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Best Prepaid SIM Card in Cuba: Buying Guide

Cuba – known for its cigars, rum & music.

The country itself is also known for its incredible beaches, colorful houses & classic (read: old) American cards.

So, what to do in Cuba?

Of course, you should explore Havana, especially the Malecon esplanade.

You can also get world-famous mojitos from La Bodeguita Del Medio.

Or you can just get sunburnt enjoy your time on the many beaches throughout Cuba.

Being bored in Cuba? No way!

But before you post your amazing Cuba-related photos online, be aware that international roaming can be expensive.

That is why local SIM cards are recommended so that you can enjoy local rates – much cheaper than international roaming.

So, how much do Cuban SIM cards cost?

You can get a Cubacel SIM card for 1000 CUP (41.70 USD) in ETECSA stores. You can also rent SIM cards for 75 CUP a day (mimumum of 3 days, 225 CUP + 250 CUP recharge = 475 CUP (19.80 USD)). Havana-José Martí International Airport has SIM cards too, including the Cubacel Tur tourist SIM card for 25 USD.

The Cubacel Tur tourist SIM card includes 2.5 GB of data, 20 local minutes & 20 local SMS – it may be better to get that SIM card instead of a regular (expensive) SIM card.

But that is just the SIM card price – there is much more to know.

In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Cuba. Let's do this.

Buying a SIM Card in Cuba Guide (logo of Cubacel by ETECSA)

Original publication: 14th of November 2021. Last updated: 14th of November 2021.

Table of Contents

Can You Buy a SIM Card in Cuba?

You can buy a Cuban SIM card from Cubacel by ETESCA as a tourist if you are 18 years old or older. There is nothing preventing travelers from buying a SIM card in Cuba.

You do have to comply with the SIM card registration regulations, which also means you can have up to 3 active SIM cards.

Moreover, our phone has to support the frequencies used in Cuba.

Finally, your phone needs to be unlocked (SIM-lock free) to use a Cuban SIM card.

Where Can You Buy a SIM Card in Cuba?

You can get a Cuban SIM card in ETESCA stores. SIM cards are also available at Havana-José Martí International Airport .

You can expect to pay the following for Cuban SIM cards:

  • Cubacel by ETECSA: 1000 CUP or 75 CUP a day + 250 CUP recharge

The following mobile operators also have SIM cards targeting tourists:

  • Cubacel by ETECSA: 25 USD (Cubacel Tur)
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Can You Use Your Phone in Cuba?

Cuba uses GSM technology for mobile communications. CDMA phones will not work in Cuba. If your phone has a SIM card slot, then it supports GSMA (99% of the phones do support GSM nowadays).

Traditional European frequencies are used in Cuba, which are mostly used in ITU Regions 1 and 3 (Africa, Asia (including the Middle East), Europe & Oceania).

The Americas (North-, Central– & South America + the Caribbean – ITU Region 2) use American Frequencies, which differ from the European ones.

ITU Regions Map
By Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – Own work, using this file by Denelson83, CC BY-SA 2.5

If you bought your phone in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania (ITU regions 1 and 3), you should not experience any issues with using your phone in Cuba.

If you purchased your phone in the Americas (ITU Region 2) and have a low/medium-end device (without Tri-Band or Quad-Band) support, then there is a possibility you cannot use your phone when in Cuba or can only use slower networks (3G or 2G).

If you have a medium/high-end device with Tri-Band or Quad-Band support, you can use your phone in Cuba (to some extent) – also on 4G/LTE.

Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in Cuba

Cuba has only one mobile network operator:

  • Cubacel by ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba)

The following frequencies are used in Cuba:

  • 2G: 900 MHz
  • 3G: 900 MHz & 2100 MHz
  • 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)

You can learn more about frequencies in the video below.

To check whether your phone will work in Cuba, check out this page by Will My Phone Work (may be outdated or inaccurate at times).

Again, make sure your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, you will not be able to use any SIM card except the one from your home operator (meaning you have to roam internationally or buy another unlocked phone that does support the frequencies listed above).

If you want to learn how international roaming works, this guide explains it in-depth. If you wonder why it is often so expensive to roam, this article explains the hidden reason they do not want you to know.

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5G NR in Cuba

5G NR is not available in Cuba as of 2021, and the Cuban government has not made any indications of when it will auction 5G licenses.

Best SIM Card in Cuba

If you want to buy the best SIM card in Cuba, then Cubacel by ETECSA is your only option. It is currently the only mobile operator in Cuba.

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SIM Card Registration in Cuba

SIM card registration, with the use of your passport information, is mandatory in Cuba. This will be done at the point of sale.

Moreover, you can have up to three active prepaid SIM cards in Cuba.

Cuba Mobile Speeds, Mobile Internet Prices & Insights

Flag of Cuba

Traveling and living in the Caribbean is not cheap.

Yet, it is still a popular region for travelers.

That is why every method to save some cash is appreciated.

Somewhat unfortunately, the cost of mobile data is not the cheapest in Cuba.

The average price for 1 GB of data in Cuba is 7.50 USD, much more than the Caribbean average of 4.44 USD. The world average is 4.07 USD.

Luckily, the costs have decreased significantly compared to 2020. Hopefully, that trend will continue.

Cuba has never been known for its fixed broadband speeds, as it is one of the slowest in the world (currently the slowest of the reported countries).

But with the introduction of mobile data (3G) in 2018 and 4G/LTE in 2019, mobile data speeds have instantly surpassed broadband data speeds.

So, how fast is it?

Cuba's average mobile download speed is around 25 Mbps, less than half the global average.

While this does not sound impressive, do not forget that Cuba has not had mobile data for a long time.

Many other countries with 4G/LTE for years still have much slower data speeds than Cuba.

So the country is doing just fine.

But, coverage is not as widespread yet. 3G reception can mostly be found in urban areas.

4G/LTE is mainly available in cities like Havana.

With expensive SIM cards, fair nationwide coverage, decent mobile download speeds, and high mobile data rates, you should have a fair network experience in Cuba.

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Currency in Cuba

200 Cuban Peso Bank Note

Cuba uses the Cuban Peso with the symbol CUP (which will be used throughout this article).

The Cuban Convertible Peso (Peso Cubano Convertible), also known as CUC($), is no more since January 2021.

Prices in CUP are often listed as $, $MN or ₱. For example, 25 CUP = $/$MN/₱ 25.

For reference, below are some exchange rates between CUP and USD (US Dollars):

  • 1 CUP = 0.04 USD
  • 10 CUP = 0.40 USD
  • 100 CUP = 4.20 USD
  • 1000 CUP = 41.70 USD

For up-to-date CUP:USD exchange rates, search CUP to USD on Google, or replace USD with the currency you use.

If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Wise Borderless Account and Debit Card.

Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Wise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks).

I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Euros, my main currency, when using Wise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards. Open a Wise account FREE!

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Cuban Prepaid SIM Cards

Below, I will guide you through Cubacel by ETECSA and go through:

  • Background information
  • Mobile coverage
  • SIM card types, prices, and availability
  • Recharge/top-up information
  • Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs)

With that being said, let’s see what Cuba to offer to us.

Cubacel by ETECSA

Cubacel Cuba Logo
© Cubacel

Cubacel by ETECSA, standing for Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, is the only mobile operator in Cuba.

ETESCA Cuba Logo

Somewhere in the last century, ETECSA did not exist, and Cuba was home to 14 (tele)communications companies.

From 1994, the number of telecommunications companies went down from 14 to two to one.

It took until 2018 before Cubacel started offering 3G services. 4G/LTE was launched in 2019.

Cubacel by ETECSA uses the following frequencies:

  • 2G: 900 MHz
  • 3G: 900 MHz & 2100 MHz
  • 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)

This is what you will learn about Cubacel by ETECSA:

* Coverage
* How to Get a Cubacel SIM Card & SIM Card Price
* Topping Up Options & Methods + Balance Check
* Plans & Packages
* APN/Internet Settings

Coverage – Cubacel by ETECSA

Cubacel has decent coverage throughout Cuba.

You should be aware that 3G was only launched in 2018.

This made Cuba one of the last countries to offer mobile data services.

Below is Cubacel's coverage map. Do note that this map is more optimistic than Cubacel's actual coverage:

SIM Card Price – Cubacel by ETECSA

You can buy a Cubacel SIM card for 1000 CUP with 250 CUP credit in ETECSA stores and Havana-José Martí International Airport. You can also rent a SIM card for 75 CUP a day (with a minimum of 3 days/225 CUP + a mandatory 250 CUP top-up).

Short-term visitors and tourists can also get the Cubacel Tur SIM card – Cubacel's tourist SIM card.

ETESCA Cuba Cubacel SIM Card
© Cubacel by ETECSA

For 25 USD, you get 2.5 GB of data, 20 local minutes & 20 local SMS for 30 days.

PriceDataLocal MinutesLocal SMSValidity
25 USD2.5 GB20 minutes20 SMS30 days
ETESCA Cuba Cubatel Tur Tourist SIM Card Benefits
© Cubacel by ETECSA

This SIM card can be purchased at Havana-José Martí International Airport (Terminal 3) or ordered and be delivered abroad from various resellers.

You may have to dial *666 to activate the SIM card.

Unlike regular Cubacel SIM cards, the Cubacel Tur SIM card cannot be extended, not even when purchasing Paquetes Adicionales.

Cubacel SIM cards get deactivated if there has been no activity for 360 days (no top-up for 360 days or no activity for 360 days).

However, your SIM card will enter the suspended state after 330 days of no activity.

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Top-Up, Recharge & Balance Check – Cubacel by ETECSA

Cubacel top-up vouchers are sold in ETECSA stores, grocery stores, corner shops & electronics shops throughout Cuba.

The following top-up options are available:

  • 120 CUP
  • 250 CUP
  • 500 CUP

To top up your Cubacel SIM card, you would dial *666 and follow the instructions.

You can also tell the salesperson how much credit you want, your phone number, pay, and they will top up your SIM card with the POS system.

While recharging online is possible, it all has to be done through third parties that charge a hefty premium for this privilege.

Dial *662# or *662*# to check your Cubacel balance.

Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers- Cubacel by ETECSA

Cubacel has four data-featured plans:

Click on the links above to jump to the plan you are interested in.

Planes Combinados (Combo Plans) – Cubacel by ETECSA

The Planes Combinados (Combo Plans) are, as the name suggests, combo bundles with data, minutes & SMS.

Planes Combinados can be activated by dialing *133#, selecting option 1, and selecting option 5:

PricePlan3G Data4G/LTE DataLocal MinutesLocal SMSValidity
125 CUPBásico600 MB800 MB15 minutes20 SMS30 days
250 CUPMedio1.5 GB2 GB35 minutes40 SMS30 days
500 CUPExtra3.5 GB4.5 GB75 minutes80 SMS30 days
ETECSA Cuba Planes Combinados Combo Plans
Bolsas (Bags) – Cubacel by ETECSA

The Bolsas, Bolsa Correo & Bolsa Diaria LTE, are data-only plans.

Bolsa Correo can be activated by dialing *133#, selecting option 1, and selecting option 2 & Bolsa Diaria LTE can be activated by dialing *133#, selecting option 1, and selecting option 3:

PricePlanDataValidityActivation Code
25 CUPBolsa Correo50 MB30 days*133# – 1 – 2
25 CUPBolsa Diaria LTE200 MB24 hours*133# – 1 – 3
Paquetes LTE (LTE Packages) – Cubacel by ETECSA

The Paquetes LTE (LTE Packages) are data-only plans.

Paquetes LTE can be activated by dialing *133#, select option 1, and select option 4:

100 CUP1 GB30 days
200 CUP2.5 GB30 days
950 CUP16 GB 130 days

1 4 GB for 3G & 4G/LTE and 12 GB for 4G/LTE only

ETECSA Cuba Paquetes LTE Packages
Cubacel Tur Paquetes Adicionales (Additional Packages for Cubacel Tur) – Cubacel by ETECSA

The Cubacel Tur Paquetes Adicionales (Cubacel Tur Additional Packages) are data plans for the Cubacel Tur SIM card.

Be aware that these Cubacel Tur Paquetes Adicionales do not extend the validity of your Cubacel Tur SIM card of 30 days.

These Cubacel Tur Paquetes Adicionales are available:

10 USD2 GBUntil SIM card expires
20 USD5 GBUntil SIM card expires
30 USD8.5 GBUntil SIM card expires
40 USD12 GBUntil SIM card expires

APN/Internet Settings – Cubacel by ETECSA

  • Name: nautu
  • APN: nautu

Note: leave anything not mentioned above untouched.

Jump back to the Table of Contents.

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Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Cuba

I would highly encourage anyone visiting Cuba to get themselves a Cuban SIM card – you will be saving a lot of money when you do so.

However, for some, getting a Cuban SIM card is not an option.

For example, your device may be SIM-locked, meaning that you cannot use any other SIM card other than the SIM card provided by your operator.

There are other ways to stay online while in Cuba, but they may not be cheap.

However, these methods may be more expensive than getting a SIM card from the local mobile operators.

International Roaming

International roaming is the most convenient way to stay connected when traveling in other countries because you do not have to buy a new SIM card, have to deal with SIM card registration regulations, nor have multiple phone numbers to deal with.

However, international roaming has proven to be expensive in many cases, especially compared to buying local SIM cards. That is why many travelers are not fond of international roaming.

Find out whether your mobile operator has attractive roaming rates for Cuba here.

Using an International SIM Card or Travel SIM Card

International SIM cards are SIM cards made for the traveler in mind.

Using them is often cheaper than international roaming.

However, they are almost always more expensive than using a local SIM card.

There are many other advantages and disadvantages of getting international SIM cards, which you can learn about here.

Using a Mobile Hotspot (Pocket WIFI)

Mobile hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are small devices that connect to the local operators of the country you are visiting.

Mobile hotspots are ideal for families or those traveling in a large group, as they allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without the need of each traveler having to buy a SIM card.

You can either buy a mobile hotspot or rent one.

Using Free WIFI Networks

Using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to stay connected because they are free.

The major downside of trying to use WIFI hotspots is that you will have to locate them, and they are not available on every corner in Cuba.

Make sure to protect your internet traffic with a VPN so that hackers cannot steal your personal data.

The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Cuba

Getting a SIM card from Cubacel by ETECSA would be your only option when considering a Cuban SIM card.

Local Prepaid SIM Cards in Other Caribbean Countries

Visiting other countries in the Caribbean? Check out my Caribbean SIM card buying guide, covering other Caribbean nations, such as:

Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences

Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:

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Your support helps me keep producing impartial content by eliminating the need to recommend international SIM cards as the best local SIM card (but some of them CAN be useful)

Every Ko-Fi donation, one-time or monthly, helps me to spend more time creating local SIM card buying guides.

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Check Out My Resource Page

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my travel resources page for the best companies to use when you travel!

Save money with international SIM cards, on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation.

Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!

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In my starting an online business guide, I tell you which tools, services, and products I have for this site and my YouTube channel.

If I can start a business about something I am passionate about (phone travel), then you can do it too!

Learn About Your Phone Travel Options

You can buy local prepaid SIM cardsinternational SIM cardsmobile hotspots, or roam internationally.

Each of these options has its pros and cons. Learn more about them, and find the best option for you.

Phone Travel Tips, Tricks & Hacks

I have written many articles with tips and hacks to save money on mobile costs while abroad. You surely want to check them out!

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