Mobile data has been a game changer for connectivity in our digital age. However, this technology was implemented differently across the world, and at different times. This led to a difference in wave spectrum availability, and naturally, price.
In the US, 1 GB of data averages at around $5.62 USD across different carriers. In Italy, 1 GB averages at $0.12 USD, but it ranks up to around a whopping $16.58 USD in Yemen. Based on data from 2022, data is still ridiculously expensive in places like Saint Helena ($41.06/1 GB), the Falkland Islands ($38.45/1 GB), or São Tomé and Príncipe ($29.49/1 GB).
Because of this, free Wi-Fi seems like the best thing since sliced bread. Hotspots seem to be popping up everywhere in recent years. Problem is, public Wi-Fi isn’t as safe as you might think. Here’s what you need to know to get free Wi-Fi near you, and how to safely connect to it with CyberGhost VPN.
Is Free Wi-Fi Dangerous?
Public Wi-Fi is meant to be easily accessible. To make it easier to connect for everyone, system administrators leave it open, and won’t protect it with a password. They also won’t have complex security settings to allow as many people as possible to connect and surf online without triggering any alarms.
Unfortunately, this also makes public Wi-Fi networks very unsecure. Cybercrooks can intercept your traffic on these open networks, and spy on you. If you log into your accounts or access your financial information, malicious parties can steal your details. In some cases, they can even install malware on your device, which causes a plethora of issues down the road.
Crooks gain unauthorized access to your information in three main ways:
- Man-in-the-middle attacks – Cybercriminals set up fake networks to trick you into connecting. This enables them to intercept your traffic and hijack your cookies and session to steal your login information.
- Evil twin attacks – Similar to man-in-the-middle attacks, malicious actors set up fake networks, and monitor your activity on the web, like when you’re on social media platforms and using banking apps.
- Packet sniffers – Since public Wi-Fi networks aren’t secure, cybercrooks can use packet sniffers or network analyzers to spy on your traffic. This software is normally used by network administrators to diagnose issues but it can reveal a lot about your activity.
You can prevent these attacks using a VPN to encrypt your traffic and keep snoopers at bay. CyberGhost uses military-grade VPN encryption to mask your browsing habits, even on public Wi-Fi. This means no one can find you or intercept your data, so you can keep your devices safe and your connection private.
How to Get Free Wi-Fi
Free Wi-Fi spots are increasingly more common nowadays. Big name chains now offer free Wi-Fi to their customers, except in select cases like low-coverage areas or if the establishment has different rules to the chain.
On an international level, these places generally offer free Wi-Fi.
|Fast Food Chains||Coffee Places||Retailers||Hotels|
|McDonald’sTaco BellKFCWendy’sBurger KingSubwayArby’sChick-fil-APanera Bread||StarbucksTim HortonsCosta CoffeeCaribou CoffeeLavazzaDunkin’ DonutsMcCaféMikel CoffeeGloria Jean’s||AppleHome DepotBarnes & NobleWhole FoodsTargetLowe’s Home ImprovementBest BuyWalmart||MarriottHiltonFour SeasonsWyndhamAccorHotelsInterContinental Hotel GroupsOYOBTH|
Other smaller brands also offer free Wi-Fi. Malls and shopping centers tend to place free Wi-Fi hotspots in specific sections. Libraries, parks, and even churches sometimes provide a free internet connection — they just don’t always advertise the service.
Sadly, unless you know where to search, you might find yourself wandering around with your phone in hand constantly refreshing the network list. That’s why I’ve prepared a list of apps to help you connect easily.
Network databases apps and websites are here to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for an internet connection. A lot of them are bad though. Either they feature too few networks, are wildly out of date, or are just too buggy to use. Instead of going through tens of apps and draining your carrier data in the process, here are four worth your time.
1. Wi-Fi Map
Wi-Fi Map is perhaps the most popular and reputable network database app. It boasts over 100 million free Wi-Fi locations. It also provides credentials for password-protected networks. This is because Wi-Fi Map is a crowdsourcing effort. People upload Wi-Fi locations, share passwords, and update network statistics.
Wi-Fi Map even features remote locations, which is great if you don’t live in the big cities. Wi-Fi Map also offers eSIMs you can purchase across different plans.
2. Wi-Fi Space
Wi-Fi Space is a web-based Wi-Fi database using your location to find free Wi-Fi near you. It lists both private and public networks. The website also lets you know if a private network is password-protected or not, and provides the password at no additional charge.
Wi-Fi Space was designed with digital nomads in mind which is why it lets you find locations suited to your needs. You can filter locations by type of venues, whether they have sockets, serve vegetarian food, or whether you can pay by credit card.
3. Wi-Fi Free Spot
Wi-Fi Free Spot is another web-based database listing free Wi-Fi locations. It’s perfect for US residents since it lists networks by state. Networks are also listed alphabetically by city and town.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit lacking in other places. It lists Europe and Asia under one category with no clear line between countries or cities. If you’re looking for networks in South Korea, you’ll have to go through the Asia menu and scroll all the way down just to find three listings.
InstaBridge started out as an app to let you share your Wi-Fi password through Facebook. Now, it’s a Wi-Fi database app. It lists Wi-Fi hotspots near you, and also provides passwords for private networks.
InstaBridge stands out from the other ones since it has an auto-connect feature. InstaBridge can connect your device to the best Wi-Fi option for you. You can also share your own network credentials for others to enjoy an online connection.
If apps aren’t your thing or you’re in a remote area, consider an alternative.
Get a Portable Router
Portable routers work very similarly to your home router, except they use 3G, 4G, and 5G. Like your smartphone, a portable router needs a SIM card to enable an internet connection.
Most portable routers are powered through both USB and plug, so they’re great even if you’re packing light. They’re more secure than public Wi-Fi, and you’ll most likely experience a better connection, since you won’t be sharing bandwidth with countless other people.
As an added bonus, you won’t deal with blocks on streaming or gaming sites. A lot of public system administrators don’t want several customers engaging in data-heavy activities at the same time, since it causes network congestion. To prevent this, they’ll block domains associated with popular games like Minecraft or streaming sites like Netflix.
How to Set Up a Wi-Fi Hotspot
If you find yourself in a situation where you need a wireless connection, you have the option to turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot. You can use your carrier data to power up a connection for your laptop, tablet, or even other smartphones.
We call this process tethering. Keep in mind this will quickly drain your data allowance and battery. Here’s what you need to do.
For Android devices it’s a little trickier, since each manufacturer can put their own spin into the settings menu. Here’s how the process looks on most popular phones.
- Go to Network & internet
- Go to Hotspot & tethering
- Toggle Wi-Fi hotspot on
- Go to Connections
- Go to Mobile Hotspot and Tethering
- Toggle Mobile Hotspot on
- Go to Portable Hotspot
- Toggle Portable Wi-Fi hotspot on
- Go to Wi-Fi and Internet
- Go to Mobile Hotspot & Tethering
- Choose Mobile Hotspot
- Toggle the On/Off button
Most types of phones let you create a hotspot without password protection. You can enable a password by tapping on the hotspot option for some extra security.
- Go to Settings
- Select Personal Hotspot
- Toggle Allow Others to Join on
You’ll see a list of connection instructions below. You’ll also easily see the hotspot password right under Allow Others to Join.
What’s the Difference Between Wi-Fi and Hotspots?
People often use “Wi-Fi” and “hotspot” interchangeably to mean “internet access,” but they’re different. Wi-Fi refers to the wireless connection protocols allowing data transfer through radio waves. Hotspot refers to the access point allowing you to connect to the internet. For wireless, we perceive this to be the location around the modem, router, or device emitting the signal.
These hotspots can be public or private. A public hotspot is the one people mean when they refer to public Wi-Fi. It’s what you’d find at a McDonald’s or Starbucks. Private hotspots are generally password-protected and found on private properties or establishments.
Private homes normally have routers with WPA2 or even WPA3 support. These are protocols using 128-bit and 192-bit encryption respectively, making them considerably more secure.
How to Get Free Wi-Fi at Home for Free
People often debate on whether internet connectivity should be considered a basic human right. Despite ongoing philosophical disputes, one thing’s clear: connectivity is a necessity. Because of this, some countries are offering to subsidize internet access. It’s how you can get free Wi-Fi at home.
The US, for example, has The Affordable Connectivity Program. It’s a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) benefit program helping households afford the connection they need for work, school, healthcare, and more. The program provides up to $30 per month for internet service in low-income households, and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.
Whether you can get a subsidy on your network connection or free connectivity highly depends on where you live. If your state or country has a program in place helping you pay for internet, you’ll have to look into whether you can qualify for it.
Private companies also realize the potential for increased connectivity. In 2018, Google launched a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots across Mexico. From a business perspective, Google saw the country as a good entry point for their products in Latin America. That said, it’s clear Mexicans benefit from this connectivity as the number of internet users has risen by 6% since.
You can also find some ISPs offering free internet. NetZero is a US ISP offering 10 hours of free internet per month. The catch? It still uses dial-up. Dial-up largely died out in the 2000s when broadband connections made the internet faster and required less data compression. To use dial-up means you’ll have to have a phone line installed in your home.
Does My ISP Offer Free Wi-Fi Hotspots?
Much like you find free food samples in grocery stores, some ISPs put up free Wi-Fi hotspots so you can test their service and speeds. You can find free ISP Wi-Fi hotspots in normally busy spaces like city centers. Some ISPs also put up hotspots near parks, playgrounds, and similar recreational spaces. Some hotspots serve their customers only.
ISP hotspots are generally more secure than other free Wi-Fi options. They’re also better optimized for speeds and performance, since ISPs want to entice people to subscribe or stay subscribed to their services.
Sadly, they might not be as easy to connect to as your Walmart’s Wi-Fi. Take Comcast for example. Comcast set up millions of Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots across the US. However, you can only access them as a Comcast customer using the Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots app. You’ll have a username and password for the app.
Other ISPs have a list of available hotspots on their website or in their customer portal. You can also ask your provider’s customer service about free Wi-Fi hotspots.
Stay Protected on Free Wi-Fi With CyberGhost VPN!
Free Wi-Fi is nice but not always the safest option for your device and data. Open networks lack robust security settings. This is intentional, so people can connect easily, and not encounter so many prove you’re not a bot type of verifications.
Unfortunately, this makes public networks unsecure. Malicious actors can take advantage of these settings. They can set up fake networks, launch cyber attacks, spy on people’s traffic, and even remotely install malware.
Protect your connection on public Wi-Fi with CyberGhost VPN! CyberGhost adds strong 256-bit AES VPN encryption to your connection, which secures your traffic from snoopers. The VPN encrypts and routes your traffic to a secure server before it connects to your ISP, preventing snoopers, even on the Wi-Fi network you connect to, from accessing your browsing data.
CyberGhost VPN redirects your traffic through a highly-secure remote VPN server. This also conceals your IP address, making it harder to intercept your traffic or target you for cyber attacks.
We have apps for all major operating systems, so you can enjoy free Wi-Fi on your iOS and Android phone. Looking to work at a café? We have your PC covered with our apps for Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can also enjoy CyberGhost VPN at home on your Smart TV or gaming console.
We have high-speed VPN servers in 91 countries, and our apps can choose the best one for you within seconds. Just use our Best Location feature to ensure optimal performance.
Free Wi-Fi and the Future of Connections
No matter what the future holds in store for the digital space, it’s clear companies and governments keep pushing for more people to be connected online. From subsidized internet to free Wi-Fi hotspots, internet access is becoming more affordable and convenient.
Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t as secure as the private ones. This is so people can connect easily, and not trigger any security alarms. Malicious actors take advantage of these networks to launch cyber attacks, infect unsuspecting victims with malware, and steal private information.
This is why it’s important to always be proactive and secure your data. Use CyberGhost VPN to redirect your traffic through a remote encrypted server. This prevents unwanted access to your devices, and secures your traffic from prying eyes. Try it out risk-free with our 45-day money-back guarantee!
Depending on your location, you can find many free Wi-Fi hotspots around. Restaurants, bars, café houses, and fast food chains usually offer free Wi-Fi for customers. You can also use apps like Wi-Fi Map to find free Wi-Fi near you.
Just keep in mind public Wi-Fi networks lack encryption. This leaves your data vulnerable to snoopers. Use CyberGhost VPN to protect your traffic from hijacking and keep digital threats at bay.
If you’re earning below the poverty line, you can apply for subsidized internet at home in some countries like the US. Some providers also offer free connections for a limited time. For example, US ISP NetZero offers 10 hours of free Wi-Fi through dial-up connections.
If you’re lucky, you might even have a public hotspot near your place. Some ISPs set up free public Wi-Fi around parks and residential areas. If the signal is good enough, you can connect from your home.
Some airlines offer free Wi-Fi, but most have quite a few restrictions in place. For example, Qatar Airways offers only 10 MB of free Wi-Fi, while Norwegian Airlines lets passengers send and receive emails but charges extra for social media and streaming services. JetBlue is the only US airline offering free unlimited Wi-Fi to all passengers.
Free Wi-Fi isn’t safe. Public networks lack basic security settings to make it as easy and convenient as possible to connect. This leaves you vulnerable to cyber attacks and packet sniffers who can compromise your data, including your account login details and banking information, when you connect.
Use CyberGhost VPN to mitigate digital threats and protect your traffic from third-party snooping. CyberGhost VPN uses 256-bit AES encryption to secure your data. We have VPN apps for all major operating systems and high-speed VPN servers in 91 countries.