You will thank me later!
1. The number one app you should have when to go to Cuba is a map app that works when you are offline and not able to connect to the internet. Given the state of internet connections in Cuba, you will only rarely have access and then at a per hour rate and speed that is severely lacking.
I used two apps while in Cuba and I prefer the free “maps.me” map app. Be sure you download the Cuba map before you head off. You definitely also want to test it locally in offline mode.
When you are in offline mode, the app uses a GPS connection which will show your location on the map. You can also type in a destination and plot a route to get you there.
Be sure you also add your ‘local home’ spot on the map so you can find your way back to where you are staying.
It is easy to get ‘turned around’ and ‘lost’ in Cuba. This app will become your best friend, especially is you do not speak Spanish!
I also downloaded and used the free “HERE WeGo – Offline Maps & GPS” which shows where you are with less distracting details.
2. The 2nd most important app is a language translation app that also works in offline mode. This is especially helpful if you do not speak Spanish. It would also be helpful to communicate with other international travelers that you meet and do not speak either English or Spanish.
While the free ‘Google Translate’ app will let you download languages to use while offline, the app I used was called “Translate Offline: 7 languages” which cost me $3.99
In testing apps beforehand, I liked the feel and usage of this one. I used it extensively with my non-English speaking host.
3. Communications App – The reason this app may be important to you, might be confusing. But, you need to understand that cell phone towers in Cuba basically do not exist.
To make a local call on a landline is relatively cheap. However, to make a call to the US from Cuba will cost from $1 to $2 a minute, if you can find a place or a way to do it.
However, an internet access card will cost from $2 to $5 per hour. At pricey hotels you can buy them for $5, or you can stand in line for an hour and pay $2.
Once you have a card, you can more easily login and use the free “IMO” app to make a video call to the US and elsewhere. The Skype app is blocked, so this is a popular app used locally. You then just need to find a ‘hotspot’ and login.
These local hotspot access points can be found in most tourist hotel lobbies and large parks. Wherever you see groups of people huddled together staring at their phones, you will have found a spot to login.