Mobile phones are becoming travelers' most important tool, but their usefulness is limited without access to Wi-Fi. Cities that provide Wi-Fi make it easier and more enjoyable for visitors to explore.
When it comes to connectivity, not all cities are created equal. But many are getting wise to the internet addiction of 21st-century travellers.
Last year, Germany’s national tourist board even launched its own Wi-Fi finder app, Youth HotSpot (Android, iOS; free).
And the world’s Wi-Fi-friendliest cities are not always where you might expect.
This week Taiwan made it easier than ever for visitors to get online. Travellers can register ahead of arrival to receive 30 days of free access to a national, government-backed network of over 5,000 hotpsots. The capital Taipei has hundreds of these free iTaiwan hotspots, all marked on a zoomable map. See Here.
The city’s multi-museum pass, the Firenze Card ( firenzecard.it ), costs 72 euros, but includes most major museums and public transport, and comes with 72 hours of free Wi-Fi at a network of hotspots run by the city. Sites are well spread around the centre, including in popular parks and piazzas. The Loggia dei Lanzi outdoor sculpture gallery must qualify as one of the world’s most handsome Wi-Fi zones.
Tel Aviv, Israel
In 2013, Israel’s startup capital launched a free Wi-Fi network for locals and visitors. Eighty hotspots are dotted around its centre, including along the Mediterranean promenade and in Old Jaffa. Just look for the “free_tlv” network.
Connecting in the Finnish capital is password-free and easy thanks to a network of hotspots in public buildings, civic squares and even on some buses and trams around the city (consult the map). In a hurry to get online? You can connect on touchdown at Helsinki Airport.
No surprises here: one of the world’s most futuristic cities is also generous when it comes to laying on free internet. There are several free Wi-Fi networks, the key ones being GovWiFi (at parks, libraries, public buildings, ferry terminals and more) and MTR WiFi, which provides 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi per device up to five times every day at MTR stations. Buy the official Tourist SIM for your smartphone for HK$69 (£5.40) to add another 12,000 PCCW hotspots to the list.
Keeping up with the neighbours, Macau’s WiFiGo service offers free internet for visitors every day between 8am and 1am. The network has around 150 hotspots, meaning there’s usually Wi-Fi close by, including at ports, museums and tourist information centres. You are allowed 45 minutes in one session, before having to log off and reconnect. Search for the “wifigo” network, or check the coverage map .
Paris is another European city with a public Wi-Fi network. Visitors are free to use over 200 public hotspots for up to two hours at a time, as many times as they like. Just hunt for the “Paris Wi-Fi” network on your phone, tablet or laptop, including right next to Notre Dame. There is also a map .
New York, USA
There’s no need to fork out for hotel Wi-Fi in the tech capital of the East Coast. Fast food restaurants and coffee shops usually oblige. There’s also a free network of Wi-Fi in public spaces including in 16 parks and tourist magnets such as Times Square and the Battery Park ferry terminal. The city tourist office publishes several free Wi-Fi maps . At last count, 36 subway stations also offered free Wi-Fi, with another 40 scheduled to follow soon.
Australia’s most connected city has thrown a net of free Wi-Fi over its central shopping, eating and business district. Perth Wi-Fi launched in November 2013, and the city already has plans to extend its blanket coverage to outlying areas, too. Visitors are allowed an hour’s connection (or 50 megabytes) before they must reconnect.
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Photo credit: A girl looks at her computer in Washington Square Park in New York City. Ed Yourdon / Flickr