I carried a computer with me to Europe once. It turned out to be an eight pound brick in my luggage. There are more efficient ways to stay in touch these days--Internet cafes are everywhere and reasonably cheap. Here's what you'll need to know about finding and using one.
Finding a cybercafe in Europe
You might want to visit our cybercafe directory and find the cybercafes in towns you'll be visiting so you won't waste a lot of time looking for one when you get there, although asking at your hotel works pretty well these days. Even if you don't know the language, arching your eyebrows and asking "Internet?" pretty much works everywhere, especially if you make funny little keyboarding moves with your fingers at the same time.
Once you get to an internet access point, expect to pay around $5 an hour. There seems to be no correlation between speed and price.
What you'll need before you go
Make sure you can access your email online. That means you'll need a web-based email account like Yahoo mail or Hotmail. The number of free Internet email businesses is shrinking faster than the budget surplus, so you'll want to get in soon. I actually look for a pay service these days, since they often contain no advertising and usually give you a decent amount of space which you'll need if you're gone long and get a lot of email. Most cybercafes offer reasonably fast connections these days, but the slimmer your service, the faster it'll move on a slow modem. Here are some alternatives to Yahoo or Hotmail:
Hush Mail - If you need encryption between you and your friends and associates, here's a web-based solution you might want to consider. From $2.50 per month.
mail2web - If you forgot to get a web based email before you left, but know your server and password, you can get your email from this page.
WebBox - A complete office on the web. Allows you to check up to five accounts. Annual fee is $10. This is the one I used this year in Europe and it worked flawlessly.
Web-based Email Accounts - A list of solutions from About Email guide Heinz Tschabitsher.
Tips for Accessing the Internet in a Cybercafe
- Each European language has its own keyboard arrangement. If you're befuddled by the keys, ask if the cafe has a computer with an English keyboard. Alternatively, there might be a driver loaded that allows a user to change the keyboard mapping. Look in the system tray (on the lower right of the PC monitor) for a symbol you don't recognize and run your mouse over it slowly. If you're lucky you'll be able to identify it. Otherwise just right click on anything you suspect and see if a list of languages comes up. Select English or UK. Of course, you'll have to be a touch typist, because the keys on the keyboard don't actually change, just the mapping.
- Don't assume that you can work with that floppy you brought from home on every computer. Many cybercafes utilize an outside contractor who sets up the Internet access. Many of these units won't let you use any of removable media for fear of spreading viruses.
- Remember to log out from an email session and close the browser completely to dump your session cookies (temporary files where your personal info is sometimes stored). These are shared computers. You don't want someone else reading your mail do you?
Staying Connected - Cellular Phones, Global Roaming and more
Yep, there are other ways to stay connected, check our Staying Connected Directory for articles and information on Cellular Phones (and why buying one may be a good idea) and other connected travel information.