Using Internet While Backpacking – Tips and Tricks For the Backpacker

Picking an Internet café

These days you can find Internet cafés almost everywhere. Ask which connection the Internet café has, it is a huge difference between dial-up and 100 megabit broadband so it may be worth going to the more expensive place if their connection is significantly faster.

Usually the customers share the available bandwidth in the Internet café which means the more clients the slower the connection. An empty café may therefore not necessarily be a bad thing. Check the prices and if there is a minimum time consumption before using the computer.

If you need to connect your digital camera/media player etc bring a USB-cable . If you do not have one check with the café if they have a USB-cable or a card reader so that you can remove the memory card from your device and connect it to the computer.

Hotspots which enable wireless access are spreading quite fast these days. You can find them in airports, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. Sometimes they are free for clients so if you bring your mobile device (laptop, cell phone, etc) you can connect without the need to visit an Internet café. There is also a service called FON which is a large wireless connection community where you get free wireless access to the Internet if you share your connection at home.

Surfing the web

More than once we have composed a nice mail, hit the send button only to get an error message in return. Hitting the back button then only returned a blank screen. ¤¤//&¤!! The best way to avoid this is to open up a text editor (e.g. notepad or WordPad) and write your message there. When you are finished select the text, copy it, switch to your e-mail and paste the text.

Those from countries using unusual letters (such as the Swedish letters å, ä, ö) may find it very frustrating trying to find out how to type these letters on foreign keyboards. There are several approaches to solve this:

o Open up Microsoft word. Go to Insert, Symbol, select Normal text, select your characters and press the button Insert.

o Send an e-mail to yourself which contains the special characters while you are at home.

  • Open the mail when you are in the Internet café
  • Select all the special characters.
  • Copy them (use the keyboard shortcut for copying – it is normally ctrl+C).
  • Switch to your e-mail program.
  • Start writing your e-mail.
  • When you need to use your special characters paste them (use the keyboard shortcut for pasting, it is normally: ctrl+V) then delete the ones you do not want to use.
  • Next time you need the special characters just paste them again (there is no need to copy them again unless you copied something else later).

o Learn the ASCII-code (a three digit number) of the character you want to type. You can then type the character by holding down the alt-button and typing the ASCII-code. Do not release the alt-button until you have typed all the numbers. If you want to type the letter Å for example just hold down alt and type 143. For a complete listing check out Wikipedia. Below you find some common examples:

Å 143 é 130 ñ 164

å 134 ê 136 ç 135

Ä 142 è 138 â 131

ä 132 ß 225 ç 135

Ö 153 Ø 157 ¿ 168

ö 148 ø 155 ü 129

ë 137 æ 145 Ü 154

If someone with a different character set than yours has been using your computer you may find all sort of strange things happening when using the keyboard. Maybe someone from Japan just used the computer and switched to Japanese character set. If the computer has another language set (e.g. Japanese) you can change back to English by right clicking the language bar (bottom right corner with two capital letters e.g. EN) and selecting your preferred language.

If you are on a really slow connection and have a lot of e-mails to open it is useful to right click each message and select open in new window or open the messages in a new tab. While you start reading the first mail, the others will be loading in the background. It may take longer for the windows to open but you save time instead of opening one mail, reading it, going back, opening another mail, etc.

If you are on a slow connection you can disable pictures to make downloading go faster. In Internet Explorer go to: Tools/Internet Options/Advanced. Scroll down to Multimedia and uncheck the checkbox Show pictures. This can drastically speed up your surfing.

It is also a good idea to have several windows open if you are visiting different web sites (in the Internet Explorer menu bar select: File/New/Window). Type the URLs in the different windows and read the one which loads first while the others load. Switch between the windows as they finish loading.

Sometimes you get asked if you want the browser or chat program (e.g. MSN Messenger) to remember your password. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT select yes if you are on a shared computer. Choosing yes means that your password is saved and the next person who surfs to the same site can get into it without knowing the password. Also do not forget to log out after you finish, do not just close the window. Many times we have been to Internet cafés where someone left MSN Messenger open while they were logged in. We could easily have opened their mail, sent messages to their contacts, etc. Log out.

If you enjoy playing video games you can often find the same game installed on the Internet cafés. If you want to keep going you can save your save game to the hard drive and e-mail it to yourself. Next time you want to continue playing just download it to the save game directory and you are set to go.

If you connect your camera/media player/memory card to a computer you should take care when disconnecting your device. Before you disconnect your device click on the icon in the lower right corner called Safe removal of hardware (if available). Select your device in the window which pops up and select disconnect. Wait until you get a confirmation message that your hardware can be removed safely before disconnecting your device. This process informs Windows that you intend to remove the device and ensures that you do not run into problems e.g. by removing the device while data is being saved.

A good way to get information you need while on your trip is to post a question in a web community such Virtual Tourist, wait one or two days and then check it again. You can get notifications to your e-mail if someone replies to your post on the discussion forum so you do not have to log in to the community to check if you have received any answers.

Chat programs

Using a chat program such as Windows Live Messenger), Skype or ICQ is a great way to keep in touch with people at home. You can keep conversations going with several people at the same time, send pictures, etc. Many programs also allow you to use a web cam and a microphone which enables you to make simple video calls to people. You can sometimes also make calls to fixed telephones and cell phones at very competitive rates. Check out your preferred service for details.

Personal Experience – The Evil E-mail Esquapade

Once when I was logging in to Hotmail on an remote Internet café the guy before me had forgotten to log off. I could not resist the opportunity and quickly sent a fake love letter to a woman randomly chosen from his contact list. As if this was not enough, I came back a few days later and, can you believe it, the same guy had forgotten to log off again. Evil as I am (sometimes) I read her reply. She said she was a bit unsure of what he meant – for obvious reasons. I replied to her once more telling how much I really loved her. Perhaps they are married now. Sometimes you have to help people getting their feelings kick-started.