I am planning on taking my Smartphone & using the WiFi setting to make calls and look up info on the web. My question is how accessible is WiFi in public places other than the hotels. I will be in London, Paris, Venice, Florence & Rome; visiting the major sights. I don't want to have to limit access to just the hotel or seeking out a McDonald's or Starbucks for WiFi access. Any thoughts or experience?
Just Google "free Wi-Fi" plus the city in question, and you'll get returns with tons of info on where you can connect for free. Some cities, such as Paris, have free Wi-Fi all over town in public places. You may be limited in others to the typical coffee shop, hotel lobby, fast food place, etc. Other cities, such as Luxembourg City, are totally wired, so you can get Wi-Fi pretty much everywhere. And even others, like Seoul, literally have Wi-Fi everywhere, even way down in the subway. Sooner or later, most major cities in all of the highly developed countries will have Wi-Fi available almost everywhere. Not there quite yet, though. BTW, the U.S. is light years behind other countries in this area.
At the very least every Starbuck's, McDonald's (plus I think KFC and Burger King) offer free WiFi as well as almost all lodging. So it's not hard to find when you need it. I was in a tiny Spanish town with none of the above. I wasn't staying the night but did search for free WiFi in the area. Unfortunately, I got to town and the place I had listed was closed. Since I didn't have the password to sign on, I thought maybe someone at the little bar across the street might know. When I asked, however, they gave me the password for their own WiFi. That's a long way to say it won't be too hard to find a WiFi connection.
In England, lots of pubs have WiFi, just ask for the password at the bar when you get your drinks. Generally free WiFi is everywhere in London above or below ground, as Doctor Who found out last Saturday, and at worst you may have to sign up, but not hand over any money. If you are desperate and can't find a free hotspot, you could subscribe (and pay) for BT wifi, which is ubiquitous - but only pay if your rate doesn't already include BT for free. BT is Europe's biggest WiFi network and comes free for most.
Thanks to all. This eases my mind a great deal.
There is lots of wifi about but that doesn't mean that you can always use it. In continental Europe most McDonalds have wifi, free for customers. But you have to subscribe to it. In several of the countries your phone needs to have a local sim in it or you can't sign up. So if you rock up with UK phone, for example, you can see the wifi in the Settings but you can't subscribe. Voice of experience. Some large providers allow you to use an app which you subscribe to online then when out in the wilds you can find and join hotspots. There is very, very little wiMax or other widely distributed freely available outdoors wifi except in very small areas.
I'm a frequent traveller to Germany and "free" WiFi, on the street, can be pretty hard to come by (there are still lots of hotels that have a daily charge for internet use) - so-much-so that I gave up and purchased a micro-sim for my iPad, from Vodafone, which gives me the internet on-demand. WiFi is out there, but getting it free when and where you want it, may not be.
Europe isn't any better in many cases, but it is in some areas. In the case of free municipal Wi-Fi, Luxembourg and the Scandinavian countries (as an example) are more like Asia, and Asia sort of sets the standard for advancement in technology. That's better. In fact, most of the cities in the top 10 Wi-Fi access are in Asia, so Asia is better than both. The US is making progress...NYC is a good example. Still, there are too many corporate interests here, and nobody is going to build-out expensive networks and give away Wi-Fi for free across an entire city. We'll figure out a balance and have something that works eventually, because everyone will expect Wi-Fi access everywhere at some point. In the meantime, some US cities will offer it, and so will some European cities. Don't get me started on all the ways Europe isn't as good as 'Merica. Yes, I'll use the free Wi-Fi at McDonald's when in Europe. And the last time I did in September, I didn't have to subscribe to anything like Nigel mentioned. I didn't even have to buy anything. And, yes, I have used the toilets at McDoanld's in Europe before are purchased nothing.
@James "So all the American businesses in Europe offer this service for free, while the European businesses don't? And how exactly is Europe better?" You do realise that most of these are just a franchise, right???
If ever the free wifi does not work for you just pop into a virgin mobile and get a 10 pound sim card for unlimitted internet while in the UK. we used it for skype and it worked great.
In Italy wi-fi maybe more limited. A few years ago there were real tight regulations on it. It is just recently that they have "opened" it up.
On recent trips, I stopped bothering with wifi outside of my hotel because using a local SIM card instead for data was so easy and relatively cheap. I didn't use it for making calls over the data connection, however. That use eats up more data than I paid for with my local prepaid SIM card, so wifi may be necessary for calls. For browsing, though, it was very easy.