This article was updated October 2016.
Traveling to Cuba from the United States has gotten a lot easier in the last year, but staying connected while you are there requires some planning.
Last year, Sprint and Verizon started offering roaming services for their customers traveling to Cuba. It’s not cheap but it offers access if you need it.
Here’s what it costs as of February 2016.
RELATED: Public WiFi Locations in Cuba
As of December 2016:
Verizon: $2.99 per minute for phone calls and $2.05 per megabyte of data.
Sprint: $2.49 a minute and $1.99 per megabyte of data. Check out Sprint’s Cuba 20 Plus offering.
T-Mobile and AT&T don’t offer roaming on the island. AT&T and T-Mobile now offer roaming in Cuba.
Sprint does not support WiFi Calling from Cuba.
Travelers are encouraged to check with their carrier to see if their phone has international capabilities and to enable international roaming. iPhones work in Cuba.
Europeans have a much better time connecting in Cuba as most of the large mobile phone companies (such as Vodaphone) have roaming agreements in place.
Additionally, there are some specialized mobile phone companies that provide travel phones for Cuba and other countries. Before you leave for Cuba, you can rent a compatible mobile phone from companies such as Cellular Abroad (offered by National Geographic), Cello Mobile, or Mobal for use in Cuba. In addition to daily rental fees, you should expect to pay approximately US$3 per minute of call time and up to US$1.50 per outgoing text message. Depending on the type of phone rented, data may also be available at an additional cost.
Another way you can use your U.S. mobile phone in Cuba is to rent a SIM card. If you have an unlocked GSM-capable mobile phone, you can rent a SIM card from Cubacel (ETECSA’s mobile phone arm) that will allow you to use your mobile phone in Cuba. Cubatel’s SIM cards come with pre-paid minutes in amounts of 10, 20, or 40 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC$) (US$10, $20, or $40), plus a daily rental fee for the SIM card of CUC$3 (US$3). The per-minute call charges and texting fees for renting a mobile phone (as listed below) also apply to renting a SIM card. Contact your wireless provider to check whether your mobile phone operates on the compatible standard and request that your carrier unlock your mobile phone.
Can I rent a mobile phone in Cuba to use in Cuba?
Yes. An alternative to using your mobile phone or purchasing a SIM card in the United States is to rent a phone upon arrival in Cuba. Once you arrive in Cuba, you can rent a mobile phone from Cubacel. There are Cubacel offices in Terminals #2 and #3 at José Martí International Airport in Havana. Cubacel charges a one-time refundable deposit of CUC$100 (US$100), plus a daily fee of CUC$10 (US$10). Additionally, you should expect to pay all of the applicable per-minute call charges – approximately CUC$0.35 (US$0.35) per minute for calls within Cuba and CUC$1.85 (US$1.85) per minute for calls to the United States. Outgoing text messages cost CUC$0.16 (US$0.16) to send within Cuba and CUC$1 (US$1.00) to send abroad, and data are not available.
Can I access the Internet in Cuba?
In larger cities like Havana and Santiago de Cuba, ETECSA runs an increasing number of telepuntos, or small Internet cafés. You can purchase an access ticket at the telepuntos that will provide you with a username and password, allowing you to log on to the public computers and use the Internet by the minute or the hour. Internet access costs approximately CUC$2 (US$2) per hour. Connection speeds vary widely and may not support voice or video calls.
Many of the larger hotels also have either a computer or business center where you can purchase Internet access at an average price of CUC$4 to $8 (US$4 to$8) per hour. You should check Internet availability and charges at your intended hotel before booking and travel.
Our favorite place to use Internet is the Hotel Nacional. You do not have to be a guest to use their Internet on the veranda or in the lobby.
Is there WiFi in Cuba?
More than 50 major hotels and resorts across Cuba offer WiFi, with hourly rates varying from CUC$2 to $10 (US$2 to $10). Be sure to contact your hotel to verify availability, speed, and cost in advance of travel.
As of January 2016, ETECSA also offers 65 public WiFi hotspots. Some travel websites provide lists of WiFi hotspot locations. WiFi access costs US$2 per hour. Like at the telepuntos, you need to purchase an access ticket from ETECSA before you can log on to the WiFi network.
Can I tether my computer to my roaming phone for Internet use?
The Cuba Journal has successfully used this method in Cuba. We used an iPhone 6S. Rates were very high but the speed was fast due.