How to Find and Use Internet Cafes

Where to find them while traveling (and our top tips for using them)

Internet cafes, also called cybercafes or net cafes, are establishments that offer computers with internet access for public use, usually for a small fee. Internet cafes aren't as popular in the U.S. as they once were, probably because of the abundance of free internet services available at restaurants and hotels. However, they remain popular with travelers, particularly when they travel outside the U.S.

Cybercafes vary in appearance, ranging from plain spaces filled with computer workstations 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 don't want to carry laptops along on their trip. They are common in many countries, and using their services is often inexpensive, especially if you're checking email, sharing digital photos, or using VoIP for short periods.

In many countries where computers and internet access are not widely available or affordable, cybercafes also provide an important service to the local population. These may be 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 vary widely depending on the location. For example, internet access on a cruise ship may be expensive, and connections may not always be available. Be sure you understand the costs before you begin.

Some locations 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 cybercafes. Travel guides often provide locations of internet cafes for travelers.

Do a Google search for cybercafes 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 on it. You'll have all your data with you, but none of your information remains on the cybercafe computer when you unplug the flash drive. Make sure the USB flash drive has antispyware and antivirus programs installed on it.

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 choice helps ensure that personal information is not kept on the computer after you're finished.

Don't Slack on Common-Sense Security Procedures

Your computer screen may be visible to others passing by or sitting behind you. When you finish with a logged-in session, such as email, log out so that 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 possible.

Internet Cafe General Tips

Make your cybercafe 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 faster than waiting for tech support). Also, always be aware of any time limits on usage, or you may find yourself logged out of the system in the middle of something important.

Remember Where You Are

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

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

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