Amid Havana’s majestic decay and the amazing urban vistas made beautiful by a total lack of commercial advertising, there is one potential shock that could render you a rootless wanderer – lack of adequate Internet.
Cuba has the lowest Internet penetration in the Western Hemisphere, and while the government has been more generous recently in rolling out Internet access, planning is vital for you to maintain connection while you’re traveling.
First, go to Cuba and try freeing yourself from your phone’s nagging obsession for your attention. You’ll feel better after a day or two of the shakes.
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Most Cubans get Internet access in public WiFi hot spots maintained by the Cuban government’s monopoly telecom, ETECSA. You can find Cubans, especially at night, knotted over their phones in public squares and parks or wherever the hot spots are located. Street venders sell Internet cards for $1.65 per hour of use. Speeds are low and being outside can be annoying especially for laptop users.
Here are three ways to find Internet in Cuba and make your phone useful even without Internet.
- Try using the Internet offered at business and luxury hotels. You may have to pay $5 per hour but the speeds are typically better and the lobby areas offer coffee and drinks – plus comfortable seating.
- Download Google’s translator app and select Spanish in “offline translation” before you arrive in Cuba. Your phone will have a dictionary containing a huge inventory of Spanish words available for translation. Also, after you use the app to translate words, turn the phone horizontally for the translated words to display in large format.
- Use your phone’s roaming Internet capability. It will probably cost you about $2/mb but it works in most urban environments.