The ultimate student guide to getting free Wi-Fi in the UK

free Wi-Fi hotspot
Want to work on your assignments on the go? Here's how free WiFi hotspots can help you do just that. Source: Jens Schlueter/AFP

We all need free Wi-Fi hotspots — especially if it’s our first day in a new country.

If you’ve just landed in the UK and you don’t have a data plan, knowing where to find free Wi-Fi hotspots should be one of your top priorities.

You’ll need to find a map of campus and your new city, plus places you can go to buy all the things you’ve forgotten to bring.

Even if you’re no longer new to the UK, you’ll still need to find free Wi-Fi hotspots from time to time. Maybe you want to save from getting an expensive data plan or need faster download speeds.

That’s where knowing free Wi-Fi hotspots come in handy. First, though, it’s important to know what is a free Wi-Fi hotspot and why there are some you should avoid.

free WiFi

Don’t do essential tasks like shopping online or paying bills while using free WiFi since your data is not protected. Source: Jens Schlueter/AFP

Why should you consider using a free Wi-Fi hotspot?

Wi-Fi hotspots can help you secure faster internet connections and help you save on your mobile data allowance. It is possible to create a Wi-Fi hotspot using your mobile data, but they tend to be unstable

Using a free Wi-Fi hotspot lets you enjoy high-speed internet on the go — crucial if you want to look for your favourite food from home, deal with language barriers, and stay updated with the latest news

To access these free Wi-Fi networks, you should: 

  • Turn on the Wi-Fi on your laptop or mobile phone.
  • Check for a list of available networks. 
  • Click on a Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect — you’ll either be asked for the password or will be taken to a landing page in your browser. Sometimes, you have to key in a few details like your name and email address. 

Do remember the risk of using a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Your personal information may get leaked since your data is not protected.

We recommend avoiding essential tasks like shopping online or paying bills while connecting with free Wi-Fi in public spaces. Remember to use multiple passwords and different usernames.

free Wifi

You can find free O2 WiFi hotspots at various Subway branches in the UK.  Source: Daniel Leal/AFP

Best free Wi-Fi hotspot provider in the UK

Most of these hotspots are free to use, while some require users to be customers of the same network.  

British Telecommunications (BT)

Are you a customer of BT Broadband or BT Mobile? If so, you can access over five million Wi-Fi hotspots in the country.

All you need to do is download the BT Wi-Fi app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. After that, you can automatically connect to these hotspots through your mobile phone or laptop.

The app also helps you to find the nearest hotspot. 

For non-BT customers, you can access the BT Wi-Fi hotspots by paying for the service through BT’s website. Consider their 12-month subscription package, which will cost you 15 pounds per month.

The best part? You can use this service across an unlimited number of devices, but only five devices can stay connected to this hotspot at the same time. 


O2 has more than 4,500 Wi-Fi hotspots around the UK. The good news is that they are free to access regardless of whether you use an O2 sim card.

Here’s the catch: non-O2 customers must register after connecting with the network. 

You can find O2 Wi-Fi hotspots in various high-street stores and chain restaurants. Keep an eye out for places like Subway, Costa Coffee, House of Fraser, Pizza Hut, and many more. 


Last on our list is a free Sky Wi-Fi hotspot called The Cloud. It is available in more than 20,000 locations in the UK. Once you have signed up, it will automatically connect when you are near a Sky Wi-Fi hotspot.

Some of these places charge for access, but most venues are free. Where payment is required, you can pay using a credit card through PayPal or directly with your PayPal account.

The Cloud provides Wi-Fi to pubs, university campuses and sports clubs up and down the country, as well as high street shops, bars and restaurants.

Where can you find free WiFi on campus?

As an international student, you’d mostly likely have access to the free Wi-Fi on campus. Some popular spots include the student union, library, or any on-campus accommodation.

If you’re not a student of a specific uni, you can try logging into the guest network. For example, Northumbria University has a free WiFi network for students who are not studying at the uni.

Alternatively, try your luck at a nearby cafe or Starbucks (though you’ll likely need to buy something first).

Or ask your new housemates to set up a mobile hotspot for you temporarily until you get a SIM card.

Remember to apply the same practices when using these free Wi-Fi hotspots.