What I get from Carlos Slim Helu in Mexico
What if you want to travel in cheap countries or move to one of them to cut your expenses in half? Can you still run an online business via Wi-Fi and do bandwidth-heavy activities like uploading videos? Yes…and no.
When people ask me what I’ve missed from the USA while living in Mexico, it’s a pretty short list. But at the top of that list is fast internet. When I live in Tampa I can get lightning-fast Fios fiber to the home. And the mobile wireless speed is great too. Mexico is in the dark ages by comparison, with one of the world’s richest men doling out 5 mbps from his monopoly Telcel Infinitum service in most areas, on connections that take a nosedive when all your neighbors go online. In a big Mexican city or an upscale neighborhood you can do better, especially if there are cable competitors, but that’s not very common since most people use satellite dishes for their TV.
Fastest Download Speeds Overall
If you’re in a well-wired hotel or home, you’re best off in expensive and densely populated countries like Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong. That’s according to Ookla, the company that provides the Speedtest app you should have on your phone when shopping for an apartment or long-term hotel stay. A few cheap countries rate highly though, including Romania at a stellar #6, Hungary at #18, and Bulgaria at #26—all ahead of the USA, Canada, and the UK. Others ranking fairly well were Portugal, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Thailand, and Vietnam.
You have to get down to #60 and #67 to find any country in Latin America (Uruguay and Chile) and down to #64 for the first Africa ones (Madagascar). Most of the ones pulling up the rear are in Africa, plus a few lands ruled by dictators or warlords.
The worst cheap countries to live in that I’ve featured in my books are, in order of badness, Bolivia, Egypt, Philippines, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. Keep in mind for all these results though that this is an average across the whole country. So capital cities may not be bad, but rural areas without much infrastructure are probably terrible—below the numbers you see on this chart.
Fastest Mobile 4G Data
If you’re looking for the best mobile wireless, here’s some data for you. According to those studies, the best cheap countries for 4G LTE are Hungary (just below South Korea), Poland, Argentina, Colombia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Mexico actually averages faster mobile speeds than home internet speeds, which I guess shows I should have been using a USB stick all along as a back-up.
Best Public WiFi
If you’re planning on using public WiFi hotspots, as in public parks, you’re going to want to do that park surfing in the summer. That’s because in this survey, Lithuania is at the top of the list, followed by Croatia, Estonia, and Ireland. The #5 spot goes to Romania though. Hungary, Bulgaria, and Portugal also made the top-20. (So did Canada and the USA, but barely.)
Best Hotel WiFi
This report on fast and free hotel WiFi admittedly leaves out some countries because there aren’t enough tested hotels to have good data. It’s quite enlightening though, showing the U.S. is quite likely to have free Wi-Fi where you’re staying, but there’s a good chance it will suck.
Once again, Romania and Hungary showed up high, at #5 and #10 respectively. All better than the USA and Canada, and in the top-50 were Bulgaria, Vietnam, Poland, Thailand India, and Mexico (where if you’re paying for it, you’re probably at the Four Seasons). Cambodia showed up near the bottom for quality, but hey—95% of the hotels don’t charge you anything for it! Japan has great quality, but you’ll be shelling out extra yen half the time. The best of both worlds was Vietnam: above-average quality and almost always free. The best hotel cities in the United States for a mix of quality + free are Portland, Seattle, Albuquerque, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Fastest Airport WiFi
If you often need to do work from the airport on your way out, you might want to live in Chattanooga or make your connections through Houston. Those are the only two U.S. airports to rank highly in this airport Wi-Fi study. Two cheap countries made the list and one was at the very top: the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand. The other was in Jakarta, which is some consolation after enduring the hellish traffic to get to the airport.