6 years ago, cybercafes were ubiquitous even in smaller towns with some tourist trade. I think they peaked, in Europe around year 2006. Since then, widespread Wi-Fi services, iPhones, tablets and smaller notebooks put a huge dent on their business. I laud this evolution in general, it is much better to be able to your your own device than rely upon a third-party computer you have to pay for and that might be rigged with viruses etc. I also noticed Internet cafes are disappearing fast from European cities. This creates a small, but non-negligible problem: where to print your reservations or other documents, especially for use in airports as some airlines charge extra if you don't have a PRINTED boarding pass?
I am wondering what cities you guys are visiting that you can't find any internet cafes? They are in every neighborhood in Frankfurt. Many people don't have the means to have internet hook-ups at home, or need to work on some homework and don't have to time to wait to share the one computer in the house, or maybe they just want to surf the net without the spouse checking their history, or have a 2nd account with a different IP address on it to post stuff on forums. I have been known to use them too, when waiting on internet hook-ups for my apt. or if I need something faxed. Yes, some companies are still using faxes. They may not be in the middle of downtown areas so that you would notice them, but believe me, they are around. They also often have phone booths where you can make cheap calls around the world, and sell phone cards too. Not everyone has a smart phone, or a even a computer. Most decent hotels have a business counter you can use or will at least print up your documents.
I've used the computers in public libraries both at home and in England. The hotels I've stayed at in the San Francisco Bay Area have computers and printers available. Sometimes there is a charge for the service.
Certainly London has plenty of internet cafes with phone cards and phone booths, primarily aimed at people staying in touch with eastern Europe, the Asian subcontinent, and the far east. When I travel with my netbook I haven't had any trouble printing out at the business centres or reception desks of the hotels at which I have stayed. At a B&B the owner volunteered to make a print out for me.
Several airlines are starting to offer a paperless boarding pass. They send your boarding pass to your mobile device. Easy to predict that this will become more common. Also, in my experience a lot of hotels - and many B&B's - will print things for you. Many hotels have a guest business room with internet access and printers.
I think the solution to the problem is what some companies are already implementing - being issued an electronic ticket that you can show on your smartphone, ipad, or other device. Deutschebahn and my local transit company does this already. Of course the problem is, what do you do if your device runs out of batteries? But yeah, I tend to print everything I need at home before I go, I have found some places in Europe really impossible to find a cybercafe with a printer (like Paris). There were a lot in the Balkans, which was convenient a few times for me, but I imagine eventually they will disappear.
I think cybercafes peaked around 2000, by 2006 they were already dinosaurs. For boarding passes most hotel filled the gap by offering computers with printers. At airports that cater to discount airlines there is unsually a merchant inside the terminal which offers a boarding pass printing service for a fee.
Hotel. The front desk will normally do that for you. They all have computers and printers. Simple to ask.
I'm curious what requires a paper print-out anymore. I'm not much of a pre-planner and tend to make my plans at whatever ticket booth I'm in front of so I'm sure I'm missing something, but it seems to me like all of my reservations for transportation, tours, reservations, etc have been done by a confirmation # or an email I keep on my iPhone. I get it if you don't have a smart phone. My trip to Paris/Dublin last week were completely paperless. I'm sure there's still some things out there requiring a hard copy so it would be great to know. Some budget airlines? Some train systems?
"I'm curious what requires a paper print-out anymore" A copy of your boarding pass, e-ticket, or whatever is your back-up if your smartphone had a problem. I can't even think of a single B&B I've stayed at in the last several years that didn't have a printer they allowed guests to use. Some have allowed me to sit, type, an print using their equipment...others have allowed me to plug my laptop into their printer. I've just printed e-tickets from home before my trip when I've purchased Deutsche Bahn tickets online before, but can anyone use those smartphone mobile tickets...thought I read somewhere that you need a German SIM card to do that? My phone is a GSM/CDMA world phone and works everywhere, but I don't have a German SIM.
There are certainly cybercafes around if you go out of your way to look for them. But I can remember back in 2000 there were huge cybercafes (remember EasyInternet) with banks of like a hundred terminals on most every corner in the tourist zones of the big major cities. They're long-gone; nowadays you if you need one you'll have to seek them out in a residential area. Typically there are just a handful terminals and they are usually coupled with another business.
Those services are great if you are staying at a hotel or B & B, but what is a good solution for people who rent apartments?
Same issue as Andrea. Since I rent apartments 75% I have gone paperless by necessity (and a few mess ups in packing). As far as back-up goes if the phone doesn't work, I have an iPad, laptop, or both or a travel partner with access to those things. For boarding passes, I just use my passport to access those at the airport. I'm just wondering if some airlines, trains, etc, still require something on paper anymore. In the past couple of years, I have only needed a passport for even the prop plane 6 seater only airlines. I looked into a travel printer and they are outrageously expensive and don't seem to really be 'travel' size either.
You are more likely, but not certain, to find cybercafes if you look for them. On my trip last May, I found one (in advance) in Freilassing, Germany, across the border from Salzburg. I tried to use one in Berchtesgaden, but it was closed for a holiday. The next one I found was in a TI office in Saxony a week later. Fortunately I had my netbook with a web stick. Once I got Pennymobil set up, I was able to use my computer on the Internet for 2,50€/day. I did that half of the time; the rest of the time I had free Internet in the small Gasthouse or Privatzimmer where I stayed. I once saw, but did not use, Internet access for a price at a McDonalds. I would no longer rely on finding a cybercafe. I found free Internet access via Wifi at a lot of restaurants on my trip. United emailed me a boarding pass the day before my departure from MUC, but I had nowhere to print it. When I got to the airport, I ed my passport into a kiosk and it printed my boarding pass.
James is on point. There's a cybercafe in my neighborhood, which is also an international calling center, because my neighborhood is full of working class immigrants. But if I were in the mitte of Stuttgart? I've never seen a cybercafe there. Which is where the tourists are likely to be. Similarly, couldn't find one in touristy areas of Paris when I really needed one. Everything in the guidebook I was using ended up no longer being a cybercafe. I do think they are becoming far less common, but it depends on where you are.
If you are in a big city, go to a Major chain hotel, and most have a kiosk, that's meant for guests to use to print boarding passes.
The last time I used a cybercafe was 3 years ago in Tournon in the Rhone, and for one hour I was charged 2 euros. I couldn't figure out the economics of the business. There were a few people playing games, but how does that pay the rent?
Public libraries have always been helpful in my experience.
Tourist offices have been helpful to me.
I really go paperless whenever I can. However, airports are still tricky when it comes to that. And if you make a mistake in not printing a boarding pass for low-cost airlines, you will pay hefty fees to have it printed on the check-in counter (that fee is as high as € 50 for Ryanair).
Most hotels with a computer available for guests will have a printer option (sometimes it goes to the reception desk printer). In a pinch, Western Union has computer terminals with printer hookups (WUs are often near train stations but otherwise can be in off-the-tourist-track sidestreets). I always travel with preprinted docs, but sometimes I need to make a change or add a domestic flight, and while the smartphone idea works fine for most people, I have my doubts, so I find a printer.
It wouldn't be such a problem if you could print out passes when you pay for air or train travel. Often, the boarding pass must be printed out within the 24 hrs before the flight. For train travel, I have had no problem having tickets printed at the train station. Sometimes a kiosk will do this and sometimes it is necessary to go to the ticket seller booth. I think RS travels with a portable printer. If you travel with a group maybe taking your own printer would work.
Almost every budget hotel we stay at offers a computer and printer for guest use. We print as we go. If that fails, a lot of TI's now offer computers and/or will print something for you. It's getting less necessary to print. I've noticed more and more people boarding planes with an electronic boarding pass on their smart phones. The gate agent scans their phone and off they go. I keep copies of my tickets, boarding passes, reservations, etc. on my Ipod. I usually don't need them printed but have them in case I need to refer to them or show them.