Internet Access in South East Asia

14 Nov

Working at a cafe

Since 100% of our income comes through the internet, having access to it (the internet) has always been a huge priority for us on our travels.

Yes, there have been days where we have gone without it, but for the most part, we have had a “decent” connection wherever we went. Overall – in South East Asia – we found free “WiFi” to be more readily available than we did anywhere in the USA or Canada. Then again, most people in the West who would make use of it have overpriced data-plans that give them access to the internet everywhere anyway. So I guess, when it comes down to it, there isn’t a big demand for “free” internet in the West.

Talking to my friends back home, they always assume that the internet here in Asia must be terribly expensive. When I tell them that I paid $50 USD per month for a fiber-optic connection* in our rental house in Krabi, Thailand, they say things like “I bet it is insanely slow” or “You get what you pay for” etc, but nothing could be further from the truth.

*NOTE: As I write this, a fiber optic connection is probably one of the most advanced & most expensive internet connections in the world and is generally unavailable for personal use.

I paid $150 per month for my business connection in Canada (it was the best they had at the time) and though it was good, it was no fiber-optic (it was up to 100Mb/s download speed) and worst of all, they put a cap on how much bandwidth I was allowed to use per month. Of course I had to pay extra when/if I exceeded that limit.

None of that BS with my fiber-optic connection in Krabi. It was FAST, it was UNLIMITED, and it was AFFORDABLE.

I no longer care to have the “BEST” speeds and connections, because I really don’t need it anymore. My business has evolved enough over the years that I can run it through simple web pages which can be loaded even on a slow connection.

Anyway, here is my “internet” experience by country (in no particular order).

We were in Beijing for a couple of days and though I cannot speak much for the availability of “free internet” in public areas (we weren’t there long enough), I will say that everything you do there goes through a SLOW government filter. Meaning, if you try to load a website, someone with a badge pre-checks the site to make sure it does not contain anything controversial towards their country, government, leaders, etc.

This means some sites will not work at all. Facebook being one of them. Blogger and Hotmail were among the many other ones that just did not load for us. This drastically limits what you can do online, but what is most annoying is that – as a result of the “censorship” going on – everything loads at an incredibly slow speed.

All in all, should I ever go back to China, I would do my best to stay away from the internet while there. Just not worth the headache and frustration!

When it comes to internet speeds, Thailand has some of the best we have seen. Sure, some places that offer “free WiFi”  have dozens of tourists taking advantage of it – which ends up dragging down the overall speed of that particular connection – but all in all, I find the internet pretty good in most towns and cities – even if it is a free connection.

If you have a mobile device (we have an iPhone and iPad), you have the option of purchasing a sim-card as well. You can buy these at most 7-Elevens and they give you an instant connection in places where free WiFi is not available. We have done that a time or two and it is fairly good and fairly cheap as well.

Working at Starbucks

We just sat down at Starbucks in Chiang Mai. Tried connecting like we had done before, but it told us we needed to buy a username and password to gain access. It would have cost us 150 Baht per day ($5 USD) or 300 Baht for 30 days ($10 USD). We can see ourselves coming back here often for the next few weeks so I purchased the 30 day option and hooked up all our devices to it. It works great – at great speeds too. I guess it helps when there are not too many freebie seekers leaching off of it 🙂

The only problem with it though is that we are limited to “Starbucks” coffee shops around the country to be able to tap in to that paid-for-network, but we both enjoy working at Starbucks so it really is not an issue for us.

Anyway, when it comes to internet connections (among other things), Thailand is an internet marketers dream come true.

One of the great surprises in Penang, Malaysia, was how we had a free WiFi connection throughout most of the historic part of the city. Something like that is unheard of back in North America.
Free WiFi is also available in many coffee shops and all hotels and guesthouses we went to in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Cameron Highlands. The only thing we hated about the Malaysian internet connection, was the speed (or lack thereof).

If all you need internet for, is to check your emails once a day, you will do just fine in Malaysia as well.

Similarly to Malaysia, our Indonesian internet experience was painful. All places we were at had decent WiFi,  but things just would not load.

We rented a villa in Bali, which was absolutely breathtaking, but the internet was SLOW – even though it was our own connection and wasn’t shared with anyone.

I attempted to upload a short 4 minute video I had made, and it took me 9 hours before it was finally uploaded all the way.

I would say it was worse even then Malaysia (for internet speed) but then again: who in the right mind would go to Bali to spend all their time there on the internet? No one I know 😀

Two adapters in one outlet charging three devices

How we charged 3 devices from 1 outlet at Singapore Airport

We were in Luang Prabang for 2 weeks and in Vientiane for about one week. Both cities had plenty of places to get free internet from, but the frustrating thing there (for us) was not that the internet was slow (though it was at times), but more the fact that it would get interrupted every so often.

I think it would be safe to say that the speed was alright, but the connections overall were very unreliable.

In conclusion…
I will update this page as we travel to more countries in Asia (or as my findings change). From what I have gathered so far, internet is readily available in Asia, but don’t expect the world unless you are ready to pay for it as well.

Considering how much we have paid for internet while on the road, I will say: I really cannot complain. I have always gotten done what I needed to get done – even if it took a little longer then it would back home – or on my Thai fiber-optic connection 😉

6 thoughts on “Internet Access in South East Asia

  1. Hi, I’m moving to Krabi soon and would really appreciate some pointers on how to get the fiber optic connection set up; where to go and who to talk to?


    • Hi Ravi,

      Congrats. I’m jealous!

      We simply talked to the Landlord and he had it arranged for us. Trying to remember the name of the company it was through – I believe it was called CAT. Never had an issue with them and found them to be very reasonably priced.

      I hope the helps,


  2. Hi, can i ask you how did you rent your house? Did you find it on the internet or some agency in Krabi town? Im looking for some long term rentals with optic fibre internet in Krabi town. But all im finding out are expensive hotels and apartmans on Ao nang beach. Thank you ;]….btw whats the monthly prize of your house in Krabi, if you can tell me ;]

    • Hi Sarka,
      We tried looking on our own at first but because everything is in a “foreign to us” language, we couldn’t even recognize for rent signs. So we found a local agent (Rasamee) who helped us find the place. We looked at a bunch of different apartments etc but really liked the townhouse she showed us… which is the one we ended up renting for 11,000 THB/mth… which at the time worked out to be about $360 USD per month.
      I hope that helps,

  3. Awesome post, so helpful and I’m sure I will find it useful on my future trip to Asia! I am a “digital nomad” and will be needing a high-speed internet connection for a weekly Skype meeting with clients, do you know if it would be easy to purchase one for this use throughout SE Asia? I’m hoping that at least hotel rooms would have the option for this…Thanks in advance!


    • Depending on where you go in Asia, Internet is readily available. Thailand has got to be the best/cheapest when it comes to getting highspeed data via SIM cards though.
      Personally, I tether my laptop off of my cellphone when coffee shop internet connections get overwhelmed. Cellphone data is incredibly cheap and yet incredibly fast. Should be more than enough to make your calls from.

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