One of the joys of traveling through Central Asia is the feeling of being at the edge of the world, being cut off from all the stresses and responsibilities from back home for a few weeks. However, just sometimes it’s good to check in with family and friends, boast with epic photos on social media or catch up with the emails.
While you could invest in an expensive satellite phone, it is possible to simply stay connected while on the road. Yes, there are internet cafés in most of the big cities, but these slow and often virus laden computers are not ideal, and some hotels charge obscene amounts of money for Wi-Fi use. So what options do you have while traveling through Central Asia?
Kazakhstan is a country that spreads across vast grassy plains spilling into two continents. Even though Kazakhstan’s heritage lies in nomadic ways of life, the cities in the country are highly modern, and with the capital Astana looking like something out of a science fiction film, it’s hard to imagine you won’t find Internet around.
Out of all of the Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan is by far the most modern, so you’re likely to find free Wi-Fi in the big cities, like the Il Patio Pizza in Almaty. Away in the steppes, deserts or mountains it might be harder to stay connected, but you’re more or less sorted in urban Kazakhstan.
Bishkek is a young and exciting city, and you’ll find a number of Internet cafes and Wi-Fi hotspots. There are Internet cafés that are open until late and charge les than a dollar per hour, these are yellow and black “Bee” Internet cafés so keep your eyes peeled. However, if you want connect your device, you’ll find cafes and restaurants around Bishkek charging $6-$10 per hour.
Karakol has Internet cafés but it’s noting that some of them don’t charge based on the time used but rather by bandwidth. If you’re going to be logging into bandwidth heavy sites like Gmail, you’re going to have a hefty cost.
It’s not hard to stay connected when you’re in the capital Dushanbe, where Internet cafés along the city’s main road in Rudaki Street tend to charge around $1. In somewhere like Khorog, your best bet is to hit the main post office, which has its own Internet café, so you can say hi to everyone before embarking on a drive through the Pamir Highway.
For all its positives, Uzbekistan definitely loses when it comes to surfing the web. The country has tightened its Internet controls, so you’ll not only need to find somewhere with a net connection, but also come with a list of proxy servers.
Tashkent, as expected in a capital city, has quite a few strong network Wi-Fi cafes on pretty much every street corner, so you’ll find it easy to keep connected, but what about elsewhere?
The good news is that in Samarkand and Bukhara, you’ll still find quite a few Internet cafés, but the speed it’ll take you to connect might not be the quickest in the world. Granted, other places in Uzbekistan are worse where Internet connection is concerned, but anywhere outside of Tashkent is not going to be so good. You can find Internet cafes in the main tourist parts of the cities, and the costs are usually low.