While some still claim to leave their gadgets at home and disconnect when they set off to travel, there are a majority that cling desperately to their online life wherever they end up. When moving to London it can be your lifeline to assure the family back home that everything is fine and secondly to help you get setup in London with accommodation, a job and for finding things to see and do in those early days of being here. When I arrived in London I had both my Macbook and an iPhone which while not essential did make my life easier in those first few days.
Some cafe’s will have wifi available (ask if there is no sign just in case), but for guaranteed free wifi connections you can seek out the big chains like Starbucks, Le Pain Quotidien or McDonalds for a normally reliable connection to the outside world. Alternatively if you don’t want to invest in dedicated mobile broadband devices it might be worth looking into getting a Boingo account. This gives you access to the thousands of wifi hotspots connected with BT and other providers right across the UK. Testing I’ve done with my account has been good and you’ll never be short of finding a wifi network to connect either.
If you would rather not be seeking out free wifi in a London cafe (especially in winter) then all the major phone and broadband providers offer some great mobile options to get both your phone and computer online wherever you may find yourself.
Unless you hold a British or European passport of some sort most providers will not let you go on contract for broadband devices or mobile phones. Your best option is to look at the Pay and Go offers from the big providers like O2, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile. They all offer similar deals for USB dongles and mobile phone plans but I’ve found that O2 (basically the Telstra of the UK) provides decent reception and pricing.
For those of you bringing smartphone’s with you I’ve been using the Text + Web Pay and Go plan (See here for all plans) which depending on the amount you pay gives you the following options:
- Top-up £10–£14 and get 300 UK texts, 500MB UK data
- Top-up £15–£29 and get 500 UK texts, 500MB UK data
- Top-up £30+ and get unlimited UK texts, 500MB UK data
Since moving to London I’ve managed to survive here topping up 10 pound each month and as I very rarely make calls always have extra credit. One thing to note for heavy internet users is that once you reach your 500MB of data in the 30 day period they charge you a maximum of 1 Pound per day no matter how much data you use that day until your 30 days is over.
If you find the house you move into doesn’t have internet (almost all do from my experience) then a USB dongle might be your only option for internet at home. None offer the same speeds some of you might be used to back home but cost wise they are reasonable affordable even for budget travellers..
I’ve only had experience with O2 but again the other providers offer similar plans and speeds so you can shop around. Full details can be found here on costs and so forth but the basic deal I took when getting here is that you buy the USB dongle outright for around 20 pounds and then pick one of the two plans:
- Mobile Broadband Monthly (available for 30 days) £10.21 for 1GB
- Mobile Broadband Monthly (available for 30 days) £15.32 for 2GB
Your data allowance lasts 30 days but if you use it up sooner you can top up again to get an extra 1GB or 2GB of data. I don’t use my USB dongle much anymore but it’s come in handy on trips around the UK when wifi has been unavailable.
The internet is an amazing tool for any traveller looking at moving to London. It helped me find a place to live, get directions via my phone to some amazing parts of London and most of all it keeps me connected with family and friends all over the world.