend and sign a paper to give them the phone. Don’t give your friend an unlimited plan that charges your credit card!
- Granma has a daily edition and an international version.
- Cuba Vision is the national television station.
- RadioReloj, broadcasts news 24 hours a day and tells the time to the minute – dos cuarenta y dos minutos...
- Radio Havana Cuba, multilingual short-wave radio station
- RadioRebelde, another news radio.
- Cuba Holiday News, online news channel, with selected news for people interested in travelling to Cuba.
- Havana Times, photos, news and features from Havana, Cuba.
- Cuba Headlines, Cuba News Headlines. Cuba Daily News, Cuba news, articles and daily information.
- 14ymedio, the first independent digital medium, some articles are also translated into English.
Most radio stations are available live on the internet [www].
If you’re staying in a hotel or casa particular, there’s likely to be a TV, and Cuban TV is a great way to watch Cuba’s unique mix of vibrant culture, sport and controversial politics.
Cuban telenovelas are one of the state’s most important tools to fight sexual taboos and educate young people about AIDS, for example. Locally produced cartoons are the most interesting and typically Cuban. They range from the abstract and artistic to the informative and entertaining.
The most famous representative of this genre is the children’s programme Elpidio Valdés, which tells the adventures of a group of rebels in revolt against the Spanish in the 19th century. The mix of slapstick humour and images of violent revolution (dashing revolutionaries stealing weapons, blowing up Spanish forts and sticking pistols in the mouths of ridiculous Spanish generals) in a programme aimed at children is both delightful and disturbing.
There are courses under the title “Universidad Para Todos” (University for All) whose aim is to teach Cubans subjects such as mathematics and grammar through television. One of the channels is also called “Canal Educativo”, although it uses the term “educational” in the broadest sense, including foreign soap operas and pop concerts.