How to get free public Wi-Fi

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We show you how to take advantage of free Wi-Fi when you’re out and about, and save your own mobile data.
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How to get free public Wi-Fi

We all enjoy using our phones and other mobile devices when we’re out and about, right? From uploading photos on Facebook during lunch, to using the power of Plants vs. Zombies to keep the kids quiet in restaurants, we never seem to be offline for very long.

And the great thing is - there’s a lot of free Wi-Fi about. With just a little thought, we can avoid eating into our mobile broadband data needlessly and racking up additional costs.

To help you out, here’s the full lowdown on getting free public Wi-Fi when you hit the street.

The Cloud

The Cloud (owned by Sky) has more than 22,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK and most are free to use. You’ll find it at train stations around the country, and at larger restaurant chains like Pizza Express and Pret A Manger.

Take a look at The Cloud’s hotspot finder to see what’s available in your local area.

The Cloud provides a FastConnect app that automatically signs you into its Wi-Fi. Plus, you'll be able to view Wi-Fi hotspot locations even when you’re not online, as it handily saves the map onto your device.

FastConnect
iOS (Free) / Android (Free)

BT Wi-Fi

Access to BT Wi-Fi is free for BT broadband customers only, we’re afraid. If you’re not a customer, then you’ll need to hand over some of your hard-earned cash for access.

BT Wi-Fi is the UK's largest Wi-Fi network, with hotspots in thousands of hotels, restaurants, airports and motorway service stations.

Even better, BT Wi-Fi covers thirteen entire city centres. If you live in one of these ‘wireless’ cities (and you’re a BT broadband customer), you’ll be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Waltham Forest and Westminster in London.

You can check BT Wi-Fi’s hotspot coverage with the BT Wi-Fi directory. And BT broadband customers can download the app to get online quickly and easily. There’s a hotspot map with directions included, and owners of iOS and Android devices will automatically be connected whenever they’re in range.

BT Wi-Fi app
iOS (Free) / Android (Free) / Windows Phone (Free)

O2 Wi-Fi

O2 Wi-Fi is available in over 10,000 hotspots around the UK. They’re free for everyone to use and you don’t even need to be an O2 customer - very generous of them.

You’ll find O2 Wi-Fi in a lot of high street chains like Costa Coffee, Café Rouge and Debenhams. Use the O2 hotspot finder to find your nearest free Wi-Fi hotspot.

If you like the sound of O2 Wi-Fi, you can register for free Wi-Fi with O2 in advance. Once you’re signed up, that’s it. You'll connect automatically whenever you’re near one of their hotspots

The O2 Wi-Fi app will help you find its nearest Wi-Fi locations. And if you’ve got an Android phone or Windows Phone, you can use the app to register for free Wi-Fi with O2 - even when you’re out and about.

O2 Wi-Fi app
iOS (Free) / Android (Free) / Windows Phone (Free)

Go local

In addition to the ‘big three’ above, there are lots of other places like independent coffee shops and pubs that offer free Wi-Fi access to customers, using their own service providers. These little Wi-Fi friendly locations aren’t always easy to find though, so you might need an app to help you out…

Our favourite Wi-Fi hotspot finder app is this one from JiWire. Search options including street address, postcode, provider and proximity, and it’ll hunt for free local Wi-Fi hotspots from around 145,000 or so on its database.

Jiwire Wi-Fi Hotspot Finder
iOS (Free) / Android (Free)

Safety first, and last

Remember that when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, a lot of your data can be accessed by others. We recommend you avoid doing things like banking, shopping or gambling – basically any activity where sensitive information like bank account numbers and credit card information is involved. And if Wi-Fi access is being provided by a small, independent location on a Wi-Fi provider you’ve never heard of, check out its online reputation before you sign-up and start using it.

Are you quite finished? Then remember to log out! Don’t leave yourself logged in to any accounts you’ve been using, or someone else using the network might be able to access your personal information.

If you’ve got any Wi-Fi hints and tips to share, let us know in the comments below.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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