Internet cafés

Whether it’s to see what is happening on TNTonline, the SA Times website, applying for a job, sorting out your banking, emailing home, checking the sport scores or booking trips and flights, the good old internet is indispensable. 

London is littered with internet cafés. But the touristy areas can offer rather expensive or crammed cafés. Around Oxford Street or Leicester Square, expect to pay at least twice as much for an hour online. Some will even charge £5 per hour, but you will generally find internet access for £1 per hour or less if you shop around. It also depends on location, quality of equipment and whether the café serves food or drink. 
If you’re staying in a London hostel, it may have internet access included in the price, so it’s worth asking when you check in.

Safety first

Because you may be required to do some internet banking, pay for trips and make secure transactions, it’s important to remember to make sure you have logged out after you’ve completed your session. If you haven’t, people using the machine after you may be able to take advantage of your absent-mindedness and use your accounts or card numbers. If you do make printouts – take it with you.

What to look for

If you’re just looking to pop in and send a few emails, any internet café will do the job. If you’re a new arrival, though, you might need to set up shop in one for a few days as you frantically mail off CVs to try to get some work and save that bank account balance from turning red. If you are, seek out a café with printing facilities at reasonable prices. Also, make sure the printer spits out high quality products – you don’t want to turn up for a hastily arranged job interview with black splotches all over your CV due to shoddy printing.

» There are internet cafés in every corner of London, and no matter where you’re living, there should be one within a short walk or bus/tube ride. For an idea, click here.

Free internet?

Singapore’s Changi International Airport isn’t the only place you can find free internet. Some UK public libraries offer free internet and if you have your own laptop, you will find many pubs and coffee shops now also offering ‘hot spots’ with free internet connectivity. Some will have time restrictions, but mostly you only have to ask for the access code. Others my be completely open. 
» For a list of local libraries, click here.

Getting online at home

Having internet and broadband access at home is handy. It means you can book trips, do your banking and other secure transactions in the safety of your home, as well as being able to jump online and email and surf the net to your heart’s content. 
Dial-up internet is available at cheaper prices, but broadband allows you to use your phone and internet at the same time and is much faster. has some hints for people ready to jump into cyberspace from the comfort of the lounge.
» There are many competitive deals on offer, so don’t assume the biggest brand names are the best buys. There are smaller reputable broadband suppliers that can provide you the same service at cheaper rates. Equally, you could also subscribe to a faster service for a few pounds extra.
» Check your monthly service restrictions. If you do sign up to capped broadband products, the costs for exceeding it can be surprisingly high. 
» When signing up to a broadband contract, check to see the minimum contract period and if there are any charges for early cancellation. If you are tied into a 12-month contract and cancel before the 12-month period is up, many suppliers will expect you to pay the remainder of the contract. 
» Take customer support into consideration. If something does go wrong, how much does it cost to contact the supplier’s customer support number? If it’s a premium rate number, you could be charged as much as 50p per minute to rectify problems related to your broadband product.
» Check what you get for the price. Some providers offer additional hardware and security software free of charge. 
» Some suppliers can charge additional fees if you move house and wish to transfer your service with you. On the other hand, some suppliers don’t. Check a number of suppliers to see which ones have hidden charges when you need to transfer your service, and which ones do not.