These days, staying connected is essential for travellers, especially those who have work to catch up on. For people like me, the Internet is a boon as it serves as an opportunity to combine work and travel. I find that hotels neither have good Wi-Fi nor great ambience. Cafes are more interesting, have a great ambience and you can people watch. But finding the right cafe to work from can be a bummer.
This is my guide to work-friendly cafes in the four places I frequent most. These are great places that tick all the boxes – ample table space, unlimited Wi-Fi, work-friendly noise levels, enough power sockets, and the sense that it’s totally okay to sit there all day. They will let you plough away on your laptop, fuelled by good grub and caffeine.
Top tip: Just remember, that you are using up electricity while plugged in, and bandwidth, and a seat. Good etiquette dictates you order an item every hour and leave a good tip.
URBAN CAFE, PANJIM
This one boldly declares on a huge poster that “The beach is boring.” The two-floor cosy place is located in Panjim’s Latin Quarter and is a part of the Old Quarter hostel where you can find accommodation in dorms and rooms. They have a collection of books and magazines. Browse with a cold coffee and an oversized cookie, or a glass of milk served with a chocolate block on wooden spoons.
CAFE BODEGA, PANJIM
Serene and perfect for workhorses, this one’s set in a beautiful lavender-and-white Portuguese villa with a courtyard. Great espresso and a range of salads, sandwiches and desserts. I loved the red velvet cupcakes here. Breakfasts on Sundays has a selection of waffles, pancakes and sometimes Eggs Benedict.
SIENNA CAFE, HINDUSTAN PARK
A blue-themed cafe with interesting decor and great food, Sienna has a super-fast Wi-Fi connection. You can work, check e-mail or browse for hours here ensconced on one of their many interesting seating arrangements – from solo tables to four-seaters. Do order their signature fries. They have interesting seasonal drinks like the three-melon smoothie, and the perennial favourite – celery cucumber.
BIKER’S CAFE, ELGIN ROAD AREA
A real bike at the entrance, an interior that reiterates the theme further with posters of legendary bikes and bikers, cutlery that looks like biker tools, and waiters who are summoned with an old-style honking rubber horn. If you can stomach all this, then it’s a pleasant enough space to work at by a road-facing window. The food’s really not good, though. Best to stick to juices and coffee.
THE PANTRY, KALA GHODA
This cosy café in the bylanes of the Kala Ghoda area in South Mumbai gets quite crowded at lunchtime. Arrive early if you want a good spot. Or come after lunch. Love the all-day breakfast!
BISTRO 1, ANDHERI WEST
This quaint cafe has a Euro-inspired décor and premium French press coffee.
THE BAGEL SHOP, PALI HILL, BANDRA
Cane chairs, colourful posters, great smoothies and the best bagels I’ve had anywhere. Plus this place is armed with three Wi-Fi zones – a sign of its popularity with digital nomads.
CHOCOLATERIA SAN CHURRO, BANDRA
You can spend hours here browsing on the high-speed internet free of cost. Once you order a cup of their delicious hot chocolate and tuck into a churro, you should be ready to sift through the day’s worklist.
WOODSIDE INN, COLABA
Not exactly a cafe, but I am listing this lovely tavern-like restaurant as it offers unlimited Wi-Fi access, and great food and beer.
THE ANTS CAFE & STORE, INDIRANAGAR
Start your long-distance workday with a breakfast of sausages, eggs and baked beans. The store downstairs has clothes, baskets, bags, jewellery and black Longpi pottery from Northeast India.
CAFE PASCUCCI, JP NAGAR
Not just free Wi-Fi, you get amazing wood-fired thin crust pizzas here, and some interesting coffees like yoghurt mousse topped cappuccinos, and espressos drizzled with milk caramel from Argentina.
COFFEE ON CANVAS, KORAMANGALA
Bean bags, lots of books and great sandwiches.
THE YOGISTHAAN CAFE, INDIRANAGAR
Very cosy with lots of potted plants, and cushions. The menu has healthy smoothies, and salads.
I find most cafe chains overcrowded and the waiters pesky and demanding, especially the Barista ones in Kolkata. If I had to choose, the UK coffee chain Costa Coffee would rate high on hospitality and their ability to leave you alone to your day’s business. Ditto Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlets – they have good Internet and food. Check on Google to see if there’s one near the place you are at. Barista Lavazza joints also provide Wi-Fi, but it’s time-limited. In Kolkata, some of the Barista joints seem reluctant about offering Internet services. The chain of social cafes started off life as cafe-cum-workplaces but have morphed into popular drinking and nightlife joints. They can be very noisy and the free Wi-Fi expires after a set time. Starbucks outlets pretty much leave you alone after you order. Both Social and Starbucks have yet to open in some cities.
YOUR PHONE CAN HELP FIND CAFES WITH WI-FI
That the number of people working from cafes is on the rise is evident from the fact that there are several apps that help you locate places with Wi-Fi. Locate cafes near your location through user reviews with foursquare.com. Bonus – users often leave the Wi-Fi passwords. In know of two Indian apps that specialise in Wi-Fi searches. Bold Kiln has made an Android-only app which you can get on Google Play. You can also add and review cafés you visit. Find it here – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=boldkiln.wificafe
WiFire automatically connects you to nearby free Wi-Fi locations around Mumbai. Check it out at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mobstac.wildfire&hl=en