In Cuba, simply getting Internet access can be a complex task that you need to prepare for. But, things get more complicated once you’re online, with some websites being blocked. Luckily a VPN for Cuba can help and in this guide we show you the best ones to use.
The best VPNs for Cuba at a glance
- ExpressVPN – The best VPN for Cuba. It has lightning fast connections and fully featured apps for all devices including Android and iOS.
- Surfshark – The cheapest VPN for Cuba on our list. For just $1.99 you get solid speeds, plus two obfuscation modes to defeat censorship.
- VyprVPN – A great all-round VPN for Cuba. Its Chameleon tech makes it a powerhouse of defeating online censorship.
- IPVanish – A fast VPN for Cuba. It’s easy to use with apps for all platforms, including Android and iOS.
- PrivateVPN – An easy to use service with apps for all platforms and servers in over 60 countries.
Before we recommend any VPN in this guide, we first make sure that they offer:
- Fast servers located all over the world
- Well implemented encryption
- Privacy and security features
- Good value for money
Now you know what we’re looking for, let’s take a closer look at our top VPN picks for Cuba.
The Best VPNs for Cuba | In-depth analysis
ExpressVPN is often regarded as the gold-standard of VPNs, and it’s not difficult to see why. With ultra-fast servers in 94 countries, folks in Cuba will have unfettered access to international sites and services that might’ve ordinarily been blocked. In fact, ExpressVPN can unblock just about any social media platform, news outlet, and even Netflix US and Hulu.
And the provider certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to privacy, either. I particularly enjoy the ExpressVPN kill switch – it’s a simple feature that does an important job, by making sure your IP address and personal data doesn’t leak in the event of a VPN dropout. The kill-switch (called Network Lock) is enabled automatically by default, so you’re always covered! Additionally, ExpressVPN packs AES-256 encryption, doesn’t keep any connection logs, and offers obfuscated servers.
These servers have been incredibly useful for citizens in China looking to bypass restrictive censorship, and we think people in Cuba could benefit just as much from them, too. You can try all of this without worry thanks to ExpressVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark impresses us right away by making its home in the British Virgin Islands – well beyond the reach of invasive data-retention polciies. Surfshark keeps no logs at all, in fact, and offers some incredibly useful privacy features that anyone in Cuba could benefit from. If you’re looking to conceal your VPN usage entirely, Camouflage Mode has you covered, and NoBorders mode can automatically detect any network restrictions and offer you a list of recommended servers. Surfshark customers also benefit from AES-256 encryption, RAM-only servers, and a kill-switch – though you’ll have to enable it via the Settings menu, first.
Folks in Cuba will be able to connect to servers in Tampa and Orlando, Flordia, as well as locations in Costa Rica and Columbia. All Surfshark servers are wickedly fast, and you won’t have any trouble watching Netflix in HD regardless of where you are or the device you use. In fact, Surfshark offers unlimited simultaneous connections!
Surshark’s low price tag (by international standards) is also likely to appeal to many Cubans, and if there are any problems, you can take advantage of Surfshark’s 30-day money-back guarantee. That the provider accepts payment in a variety of cryptocurrencies may also prove useful to those looking to stay anonymous.
VyprVPN has a huge network of servers scattered across 70 global locations. They’re quick, easy to hop between, and owned entirely by VyprVPN itself, meaning that you don’t have to worry about any third party involvement. If you’re in Cuba and looking to access a free and open internet, we’d suggest connecting to VyprVPN servers in Miami, San Jose (Costa Rica), San Salvador, Panama City or Bogata.
In terms of privacy, VyprVPN has an impressive setup. Not only does a subscription include AES-256 encryption and an intuitive kill-switch that you can enable in a click, but it can also bypass government censorship with its Chameleon protocol. When using Chameleon, your ISP won’t be able to tell that you’re using a VPN at all, and you’ll have access to social media sites without restrictions. In addition, VyprVPN can unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max! So, give it a go yourself with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
IPVanish offers a robust VPN. And with a no-logs policy, government agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) can’t gain access to your valuable data. And you can be sure that if the NSA can’t get hold of it, neither can Cuba. Enabling IPVanish’s obfuscation measures is as simple as hitting a switch – enabled the “Scramble” feature to ensure that your OpenVPN traffic remains concealed from intrusive DPI… oh, and don’t forget to enable the kill-switch, too!
We’re impressed by IPVanish’s widespread server network, covering 60 countries and giving folks in Cuba plenty of choice about where they’d like to route their connection. If you’re looking for a speedy connection, join a server in Miami, Costa Rica, or Colombia, and enjoy unrestricted access to Netflix and all your social media accounts. You can take IPVanish for a test drive, too, thanks to a 30-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN stays true to its name. It promises a zero-logs policy, meaning that it keeps no identifiable information or usage logs that could be tied to users. It also comes with an automatic kill switch and an impressive stealth VPN feature, which are must-haves for anyone looking to bypass the harsh restrictions in Cuba and keep their VPN usage on the down-low. You’ll also be able to rest assured that top-notch 2048-bit encryption protects your connection at all times.
The service is particularly good at unblocking streaming services, granting access to more Netflix catalogs than any other provider on this list and manages flawless HD thanks to its fast connection speeds. You’ll be able to torrent with PrivateVPN, and take your pick of a number of servers across 63 countries – and we’d suggest connecting to locations in Colombia, Costa Rica, or Miami if you’re in Cuba and looking for a stable and speedy VPN connection. As a final cherry on top, PrivateVPN offers its customers a full 30-day money-back guarantee.
Cuba VPN Considerations
As hard as it is to get onto the internet in Cuba, it’s a shock that many websites are blocked there as well. Luckily, with a VPN you can unblock all these websites, and provide you with access to more.
In the following, we’re exploring the reasons that you might need a VPN for in Cuba. Continue reading to find out what obstacles you might face and how a VPN can help.
Internet Access in Cuba
You may be lucky enough to be staying in a hotel that has a WiFi hotspot. However, if you’re staying in a budget hotel, you won’t have that luxury. If you’re in a high-end hotel, you won’t get a signal in your room. Instead, you’ll have to go into the lobby to connect. In most places, the internet is only available in specific locations in the street. That makes it difficult to use a laptop. You should plan on using your smartphone for internet access while in Cuba.
The Cuban government doesn’t have the resources to put the internet filters and monitoring systems in place, that China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia can afford. The government’s primary way to control the spread of dissent through the internet is to make it difficult to get online. Consequently, there are no blocks on access to social media sites. You can also access internet telephony apps in Cuba.
However, the internet service is so slow that you’ll find WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger almost impossible to use. You indeed won’t be able to watch streaming video online. You need a connection rate of 3 Mbps to stream HD video and 2 Mbps for SD video. The Cuban internet system delivers 1 Mbps at its best rate.
Your main priorities when looking for internet access in Cuba are a lightweight device and plenty of patience. As there is very little internet traffic in the country, the government monitors everything. As such, you need extra security for your connections.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will keep your communications private while you’re in Cuba. If you crave entertainment, download movies and shows onto a tablet before you go. A VPN can protect you from prosecution when you use P2P networks to download copyrighted material. For more information see our best VPN for torrenting article.
Please note that ProPrivacy.com does not endorse or encourage the torrenting of copyrighted or illegal content.
Thanks to its contacts with China, the Cuban government promises to improve the quality of internet access in the country. The proposed imported technology may make the internet in Cuba faster, but it won’t make life easier for those who want to access foreign websites. Along with faster routers, the Cuban government will also be importing all of the blocking, filtering, and monitoring software that makes up the Great Firewall of China. China has the most restricted internet access in the world. As such, Cubans can look forward to more internet access difficulties in the future.
The state-owned internet service in Cuba is called Nauta. If the internet is available in your hotel, Nauta will run it. You can access the internet by Nauta cards.
The locations that sell Nauta cards are also homes to WiFi routers, so you can use the Nauta credit as soon as you buy it.
Getting Nauta Credit
You buy a pre-paid calling card at the front desk. This one has silver strips on the back, which reveal a username and password when you scratch them off. You can only buy cards with one hour of internet access, though you can buy several cards at once. You can use the cards at any WiFi hotspot because Nauta owns every hotspot. Be sure to carry a few cards around with you.
If your hotel has WiFi, there’s no guarantee that it will have connection cards available. Their supply is irregular, and many outlets run out periodically. You can go to another hotel to buy them, but you may need to buy a drink or a meal at the hotel bar to qualify to purchase the cards. The hotel may also limit your purchase to just one card.
If you can’t get a Nauta card from a hotel lobby, you’re in for a taste of local lifestyle. You’ll have to queue at a telecom office or newsstand in the street to get a card. Official sales points are few and far between. Waiting times are usually between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on the time of day. As these booths have no indoor areas, you’ll be queuing in the sweltering heat.
As with any commodity that attracts long queues, Nauta is available from ticket touts who mill about close to the lines. A card costs $2, but you can cut out the queue by buying one from a tout for $3. This is a high price for an hour of lousy internet access. A trip to Cuba can end up being expensive.
Once you get to the front of the queue for a card, buy a ton of them. These cards are valuable commodities that appreciate in value by 50% as soon as you get hold of them. The average monthly salary in Cuba is $20, so this $2 card is an expensive luxury for the locals.
Avoid Queuing with a VPN
One good aspect of the Nauta account management system is that it is also available in English. You can buy credit online, but only if you access the system from overseas. This function is available at www.etecsa.cu (ETECSA runs Nauta).
The website won’t let you pay for credit online while you’re in Cuba, but a VPN can get you around this problem. Connect to a VPN server in a nearby country – a server in Miami is always a good bet. This will make you seem to be in Miami, and the ETECSA system will allow you to pay for credit online and avoid queuing for Nauta cards.
Using Nauta Credit
The credit starts ticking down the first time you connect. Even if the service is impossibly slow, it will expire within an hour, regardless. Even if the connection doesn’t seem to be doing anything, your credit will still expire after an hour.
If you can’t get any service at all, it’s better to log off as quickly as possible and preserve your credit for another time. The credit lasts for 30 days from the first moment of connection. The logout option isn’t easy to find on the main Nauta screen. Enter http://22.214.171.124 in the address field of your browser to get to the logout screen quickly.
The first thing you’ll see when you connect to the Nauta network is a warning message from your device. This tells you that you’re about to connect to an unsecure network. This is why a VPN is a good idea. The VPNs on our list have automatic WiFi protection. Make sure you have the VPN turned on before you connect to the Nauta network.
The VPN software will apply encryption to your connection across the WiFi network. This is important because many sites that run https, such as all webmail systems, won’t let you in if you try to access them over unsecure networks. As such, you’ll run down your hour’s credit looking at a series of blocking messages.
There is a local alternative called ETECSA, but this is no use to you if you want to access the real internet. You will see a few internet cafes in the center of big cities, but these are ETECSA outlets.
The ETECSA system operates more like an intranet. It doesn’t give access to services outside the network. Instead, you can access state-controlled alternatives on this system. As such, you can access email on ETECSA, but only if you have an ETECSA email account. You can also send messages to others in Cuba with an email account on the same system.
Sites that you can visit on the ETECSA network include government information websites, a government-run encyclopedia, and cached versions of foreign websites that support the Cuban government. You can’t access your Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail account through this system. You also can’t get onto overseas websites, such as the Wall Street Journal or the BBC.
Life can be tough in Cuba. High-speed broadband is something that people in many other countries take for granted, but that’s not the case in Cuba.
The VPNs on our list work well in China, so if you intend to travel to Cuba regularly in the future, these services will continue to serve you well once the Cuban government upgrades its internet status from “almost non-existent” to “repressive.”