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For such an international city, the public wifi in London is severely disappointing.
It isn’t like many other international cities where you can hook into public wifi at nearly every cafe, restaurant, and museum.
You have to work for your wifi in London, and it gets frustrating at times.
The public wifi in London isn’t very accessible. It is difficult to find a cafe or restaurant that allows you to access their wifi, the complimentary wifi at museums is very slow and oftentimes so overwhelmed that it doesn’t work, and the Cloud and O2 public wifi systems in the United Kingdom is unreliable at best.
You need to have a plan for accessing wifi before you arrive in London.
In this article, you’re going to learn about the public wifi in London (including the Cloud and O2) and discuss alternatives to public wifi you can consider.
Spoiler: if you know you’ll need access to internet throughout the day, don’t rely on public wifi in London.
I’ll help you find a better alternative!
Public Wifi in London: Where to Find It and How to Use It
I’m not saying public wifi is impossible to come across in London, but it isn’t as easy as you think.
You can’t walk into just any cafe, restaurant, or pub and expect there to be free wifi for you to tap into.
It’s unfortunate, but it is the truth.
Wifi at Cafes, Restaurants, and Pubs
I’m never not surprised by how few dining establishments have free wifi that guests can use.
It is a nice surprise and not an expectation.
While many restaurants don’t offer free wifi to guests, you can count on a few chains to always have wifi available to customers.
If your’e desperate for wifi, head into one of these places, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find some free wifi to use:
- Pret a Manger (my personal favourite)
There are a few other chains that offer free wifi, but the establishments listed above are the easiest to find, and you can order a drink and be able to use the wifi.
Many mom and pop restaurants and pubs offer complimentary wifi to guests, but you never really know who does and doesn’t before you commit to eating there.
A lot of places will advertise they have free wifi for guests, but you have to connect through the Cloud. I’ll get into the Cloud more later, but it isn’t the best option and many foreigners have trouble using the Cloud.
So while a restaurant may have a sticker on their door advertising free wifi, you may not be able to easily access it.
Wifi at Museums and Other Tourist Attractions
London is famous for having a lot of free museums! It is a wonderful way to save some money while in London.
Kensington is home three world-class museums that are free to enter. If you’re looking to hang out in a museum, this is the place to go!
On of the best things about most of the free museums in London is that they have complimentary wifi!
You can easily hook into the museum’s wifi and access the glory of the internet. It is public wifi so be sure you have your VPN turned on to protect your online data!
The free wifi at museums is fairly reliable.
On your average day, you’ll be able to access fairly high-speed internet.
The issue is when the museum is busy (a.k.a. on weekends and evenings).
There are so many people trying to access the internet at one time that it slows down to a screeching halt. In many instances you won’t even be able to access the public wifi at all.
So don’t expect to be able to access the free museum wifi during peak hours.
You’ll just get frustrated!
While museums are my favourite place to access public wifi in London, there are a number of other tourist attractions that offer free wifi to guests:
- Tower of London
- Royal Alberta Hall
- Hampton Court Palace
- The gardens and shop at Buckingham Palace
- The British Library
A few of the most popular tourist attractions in London have free wifi, but, as you can see, a lot of them don’t.
It is unfortunate, but at least you know what to expect before you arrive!
O2 wifi is the most reliable public wifi in London in my experience.
You can access O2 wifi in many restaurants, pubs, and public spaces around London.
You need to register and create an account the first time you connect to O2 wifi, and then you will automatically connect whenever you’re at a location powered by O2.
In my experience, the automatically connecting part doesn’t happy every time I’m somewhere serviced by O2. I find myself having to log in manually more than half the time.
My issue with staying logged in and automatically connecting to O2 wifi may boil down to the fact that I have a Canadian SIM card.
There have been instances where I haven’t been automatically connected to O2 wifi in London while my friend with an Irish SIM card has.
There may be some correlation between how successful you are at using O2 wifi and where you’re from. I don’t have enough data to back that hypothesis, but it is my working theory at this point.
All things considered, I’ve had more luck using O2 in London than the Cloud.
Please don’t forget to have a VPN on your phone if you’re using public wifi in London. It is so important to protect your online data and information!
I had heard about how great the Cloud is and how easy it is to access free public wifi in London before the first time I visited in 2014. I was anticipating being connected to wifi nearly all the time and was super excited about it!
My experience in 2014 and every time I’ve been to London since (which is a lot) hasn’t lived up to my expectation.
The Cloud has literally only worked on my phone once in all the time I’ve spent in London.
And even that one time lasted for minutes before it disappeared again.
Nobody I’ve travelled with- no matter where their SIM card is from- has had any luck accessing the Cloud either.
I’m not sure if it is because I don’t have a Sky account (TV and internet provider in the UK) or what the issue is, but it is a bit frustrating at times.
You shouldn’t expect to rely on the Cloud when you’re in London.
If you need access to reliable internet, the Cloud is probably not the right choice for you. You don’t want to be in dire need of internet for work or personal business and not be able to connect.
Then you have to pay an outrageous amount of money to tap into your phone’s data!
Complimentary Cell Phones Provided by Hotels
Many hotels in London are providing guests with a complimentary cell phone in their room that has unlimited data on it.
You can take the cell phone with you when you go out exploring for the day and use it to access as much internet as you want.
It is so helpful to have access to Google maps if you’re exploring London by foot!
You can Google to your heart’s content, look up what restaurant you want to visit, or keep up on the news.
I don’t recommend you sign into your personal social media accounts or use the hotel’s phone to order anything that you have to put your credit card details into to purchase.
It simply isn’t safe, and you’re risking your personal data’s privacy.
Other than not being able to access social media, I’ve quite enjoyed it when I’ve taken the hotel’s cell phone out into London with me.
I don’t know how people survived before Google maps!
The Issue with Relying on Phones Provided by Your Hotel
The major downside to the cell phones that the hotels provide is that you’re not able to hot spot them and use that data to power your personal cell phone’s internet access.
I’ve tried multiple times and have never been successful.
But it isn’t that big of a deal. It would be a nice addition, but at least I’m able to keep myself somewhat entertained during meals and play intermissions and have access to Google maps if I get lost.
I’m a big fan of hotels providing guests with a cell phone to use during their stay. It adds a layer of freedom and comfort.
It seems to becoming more and more popular amongst hotels in London, so there is a decent chance your hotel will have a cell phone for you to use in the room.
Just make sure you remember to charge it!
Renting Pocket Wifi in London
If you need more reliable wifi in London, you can rent a pocket wifi device.
A pocket wifi gives you access to wifi no matter where you are as long as you’re in the device’s range.
I’ve used pocket wifi devices a number of times in the past, and they work really well.
They provide quick wifi, and you can connect multiple devices to them. Most of the time you can connect up to 5 devices, but it can vary depending on the make of the pocket wifi machine.
Renting pocket wifi in London is fairly inexpensive. You can often rent it for about £5 per day.
It is is the perfect alternative to relying on free public wifi or spending a lot of money from using your phone’s data.
Just pay attention to whether you can pick the pocket wifi up in London or if it needs to be mailed to your home or hotel.
Hippocket Wifi is the least expensive pocket wifi in Europe, but you can only pick it up in person in Paris. If you want to use the pocket wifi anywhere else, it either needs to be mailed to where you’re staying or to your home.
This is definitely the London wifi solution for you if you want reliable wifi and have multiple people travelling in a group.
It is so inexpensive if you share the cost between multiple people!
Skyroam: The Wifi Solution for Frequent Travellers
I invested in a Skyroam in 2019 and am so happy I did!
Skyroam is a personal wifi hotspot that you own and can take anywhere in the world! It works the same as a pocket wifi you rent, but you pay an upfront price to own the device and then have to pay for wifi on top of that.
It certainly isn’t inexpensive. This is a wifi solution for people who travel on a regular basis and want access to wifi wherever they go.
If you’re a casual traveller, then renting a pocket wifi or relying on public wifi in London is probably the most cost effective option.
But if your’e like me and travel the majority of the year, then Skyroam might be the next travel gadget you want to invest in.
It took me a long time and a lot of research before I decided to buy my Skyroam. I wasn’t sure if it was worth the cost of the machine, and I thought the rates they were charging for wifi were a bit too much for my budget.
But now that I’ve used my Skyroam on quite a few trips and on multiple continents, I’m so happy I splurged and bought one.
It has made my travels so much more enjoyable and freeing!
I don’t have to worry about sticking to a certain path because I’m relying on offline Google maps anymore. There is no way I can get lost!
Plus I’ve found some of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at by reading reviews of what food is around me when I get hungry.
Skyroam isn’t for everybody. But if you’re looking for a long-term wifi solution, it might be right for you.
Let’s Talk About Internet Safety
It is so important to keep your data safe when you’re travelling.
You are at risk of having your data stolen and sold whenever you use public wifi.
This includes public wifi at hotels and cafes that are password protected.
I’ve had friends who didn’t protect themselves while using public wifi have their banking information stolen. You do not want to deal with that headache!
The best way to protect your online data is by using a VPN. A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is basically an invisible forcefield that goes around your online activity to protect it.
Using a VPN makes using public wifi in London as safe as using your private wifi at home.
Nobody can access your online data and steal it.
Internet safety is no joke and isn’t something to be taken lightly. You need a VPN to protect yourself whenever you travel and use public wifi!
My Favourite VPN
I’ve used a lot of VPNs in my many years of travel. Most of them I haven’t liked and have never renewed my subscription with.
The only VPN I’ve ever enjoyed is NordVPN.
It blows the competition away.
Most VPNs slow your internet speed down so much that it becomes frustrating to use your phone, laptop, or tablet.
NordVPN is the only VPN I’ve used that doesn’t slow down the internet speed, which is a huge selling point.
Nobody wants to sacrifice internet speed if they don’t have to!
You can connect up to 6 devices on one NordVPN account, so you can protect all your devices for one low fee.
NordVPN lets you cloak your location. You can set your location to show you’re in any country of your choosing, and you’re able to unlock that country’s Netflix catalogue and watch shows you wouldn’t have access to in the country you’re actually in.
Plus NordVPN often has killer sales where you can save nearly 70% on your purchase.
There is no excuse not to protect your online data with NordVPN before you land in London!
The wifi situation in London is disappointing at best and frustrating at worst.
It can be fairly difficult to track down reliable public wifi in London, and your best bet (as unfortunate as it is) is to head to the nearest McDonald’s and connect to their wifi.
That’s what I normally do when I’m in desperate need to wifi in London and don’t have my Skyroam on me. Just order a drink or a snack, and you’ll be able to use their wifi. I’ve never encountered a McDonald’s in London that has a time limit on their wifi, which is very much appreciated!
The most reliable way to get wifi in London is to either rent a pocket wifi device or purchase a Skyroam.
The cell phone provided to you at your hotel is a nice touch, but you won’t have access to your personal social media accounts. It kind of sucks, but it is better than nothing!
London is a very walkable city, so it is nice to have access to Google maps in case you get lost.
If you don’t have reliable access to wifi while in London, be sure you download Google maps offline to help you in case you get lost!
London also has an amazing system of having maps for tourists all over the place. You can find them every few blocks, and they’ll help you find your way if you’re lost and don’t have Google maps.
No matter how you choose to source your wifi in London, is is essential that you protect your online data by having a VPN on all of your devices!