If you’re from another country, it’s a good bet that your cellphone will work in Chicago if you have an international plan, although we do have a fragmented cellular system so it’s helpful to check with your carrier. If your phone is unlocked, you can purchase a SIM card from Best Buy or one of the mobile carriers (T-Mobile, AT&T, and Best Buy have stores downtown and throughout the city); alternatively, you can simply purchase an inexpensive, pay-as-you-go or pre-paid phone service from a company such as TracFone (tel. 800/867-7183; www.tracfone.com).
You can also forgo the cell phone hassle—if it is a hassle—and rely on Wi-Fi and Skype or other VOIP services to stay connected. Most hotel lobbies offer free Wi-Fi, as does Harold Washington Library, which also has computers available to the public for free.
Hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, and retailers throughout the Chicago area have gone Wi-Fi, becoming hotspots that offer free high-speed access or charge a small fee for usage.
In the Loop, Millennium Park; Daley Plaza (along Washington St. between Dearborn and Clark sts.); the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.; and the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., all have wireless access (the library also has computers that the public can use). Elsewhere in downtown Chicago, Starbucks, the sandwich chain Cosi, and McDonald’s have numerous locations with Wi-Fi access, as do many locally owned bars and cafes. You can also rely on most hotel lobbies to have free Wi-Fi—and you don’t have to purchase anything to take advantage. Many Chicago hotels also have business centers equipped with computers available for guests’ use.
To find more hotspots in Chicago, download an app, such as OpenSignal (https://opensignal.com), and you’ll be online in a jiffy.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.