You just arrived in London and you’re wondering how you’re going to use your GPS without blowing your data plan? Or WITHOUT a data plan? (Yes, you will want your GPS, I have yet to meet someone who LIVES here who doesn’t actively use their GPS regularly)
Luckily, London has a good supply of Wi-Fi access.
Leaching off of these spots can make you feel less remote (maybe you just really need to post a Tweet that you’re on Tower Bridge? Or maybe you’ve been wandering around four streets, repeatedly, trying to find internet access so you can turn on your GPS again).
This is for you.
Let’s get something straight here, not all Wi-Fi is equal.
Some places you’ll need to get inside in order to get a service bar at all, and other places you can stand across a busy intersection inside of a different shop and still get three bars. Not all of the Wi-Fi available is going to be free to access. Yes, there IS a prevalent amount of Wi-Fi in London, but due to different service providers some of the Wi-Fi will not be free to you. I’ll go into that a bit more below.
Now, within London there is Wi-Fi available not only in businesses (looking at you Pret a Manger, you know I love you-right? Oh, I only love you for your Wi-Fi? I guess that’s mostly true), but also in various Tube stations, and even physical locations in London.
The business locations i’ve come across are: Pret-a-Manger, Pizza Express, Patrisse Valerie and Starbucks. These places use Cloud Wi-Fi and are literally EVERYWHERE (thankfully). But there are a number of other free Wi-Fi businesses that i just haven’t explored!
The Tube locations i’ve come across are stations like: Waterloo (Cloud), Knightsbridge (Virgin Mobile), Tower Hill (Cloud), Leicester Square (Cloud), Liverpool Street (Cloud). Some other stations offer Wi-Fi (ranging from Virgin Mobile to Cloud), but not every station will provide you with Wi-Fi access. However, I think that the tfl is trying to implement more Wi-Fi stations at underground Tube locations (or at least that’s what the signs in some of the stations tell you is what they’re doing with your money).
The Physical Locations i’ve come across are: Parts of London Bridge have good Wi-Fi (Yep, there’s access out there on the bridge), and so does part of Trafalger Square (offers O2 access).
**It’s important to note that many museums are not only free to enter, but also offer free Wi-Fi. Why not check out The National Portrait Gallery in Trafalger Square? Or the Victoria and Albert Museum above the South Kensington stop? And while you’re there, go across the street and visit the Natural History and Science Museums! Museums offer specific Wi-Fi service with individual Terms and Conditions, generally just confirming that you’re not using their Wi-Fi to look at porn.
Available Wi-Fi Providers
When your phone taps into a Wi-Fi connection, generally there will either be an icon you can press for information about the Wi-Fi network or you can press ‘settings’.
Either way, a list of available networks will show up, with bars indication what is the strongest one available to you. Click on the open network with the most service.
If you’re tapping into The Cloud, good news, it’s free. But you will be asked to ‘connect’ through Cloud, every time you are granted access.
Each time you access a Wi-Fi Network they will ask you to ‘authenticate’ (in which you log in/otherwise agree to be granted access).
You have to ‘sign up'(otherwise register), but they won’t ask you for your card information or what have you. They will likely ask you for your phone number, the conditions state that they do this so they can keep track of who is utilizing the network. The network only allows you to register two electronics to the cloud under the information you provide when ‘signing up’. The Cloud won’t ‘stop’ working after a half hour (as some providers offer), it can be somewhat spotty as a connection depending on location.
If you’re looking at a Virgin Mobile screen, then it CAN be free under certain conditions. If those conditions apply to you, then you’re in luck! Otherwise, you’ll be unable to use the internet with this network even though your phone will register the Wi-Fi signal.
Namely if you have a Vodafone or Virgin Mobile registered username and password- you get free access.
These are two really common Wi-Fi networks in London.
You will encounter others, most of which will require that you pay or are already registered (likely through a paid service). Some offer free Wi-Fi for a period of time before requiring that you pay. Providers like: O2 and WifiHere offer you temporary access (unless you’re an O2 phone user).
**There are telephone booths throughout London that say, “Wi-Fi Location” on the side. These offer Arq Wi-Fi which hasn’t been released yet, so you just get an annoying “Coming soon” screen.
So watch out for that.
There are other Wi-Fi providers who will pop up as available but I haven’t had much luck with them.
Do you survive off of Wi-Fi when visiting London?
What places, that I haven’t listed, can you also receive good Wi-Fi?
Do you think it’s better than paying for data charges?