Tuesday, December 8, 2009
There’s nothing better than a cozy café when you’re traveling—except a cozy café with
Internet access. Today, you’ll find cybercafés span the globe in both the real and the virtual world.
They’re on every corner in Rome. There are dozens in Bangkok, scores in Calcutta; the largest one
in the world is in New York City. They are cybercafés, also called Internet cafés, and they’re the easiest way to stay online when you’re traveling without your laptop or in a country not serviced by your Internet provider.
The first cybercafé in the world opened in 1984. But in the early 1990s, there were fewer than 100. As of May 2009, there were 5,170 verified cybercafés, public Internet access points and kiosks in 160 countries, according to The Cybercafé Search Engine.
“I find cybercafés a great place to relax, unwind, work and share insights with people around me,” says author Richard Laermer (Full Frontal PR), who travels to Europe frequently for business. You can easily find Internet cafes around the world by using easyInternetcafe.com.
At its best, the cybercafé combines the comfortable environment of a coffeehouse, restaurant
or bar with high-speed Internet access. But as you might expect, all cafés aren’t created equal.
A few points to consider:
Most cybercafés aren’t spacious, quiet places to set up shop. Especially in some developing countries, owners tend to pack as many computers as possible into a given space to maximize return, so don’t count on privacy or silence for communing with the computer.
Cybercafés tend to be hangouts for young people. It’s best to research the availability of cafés in your destination. Some good sources include Lonely Planet, Global Computing, Cybercafes. And shop with your feet—if one café is too noisy or crowded, find another one.
Cybercafés are cheap. Take the largest one in the world, an operation run by easyInternetcafe.com. Its 648 PCs are available at competitive rates. Copy centers such as FedEx Office are another source for getting online—hardly a café experience, but efficient just the same.
Watch the clock. If you’re just checking e-mail, buy computer time by the minute, not the hour. For a longer project, inquire about bonus plans, which may offer access for longer periods of time at a
cheaper per-hour rate.
Free beats cheap. In most U.S. cities, including New York, a valid photo ID earns you 15 to 45 free minutes of computer time at the public library.
Staying connected on the road has never been easier. And since being online is a veritable lifeline for most business travelers, that’s a very good thing.
Beth D’Addono, a travel writer based in Belmont Hills, Pennsylvania, stays connected at cyber cafes from Bangkok to Turkey.