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How to get free Wi-Fi anywhere

Not being able to find public Wi-Fi when you need it the most, is annoying, to say the least. The trick is knowing how and where to look – while staying safe. Don't forget that unsecured public networks are a goldmine for hackers!

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

How to get free Wi-Fi anywhere

Can I get free Wi-Fi at home?

It all depends on a few deciding factors. Do you live in an urban area where you're surrounded by Wi-Fi hotspots? Chances are, you won't have to travel far from home to reach it. Or do you live in a more rural setting, having to constantly ask Google “How can I get free Wi-Fi right now?” Don't worry, this guide will shed some light.

How to get free Wi-Fi?

Below we give you a few tips on how to get free Wi-Fi.

1. Find a place with a public Wi-Fi hotspot

Can you actually get the internet for free legally? If you’re wondering how to get free Wi-Fi, your first call should be well-known public places that offer hotspots. There are plenty you can choose from – coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores, supermarkets, museums, hotel Wi-Fi and many more.

Some cities even offer free Wi-Fi spots throughout their old towns, plazas, or tourist attractions. You shouldn't have a problem in New York, Barcelona or Paris. Just do your research before your next trip. Here are some ideas, where you can get free Wi-Fi:

  • Public libraries offer free Wi-Fi hotspots for visitors, and some even have workspaces where you can comfortably sit with your laptop.
  • Trains and buses are often equipped with wireless networks, but they set data limits so your streaming services won’t leave others with low bandwidth.
  • If you spend a lot of time in the gym, you might appreciate its free internet. Many gyms have cafes where you can drink your favorite smoothie while connected to Wi-Fi.
  • Universities and colleges are always full of people, so nobody will bother if you connect to free Wi-Fi spots and access the internet. If you need the password, students will probably share it without question.

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2. Turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot

If you are in the middle of nowhere with no cafes around but you really need to finish that work assignment, check whether your phone has a 3G or 4G connection. If so, perfect! Just turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot. You may not be able to stream HD movies, but it's more than sufficient to do some research or send emails.

Android users:

  1. Open your Settings.

  2. Tap on Wireless & networks.

    Tap on Wireless networks
  3. Select Tethering & portable hotspot.

    Select Tethering & portable hotspot
  4. Tap on Portable Wi-Fi hotspot.

    Tap Personal hotspot
  5. Set up a strong password and slide the bar to turn it on.

iOS users:

  1. Open your Settings.

  2. Tap on Personal Hotspot.

    Tap Personal hotspot
  3. Set up a strong password and tap the slider next to Allow Others to Join.

    Select Tethering & portable hotspot

3. Use free Wi-Fi near me apps

When there's an app for everything, it's no surprise that you can get one to find 'places with free Wi-Fi near me' apps at home or anywhere you go. Here are a few recommendations that'll help.

Wi-Fi Map

What is the best app to get 'free Wi-Fi near me?' Look no further than Wi-Fi Map, as it contains a map with over 100 million 'Wi-Fi in my area' pings and other free hotspots along with login credentials. Since the app is crowdsourced, most networks are tried and tested.

Features:

  • Can provide Wi-Fi passwords even when you’re offline
  • Map navigation
  • Available on Android and iOS
  • Smart search

Instabridge

Instabridge is another crowdsourced app that offers a map with over a million free public Wi-Fi networks. It includes not only login credentials but an auto-connect function. Thus, whenever you're close to Wi-Fi spots listed in the app, your mobile device (be it an Android or iOS device) will connect automatically.

Features:

  • Available for iOS and Android
  • 10 million passwords
  • Supports WEP, WPA, WPA2 and WPA3
  • Speed, popularity, and data usage stats

4. Get a portable router

A portable router works just like your home router, but instead of using a cable, it operates on either 3G or 4G. These devices are small and relatively inexpensive. However, avoid the cheapest option because it might be slow and support only several simultaneous connections. It's a good alternative to always asking Google about 'Wi-Fi in my area'

Having your own router is much safer than connecting to public hotspots. Since the battery lasts long, you don’t risk losing the internet unexpectedly unless you end up somewhere with bad network coverage.

Why public Wi-Fi is dangerous

Public Wi-Fi is a minefield – even legitimate providers could be looking for ways to take advantage of your usage. And then there are the hackers. Here are just some of the risks (and solutions):

Fake public hotspots

While you think you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi, you may actually be connecting to a fake malicious network created by a hacker. This can allow the hacker to intercept your device, steal your sensitive information or install malware. “Free wifi near me without password” is a popular search query, but, don’t forget that a network without any password can be set up by criminals.

Hacking threats

Your devices are also less secure when connected to public Wi-Fi because hackers may be sitting on the same network and waiting for prey. If that’s the case, a hacker could perform malicious attacks (more about them here) or secretly sniff your traffic for any valuable information. To protect your personal information, always use a VPN online. Advanced NordVPN features encrypts all of your online traffic, making it complete jargon to any hackers lurking in the network.

If you set up your phone as a hotspot, use a strong and unique password (follow these steps to create one). Or, invest in a password manager — it should be able to automatically create and store complex passwords so you don't have to memorize them. Otherwise, a hacker could join your network and intercept your devices.

Vulnerable Wi-Fi apps

Wi-Fi apps also have loopholes. They could list hotspots created by bad actors. It's best to check the community opinions and feedback on the preferred network before establishing a connection.

Not all Wi-Fi apps are altruistic. Some might also be running background scans for nearby Wi-Fi join requests and using them to create Wi-Fi heatmaps of public and private Wi-Fi networks. Hackers and stalkers can use these maps to find where you live. You can read more about it here.

You shouldn't trust Wi-Fi apps and their auto-connect features either, as you may accidentally connect to a malicious hotspot. It's better to keep this feature off.

Privacy concerns

Using public Wi-Fi could also violate your privacy. An airport, a cafe or a supermarket could be tracking what you do while browsing on their network and then using that data for other means.

Also beware that some Wi-Fi apps will collect a lot of data about you, such as your login details, your IP address, location data, device ID, time, SSID (Wi-Fi network name), and more. They might also share these with third-parties. So carefully read the privacy policies before agreeing to them.

For improved privacy, use the NordVPN app.

Stay safe with the world’s leading VPN

Securing your public Wi-Fi connectivity

Connecting to free Wi-Fi is risky business. Anyone capable of intercepting an unprotected connection can steal your login credentials, banking details, emails, and other sensitive information. However, that doesn't mean that you should stop using public Wi-Fi altogether. What you should do is be vigilant and take extra precautionary steps to protect yourself.

Turn off public network sharing

You know that annoying pop-up you get when you connect to a new network? The one asking whether you should trust the network and share your information? First, identify what the network is. Can it be trusted? Can you get confirmation from someone else that it’s legitimate? Don’t automatically speed through the pop up windows without giving them thought.

Enable your firewall

Some people disable their firewalls due to their annoying pop-ups and notifications. However, enabling it before connecting to public Wi-Fi is essential. You'll require consent before using some of the apps on your device, but in return you'll get a robust gateway defense.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network, also known as VPN, is your best bet to ensure secure public Wi-Fi connectivity at all times. In fact, that’s what it does best:

  • When you use a VPN service and connect to a public Wi-Fi network, the connection is fully encrypted. The VPN creates a secure tunnel locking out anyone on the same Wi-Fi network from snooping on your traffic.
  • It hides your original IP so hackers will have a harder time finding you and Internet Service Providers and websites will struggle to track you.
  • Some VPNs, including NordVPN, will offer you extra security features. For example, a Kill Switch that cuts your internet connection off if your VPN drops, or Threat Protection, which blocks annoying ads and suspicious websites.

Online security starts with a click.

Stay safe with the world’s leading VPN

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Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest Internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.