In addition to a myriad of confusing information on the internet about money in Cuba, there was an equal amount of conflicting information about the internet itself in Cuba. Talking with a few folk here, this has changed very quickly in the past year, but here’s the current state of play as at July 2016:
- All of the main towns at least have internet in their key public squares/parks. You can usually figure out where there is internet by the large number of people sitting/standing around staring at their phones.
- The internet is actually quite fast (if you are using a laptop) – faster than what I can get in my home in Melbourne, Australia!
- To use the internet, you have to buy an internet card – usually from an ETECSA centre (though some hotels and other places also have them). You might need to try a few places to find a place with some to sell. You can buy cards of 30 minutes (1 CUC, ~USD$1), 1 hour (2 CUC) and 5 hours (10 CUC) – and no, there are no discounts for bulk buying. You may or may not need to show your passport to buy – some want to see it, some don’t care.
- I’ve found that most sites work – Gmail, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, etc. The only thing I haven’t got to work has been Skype, even though I VPN’d into Australia and the status identifiers seemed to work when I did this.
I have to say, it’s been a really interesting experience going back to pay-by-the-hour internet. I’ve travelled back 20 years and have been preparing emails, blog posts, etc offline in a Word document, ready to cut and paste into Gmail and my blog when I’m connected. It also helps to quickly wean you off social media!
For us, 2CUC/hour isn’t really all that expensive, but keep in mind that most Cubans (who don’t deal in services for tourists) only earn 40CUC/month. So it is still hideously expensive here for the locals, though I’m sure that will change quickly in the coming years.