Cybercafes called boon to travelers: they can leave their laptops home
(San Diego Union And Tribune; 05/12/98)
Afew years ago, true Internet junkies lugged their laptops around the world so
they could stay connected.
Now they're leaving their laptops at home and relying on cybercafes for a
cheap, fast, easy way to exchange e-mail and browse the Web while they sip a
latte or quaff a brew.
Ranging from chrome-and-glass edifices with dozens of high-speed terminals to
mom-and-pop pubs with a single PC in a back room, cybercafes let customers use
e-mail, play games and even update their own Web pages. Cybercafes have become
a fast-growing phenomenon with some 2,000 open worldwide.
Globetrotters say cybercafes -- along with Internet kiosks in airports, copy
shops and libraries -- offer a welcome respite from having to lug a laptop,
fumble with electrical and telephone adapters for different countries and rack
up huge phone bills for connect time. Even high-tech professionals find it
daunting to set up an Internet connection overseas.
"The phone systems are completely batty, and are totally different from country
to country," said Carl de Cordova, a computer engineer. "You can forget about
finding an 800 number that works from Europe, so you have to try to track down
a local Internet service provider. You're much better off to go out to a
cybercafe and have a beer and relax while you get online." At a minimum,
cybercafes let you easily log onto the Internet without having to figure out
what number to dial; some even offer high-speed Net connections such as ISDN or
"Many of them also have fantastic games, color printers, cameras for
videoconferencing and scanners so you can send holiday pictures to your
friends," said Kath Stanton, author of "Cybercafes, A Worldwide Guide for
Cybercafes are also a good way to meet other travelers and local residents.
"People like to be social even when they are surfing," said Ernst Larsen, a
Norwegian journalist who maintains a huge database of cybercafes. Prices
average $5 to $10 for a half-hour of usage. In Europe and Asia, where phone
charges can be astronomical and phone service spotty, that's a bargain.
De Cordova ran up a $250 hotel phone bill for his Internet connect time during
a week in Paris. A few days later, he was wandering through Amsterdam's red
light district when he saw a cybercafe.
"I went inside, checked my e-mail and starting replying to the people who had
sent me messages, describing how I was sitting in a hash bar next to a guy
rolling a giant joint. It turned out there were four cybercafes within a
stone's throw, all on these little bitty, windy 400-year-old streets," he
De Cordova ended up spending his six-week sabbatical from his job at Apple
Computer traveling around Europe and Mexico and sending his friends dispatches
from cybercafes in every town he visited.
"In Cologne, Germany, I got off the train, went to a department store, and it
had an Internet cafe on the fourth floor, right between the sneakers and the
underwear. Pudicice in the Czech Republic was a tiny town, but sure enough,
they had a cybercafe, too -- and a nice one with great connectivity."
As de Cordova found, cybercafes can exist far off the beaten path. You'd expect
Paris, which is to cafes what Rome is to ruins, to host a dozen cybercafes. But
how about Bali (seven) or Katmandu (two)?
"When I vacationed in Thailand on Koh Samui, a little island that barely has
electricity, there was a cybercafe a block away," said David Strom, a computer
consultant from Port Washington, N.Y.
To find a cybercafe on your travels, check with the local tourist office or
computer stores, get Stanton's book (available at http://www.traveltales.com),
or surf through Web sites that keep tabs on the cybercafe scene:
http://www.cybercaptive.com or http://www.netcafeguide.com.
Keep in mind that Web-based e-mail is a lot easier to deal with from different
locations than a dial-up account. Before you go on a trip, sign up with one of
the numerous free services offering Web e-mail.
You may want to pack a diskette with your favorite Web bookmarks and your
friends' e-mail addresses. You can find more technical tips on using cybercafes
Here's a sample of just a few of the cybercafes open in San Diego County.
(Check the Web sites in the main story for more locations.)
ESPRESSO NET 7700 Regents Road (619) 453-5897
JAVANICAN 4338 Cass St. (619) 483-8035
CINE CAFE 4th and K streets (619) 595) 1929
NAKED BEAN 1126 1st St. (760) 436-1162
METAPHOR CAFE 258 E. 2nd St. (760) 489-8890
INTERNATIONAL BLENDS 208 Palm Ave. (619) 329-0340
C@FE CYBERNET 8657 Villa La Jolla Drive (619) 452-1600
JAVA DEPOT 243 N. Highway 101 (619) 259-0308