Updated: May 2018 - As a Small Business Owner, I'm always looking for ways to save money when traveling overseas. We're planning a business trip to London England from San Francisco. I'm only traveling with an iPhone, iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard / case for this trip. The laptop stays on my desk in the office.
I set up a basic (but expensive) international data plan with my main AT&T account as a backup wireless resource. However, I want to use WiFi services as much as possible to save money. I need WiFi for Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) phone Calls, sending / receiving Text Messages, Managing Social Networking, checking eMails and working on Web Applications.
We just completed extensive research on the lowest cost and best options for WiFi services in London, UK and Ireland. The bottom line is that it's a confusing mess of choices...and there are lots of options for using WiFi. To begin, I always check with my hotel before leaving on a trip, as well as plan for other WiFi services.
The following is a summary of the other best WiFi options I could find:
Wi-Fi Options in London, UK
Free Service. You don’t have to be an O2 customer to use O2 WiFi. Includes: McDonalds, Debenhams, Costa Coffee, House of Fraser, Café Rouge and many more. Sign up and that’s it. No passwords or usernames to connect. Just quick WiFi, when you’re near one of their hotspots in the UK. O2 has Apple and Android Apps to help connect to their Free WiFi service. For more info go to O2 WiFi
Free for 2 hours per session. Each Wi-Fi session lasts for 2 hours but you can have an unlimited number of sessions every day - just reconnect after 2 hours. Partners with British Telecom (BT). For more info go to Starbucks UK
Free WiFi service during your visit. Family Friendly Filters. Partners with O2. For more info go to McDonald's UK
This is a Free WiFi Service in thousands of hotspots, such as Caffe Nero, Pizza Express, PRET, Wagamama and many stations, stadiums and shopping centres. You need to create a Cloud account before you use it. Once you have created a unique username and password all you have to do is login through your browser when you enter a Cloud WiFi hotspot. For more info go to The Cloud
In 2013, AT&T signed a roaming agreement with "The Cloud" (owned by B-Sky-B) allowing all AT&T customers Free access to all of The Cloud's 16,000 WiFi Hot-Spots in the UK. You need to download the free "AT&T WiFi International" App from the Apple or Google App Store before you travel to sign up for the service.
History: During the London 2012 Olympics, the Cloud was initially was set up in the City of London (or known as the London Financial District, which covers 1.1 square miles. The District is bordered by the River Thames to the south, Barbican to the north, Aldgate in the east and Chancery Lane to the west).
British Telecom BTWiFi (formally BT Openzone and BT Fon) is a wireless broadband WiFi service that you can use in public places (hotspots) such as airports, hotels, coffee shops, motorway service stations and city centres. Get online at over 4 million BT WiFi hotspots throughout the UK and Ireland, and at selected locations outside the UK. And you can choose from lots of brand names offering their WiFi service such as Starbucks, Roadchef, Welcome Break, Hilton, Menzies and Thistle Hotels. If you need help with the BT service, in the UK call freephone: 0800 022 33 22 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Virgin Media provides a Pay-for-Service Wi-Fi network in the London Underground stations. There were 90+ stations available by the end of 2012. Activate your Smartphone or Tablet once, and then you'll connect automatically each time you take the Tube (and you are in a WiFi enabled station).
Full internet access will be available for no extra cost if you're a Virgin Broadband, Virgin Mobile Pay Monthly, Vodafone, EE, Orange or T-Mobile customer. If you're not one of these customers, you can still use the service as much as you want by buying a WiFi Pass for one day, one week or one month. Price Estimates: £2 per day, £5 per week or £15 per month for a Virgin Media WiFi Pass. We found the Virgin Media website a bit confusing and difficult to find how to sign up for their WiFi service.
Skype WiFi (is no longer available)
As of March 2017, Microsoft killed off Skype WiFi. Back in 2013, Skype WiFi partnered with London-based Wicoms for Free Skype WiFi, which will allow Skype users to log in to any participating location across the U.K. and Ireland. We couldn't find any location details on the service yet. For more info go to skype.com
Boingo provides a variety of international and USA wireless data plans. The Boingo Mobile service is a great deal. It costs $7.95 USD per month for UNLIMITED Wi-Fi access worldwide at 600,000+ WiFi hotspots. You should download their "Boingo Mobile Wi-Fi app" to your device and sign-up before you leave on your trip. Unfortunately, we had continuous problems trying to connect using their service on our last trip to the UK. For more info go to Boingo
Rent a Mobile WiFi Hotspot Device during a Business Trip or Vacation
Some business travelers prefer to rent a small mobile hotspot device that they can bring on their trip. Vison Global WiFi and Tep Wireless are two of the popular companies that offer this WiFi service.
These two companies enable customers planning an international trip to order their mobile hotspot device and get it delivered before departure, with a prepaid envelope included to ship it back once they've returned.
It is very important to read the small print with these services before you travel to make sure you don't have any giant invoice surprises at the end of your trip.
The company will rent you a WiFi hotspot to take on your trip. Leave enough time for the product to be delivered to you before your trip. Their website is a bit dated. You need to enter all the travel info before they share the cost of the WiFi hotspot device.
International pocket WiFi with Vision Global WiFi allows you to use the internet on your smartphone, tablet, etc without the hassle of setup. Simply enter the password into your device, and you're set. Access the internet as usual without incurring expensive fees overseas. For more Info go to Vision Global WiFi
Tep Wireless will rent you a Wi-Fi Hub device during your international travel.
Tep started in Europe and is now expanding around the world to 50 nations. In 2012 they added Brazil, USA, South Africa, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and UAE. For more info go to Tep Wireless
Update: Another WiFi company called Xcom Global closed in December 2017 and no longer available.
Hope this info helps.... Please add your comments below for using Wi-Fi while traveling in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe. Thanks!