These Cheap Countries Have the Fastest Internet

Carlos Slim

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.

Comments
  1. Jo

    N Z doesn’t even get a mention? Must be number 100 – slow and expensive, it’s not free hardly anywhere.

  2. Dave

    I wish most countries had really quick internet speed. The slowest one I found was in Burma. It was slower than dial-up everywhere. South Korea had amazing internet. Thailand was pretty good and Sri Lanka was ok. Not sure where they all are on the list. Surprisingly, some of them were better than in Europe. Ideally, the cheaper countries will outdo the more expensive countries so us digital nomads can stay in those places longer :)

    • Don

      Yep, Burma is the worst.

  3. Naj

    Vietnam’s Internet is horrible while Manilla in the Phillipines was pretty good. I must admit. I currently live in Thailand which isn’t bad. I’m from NYC by the way.

    • Tim Leffel

      Depends on where you are of course. I know people in Saigon getting 20mbps.

  4. Licey

    This is a useful list for location independent telecommuters, digital nomads, knowledge workers, etc. Many thanks!

  5. Wade K.

    On Expatistan Sofia, Bulgaria costs 18% less than Managua, Nicaragua and the same as Matagalpa, Nicaragua. With much better infrastructure and infinitely faster internet! The more I read about it the better it sounds. Thanks Tim!

    • Tim Leffel

      It’s a lot easier to get residency in Nicaragua though if you’re not holding a passport from an EU country. That’s the main drawback for anywhere in Europe, though it can be remedied with ample patience. They do have cold winters in Bulgaria too of course…

      • Wade K.

        Still possible as an American to get a pensioner visa? As an airline retiree my wife and I get a decent standby discount on a handful of airlines. That’s the big negative for Americans I think, the cost of roundtrip travel.

        • Tim Leffel

          Wade, it varies greatly from country to country. In general, easier in Latin America than elsewhere. Most retirees don’t fly back more than twice a year it seems, so the airfare is a small consideration. In Ecuador pensioners get discounted airfare too.

          • Wade K.

            Yes but I meant the cost of roundtrip fare from Bulgaria to the States. Delta for example in coach runs more than $2600 rt from Atlanta to Sophia. A major consideration for those who want to see family at least once a year. In our search for affordable retirement we were concentrating on places Spirit Airlines flies too. Strange that they fly to Lima, Peru but not to Quito given so many Americans now live in Ecuador. We were sold on Nicaragua until you got us dreaming about Bulgaria. That 50% discount on flights in Ecuador is for seniors 65 and older, we’re both 53, taking my pension in 18 months. I would love to live in Guanajuato, but the slow internet throws us, and Mexico isn’t the bargain it used to be, unless the Peso collapses.

          • Tim Leffel

            Wade, Mexico is cheaper now than it has ever been in the 14 years I’ve been visiting. The peso has already gone from 12 to 15.

            You can frequently find flights to Sofia or a nearby capital for half that $2,600 amount (or less) but summers are worse for sure and you have to be a bit creative sometimes. The best bet is to bank up frequent flier miles so you don’t have to pay anything besides taxes.
            //www.cheapestdestinationsblog.com/2015/03/16/how-to-enhance-your-travel-budget-with-free-flights-and-hotels/

          • Wade K.

            We’re lucky in having standby tickets at 75% off regular fare as retired airline employees. That’s only 5 airlines, but one is Turkish Airlines, which I saw rated #4 on the top 100 airlines list. They already have very good prices from Miami to Sophia. Having read a lot about Bulgaria in recent weeks I think it’s got a lot going for it. There are already a lot of Brits there with online support groups. Mexico is more affordable, but Bulgaria is comparable in costs to Nicaragua with much better infrastructure. The 9 days we spent in San Miguel de Allende were nice, but the internet just wasn’t fast enough. Why pay more for less?

  6. Sunu Philip

    Very useful information for travelers. Great effort, thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Quality internet connectivity has become a basic necessity not only for travelers but for all the citizens of every country. Hope all the nations understand this basic need and work towards improving the infrastructure.

  7. Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney)

    Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia have always pioneered fast in-home/business internet.

    You still can push out too far to reduce your housing cost because your speed goes down with it, less infrastructure and low demand.

    In Germany one town solved this by paying for and building their own network. It’s also happen in Memphis, TN where the community got tired of the slow and expensive internet provided by one of the large telcos and cable companies.

    @ Sunu humans use market based reasons for not solving the lack of food and shelter for the majority of people on the planet. IE they’ll get tired of having basic shelter and only bread to eat and change something.

    That only happens one or twice a generation if at all. This keeps the masses in Africa, Latin America and Asia well below the 1st world poverty line. While in first would countries have all sorts of problems from aging population and low birth rates a massive problem in Asia and Western Europe, to just the master of market based thinking the United States were we make excuses for not raising the standard of living for the poor and then site rare examples of the poor not having it so bad (TV, Internet, Game systems, Flat Screen tv’s , indoor plumbing and refrigerator).

    Of course comparing a poor Western European or North American to a rural family in Africa, Asia or Latin America is just stupid.

    We have major idealogical humps to get over before we can take high speed internet for granted as a necessity.

  8. Prakash

    Very informative post. Thanks for the share :)

  9. Pooja Thakur

    Amazed by the topic you have chose. This kind of information is always needed to a traveler and you really helped people through this awesome writing. Internet is undoubtedly a traveler’s prime choice now-a-days. And this post might help them in choosing their destination quickly.

  10. Jeena

    informative.

  11. Ashwin

    Very informative post!! Really enjoyed reading this article.

  12. Saim Malik

    wow, nice information

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