It was fascinating (if admittedly a little frustrating at times!) to be part of Cuba’s new tourist economy, while experiencing some aspects that felt like going back in time 20 years. Not only is their economy one that functions strictly on cash transaction (yes, travel for 2 wks with no credit cards – hard to imagine, I know!), but they still have extremely limited access to the internet and use of personal computers.
Telecommunications are run by the state-controlled company, Etesca, and while cell phone use is quite common (though Cubans could only own cell phones starting in 2008), internet access is very limited and public wifi is available only in hotels and some public squares – and then only accessible by buying an internet access card from Etesca at ~$5/hr. There are no signs posted, but you can immediately tell when you’re in a square with wifi – and makes for some interesting people-watching!
The good side is that travelers (yours truly included) are pretty much required to be “unplugged” while here, and restaurants and bars are free from people constantly looking at their phones. Again, will be interesting to see if and/or how this changes over the next few years!