Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

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georgestravelsasia
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Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

Post by georgestravelsasia »

Hey all :) As a moneyless, deviceless hitcher I had quite a hard time finding internet on the road. I often managed to get anything from 10 to 30 min for free in internet cafes if I could convince them that I really was cashless (white skin, sometimes you're no help at all...). The other best option whenever it was available were public libraries. Being from France, finding a public library with computers with Internet access available to the public sounds totally unreal (the only option I know in the largest library that I know of in France requires 10-20 minutes queuing for 20 minutes of Internet use), but to my great surprise I could find one in at least every capital city in Asia that I've traveled to this far, and usually unlimited.

So beware, here is ... the ultimate guide to public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road !

1) Ankara :
Metro Kurtulus
Open Mon-Sat, 8.30(ish)-5, no time limit, no registration, crappy speed.
https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-AGxkLC

Surprisingly it's not the national library, but a small-ish neighbourhood public library near Cebeci Stadium. Just bring some sort of identification and show it to the security/reception directly on the left when entering, swap it for a temporary card with the number of the computer you are supposed to use. The computers are on the top floor, there are 10-20 of them and hardly anyone using them. The speed is quite crap, but y'know, free is free :D

2) Tbilisi :
National Parliamentary Library of Georgia
Metro Rustaveli
Open EVERYDAY 9-8, no time limit (almost), 5 min free registration, very fast speed.
The library itself: https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-ASsbDD
Registration office: https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-AWbWOC

about 40 computers, in the basement level in front of the stairs. First bring any ID and go to register at the registration office (English spoken) which is outside the library on the left, turn left at first cross and 50m on your right, there's a sign outside in Georgian and English. Get your library card in 5 min. Buzz in through the tourniquet on the left entrance, go downstairs, swap your card for a seat in any of the computers. There is no time limit but if someone comes in and the room is full, the lady will call for someone to give up their seat, if no one volunteers she'll look in her system who was here longest and ask them to give up their seat. In dozens of 3-hour+ visits it never happened to me but there's a creepy old man watching gay porn and a middle aged woman who spends her whole days watching live concerts of Robbie Williams and they're usually the ones that have to leave. The internet is really fast (well, in my standards).

Saakashvili Presidential Library
Metro Teknikuri Universiteti OR Tsereteli
Open EVERYDAY, 9-8, no time limit, no registration, super fast speed.
In theory only for study-related purposes.
Facebook filtered, easily countered with https://hide.me/en/proxy
https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-APuPCB

About 10-20 computers, hardly anyone there. The first time I innocently went to the admin office to ask for the permission to use the computers. She said it was officially only for study purposes and I didnt lie about my intentions, but since there was litteraly no one else in the library ("because of the bad weather" according to her), she let me use a computer. All the following times I went there I went straight to the computers and there was hardly anyone else in the place, come rain or come shine :D So just have at it :)

National Scientific Library of Georgia
Near Heroes Square
Open EVERYDAY, 10-6, no time limit, 5 min registration, super fast speed.
https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-AXtP9A

From Heroes Square there's a little stairway through a woody hill, on the left side when leaving the roundabout towards the riverside. Up and find your way to the library. Registration on the first floor, takes 5 minutes and is free, bring some ID. The staff and the director were super happy to see a foreigner register and could not care less what my purpose was. About 10-12 computers, 1st floor, on the right side, swap your card for a seat. At max 2 other people when I was there.

Tbilisi Central Library
Majrnashvili Metro
Cant remember opening hours/days exactly but it closes at 7pm, 5 min registration, fast speed.
https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-EEeYtA

5 min registration (office directly on the right when entering), just bring an ID, no questions asked but English is spoken. Upstairs, behind the stairs, on the right. Only 5-6 computers and usually all are taken but one of them is always taken by the same guy who is there whole day playing candy crush, and the staff usually asks him to give up his seat for you (which I protested to no avail, he just left the room and smiled to my Madlobas).

3) Yerevan
Avetik Isahakyan Central Library
Mon-sat 9-5, 30-min/give-up-your-seat OR no time limit (see below), 5 min free registration, fast speed.
https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-ECsRXA

Register in the office a few doors on the right when entering. Passport is enough. You will be given a smallish piece of paper with your username and password (it was never useful but the girl at the american corner did want to see it, even when she remembered me and I lost it she asked to get it again from the registration office). At the American corner (directly on the left), 3 desktops, theoretical 30min/give-up-your-seat limit. At the French corner (down the hallway on the left), no time limit announced, 4-5 desktops.

National Library of Armenia
Mon-sat, 9-5, no time limit announced, 5 min free registration (2 photos needed), fast speed.
https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-EKEIXB

The registration office is not on the main entrance (Teryan street) but on the back entrance (on the little alley that connects Abovyan and Teryan, when facing away from the main entrance just head right and first turn on the right, 50-100 meters on the right side). Enter the building and the registration office is on the left. The computers are in the e-reading hall, when entering from the main entrance just go up the stairs, turn right, up to the first floor and directly on your right. About 10 computers, hardly anyone there. Show your card to the admin who is sitting there.

4) Tehran
National Library of Iran
Metro Mirdamad
Open EVERYDAY 9-9, 3-hour username-controlled time limit, 50,000 rials for the photo for the registration card (I did not have any cash and was welcome anyway), in theory you need to be a Master's or PHD student, 3-day registration, super slow speed (even by Iranian standards), filtered content (no proxy or vpn possible)
https://yandex.com/maps/-/CBa-IAVYDA

The registration: Theoretically you need to be currently a Master's degree or PhD student to register. I went to the security and acted like I did not know, asked for a form, filled it in partially, gave my passport for him to make a copy, he asked for a "student" card and I gave him my French national ID which he photocopied to. I was given the phone to a lady who spoke French and told me they would need 3 days to complete my registration. I came back 4 days later, the same security guy took my ID as a deposit, got me on the phone with a lady who spoke English to whom I explained I had come there before and completed the registration and was told come back etc. The security guy let me in and asked a random guy to escort me to the registration office. Everyone was very confused, they seemed to have no idea what to do with me. They were extremely polite and asked me to wait. I took a nap in the waiting room, then the same guy showed up with a photocopy of the documents I had given before, asked me again if I was a student. I lied that I had finished my degree already (I dropped out), he asked if I had a copy of my degree and I told him it was in France, there is no way i can show it. The whole thing basically worked out because they were being very Persian-hospitable-not-used-to-dealing-with-foreigners-unable-to-refuse-me-anything-because-I-am-white etc. or at least that's how I felt it :D I was asked for some more info (including a phone number to which they will text your password, if you dont have any phone number to provide you could make up a fake one and then ask at the reception to help them figure out what your password is, for me it was my passport number so I guess it will probably be the same for you). I was brought to an office to take a picture and asked to pay 50,000 rials. I apologetically told them I had no cash and naively thought the registration was free (I had gotten used to that in Georgia :D), the guy just brought me to the room and took my picture without saying anything else.

The Internet: When entering the library, go up the main alley in the garden, enter the hall on the left and go the very end of the hallway, downstairs, on the left, walk past all the people using their laptops and turn right. Beware most of the computers are just for using Office and checking the library's book references, the computers that do have Internet are at the back (maybe 10-15 of them). Log in with your card number, your password (texted to the number you provided, should be your passport-s number). You are allowed 3 hours and are subject to Iranian censorhip to which adds the Library's security. The first few times I had set up an Armenian proxy in Firefox to access Facebook and all filtered content, but then it stopped working. I tried using no-install free vpn softwares and they did not work as well. Firefox or chrome free vpn addons did not work either. All web proxies I tried to access were blocked too. So as of today, no Facebook/couchsurfing possible. For other filtered websites that do not require log-ins or javascript features (most foreign newspaper websites and a bunch of blogs I tried to access were filtered too), you can use google website Translator to cheat the censorship. Just google anything in a non-english language (I googled "elpais") and click Translate this website. Then replace the tranlated URL with the one of the site you need to access. If the website has no words in the source language it will just show the original website.

That's it ! Feel free to add any other relevant advice in this topic :)
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bwv812
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Re: Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

Post by bwv812 »

georgestravelsasia wrote:Hey all :) As a moneyless, deviceless hitcher I had quite a hard time finding internet on the road. I often managed to get anything from 10 to 30 min for free in internet cafes if I could convince them that I really was cashless (white skin, sometimes you're no help at all...).
Do they let moneyless, deviceless locals use their internet for free, too?
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georgestravelsasia
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Re: Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

Post by georgestravelsasia »

That's up to them, not me. I help anyone regardless of creed if I have the ability to, but I don't teach other people what they should do, that's their decision. I mean, I'm guessing you're not traveling on a Somalian passport, does that mean you should not go anywhere Somalian could never dream of getting a visa to ? It's up to you, isn't it ?
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Re: Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

Post by steven »

Thanks George, very useful!
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bwv812
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Re: Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

Post by bwv812 »

georgestravelsasia wrote:That's up to them, not me. I help anyone regardless of creed if I have the ability to, but I don't teach other people what they should do, that's their decision. I mean, I'm guessing you're not traveling on a Somalian passport, does that mean you should not go anywhere Somalian could never dream of getting a visa to ? It's up to you, isn't it ?
I was alluding to your complaint that you weren't getting white-skin privilege. Since I don't think moneyless, deviceless locals get this stuff given to them for free, I'm pretty sure you were getting white-privilege when they give you free internet access.

I'm not traveling on a Somalian passport, but if I was a Somalian with no money and no passport I certainly wouldn't expect to set off on a trip to Indian Buddhist sites with the expectation that local people in the impoverished countries along the way would support me. Because I'm pretty sure that wouldn't happen for a Somalian, and I can't say I think it's wrong that it wouldn't.
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georgestravelsasia
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Re: Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

Post by georgestravelsasia »

Also, just to make it clear, because you're assuming a lot of things that you don't know for a fact.
I don't *expect* people to help me on my journey. I *ask*. If they refuse, I thank them anyway and wish them the best. If I don't find food or internet for a few days, I live with it, mainly because I know other people around the world suffer much more than just being hungry or not being able to research how to get a visa for Pakistan. Like ... you know ... cashless, paperless Somalians who attempt crossing the Sahara, escape human traffickers, reach Europe, face harassment from the police who deliberately ignore asylum-seeking laws, get suspected of being terrorists.
But even in that case, there are still some people who help them on the way. In France a lot of people are gathering up to support defenseless migrants and a lot of them have to face unreal legal issues because of their benevolent intentions. In the province where I'm from one guy is being sued for human trafficking because he gave a ride to an underage, orphaned Eritrean migrant across the Italian border, gave him shelter in his home and paid him a train ticket to Paris. That's a lot more trouble than just letting someone use your computer for 15 minutes.
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bwv812
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Re: Public libraries with free desktops for internet access on the Silk Road

Post by bwv812 »

To make it clear, you don't expect any individual to help you, but you clearly did expect to find help along the way (if you didn't expect help, then you wouldn't have set out on your journey with no money, no passport, etc.) even though you knew you would be traveling through much poorer countries.

I'm not sure it's great to compare yourself to a Somalian. You come from a wealthy, industrialised nation and are traveling to poorer countries with deeply engrained customs of hospitality and taarof, which means locals may feel compelled to offer assistance (even if they are surprised you accept it, and even if they can't really afford it). On the other hand, Somalians come from a much poorer nation and any assistance they find in a wealthy nation like France is likely to come from people who can afford to help and have no compunction about declining to help if they don't really want to.

And that's without even addressing the thing that started my response: you're almost certainly benefitting from white privilege when you get 15 minutes of free internet from someone.
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