All About Internet Cafes

How to find them while traveling and tips for using them

Man with Laptop and Coffee at Internet Cafe

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Internet cafes, also called cybercafes or net cafes, are establishments that offer computers with internet access for public use, usually for a small fee.

Cyber cafes can vary in appearance, ranging from plain spaces filled with computer workstations, to small hole-in-the-wall locations with a simple computer and dial-up modem, to actual cafes offering food and drinks for purchase.

Public internet access isn't limited to cafe-style establishments anymore. You'll find computers with public internet access in copy centers, hotels, airports, on cruise ships, and more. Many places offer printing and scanning services, as well.

Who Uses Internet Cafes?

Internet cafes are particularly useful for travelers who decided not to lug laptops along on their trip. They are common in many countries, and using their services is often inexpensive, especially if you're just checking email, sharing digital photos, or using VoIP for short periods of time.

In many countries where computers and internet access are not widely available or affordable, cyber cafes also provide an important service to the local population. These may be very busy locations with strict usage limits.

Fees for Using Internet Cafes

Internet cafes usually charge customers based on the amount of time they use a computer. They may charge by the hour or even by the minute, and rates can vary widely depending on the location. For example, internet access on a cruise ship may be very expensive and connections may not always be available; be sure you understand the costs before you begin. 

Some locations may offer packages for frequent users or those who require longer sessions. Again, ask ahead of time to see what's available and what would work best for your needs.

Tips for Finding and Using an Internet Cafe

Do your research at home before traveling and bring along a list of well-rated cyber cafes. Travel guides often provide locations of internet cafes for travelers.

Do a Google search for cyber cafes in the areas you plan to visit. A Google Maps search of your intended destination will pinpoint locations. 

Check in advance to find out if an internet cafe is still open. They often have unusual hours and close down with little or no notification.

Internet Cafe Security Tips

Computers at internet cafes are public systems, so they're less secure than those you use at your home or office. Take extra precautions when using them, especially if sensitive information is involved.

Bring a USB Flash Drive

Bring along a USB flash drive with your portable programs, settings, and documents. You'll have all your data with you, but when you unplug the USB flash drive, none of your information remains on the computer. Make sure the USB flash drive has an antispyware and antivirus program installed on it.

Be aware, however, that some locations may not allow you to use a personal USB drive on their systems for security reasons.

Memorize Login Credentials

Memorize login credentials for any systems you may need to access, such as your email account. Look for the message from a system that asks if you are accessing from a public or private computer, and be sure to select "public." This helps ensure that personal information is not kept on the computer after you're finished.

Don't Slack on Common-Sense Security Procedures

Remember that your computer screen may be visible to others passing by or sitting behind you. When you're finished with a logged-in session, such as email, always log out when you're finished so the next user doesn't accidentally gain access to your account.

Clear the web browser history, temporary files, and cookies when you are finished. It's best to avoid logging on to websites where you have sensitive data, such as your bank account, if at all possible.

Internet Cafe GeneralTips

Make your cyber cafe experience smoother and more efficient with some practical advice.

Know the Rules

If you have technical difficulties on the computer, talk to a manager and switch workstations (it'll be a lot faster than waiting for tech support). Also, always be aware of any time limits on usage, or else you may find yourself logged out of the system while in the middle of something important.

Remember Where You Are

If the passwords you use for systems you hope to access at an international cyber cafe utilize special characters, such as ampersands, consider changing them, as those characters may not be available on foreign keyboards.

Stay Healthy

Keyboards can harbor a lot of germs, and public keyboards can be especially bad sources for bacteria. Researchers at the University of Arizona found that the average desktop can contain 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Always wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer after using a public keyboard. 

As smartphones make the mobile web ubiquitous, internet cafes around the world are seeing dwindling numbers of customers.