Thanks to the ever-growing presence of Internet cafes around the world, you never need to be out of touch on a trip again — well, unless you really want to be. Also known as cyber cafes, Internet cafes can be found in big cities and tiny hamlets from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
While you might not get the same connection speed that you’re used to on your computer at home, Internet cafes are often the most efficient and inexpensive way to stay connected when you’re traveling.
Editor’s Note: Internet cafes are generally designed for people who are traveling without computers. If you have your laptop with you on your trip and you simply need an Internet connection, read How to Find Better Travel Wi-Fi.
What Is an Internet Cafe?
Internet cafes can take a variety of forms. Some closely resemble traditional cafes in services and atmosphere, offering not only computers but also drinks and snacks. Others are little more than enormous rooms with hundreds of modern computers. Still others are tiny holes in the wall with one lone, dusty PC hooked up to a modem in the corner. On the most basic level, an Internet cafe is simply a place where you can sit and use a computer with Internet access (usually for a fee).
Internet cafes typically charge by the minute or the hour, and can cost as little as a few cents a minute and as much as $10 per hour. There is often a minimum time requirement and sometimes a maximum as well. The Internet conection speed can vary widely, as can the keyboards — even if you’re a skilled typist on a standard QWERTY keyboard, you can be reduced to the old hunt-and-peck method on a foreign keyboard where all your favorite letters and punctuation keys are rearranged or missing altogether.
How Can I Find Internet Cafes?
Many guidebooks include information on where to find Internet access. You can also search for Internet cafes on the Web. Here are a few of our favorite online resources:
- Cybercafes.com contains a database of over 4,000 Internet cafes in countries around the world. You can search by city or country.
- easyInternetcafe.com lists not only its own brand of cyber cafes (which are located in Europe and the U.S.) but also independently owned cafes around the world. The site includes user reviews and Google maps for many locations.
- The Cybercafe Search Engine (cybercaptive.com) lists over 5,000 Internet cafes around the world, searchable by city, state, province or country.
- World66.com also has a worldwide Internet cafe search feature.
Keep in mind that Internet cafes open and close frequently, particularly small ones that are privately owned. If you’re searching in advance, you may want to write down several possibilities to avoid disappointment.
Where Else Can I Get Online?
Many airports are equipped with privately run computer labs or stations, which charge a fee depending on what type of resources you need and how long you need them. See your airport’s Web site for details. A growing number of airports are also offering wireless Internet access, in many cases at no cost to you. Read more about airport Wi-Fi in Airport Internet Tips.
Copy centers and printing shops sometimes have computer stations that are fully loaded with all the software programs you’ll ever need. Many are even open 24 hours. Local libraries (as well as those on college campuses) are also great resources for Internet access — and it’s often free. Ask your hotel concierge or the nearest tourist office for locations, or check the local phone book.
Most major cruise ships offer both cyber cafes and Wi-Fi onboard, but you’ll pay a hefty price — and the connection can be hit-or-miss when you’re way out at sea. Internet cafes in port may be a better bet. For an overview of Internet options on each cruise line, check out Connecting @ Sea on our sister site, Cruise Critic.
Need to Google camping tips or advice on warding off bears? GoCampingAmerica.com has a sizeable list of campgrounds with Wi-Fi, which you can search.
Tips for Using Internet Cafes
Be sure you know all of the user names and passwords you’ll need to access your e-mail providers, airline Web sites or any other sites requiring a log-in. Memorize the information, or make a list and bring it with you.
If your user names or passwords have special characters in them such as asterisks or ampersands, you may want to change them to all letters and numbers before you leave for your trip — since some special characters may not appear on certain international keyboards.
While you’re on the computer, keep a close eye on your time limit. Some computers will automatically end your session and log you off as soon as your allotted time is up — even if you’re right in the middle of composing one last e-mail.
Remember that a computer in an Internet cafe is not as secure as your computer at home. Any data you send and receive during your Internet session could potentially be accessed by others who use that computer. Also, your screen will be visible to any users sitting next to you or walking behind you. For these reasons, we do not recommend that you do online banking or make any other transactions involving personal data at an Internet cafe. If you do need to carry out secure transactions, be sure to clear your private data from your Web browser afterwards (in particular your cookies, browser history and temporary Internet files).
If you’re traveling with your laptop and need to transfer data (such as photos or documents) between it and a public computer in an Internet cafe, be sure to bring along a small USB flash drive.
Public keyboards can be a formidable source of germs, so be sure to wash your hands (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) after you leave an Internet cafe.
If you’ll be staying in one destination for a while and using the Internet on a frequent basis, ask about any special bulk packages that may be available at your local cafe.
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