Though the city is dedicated to global commerce and communication, affordable/free Wi-Fi in London can be hard to come by. The majority of central city hotels charge for the privilege/right, and prices can be steep. If you don’t subscribe to universal coverage and fear international data roaming charges, while in town your smartphone can become a useless brick.
In the meantime, while it’s Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to bring “Muni-Fi,” or city-blanketing connectivity, to the whole of London by the 2012 Olympics, the government has remained mum on the potential hotspot-by-hotspot cost of this service to Wi-Fi users.
Since 2007, the square-mile City of London has been served by an outdoor Wi-Fi network known as The Cloud. Their UK-wide service, available through an O2-serviced subscription, incurs varying fees depending on service that’s monthly, pay-as-you-go, multi-device, etc. If you don’t have a universal coverage plan and will be traveling in London and/or the UK for multiple weeks, contacting a Cloud rep to discuss a pay-as-you-go plan may make sense. As an added bonus, they offer a free Wi-Fi FastConnect app to help locate free wifi hotspots on their network.
Another option for those who fear data roaming charges is Fonmigo mobile Wi-Fi rental. Essentially a small modem you carry in your pocket, Fonmigo allows you to access Wi-Fi throughout your London/UK travels. Plans range from 5-30 days, and £60-95. Order before your trip, and the modem comes with a sleeve, charger and request for a password. Easy to use, it’s also able to provide connectivity to several users at once. Having seamless access to Wi-Fi around London means you can access WhyGo London, apps and online maps, keep up with your social media, download trip photos, and even stay in e-mail communication with friends/contacts around the city without having to use expensive data roaming.
If you don’t care about Wi-Fi while you’re out sightseeing but are counting on it back in your lodgings, remember that in London, hotel Wi-Fi charges can range from £7 for a few hours to £25+ per day; it’s important to consider these potential charges when choosing a place to stay.
Apartment rental services like HomeAway can be a great choice because in skipping a hotel, you skip hotel fees. Or, Hotel Chatter offers this small list of London hotels with free Wi-Fi, ranging from five-star to small chains.
If you have universal coverage or are just looking to use Wi-Fi as an excuse to stop for a rest while seeing the sights, The Londonist blog has created a map of free wifi hotspots in London, including several hotels, and turned it into a $1.99 US iPhone app called Free Wifi London. In addition, TimeOut London has assembled a comprehensive list of London pubs, bars and cafés that offer free Wi-Fi.