Looking for adventure with decent Internet: Where?
August 9, 2009 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I want to spend 2-3 months living like an internet-using local in Latin America, Asia, or Africa. What are your favorite spots for short-term living?

I want to do this in a few locations over the next few years if I can afford it. I'm female, 48, US-born, and I run a business online.

I'm specifically looking for places in Latin America, Asia, or Africa. It's time for me to stretch.

I need:

* A reliable, faster-than-dialup internet connection.

* Public transport

I like:

* Small- to medium-sized cities that have a university but that aren't dominated by students

* Hanging out in cafes; taking a long time to eat interesting food

* Pedestrians

* All types of dancing (salsa, folk, even country line dancing--I don't care). My most successful trips have involved dancing with locals.

* Old buildings, especially adobe or Islamic styles

I avoid:

* Places where the rule is "Never go out alone after dark."

* Places where foreign women are the targets of aggressive pursuit and groping. I can ignore low-level harassment.

* Shopping, glitz, skyscrapers, resorts

I speak advanced Spanish and some Portuguese. I'd want to learn some of the local language wherever I end up and don't care what it is.

Places I've considered to varying degrees: Montevideo, Uruguay (probably next; will also check out Argentina); a non-Santiago location in Chile (such as?); Sucre, Bolivia; Guanajuato, Mexico; Morocco; Turkey; Tunisia; Namibia; Senegal; Vietnam; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Cuba, if getting in and out isn't a huge hassle as a US citizen.

Places I've liked: Oaxaca, Bruges, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, a village in northern Spain. Places I didn't like: Ghent, Barcelona (big crowds of students; noise).

What Latin, Asian, or African locations do you recommend? Thanks!
posted by PatoPata to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I liked living in Bandung, Indonesia, but not sure how visas would work.
posted by mdonley at 1:03 PM on August 9, 2009

Tons of Asian cities meet your requirements. A few off the top of my head;

Siem Reap, Cambodia
Luang Probang, Laos
Chang Mia, Thailand
Hanoi, Vietnam (Might be too big of a city for your tastes)
posted by meta87 at 1:07 PM on August 9, 2009

Antigua and Quetzaltenango in Guatemala both fit all your categories pretty well, I think.

If Hanoi is too big for your tastes, you might try Hue or Hoi'an, but I remember the internet connections there were pretty slow when I was there three years ago, I imagine they'd have improved by now. Both those towns are great to just hang around in.

Dalian in Yunnan, China is also nice for what you're looking for, there's a large tourist population, but it's easy to get away from.
posted by bluejayk at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2009

Since you're considering checking out Argentina, Córdoba sounds like your best bet there.
posted by dr. boludo at 1:30 PM on August 9, 2009

Iquitos, Peru. Mid-sized city with easy public transportation in the heart of the Amazon. Almost every internet cafe now has wireless (as of 2008) and you can find fantastic food (especially ceviche if you like fish) and rent a room or a small apartment for super cheap (by the month). Lots of swimming and dancing. I have lived there on an off since 2003 from between 2 to 12 months at a time.
posted by cachondeo45 at 1:34 PM on August 9, 2009

In Chile I would recommend Concepción (a more complete article in spanish). It has a nice mixture of big city features with the charm of a smaller one.

Security: It depends a lot of where of the city you live but it's secure for the most part, or at least as secure as a city can be.

Students: There are four 'big' universities and a lot of smaller ones. Students can be found in pubs but, from what I've seen, they are not everywhere and many of them travel to their hometowns during the weekend.

Public Transportation: It works. It can be a little expensive (by local standards) if you move around a lot but once you're in downtown you can walk everywhere if you want/need to.

Basically, Concepción's like a more manageable Santiago. Being the second largest city in the country it has access to a lot of concerts and cultural venues that smaller cities only can dream of but, at the same time, it doesn't have the 'gaah stressed people everywhere help' feeling that Santiago, in my opinion, has. Also, it's not touristic (like Viña del Mar) so that helps too.

Disclaimer: I live in Chillán so most of what I'm saying here is extrapolated from the times I've been there.
posted by Memo at 1:59 PM on August 9, 2009

Sucre in Bolivia is a lovely place. I was only there for a couple of days but could have easily seen myself staying longer. The architecture is great, full of markets and little cafes and is small enough to be able to walk around.

Cordoba in Argentina is nice, but does have a huge university. Alternatives in Argentina would be Salta, a beautiful old colonial place or Rosario, about a 4 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires, making a weekend trip a possibility.

Only Montevideo would really suit your requirements in Uruguay, I've not spent much time there but have heard it's a good place for wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere. More street crime in general there than in Argentina.
posted by jontyjago at 2:42 PM on August 9, 2009

Response by poster: These are all great suggestions. Thanks, and keep them coming!
posted by PatoPata at 3:23 PM on August 9, 2009

Uruguay is a good choice.

Cuba is going to be a hassle for a couple reasons - 1) incompatibility with US banking system, making it difficult for long-ish-term stays and business maintenance. Think, you cannot use credit card and ATM annoyance 2) the internet is not going to be up to your standards, and is quite well monitored in use and not so cheap and 3) there is the whole OFAC thing. You can get there, the Cubans do not mind you there, but if you get caught coming back it can be a very expensive fine.
posted by whatzit at 3:31 PM on August 9, 2009

If you prefer a small town, try Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It's absolutely beautiful, with architecture dating back to the Portuguese colony that was there in the 1600s. It's situated on the bank of the Rio de la Plata across from Buenos Aires, so anytime you need more stimulation you can take the ferry across the water and have a huge amazing city to explore. It's safe and there are plenty of cybercafes and restaurants.
posted by dacoit at 4:26 PM on August 9, 2009

La Paz, Mexico. I lived there for a year, doing work online. Feel free to message me.
posted by glider at 6:48 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure why Memo didn't suggest Valparaiso, in Chile too (though nothing wrong with Conception either). According to your criteria, it definitely has the internet and public transportation. Its possibly bigger than youre thinking, i think somewhere aroudn 350,000 people.. and has universities but is not student dominated. there are cafes (though in general theres not a big coffee culture among the population but there are dozens of cute cafes), dancing of many styles, and old buildings galore with tons of history in architecture to pay attention to.

as far as things you want to avoid... going out after dark is not %100 safe especially alone, but in my opinion its not any worse than any other city of medium size around the world (though if you talk to a chilean who lives in another city they seem to think so...perhaps because of the news/image), foreign women will be the target of catcalls and men mumbling things under their breath but rarely anything too threatening. Shopping, glitz, skyscrapers, resorts are not located here.

i would say the biggest thing off from your criteria would be good food and long meals. in general the food in chile isn't much to write home about, though the upper scale restaurants can be quite good.

its a few minutes drive to a neighboring city Memo mentioned, Vina del Mar, which is a little nicer and more modern, though a step down in character. although there are tourists in both cities, there is no overwhelming feeling of tourism (swarms of people carrying maps and taking pictures etc), and unless you seek it out* or are frequenting museums or the like you will have little interaction with them.

*however, in general in chile, its somewhat difficult for a foreigner to integrate into Chilean circles outside of the party scene.

feel free to follow up with me if you have any more questions...
i also think cordoba or mendoza argentina might be good options, and beautiful cities.
posted by nzydarkxj at 9:31 AM on August 13, 2009

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