How To Get Free Wi-Fi Almost Anywhere

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get free wifi anywhereI recently stumbled into a coffee shop in a nearby town following a meeting, looking forward to a nice mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows (it was winter). As I was paying for my order, I noticed a small promotional card informing me of the presence of free Wi-Fi. As you can imagine, this proved a hit with me. My mobile Internet service was particularly poor in the town I was visiting, so the chance to catch-up with emails and news was too good to miss.

Public wireless networks are becoming more and more popular as a means of attracting people to a particular business or service, and this is just one of the many ways in which free (or almost free) Wi-Fi can be accessed. It seems, in fact, that there are many ways in which you can connect wirelessly to the Internet, almost anywhere…

Note: please observe the title and the use of the word “almost”. We’re really looking at built up areas, conurbations and city centres. If you’re expecting to get free Wi-Fi in Death Valley, we’ve got news for you…

Shop In The Right Towns, Visit the Right Businesses & Malls

A visit to any large city should reveal many places with free Wi-Fi. For instance a trip to London will yield great results from chains such as Starbucks, Pret a Manger, McDonalds and at many railway stations. Hotels, too are a great place to get free WiFi anywhere in the world you might be.

get free wifi anywhere

Hotels and airports are also good places to find free Wi-Fi. Airport shops might display a card advising you how to get online (a purchase may be required) and the same is often true of exhibition centres and museums. As for hotels, it seems that the lower the price you pay for the room, the more free Internet you can get.

In September 2012, Boingo partnered with Google Play to offer a free month of wireless hotspot access in 4,000 locations across the USA. While this offer has long since ended, you should look out for similar offers in the future.

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Such a provision was rolled out across the UK in 2012 – free Wi-Fi in coffee shops thanks to the o2 mobile company. It was in a branch of Costa Coffee that I discovered free Wi-Fi, and its provision has proved useful to millions of people.

Hotspot Databases & Hidden Networks

Using your smartphone or tablet you should be able to find wireless hotspots using a service such as WeFi, which offers apps for Android and iPhone. With this you will be able to find the free hotspots and avoid the locked ones.

get free wifi

There are alternatives to this app, of course, and you might prefer to make a search of the web before you head out to find somewhere that definitely offers free Wi-Fi before travelling.

Failing this, there is the dark side approach. I personally wouldn’t advocate borrowing/stealing someone’s wireless connection, but let’s be realistic – people do this, using sniffer software to detect hidden networks and other tools to break passwords. If you’re really lucky, you might even find hidden networks with no password.

Loyalty Programs & Coupon Codes

If you are aware of a business (perhaps a shop, supermarket, coffee chain or hotel) that offers a loyalty card, it might be the case that they also offer free Internet as part of their rewards for your subscription. You’ll need to carry out some research into this in order to find out which businesses you regularly visit offer such a service.

Furthermore, you might be lucky enough to find coupon codes for a free Wi-Fi when visiting a particular business. Again, this will require some planning ahead, either running a search on their website or following the company concerned on Twitter.

Cable/Telephone Companies Offer Free Hotspots

Depending where in the world you are, you may be able to connect to free hotspots provided by national telephone and cable companies. Note, however, that these hotspots are usually provided for existing customers. For instance, if you use “Network X” at home, you might be able to connect to one of their wireless hotspots next time you’re out in the city.

To check if your domestic cable or telephone company provides this service, check their website or call their customer support line for further details.

Don’t Forget You Can Tether Your Phone!

If none of the above work for you but a mobile phone is in easy reach, then there is always the tethering option. This means that you use your smartphone’s mobile Internet connection to provide online access to a laptop or tablet.

get free wifi

Two types of tethering are available – cabled and wireless. The first typically uses a USB sync cable, whereas the other requires your mobile phone to have Wi-Fi broadcast capability, and a suitable app to provide access to the required settings (some phones have Bluetooth tethering, but this is rare and draining on your batteries).

All new smartphones have wireless tethering built in, while older devices will have support for cabled tethering, although a fee may be involved.

Conclusion: Wi-Fi Is Free & It’s (Almost) Everywhere

You don’t have to have an expensive 3G or 4G contract with your mobile phone or tablet to get Internet access outdoors. There are an increasing number of wireless networks provided for your benefit across North America and Europe, offered as an incentive by businesses keen on your patronage.

get free wifi anywhere

It might be a hotel offering free Internet or a café, it might even be a supermarket, but if you need an Internet connection and you don’t want to pay for it, these places and methods described here will get you online, for at least 30 minutes.

Do you know of any other methods to get free WiFi anywhere?  If so, let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Laptop On The Beach via Shutterstock, Free Wifi Yellow Diamond Button via Shutterstock, People Use Free Wifi via Shutterstock, Tablet Computer At An Airport via Shutterstock

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Comments (61)
  • David Wheeler

    could my internet router be used for wifi?

    • Tina

      David,

      It’s not wise to post your email address online. It may be picked up by spam bots. I removed it for you.

      We have a section dedicated for questions like these. You can ask any tech-related questions on MakeUseOf Answers. Comment notifications will be sent to your email address.

  • dan

    On my desktop PC I see where my GMail account has a free phone service built into it. But when I take my tablet to a hotspot I don’t see that feature built into GMail – how come? Any way to get it?

    Thanks,
    Dan

  • CK Luther

    Libraries on major cities often have free wi-fi. No library card required.

  • Brian Lawrence

    My grand-daughter just got a new cell phone and she
    gets free use of the internet if she connects through
    Wi-Fi. Sure that anyone that has this feature with their
    cell phone would be very interested in reading this article.

    Brian Lawrence
    bmlawr

  • Lora Kelberg

    I keep forgetting to thank you for your info. So often I read your info and find it helpful,especially because I am just this side of being a luddite. So please accept my thanks for overall excellence.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.