Plus how to protect yourself when using them
In the modern world, any restaurant or convenience store that doesn’t offer free Wi-Fi feels a bit dated. After all, shouldn’t every place offer Wi-Fi? The truth is, while popular chains and larger places provide customers with Wi-Fi, not everywhere does—and it can be particularly hard to find Wi-Fi in rural areas. If you travel abroad without an international data plan, it becomes even more difficult.
Even if you do find Wi-Fi, it might not be good Wi-Fi. Many places provide Wi-Fi from a router that isn’t meant for the number of connections it handles, and you might see your speeds drop to less than 1 Mbps.
That’s better than nothing if you’re stranded somewhere with no data to pull up a GPS or make a call, but if you need to do anything more complicated on the web, you’ll need more reliable Wi-Fi.
Here are a few ways to find reliable Wi-Fi hotspots no matter where you might be in the world.
Wi-Fi Passwords From Airport Lounges (Link)
This is a user-contributed list of Wi-Fi passwords from airport lounges all across the world. With more than 360 airports listed, you would be hard-pressed to not find a working password when you need it.
Wi-Fi is relatively easy to come by in airports, but the connections provided to passengers in the lounges tend to be faster and less crowded than the public network throughout the entire airport.
Download a Wi-Fi Finder App
There are a lot of different apps for both Android and iOS that help with finding a Wi-Fi connection. The users provide most of the information in these apps, which results in a constantly updated stream of passwords for protected networks. These apps are useful for finding the passwords for those busy coffee shops when the line is out the door and all you need to do is send a quick email.
Many of the apps have both free and paid versions. The paid version is worth looking into if you use the apps a lot, because in our limited experience we were overwhelmed with a bombardment of advertisements.
Open Wi-Fi Spots (Link)
If you want to make a list of available Wi-Fi hotspots before you leave, a web app is the way to go and Open Wi-Fi Spots is a good option. The site knows more than 66,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the United States and allows users to refine their search by city.
Once you have chosen the city you need Wi-Fi in, you can further narrow the results down based on categories like cafes, restaurants, and even laundromats. The site provides a phone number and address for the location so you can easily find it when the time comes.
Search For a Fast Food Restaurant Or Coffee Shop
The majority of fast food locations and cafes, at least within the United States, provide free Wi-Fi to guests. The networks might be password protected, but finding the password is as easy as asking the cashier.
While you do not have to buy something from the location to use the Wi-Fi, it’s considered courteous to do so. Just grab a cup of coffee and you’ll be able to browse the web without touching your data plan.
Use Your Phone To Make a Hotspot
The utility of this tip is a bit limited – if you’re searching for Wi-Fi for your phone, then using your phone to make a Wi-Fi hotspot defeats the purpose. On the other hand, if you need Wi-Fi for your laptop and none of the other options on the list have yielded results, then go to into the settings menu on your phone and activate your personal hotspot.
Just make sure your phone is capable of creating a hotspot and that it is part of your phone plan, or you’ll wind up with a decidedly unpleasant phone bill.
Considerations With Public Wi-Fi
Public free Wi-Fi is great, but it can also be risky. Searching Google is probably fine, but if you’re going to access any account or type in any sensitive personal information, you should take steps to protect yourself.
A VPN is the easiest option, and they are more affordable than ever before. These services protect your data and encrypt it, so even if someone manages to snatch some of your packets out of the air the data will be unreadable.