When it comes to Internet freedoms, Cuba isn’t that “libre.” Like at all.
Most citizens can’t access the Internet and as far as they (don’t) know, they live in the best country in the world. Alas, the situation is very different outside of the Caribbean nation.
In Cuba, a VPN can help you access the Internet without any restrictions on what you can read, watch or listen to. To be fair, you will first have to get a decent Internet access, but presuming you manage to do that – with a VPN, you’ll be able to visit just about any website you want.
But that’s just one piece of the puzzle as a good VPN has much more to offer, like keeping you anonymous online and protecting your data while connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots.
The best VPNs for Cuba that will also cover other needs you may have include:
- 5,000+ servers in the network
- Easy to use - install it and forget it
- One license is good for up to 6 devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Chrome extension is just a proxy
- You can't pay with PayPal
Its network includes more than 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries, which directly translates into faster speeds. NordVPN is also very secure, relying on the strong 256-bit encryption combined with secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec). But as a user, you get a seamless experience with all this technology "doing its thing" in the background.
NordVPN is well suited to pretty much every task you throw at it — whether it's accessing a banned site from some country that filters out the internet, torrenting, accessing streaming services, or just wanting to keep a low profile on the web. It also doesn't keep any logs.
We highly recommend NordVPN to anyone looking for reliable service.
- Good for both torrenting and streaming
- Works in China
- Solid network with servers in 60+ countries
- Easy to use apps on multiple platforms
- Live chat isn't always available
- Fairly pricey
Whether you need a VPN for watching Netflix shows or downloading files via BitTorrent, Astrill can help you out — all while keeping your identity under the radar. And this is especially true if you live or work in China when the company's stealth protocols will kick in to let you access all the popular sites that are by default blocked by the country's censors.
Astrill's apps are easy to use and available on all popular platforms. Nevertheless, they still manage to provide a host of advanced features tech-savvy folks are used to get. Highly recommended, again, especially if you're looking to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
- Feature-rich yet easy to use
- One of the best VPNs around
- Strong no-logging policy
- Reliable support you can reach 24/7
- Limited number of servers in Africa and the Middle East
- Kinda pricey
ExpressVPN has great desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps and browser extensions. Also, it is well suited for video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and others.
However, what makes it stand out is its ease of use. We can't emphasize this enough. One could tell a lot of time has been spent making sure even the advanced features are easily accessible. And we love it for that. Plus, let's not forget ExpressVPN's speed which tends to leave other services in the dust.
- Fast download and upload speeds
- Works with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc.
- Great for torrenting
- Advanced privacy features (i.e. Tor over VPN)
- Relatively small number of servers
- There are no browser extensions
- Live chat support is not always available
Specifically, you can rely on PrivateVPN for both torrenting and streaming, without paying a premium. It is, in fact, one of the most affordable options in its league and we love it for that.
Customer support may not be on par with bigger players but it's not like you should experience many problems anyway. You will get the same level of security and privacy as with other services, and a single license will let you run PrivateVPN on up to 6 devices. Pretty cool.
- Works in China
- Many servers in Asia
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced services like VyprVPN Cloud
- No browser extensions
- Torrenting could be better
It manages to bypass restrictions in high-censorship countries and elsewhere by relying on its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which can easily slide under the radar.
VyprVPN is also great for accessing video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and so on — delivering the true buffer-free experience every single time. It will also work with BitTorrent, and consequently - Kodi.
VyprVPN has a strict zero-logs policy. Period.
Internet censorship in Cuba
When it comes to the freedom of press, Cuba is one of the worst countries in the world, with the government preventing access to certain websites. However, this access prevention is more limited than you would think and it has a lot to do with the country’s undeveloped internet infrastructure and high cost to access foreign websites.
Nevertheless, when it comes to Internet freedoms, Freedom House considers Cuba to be “not free” with an overall score of 79 out of 100 (100 is the least free). This is the fifth highest score out of the 65 countries ranked, below China, Iran, Syria, and Ethiopia.
Reporters Without Borders also doesn’t have a lot of praise for the Carribian nation, listing it as an “Internet Enemy.”
Cuba’s Internet connection is via the ALBA-1 cable to Venezuela, which has had technical problems limiting its speed. The United States refuses to allow an undersea cable to pass 100 miles from Cuba to Florida.
Like many other countries, Cuba is using some software to monitor what its citizens are doing on the Internet. Reports suggest it’s Avila Link software, which combined with routing connections through a proxy server, enables the government to obtain citizens’ usernames and passwords.
Reporters Without Borders suspects that Cuba also obtained some of its internet surveillance technology from China, which has supplied other countries such as Zimbabwe and Belarus. However, Cuba does not enforce the same level of internet keyword censorship as China.
Limited access to the Internet
Beyond censoring the online media, Cuba also makes it difficult for its citizens to connect to the Internet. In that sense, it is suggested that service providers may not grant access to individuals not approved by the government.
On the other hand, at least one report has found that many foreign news outlet websites are not blocked in Cuba, but the slow connections and outdated technology in Cuba makes it impossible for citizens to load these websites.
Because of limited bandwidth, authorities give preference to developing internet infrastructure in locations where the Internet can be accessed on a collective basis, such as in office buildings, schools, and research centers — where many people have access to the same computers or network.
Despite these limitations, Internet access is seen as essential for Cuba’s economic development. Roughly 4.5 million people or about 39% of the population had access to Internet in 2018, up from 1.6 million in 2008. And the numbers keep growing.
In order to bypass some of the restrictions imposed by the government, Cubans connect to the Internet at embassies, Internet cafés, through friends at universities, hotels, and work.
Getting around censorship
Many of those who can access the Internet want to get the complete picture and that would mean accessing the world wide web in its entirety. To that end, Cuban citizens have developed numerous techniques: some get online through embassies and coffee shops or purchase accounts through the black market. The black market consists of professional or former government officials who have been cleared to have Internet access. These individuals sell or rent their usernames and passwords to citizens who want to have access.
StreetNets refers to the local mesh networks that are built by Cuban citizens in order to connect localities to a private network that is outside of the view of the government and can operate in a way that is completely uncensored. Members of the mesh networks are able to communicate online privately with one another and share files through the network without fear of government oversight or censorship. The mesh network is formed by a series of Wi-Fi antennas and Ethernet cables that are connected to one another and are able to bring hundreds of computers onto a single network. It is estimated that over 9,000 computers in the capital city of Havana are connected to some form of a mesh network. Despite the fact that this is illegal in Cuba, the government has not taken much action to attempt to shut down the SNet — likely because there is strong self-censorship by the community to the extent that if anyone posts pornographic material or discusses politics they are permanently blocked from using the network.
Finally, there are those using VPNs to bypass all kinds of censorship. Which brings us to our final section…
Yes, you need a VPN for Cuba
Whether you live in Cuba or just plan to visit, in order to keep access to the websites and services you got accustomed to, you should get yourself a VPN. It will not only help you bypass any censorship in Cuba, but will also let you do other things, such as:
- Accessing content that could otherwise be restricted in your physical location.
- Preventing tracking and minimizing your digital footprint so that no one can track you online (at least not that easily).
- Avoiding throttling from your ISP – which is known to happen when you’re torrenting or accessing video streaming services.
- Bypassing firewalls in a workplace, university, school and so on.
- Bypassing censorship in places like China, North Korea, countries in the Middle East, and even Turkey and Russia.
- Securely connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots – with a VPN encrypting all the traffic coming to and from your devices.
The bottom line is – get a VPN that fits all your needs. The top contenders include the following: