Whether you’re giving your passport a workout living abroad as a digital nomad or you’re restless after being stuck working from home for weeks, identifying a café that can double as a work site is essential. As a journalist, I use coffeehouses as remote work lifelines, serving up plenty of free Wi-Fi and a steady supply of caffeine to keep me fully functioning even on a hectic workday.

But finding free, friendly co-work spaces both in my neighborhood and on the go is an art form. In my experience, these five things make or break a café as a remote work base.

Sample the Goods

Let’s not kid ourselves. A menu of artisan coffee drinks is the first requirement of any café I’m going to endorse. The coffee must be drinkable at a minimum, and it helps if the muffins don’t taste like sawdust. Bonus points for a barista that can knock out a flat white with flair.

Check Out the Connectivity

If you work digitally, you need to stay connected. Some cafes are a little more generous than others with a steady stream of Wi-Fi. To be sure, call ahead or stop by to feel out the folks at the counter and get the inside scoop. Before you take the plunge and bring your laptop, sip a cup for a few minutes and attempt to jump online to test the speed. If the connectivity isn’t impressive, you aren’t out of luck. You can set up a Wi-Fi hotspot, piggybacking off your ISP provider’s network or tethering to your smartphone. If your data plan can handle the volume, more power to you.

Survey the Space

Grab a seat and hang out for a bit to test the noise level and ambiance of the café. Look for longer tables ideal for setting up shop or comfy chairs, and scan the room for other people busy typing away on their laptops. It’s also important to choose a space you find inspiring, whether it’s a cozy independent shop with lots of quiet nooks or a big chain with tons of seating and plenty of gorgeous light. And don’t forget one of the most critical features of a coffee shop in the city—parking. Preferably nearby and of the free variety.

Don’t Forget to Power Up

In a perfect working-remotely utopia, you’d leave the house with all devices fully charged. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve managed that feat, so it’s best to assume you’re going to need a spot to power up. Scouring your café for outlets can tell you lots about whether it’s a work-friendly space. And knowing where the outlets are will help you claim the best table every morning.

Sympathetic Staff

The best cafés to work from don’t just have fantastic coffee—they also have fantastic humans. You can certainly help that effort by buttering up the baristas, tipping generously, and continuing to purchase refills and snacks throughout the day. For bonus points, bring your own cup and save the hassle of using the café’s resources. A little thoughtfulness can go a long way in creating a mutually beneficial co-working environment.

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