If you’re visiting London and want to use your US phone in London so that you can get calls, texts and use data, here are a few ways in which you can stay connected when you’re here in the UK.
*These tips can also apply for London visitors from outside of the US!
1. Check with your provider about an international plan
Some cell providers have reasonably priced international plans for limited amounts of time. This is the easiest way to use your map, and to be as connected as possible. Even having the option to use a little data, for times when you get stuck without wifi, is helpful!
Call your cell phone provider to see what options they can offer for using your US phone in London while you’re visiting.
2. Use a SIM
When I travel outside of Europe, I usually end up buying a cheap SIM so that I can easily stay connected, for cheap. You can do this in London if you have an unlocked smartphone, just check with your mobile provider to see if you do.
When you arrive, visit a supermarket, convenience store, or a mobile phone shop to pick up a pay-as-you-go SIM. You can also get them at the airport, I’ve heard they’re more expensive but I don’t know if that’s true. It’s probably easier to wait until you check into your hotel anyways, I think, than to faff around with it before you get on the train.
Probably the easiest way to be able to use your US phone in London as soon as you step off the plane is to order a free SIM ahead of time from Giff Gaff. They’ll send it to you at home, just follow the instructions for set up and you’ll be good to go.
3. Use a wireless 3G device in London
If you have a few people in your travel party that won’t be splitting up much, it might be more economical to get a wireless 3G pocket device, as multiple people can connect to it at one time. It essentially acts as a wifi that you put in your pocket. Try TEP Wireless for this (I haven’t used it myself, just FYI.)
4. Find wifi around London
Wifi is fairly easy to find around London if you’ll need it to use your US phone in London. First off, you’re almost guaranteed to have free wifi in your hotel or Airbnb. I recommend mapping out your day over breakfast while you have the connection.
When you’re not at your home base, all coffee shops around the city will have wifi. Pop inside for a coffee or tea, rest your feet, and connect your phone.
On top of that, some restaurants, museums, shops, and other places around London will also offer free wifi. If you see a network pop up on your phone, just ask a staff member if there’s a password you can use.
Many tube stations also have wifi– if you’re not a Virgin Media or O2 customer/SIM user, you can get a week-long pass for £5. Finally, if you find yourself near an Apple Store, you can pop in there for some free wifi too.
Remember that if you have The Local Guide to London or my 3-Day London Itinerary, that the digital map works best with a 3G connection when you’re out and about, so the first three options are the best for you.
So the above options mentioned are the best ways for tourists to be able to use a US phone in London. Which option will work best for you will depend on your situation.
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