The ever-elusive Wi-Fi connection

Can you hear me now?

With the creation of a blog and the desire to keep in touch with my Dad back home, we are constantly in need of a free Wi-Fi connection. Unfortunately, the apartment we are staying in in Lisbon does not have Wi-Fi or an internet connection. This has meant an ongoing hunt for good Wi-Fi.

Many public spaces in Portugal boast free Wi-Fi – from the Metro to local bars and malls. These are often not very reliable, or not the sort of spot you would spend more than an hour taking up a spot.  In the Metro it has become a bit of a game for me to try to get onto the free Wi-Fi before the next train arrives (and the Wi-Fi disappears). Even with 5-10 minutes between trains, I have never yet won this game. The Wi-Fi is very slow to load and often off-line. There seems to be only one spot on the Metro with reasonably reliable Wi-Fi – at the coffee shop in the Marquês de Pombal station. So this is where we call Dad using Facebook messenger to talk for free each day.

Finding a connection for longer use (and an electric plug) has been even harder. We first tried a couple of spots rated online as “internet cafes”, but these were actually fancy sit-down restaurants, not coffee shops where you would comfortably spend time working. Next I found a mall in Baixa Chaido near the language school with free Wi-Fi… and one working electric outlet in its food court. I have used this spot a bit, but really don’t want to take up a much-needed eating space during the very crowded lunch hour. We next found a local library with free Wi-Fi, lots of outlets and a nice, quiet room for working in. It is very popular with the locals, and you have to be there early to get a seat. You will also be cleared out periodically when a class of school children are scheduled to use the room. In addition, and really this was the killer, it is a bit of a hike from the Metro…uphill. So it has become the Wi-Fi of last resort. 

A bit more googling and I found an article online that outlined several “work friendly” cafes around Lisbon, where you can plug in and work for a few hours during the less busy parts of the day. I’ve been to two of the six that were noted so far, and they have both been very nice and allowed me to sit and plug away at the blog for several hours. I’m right now at the Mercearia do Campo where they have allowed me to sit for a good two hours and work before asking if I would mind if they set the table for a dinner party that was coming in later. They seriously insisted that I stay and continue working – just move over to another table while they were getting that one arranged.  The people of Portugal are amazingly nice and generous.

I should note, that one does not simply show up at a restaurant and start working – you need to order something, even if just a coffee and a pastry. (Today, we enjoyed a nice leisurely late lunch of grilled sausages and a fabulous duck breast.) Also it is best to arrive nearer the end of the lunch hour when it is less busy – don’t take up a table they need for other customers. Finally, while it is not necessary or expected to tip much in Portugal, it is appropriate to show your appreciation for their hospitality. Leave a good tip! 


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