Top ten ways to deal with a slow Internet connection while travelling

Internet, internet
Adventure travel has its downsides. One of them is that out-of-the-way places tend to have slow Internet connections. Usually this isn’t a problem. You aren’t going to the ends of the Earth to tweet about it, are you? Sometimes, though, we need to keep in touch. While writing my Harar travel series, I’ve been having serious problems trying to do this broadband blogging job on a dialup connection. Not only is it always slow, but it died completely for a week. Today the Internet came back as mysteriously as it disappeared. Assuming you can get a connection, here are some time-saving tips I’ve come up with, along with others that fellow Gadlingers suggested to keep me from pulling my hair out at the local Internet café.

1: Compose on Word or Notepad while your email is loading.

2: Don’t try to open more than one tab at a time, but while you’re reading one you can open another.

3: Turn off “automatically load images.” In Firefox you do this by clicking Tools-Options-Content-then unchecking “Load images automatically”. In Internet Explorer click on Tools-Internet Options-Advanced-scroll down to Multimedia and uncheck “Show pictures”.

4: Some email accounts like Gmail have a Basic HTML option that will make your email load more quickly.

5: If you have your own computer, NoScript is a useful program from cutting out a lot of the high-bandwidth crap that clutters up the Internet.
6: Scott Carmichael says, “Find mobile versions of sites. Always make sure background apps like Dropbox are disabled.”

7: Meg Nesterov says, “Can never be said enough: save early and often. Load text-heavy or videos that buffer first while you’re active on other pages, then read/watch them last. Some sites will load faster in Mobile view.”

8: Stephen Greenwood says, “When I was in Arusha, Tanzania, I would go to the fanciest hotel in town (they had the fastest WiFi) and pretend I was staying there so I could upload photos / blog posts from the lobby.”

9: Once you’ve logged out, wait a moment and then close the tab. The command has already been sent and you will be logged out. Yes, I’ve checked this and it really works.

10: You’ll probably have to do without high-bandwidth sites like Twitter.

. . .if all else fails, send a postcard!

Do you have any time-saving tips you use when struggling with a bad connection? Tell me about them in the comments section. I need all the help I can get over here!

[Photo courtesy user cfarivar via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Skip the cybercafe – International travel tip

If you chose to use a cybercafe in India, be prepared to hand over your passport and give your home address — some cybercafes will even fingerprint you!

Criminals in India have abused cybercafe computers, prompting strict regulations for India’s cybercafes. The extra layer of red tape is just not worth the trouble — besides, many cybercafe computers are infected with viruses, and that’s NOT the kind of souvenir you want to send home to friends and family.

Instead, consider bringing your own computer and using your hotel’s Internet access. Alternatively, just unplug!

Headed to Africa? Emailing home just got easier

Cyberjunkies face a serious problem when going to Africa–most countries have slow and unreliable Internet service. I’ve been encountering this problem myself as I try to set up my upcoming trip to The Gambia. Luckily for some countries, a new high-speed fiber optic cable will provide quick access to the rest of the world.

The BBC reports that the first undersea cable serving East Africa has just come online. Now South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Mozambique have a dedicated connection to Europe and Asia. Email can then be routed through one of the nodes there to continue on to places like North America. The cable is owned by African company Seacom and was supposed to go online in June but was delayed because of pirates off the Somali coast.

The faster connection is good news not only for homesick tourists, but also African businesspeople and students, like the Tanzanian schoolkids pictured here, and will help lower the “information debt” of several developing countries.

Anyone willing to fund a certain Gadling blogger to check out the connections for himself? I’ll be happy to report back on my findings.

The Other Great Wall of China

We had no problem finding internet connections throughout China. Internet cafes, or “net bars” as they’re called, with fairly quick download speeds, were not hard to find. Once connected, however, we did have our share of problems: for example, Hotmail and Yahoo often functioned poorly, and some news sources were blocked (like the NY Times). This was probably due to the so-called Great Firewall of China.

Even though Google and others have bowed to its wishes, the Chinese government wants to make it even harder to get on line. According to the Times of London, the Chinese government has banned any new internet cafes from opening. This is in addition to the 3-hour legal on-line time-limit placed in effect in 2005, it’s in addition to the no-one-under-18-admitted law, and it’s in addition to the requirement that all net bar users register with their ID cards before using the computers.

However, there is hope. About 113,000 recognized net bars exist in the country, and there may be many more illegal ones. Over 128 million new internet users have logged on in China since 2000, bringing the total official on-line population estimate to over 137 million (compared to 207 million in the U.S., making it the world’s second-largest on-line market).

(This site actually let’s you check to see what websites are censored there.)