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These Cheap Countries Have the Fastest Internet

If you’re looking at moving abroad or becoming a digital nomad down the line, you’re going to become very concerned about which cheap countries have the fastest internet so you can get work done and do video calls. You may need to run an online business via Wi-Fi and do bandwidth-heavy activities like uploading videos. If you’re a digital nomad, you may base yourself in six cheap countries over the course of a year and will need to have fast internet service in all of them.

digital nomad looking for fastest internet

When people ask me what I’ve missed from the USA while living in Mexico, it’s a pretty short list. The first two times I lived in Mexico, at the top of that list was fast internet. When I lived in Tampa I would get lightning-fast fiber to the home. The mobile wireless speed was great too. Mexico was just coming out of the dark ages by comparison the first two times I lived here. One of the world’s richest men was still doling out 5 Mbps from his monopoly Telcel Infinitum service in most areas, on copper connections that take a nosedive when all your neighbors go online.

When I came back the third time I saw Telcel Infinitum flyers everywhere and went into their office to try to upgrade. “We ran out of fiber cable,” they told me and didn’t know when they could upgrade my service. In a country where most people use satellite dishes for their TV, cable services are just starting to make real inroads. I went to a cable company and gladly paid them to hook me up though and now I’m up to 60 mbps, first-world but still below the average it turns out. 

Fortunately, a lot of the World’s Cheapest Destinations do have fast internet speeds that are routine, not special, especially in urban areas. According to this study, the world average for fixed broadband is now up to 80 mbps in mid-2023. 

Fastest Download Speeds Overall

The good news is, internet speeds worldwide are increasing rapidly each year. In 2017, the average global internet connectivity speed for downloads was 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps). Now in 2023 it’s up to 80 Mbps, a ten-fold increase. Mobile data speeds are up to 42, which begs the question: do we really need 5G, with all its rumored health problems and increased number of towers, just to eke out a bit more speed?   

Upload speeds have increased as well worldwide, including in my Mexican home. I used to have to tell everyone in my family to get off their streaming services if I wanted to upload a video to YouTube and would still need to go out for a walk and come back while the process was happening. Now I have upload speeds that get things done in a few seconds and if I wanted to spend more I could upgrade to an even faster service, getting 150 Mbps or more if I were willing to spend a lot more.

If you’re in a well-wired hotel or home, you’re best off in expensive and densely populated city-states like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Andorra. 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 of the cheap countries to live in rate highly though, including the champ for many years running: Romania. That European bargain has slipped to #10 in the world for fixed broadband but partly because speeds have gone up elsewhere. They have an average of 174.26 Mbps. Wow! They’re only #44 on the mobile speed list, but at an above-average 49 Mbps. You’ll be able to download and upload at will in Transylvania, no problem.

Next up is Thailand, the cheapest country to live in if you want lightning-fast internet speed. It is now #6 in the world according to Ookla, ahead of the USA, with average download speeds of 150. I’m guessing these results are influenced by who is using the app, so rural Thailand is probably nowhere near that number, but you’ll get it in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Ko Samui, and Hua Hin, which probably covers 95% of the expats living or traveling in Thailand.

The next cheap country with the fastest internet is Hungary at #20, slipping a little but still quite respectable. That used to be ahead of the USA, but Uncle Sam has upped his game in many cities thanks to Google Fiber and some Biden-pushed infrastructure initiatives that are upping the average. Hungary still ranks above richer Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Taiwan, and sliding South Korea. The cost of living in Hungary is a bargain and you’ll definitely be able to get some work done.

Other bargain destinations ranking fairly well for land broadband speeds were Portugal (#22), Panama (#25), Malaysia (#38), Lithuania (#39), Colombia (#40), Vietnam (#41), and the Philippines. Where’s Mexico? It’s respectable on mobile scores, but for fixed broadband it’s at #87, barely edging out Nicaragua and Uzbekistan. I’m guessing even that middling showing is influenced by more people using Speedtest in the big urban core areas with lots of fast fiber connections. Like Mexico City and Monterrey, not the Pueblos Magicos

The Middle Eastern countries fare well overall, but you have to get down to #91 for the first Africa one (Egypt), though Morocco is #59 on mobile. Most of the countries pulling up the rear are in Africa, along with a few lands ruled by dictators or warlords. Predictably, Cuba, Venezuela, and Turkmenistan are not places where you’ll get much online work done. In North Korea your speed would be zero, as in not available. 

The worst cheap countries to live in that I’ve featured in my books are, in order of badness, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Morocco. These may not be great spots to be based if you’re a YouTuber.

Keep in mind for all these results though that this is an average across the whole country. So capital cities may be okay, but rural areas without much infrastructure are probably terrible—below the numbers you see on the chart.

Fastest Mobile Data Speeds Around the World

If you’re looking for the best mobile wireless, Ookla also publishes that, but you can drill down further on data that’s not app-dependent on OpenSignal.com. According to the latter, which was measuring during the virus pandemic’s higher demand, the best countries overall (45 Mbps or more) tend to be some of the richest and most developed: Japan, Korea, Singapore, Netherlands, and Canada.

The cheap countries with the highest mobile internet speeds, the ones scoring above 2o Mbps, were Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, Mexico, and Vietnam. 

better life half price audio

They don’t measure every country though, so if we go to the other source to fill in the blanks, the other ones ranking higher than average for mobile speed around the world are Albania, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Hungary, and Slovakia. 

Some countries have beefed up their mobile offerings faster than their landline ones, so in some cases you can get faster internet by using a mobile USB stick or tethering your phone than by tapping into the hotel WiFi. Places where you should launch the speed test to check and compare for this include Morocco, Laos, Honduras, Guatemala, Argentina, and Georgia. 

Alas, there are some countries where both landline internet speed and mobile internet speed are way below world averages. The most notable ones in this category are right next to each other: India and Nepal. Don’t plan on getting a lot of work down outside the polluted major cities. 

Best Hotel WiFi Speeds

When I first put this post up in 2015, there were lots of public reports and studies on the fastest public WiFi (Lithuania was tops) and the fastest internet for free at hotels (independent properties walloped the major chain hotels). 

Unfortunately, the most recent study I could find for either category now was done in 2016, which is ancient history. So I’ll go by personal anecdotal history as a frequent writer of hotel reviews

First of all, the best WiFi is free WiFi unless you have some really intensive uploading to do or you insist on trying to use a streaming service in a hotel with 200 other people doing the same. (You might want to try the download function now and then on Netflix or Amazon to have some backups.) Most chain hotels have a two-tiered system: a slow free offering that’s okay for e-mail and basic surfing, then a paid level if you want to do more.

Independent hotels and small chains are normally faster since they don’t have a paid offering. Nearly every hotel offers free WiFi finally, though you may have to give up your personal info to the loyalty program if it’s a chain hotel. Sometimes it’s better and faster to just use your cell service if you have unlimited data and close to it. T-Mobile even gives you free Netflix streaming that doesn’t count against your data amount. 

Otherwise, if you’re going to be staying at a hotel for more than a night or two, dig into the reviews on TripAdvisor or Booking.com and see if there are any complaints. Don’t be afraid to send an e-mail asking what their download and upload average speeds are from the rooms. This is one advantage of looking around for a hotel in person after arrival if you’ll be staying a while. You can do the speed test on your phone before making a commitment. 

If you’re renting an apartment through Airbnb or Vrbo, also look at the reviews and don’t be afraid to send a message saying you need good broadband speed to work. Ask for the actual speed they are getting and compare it to the averages. Don’t be swayed by pretty living room pictures and then get frustrated every day because you can’t get your work done (or relax afterward with a streamed movie). 

Fastest Airport WiFi

Who has the fastest internet in airports?

Wifi fast internet in airports

If you often need to do work from the airport on your way out, you might want to get to the airport early after your vacation in Ft. Lauderdale. Or be based in San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, or NYC (at JFK). Those are the U.S. airports to rank highly in this airport Wi-Fi study from 2023 on hubs with the fastest internet speeds. I’m not sure what happened to Hawaii though as Honolulu was ranked #1 a few years ago. Now FLL is the champ. 

In the USA, New Orleans was the slowest, with Houston Hobby coming next. Interestingly though, the United Club lounges in some airports had much faster speeds than the public WiFi. Keep that in mind if you want to power through some bandwidth-heavy work or make some Skype video calls with a drink and snack in hand. If you have the right United credit card, you get two free lounge visits per year.

Internationally, the airports with the fastest public WiFi speeds tend to be in Asia or the Middle East and China shows up at the top for mobile speeds. 

Shanghai Pudong International Airport was the fastest non-U.S. airport on our list with a fastest median download speed of 118.67 Mbps. Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris (98.82 Mbps), Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (82.83 Mbps), Dubai International Airport (67.21 Mbps), and Frankfurt Airport (59.10 Mbps) followed for median download speeds at non-U.S. airports. All of these airports have internet speeds that qualify as at least good. Both Mexican airports on our list showed speeds in the slow range, so log off early and enjoy your vacation if you’re at the airport in Cancun or Mexico City.

As a resident of Mexico, I’ll second that last statement. ALL of the Mexican airports suck when it comes to internet speed–if you can even stay logged on. Some of them ditch you after 30 minutes or an hour, like it’s 1999. 

So there you have it, a rundown on which cheap countries have the fastest internet speeds. Where have you found an especially fast connection when living abroad or spending time in a country? Leave it in the comments!

This post on countries with the fastest internet speeds was updated in June of 2023. 

Nancie

Monday 25th of May 2020

I lived in South Korea for 18 years, fast internet and cheap, cheap. Any time I moved my plan moved with me and the price never went up; under 30 bucks a month unlimited. It’s one of the few things I miss. Now back in Canada (very happy), but Internet is horribly expensive. I pay $130.00 a month. I could go cheaper, but I teach on line and need the speed and stability.

Ian Bond

Monday 25th of May 2020

At 40X to 100X the speed of 4G, yes we need 5G. I can finally end my relationship with my cable provider! Talk about crummy service...

There are no credible accounts for health concerns. But I do understand that tower density may be objectionable to some.

Tim Leffel

Tuesday 26th of May 2020

For every consumer that says they want 5G (among the ones who even care), there are 100 cries from the telecom providers about why we need it. Seems to be driven by big biz wishes more than real demand. They want more ways to sell to us a la Minority Report, with real-time ads based on where we are. That seems to be the real driver. I can already stream movies with no glitching with 4G. A video upload takes a few seconds.

Seema

Sunday 24th of May 2020

Interesting and valuable information. It would be useful in prep for future travels. Thanks

Dennis Walters

Tuesday 19th of May 2020

Hello, Enjoyed reading the article above, really explains everything in detail, the article is very interesting and effective. I wish my country was listed in high speed internet category.

John

Monday 4th of May 2020

Yify has improved in many places. Still, Mexico's wealthiest man is also its 2nd biggest bastard, second only to the bastard who faciliated his takeover of Mexico's telecom, namely expresident Salinas de Gortari. A truly world class crook who no longer lives in Mexico, poluting the air with his breathing. Why he wasn't lynched or at very least is not still rotting prison is a mystery. Cowardice and corruption. Mexico is owned and run by a very wealthy plutocracy. A lot like the US in that respect, but without the addition of the surveillance state apparatus and the bloated military power.