London is unfortunately not noted for free public Wi-Fi access – although the number of hotspots is continuing to grow. In general, good places to start looking are coffee shops (usually free with a purchase, typically The Cloud – or otherwise ask the person on the till if they have a local hotspot) and pubs, since many offer free Wi-Fi to boost business.
- O2 Free Hotspots, O2 is offering free Wi-Fi around London’s busiest streets including parts of Oxford- and Regents Street. Click on the link to see the map. Free.
- Online-4-Free.com, One of the most promising (it seems) for traveller-frequented areas, a service that provides blanket coverage along the banks of the River Thames (and some surrounding streets) from Millbank down to Greenwich Pier, and a small ‘cloud’ in Holborn – the free service asks only that you view a short advertisement every half hour in order to get 256 kbps (higher rates and ad-free come at a small charge). Free.
- Tate Modern, Offering for a trial period free Wi-Fi internet access.
- British Library, Offers free internet access throughout the library with registration.
- Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Centre, Offers free unencrypted Wi-Fi throughout the building without registration.
Another good place for free Wi-Fi would be McDonald’s, where free 24-hour period Wi-Fi are offered to customers. Starbucks offers free Wi-Fi for customers registering their prepaid Starbucks Card. Furthermore, Pret-A-Manger franchises offer free internet without a login. A number of shops around Oxford Street are also beginning to offer free Wi-Fi, handy whilst you wait.
The main mobile networks are EE, Vodafone, Three and O2. However there are a host of MVNOs that use the infrastructure of these networks, these often offer plans tailored towards expat communities and tourist who wish to call abroad, the main players are LycaMobile, Lebara and giffgaff. If staying connected is a priority you may want to compare the data speeds of the networks, OpenSignal provide London coverage maps.