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What is an Internet Cafe or Cybercafe?

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Question: What is an Internet Cafe or Cybercafe?
Answer: An Internet cafe--or cybercafe--is a place where one can "rent" or use a computer with Internet access. Usually a per minute or per hour fee is charged. In general, there is usually a drink service in an Internet cafe. When access is free or very innexpensive, a user might be asked to purchase a minimum amount of food or drink from the cafe.

Specifics on Internet Cafes in Europe

European Internet Cafes are found in most cities and larger villages. In smaller villages, the local tourist office might have a computer or two for tourists to use.

The term Internet Point is often used in Europe to define a place where access to computers connected to the internet is provided, generally with very limited (or nonexistant) food or drink services. Other related services you may find at an Internet Point include: fax, gaming, photo printing, CD burning and long distance telephone service. In many countries, asking for an "internet point" in English will get a response, even from people who don't speak English.

There are various ways to charge for internet access. Some Internet cafes or Internet Points simply charge by the minute, others require the purchase of a card good for a minimum amount of time. It is increasingly common for employees of Internet points to ask for a drivers license or other identity card to keep as security. I've never had a problem with this.

Students should bring proof of school registration, as discounts may be offered to certified students.

Be aware that keyboards in Europe may reflect the character usage of the local language. In other words, the letters aren't anywhere near the places on the keyboard you'd expect. This is generally the case in France. Sometimes larger establishments, like Internet points targeted at tourists or foreign students, will have American keyboards, or at least a utility that converts the keyboard character mapping to American English. On Windows computers, look for a square icon in the system tray with "FR" on it. See if you can right click on the icon to change the setting to "US" (or UK).

Related Computer Services at Internet Cafes

At an Internet cafe or Internet point you may be able to work with compact discs and memory keys. Some small internet cafes, fearing worms and viruses, will not allow the connection of media to their computers. This is generally not the case with larger internet points.

Currently, some internet cafes have discontinued CD burning services, as current law has found the providers responsible for copyright violations performed by clients.

Wifi Services in Europe

The Internet Cafe was a natural evolution from the European cafe, which has traditionally been associated with communications (cafes provide local newspapers for clients, for example, and most have public telephones). But compared to the US, the spread of WiFi or wireless internet access in public spaces like cafes has occured at a slower rate in Europe. You are more likely to find cafes with WiFi access in University towns, near the schools.

Bringing your Laptop to Europe

If you require frequent access to the Internet for more than the occasional email, you may think about toting your laptop to Europe. Increasingly, many internet points will allow you to tap into their wideband networks through an ethernet connection or wireless nodes. Many hotels also offer these services as well.

Finding Internet Access in Europe

The local tourist office will have a list of Internet Cafes and Internet Points. They may even have a computer or two for you to use. If you are desperate for Internet access, I have had some luck inquiring at computer stores.

To find Internet access points in advance of your trip, see our European Internet Access resources.

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