How good is internet in Cuba?

Hi all,

I’m going to Cuba in October and I need internet for my work. I’m concerned with the internet connection in Cuba. Is it possible to have a descent internet connection that I can use to get the work done?

I don’t need to make video calls, I just need to be able to upload my work couple of times per day. I don’t need a lot of bandwidth either.

It’s unreliable, slow and the system is a complete joke. However it’s improving… so I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, just doesn’t worth the hassle. Also if you have a client/employer in the US, they might not like your Cuban IP because of the embargo. Try to use a VPN that’s not in the US but close to Cuba.

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I considered visiting it when I was in Central America and researched it as well, but based on what people say who visited or lived there, the speeds are very low and prices for somewhat reliable internet are very high (not just Cuba high, 1st world very high!). Basically expect you won’t be able to get serious work done, or make internet calls. Just emails.

When my mother visited there a few months ago, she had a really hard time with internet. To get online she had to wait in a queue for up to an hour to get a voucher which could be used for 3 hours of Wifi access. She then had to go to a ‘wifi park’ somewhere in the city and try to connect and use the login info on the voucher. It almost never worked and when it did it was very very very slow.

She is 65 so not great at technical stuff - maybe you will find a better way. Maybe expensive resorts have usable Wifi…

I was in Cuba about 18 months ago, so things might have changed a bit since then. The way to get online is like @Rimu_Atkinson mentioned to get wifi scratch cards that have a code on them you use to log on to the public hot spots. Larger cities will probably have a few hotspots—I think Havana had about 5, perhaps a few more. Some are in parks, others at hotels. Smaller cities will have only one hotspot, if you’re lucky. Many smaller cities/towns didn’t have any hotspots at all.

To get the scratch cards, you’ll have to queue up at a government run telecom shop. At certain times and locations the lines can be very long. Some places entrepreneurial locals walked around selling the scratch cards for a slight markup so you could skip the line or get access outside opening hours of the telecom shops (which can be quite limited). I recall paying $1.50 per card, but I don’t remember the duration that gave you. I think it was 60 minutes, and you don’t have to use all of it in one go. You can surf for a few minutes, download email, etc and then log out and later back on again.

Speeds are okay-ish for surfing and some places probably video calls, too. They do vary a lot, though. One location at a hotel in Havana was so slow it was barely useable, while the spot in Viñales was pretty snappy (probably a few Mbps down).

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The comments by @tkrunning and @rimu_atkinson are correct. Internet access isn’t widely available. You’re not going to get it in your room wherever you’re staying. Internet access is controlled by the Cuban government, and you have to buy wifi access cards at government distribution points at set times (I think it was 2PM on week days). If my memory serves me correctly, you’re allowed up to three per person, and they cost either 1.50 or 2.50 each. They give you an hour access. The better hotels will have wifi in the lobby, but you still have to buy the government issued access cards. There are distribution points in some hotels.

Last year, the Cuban government started a pilot programme to bring wifi into homes and businesses: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35463423. However, that’s not widespread as yet, as no one we met while in Cuba in August 2016 had Internet at home.

The connectivity speeds are going to be poor. Because it’s so heavily controlled, you’ll find lots of people standing and sitting around the parks and hotel lobbies with access points. So the networks are always congested. Also be prepared for some things not to work at all because of censorship.

When I was preparing to travel to Cuba, I told all my clients that I would be off the grid for the duration of the trip (2 weeks in August 2016).

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@vfonic Generally you need to purchase wifi cards (in 30 min to 1 hour increments) and hang out around places that have wifi which include major hotel lobbies in central Havana or local parks. It’s actually a fun experience to go to the locals parks full of locals on their phones, etc. connected to the wifi. Teenagers standing around in the parks will sell you wifi cards, marijuana, any other contraband you might need haha. Although an interesting experience, I’m sure you will want to opt for the hotel strategy if you plan to be productive. Internet could be doable depending on your work but I don’t think it would be sustainable if you regularly have to have Skype calls with clients or large files to upload/download. I definitely think Cuba has a long way to go in terms of being work-able for digital nomads. If it had better infrastructure to allow me to work, I’d move there in a heartbeat. Love the people and culture! :slight_smile: