Making Calls in Cuba
Now that US cell phones can roam in Cuba, you need to know the procedures of making and receiving calls in Cuba.
Roaming Depends on Your Phone Model, Carrier and Plan
US carriers now have roaming agreements with Cubacel (the wireless arm of ETECSA, the Cuban national telecommunications company). Check our Roaming List for the latest capabilities of US carriers. Cubacel also allows visitors from the United States to rent a SIM card with pre-paid minutes in amounts of CUC 10, 20, or 40 (US$10, $20, or $40), plus a daily rental fee for the SIM card of CUC 3 (US$3) for use in your own phone. The phone must be a GSM unlocked phone. 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 their current Cuban roaming status and whether your phone operates on the compatible standard, and to request that your carrier unlock your mobile phone.
Calling Phones Roaming in Cuba
Callers in the United States can call you in Cuba if you are using an operating phone in Cuba. Callers in the US are only calling your normal wireless number so there are no extra charges for them. Prices for calls to Cuban phone numbers from the US vary and depend on the provider and the caller’s plan. Check with your provider about the cost of making or receiving a call to Cuba using its service prior to making the call as calling without an international calling plan or similar arrangement can cost several dollars per minute. To call from the United States, callers to US phones roaming in Cuba enter your normal cell number. For other Cuba numbers, the caller will need to dial 119 (or + sign from a mobile phone), followed by 53 (Cuba’s country code), followed by the Cuban phone number, which consists of six to eight digits for landlines (including the area code) or eight digits for mobile phones.
▶ Calling a US cell phone roaming in Cuba, from the US: 1 (212) 555-5555
▶ Calling a US phone number on a US cell phone roaming in Cuba: 119 - 1 (212) 555-5555 (or +1 (212) 555-5555)
▶ Calling a Cuba number from the US: 011-53-5555-5555 (or +53-5555-5555)
▶ Calling a Cuba number from a US cell phone roaming in Cuba: +53-5555-5555
(Entering the "+" symbol before a number automates the long distance number string)
Buy or Rent a Mobile Phone in the US to Use in Cuba
Yes. 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 Mobal or Cellular Abroad (offered by National Geographic), for use in Cuba. In addition to daily rental fees, you should expect to pay approximately $3 per minute of call time and up to $1.50 per outgoing text message. Depending on the type of phone rented, data may also be available at an additional cost.
Or Rent a Mobile Phone in Cuba to Use in Cuba
An alternative to renting a phone or SIM card in the US is to rent a phone upon arrival in Cuba. Once you arrive in Cuba, you can rent a mobile phone from Cubacel, the mobile arm of ETECSA, the local phone company. There are Cubacel offices in Terminals #2 and #3 at José Martí International Airport in Havana. Cubacel charges a one-time refundable deposit of 100 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) (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 is not available.
Alternatives for Calling the US from Cuba
Calling the US from a landline in Cuba:
To make landline phone calls from Cuba, you can buy a pre-paid calling card (available at certain hotels and resorts) for use at public pay phones. To call the United States using a pre-paid calling card, follow these steps:
Another option, although a more expensive one, is to place international phone calls from a hotel landline, either in your guest room or the lobby. On average, calls from a tourist hotel to the United States cost about US$2.50 per minute. To call the United States from a hotel landline, dial 119, then 1, followed by the ten-digit US area code and phone number.
Calling the US from a Cuban mobile phone:
To call the US from Cuba using a mobile phone, use the same dialing format as calling from a hotel landline – dial 119, then 1, followed by the ten-digit area code and phone number.
Making Calls While on a Cruise to Cuba:
Depending on your carrier, your wireless phone should work on board most cruise ships. There are different rules and different charges based on the location of the ship. Although there are travel restrictions on cruise ships going from the US to Cuba, if the ship is within three miles of the coast of Cuba or the US, you will be using the land-based cellular network which affects the fees, capabilities and procedures for making and receiving calls. There is more information about using cellular on cruise ships.
Using the Internet in Cuba:
If you cannot access data on your cell phone, or the download speed it too slow,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. At last report, Internet access costs approximately $4.50 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 US$6-$10 per hour. You should check Internet availability and charges at your intended hotel before booking and travel.
Wi-Fi in Cuba:
WiFi in Cuba is not yet widely available. A few major hotels offer Wi-Fi at an hourly rate of approximately US$6-$10. Be sure to contact your hotel to verify availability, speed, and cost in advance of travel. Cuba is reported to offer Wi-Fi at 35 government-run centers for $2 per hour. Google has arranged for a single Internet cafe in Havana that offers high speed Internet access. At these rates, "Wi-Fi Calling" may not be an economical choice for Voice calls.