Travel Tip Thursdays : Cuba's Internet
Do you know the struggles of being a digital nomad?
Well, let me tell you how my highly anticipated trip to Cuba, turned into me doing a internet test to keep my job.
For starters Cuba has been closed off for so long it seemed majestic, but boy was I wrong. From the time I stepped passed the security line I was in awe and baffled.
Well, they have the nerve to have American flags on the ATM machines, but you cannot use an American bank card to get cash, like in most airports. So, now we are standing in the airport, and I immediately felt like I’m in the 1970’s with not nearly enough cash to get to our Airbnb. Upon arriving at our “luxury” Airbnb, we asked about the WIFI, because we are digital nomads, and the Internet is always the first thing we check and set up. So, we saw a few networks but no passwords anywhere. We called and ask about the password and the lady said “Ummm no WIFI in the apartment, you have to travel 3 blocks down, to the Hotel Cubanacan Comodoro, and BUY an internet card.”. Okay… so we set out to get this card so we can check in with family, check work schedules, and stream some movies.
When we arrived and found where to go for the internet cards, the next step was to see how much these internet cards would set us back on account we are on a very limited cash budget. Now brace yourself... Guess how much these bleeping cards cost and how they work?
Go ahead guess, I’ll wait…
insert jeopardy music here.
Okay, now let’s break this all the way down, the cards are only a dollar, hmm not bad. Until they proceed to say per hour. My first thought was okay until I realized I work about 3-4 hours a day, still not the worst part. However, we get two 5-hour internet cards and head back to the apartment and try and get connected. All right…insert password followed by the code and ENTER. NO INTERNET! Hmmm, let’s try every computer and every phone we have. After almost 20 minutes, 3 computers and 4 phones, only one phone gave us service for 10 minutes.
Eventually, we give up completely and tried to relax a little, get something to eat, and give the connection some time. Side note: even the restaurants don’t offer WIFI, mostly just big hotels and internet center (like an internet cafe, but a little bigger). About, maybe two hours later, we go back to the hotel just to see if maybe it only works there. We went back to the hotel and the internet works, but my 5-hour card now only has 3 hours and I only used about 10 minutes. This means that if you don’t completely stop the internet when it pings on a network or something it “steals” your time. Keep in mind all of this happened on the first day of arriving. Time for bed I guess since I have no internet, 5 Spanish and 1 Half English movie channel, not to mention I must teach online starting at 4 a.m. Next morning, up at 3:15, packed up my computer, internet card, headphones, and props in my backpack and went up the road in the morning darkness. A few days of this running back and forth and doing this, I arrive one morning, and there is no internet, I go to the receptionist and ask about this and she says, "I don't know when it will be fixed maybe tomorrow." What? Okay well, my j-o-b will not want to hear that, so I run down to another big hotel and this hotel charges an extra dollar and I can only use the card at their hotel. So fine, what else am I going to do? Why do I sign in and they have no internet either? That was just not going to work for me, I try to give them their little card back for my money, but they tell me the lady left and took the money, so I cannot get my money back. Well, I'm not confrontational but NO I'm not settling for this. I say “well, this guy sitting here was here when I got the card 5 minutes ago, and your internet is not working.”. She tries to dismiss me by saying I logged in and the lady I bought my card with took my money, and they switched shifts or whatever. I was not accepting that, So I said: “Again I did not use any of this “time” because it said NO INTERNET, I’m not just trying to check emails or social media, I have to go to WORK! You can go find my refund or give me a new card.”. She tells the person to give me a new card because the new lady sitting there hasn’t made any sales yet, so she has no cash. Whyyyyy? And by that time, I had officially missed my class. By this point, I was over the country and its internet service. I managed to survive 14 days in Cuba, but one of my online jobs took a loss.
Lesson learned: ask and/or research the internet service while traveling or be more prepared with back up. For example, maybe get a 4g sim if you can, or invest in a portable hotspot.
My name is Kristin, I am 29 years old and from Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S.A. I am a fashion enthusiast - you can check out some of my designs – I made all the items by hand - they are originals. I am fascinated by different cultures and would love to hear more about your country and culture. I have travelled to Ecuador, Hong Kong, mainland China, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, The Philippines, Mexico, Cuba, and Costa Rica.
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