Since I found an Internet café inside this castle in the south of the Czech Republic in 1998, it’s been apparent that Internet is available, for all intents and purposes, everywhere.
By everywhere I mean “everywhere a North American is likely to travel in the world.” But also many other places. In areas where travelers congregate, inevitably wiley local entrepreneurs recognize the market opportunity, and Internet cafés — sometimes dozens of them — spring up around traveler populated areas. And in areas where there are fewer travellers, there is often less local infrastructure, and therefore more of a need for shared Internet access. Which travelers can also use.
My experience of the world is hardly complete, of course. But I’ve found Internet access readily available in the Czech Republic, Thailand, Spain, Germany, the U.K., Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, and all across the U.S.
On our recent trip, for example, we used the Internet in a café in downtown Zagreb (14.70 kuna/hour), a hotel in the small town Kutina, Croatia (18 kuna/hour), a café on the 7th floor of an old building overlooking the harbour in Split, Croatia (16 kuna/hour), a late-night storefront operation in Ancona, Italy (1 euro/30 minutes), and a small shop that sold everything from phone cards to fax access to photocopying across from the train station in Ancona (1 euro/20 minutes). There are 5 kunas to a Canadian dollar as I write this, and a Euro is worth about $1.59CDN.
Access was sometimes fast and sometimes slow, but generally quite reliable. The machines were all Windows-based, with Internet Explorer installed, and sometimes Netscape. Sometimes America Online Instant Messenger was installed; other times I ran the “AIM Express,” which you can run from within a web browser from aim.com. Although I didn’t need to use it, there was usually Microsoft Word, and sometimes Excel installed. I checked my email through a web-based client, updated my website, and even used a Java-based SSH client to connect to servers when it was required a couple of times.
The only technical walls I ran into were in Air Canada lounges, and one of the Internet cafés, where, for some reason, I couldn’t connect to secure webservers that required a username and password: I would get prompted for this information, but as soon as I entered the username, the password field would get “greyed out” and I wouldn’t be able to enter anything there.
The interesting thing about all this access, everywhere, is that, short of checking my email, and looking up small things like air travel departure times, I’ve found, more and more, that the world of Internet holds far less appeal when traveling than when at home. What interest is the constant technical chatter on /. when there’s interesting food to eat, and interesting sites to see?