Internet Web Culture

How to Get Free Wi-Fi Almost Anywhere

Christian Cawley 07-02-2013

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.

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 How Easy Is It to Crack a Wi-Fi Network? Wi-Fi security is important. You don't want intruders piggybacking on your precious bandwidth -- or worse. There a few misconceptions regarding Wi-Fi security, and we're here to dispel them. Read More .

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 How To Get Around Tethering Charges Using EasyTether [Android 1.5+] Many Android users have noticed that their service providers are trying to squeeze more money out of them. Most notably, many service providers have decided that tethering is no longer free and included in your... Read More .

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 always bear in mind that even though free, public Wi-Fi can come at a price. If poorly secured, they can be an easy target for hackers looking to steal your data. Luckily, there are some tips you can keep in mind for how to spot fake public Wi-Fi networks.

Having trouble with your Mac not connecting to Wi-Fi Mac Won't Connect to Wi-Fi? 9 Steps to Get Back Online If your Mac won't connect to Wi-Fi, don't fret. Here's a troubleshooting guide to fix internet connection problems on macOS. Read More at all? Follow our guide to get back online.

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

Related topics: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wi-Fi Tethering.

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  1. David Wheeler
    March 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    could my internet router be used for wifi?

  2. dan
    February 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    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?


  3. CK Luther
    February 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm

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

  4. Brian Lawrence
    February 14, 2013 at 12:31 am

    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

  5. Lora Kelberg
    February 13, 2013 at 8:09 am

    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.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks Lora, very kind of you to take the time :)

    • Christian Cawley
      February 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks Lora, very kind of you to take the time :)

  6. Saurabh
    February 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks. The thethernig phone is really innovative.

  7. Anonymous
    February 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    A lot of restaurants now have free wi-fi.

  8. Anonymous
    February 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

    A mobile as well as windows application for this purpose exists since long back. iPass Connect is available for use and provides a list of networks which have Wifi access for the common man.

  9. Heini Pulkkinen
    February 12, 2013 at 6:37 am

    If Wi-Fi is working this fine, where do people need 3 or 4G?

  10. Ohnmar San Kyawt
    February 12, 2013 at 4:52 am

    I like water marqee, but my phone is symbian me.

  11. tania
    February 12, 2013 at 3:04 am

    In New Zealand all McDonalds have free wifi, helps distract you from the food I guess. I don't know if this is a worldwide service

  12. Zachary Meyer
    February 12, 2013 at 2:01 am offers 500mb with more at cost or by advertisments and it is a hotspot 4g. however it does not have the best coverage. the upfront cost is 50+$ 100$ for the mobile hotspot, 50 for the iphone hotspot. but within the first year you can return for a partial refund.

    stay within the 500mb and its FREE WIFI FOR LIFE!!! you can even put a hard limit so no overages :)

    *or untill they change TOS.

  13. Swaggrous Emeks
    February 11, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Real wi-fi for everyone

  14. Tina Sieber
    February 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I haven't had much luck with getting free WiFi hat hotels. Even when I was a paying customer I had to pay for the hotel WiFi. Only exception was the Hyatt in San Francisco.

    However, Hostels almost always offer free WiFi. But it's usually pretty slow and unreliable.

  15. Ron Lister
    February 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I would like to see an article about "how to make Free Wi Fi Safe and secure anywhere" Please. Nice article by the way, i've used free wi fi on planes and buses, and in coffe shops and restaurants, and even in my car at in front of a UPS store with a sign on the door that said they had free WiFi. I have worried about the security though. There are people out there with technology that allows them to spy on you and I'm sure they know all the free WiFi hangouts, I know the security on your device plays an important part. but are there other steps that can be taken, how about programs that might alert you to electronic eavesdroping. other than encription can anything else be done to secure your wifi sessions.

  16. Brian Ramkerrysingh
    February 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Yes, you can get free Wi-Fi almost everywhere, but the important question is How can you make it Protected? How can you stop other people from seeing what you're doing whilst you're at these Free Wi-Fi HotSpots? And at the same time prevent someone from taking over your computer?

  17. Stephanie Staker
    February 10, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Barnes & Noble stores quite often have a "mini" Starbucks in their stores. Starbucks offers free WiFi but I do believe you have to ask for the password. There are restaurants and coffee shop chains that offer this as well. Quite fun to be able to update email d

  18. SovereignJohn
    February 9, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Since I now have a chronic illness I visit the Doctor's office more than I like as well as Hospital stays. A good aspect to these required visits is that our local Doctor's offices and the local hospitals all have WiFi now. Last time I was in the hospital I was initially to ill to do anything however after a few days I was feeling better and desired to access Internet. Long Doctor office waits are now made more bearable with Internet WiFi connection in the waiting area as well as the waiting in the examination room. ;)

  19. John
    February 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    You should have a contest. People can post places they visit where they can not find a free hot spot and let others show them where they can connect.

  20. Rianne Rocamora
    February 9, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    In the Philippines, wifi is available in malls, bus stations and small establishments even in the remote islands. It's getting better and better...

  21. Ran Kinory
    February 9, 2013 at 10:08 am

    In the dead sea sore many hotels with free WIFI.

  22. Keith Swartz
    February 9, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Great Article! Now I know how to get wi-fi ALMOST Anywhere! Thanks!

  23. Michael Parido
    February 9, 2013 at 5:49 am

    I live in a small town (about 100k) and we have free Wi-Fi all over the place. It is odd to find any building in town without it. Mind you we have 2 large colleges and 2 LARGE insurance companies in town that have enormous IT departments, so the populace is no stranger to the age of the Internet. But I guess I thought it was like this everywhere. I was at the hospital this morning and logged on to theirs which brings me to my point. Some places, like the hospital I was at today, require that you click "Agree" on their service agreement. It just dumps your browser into the Website automatically and you click and go.

    Heck, even my dentist's office has it.

  24. Mr Mole
    February 9, 2013 at 1:37 am

    I'm surprised you missed the "Fon" network .

    British Telecom (BT) Broadband customers get FREE access to it.

    I live on a rural road .... which is about a mile long.

    There are AT LEAST 7 "Fon" access points along it, so you don't have to be in a city centre/airport/McDonalds etc to get on the 'net.

    Quoting from Fon's "blurb" .. Fon has over seven million Fon Spots across the globe (btw 4.5 million of them are in the UK). Imagine enjoying videos, movies and games at WiFi speeds while you're away from home - for free!


    ... and note that you don't have to buy a "Fonera", PROVIDING you've activated membership through a "Fon" partner, which in my case is BT.

  25. Paul G. Williams
    February 9, 2013 at 12:16 am
  26. Spin
    February 8, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Should Makeuseof be promoting illegal activities? Using an unsecured wireless network or worse cracking the password on a secured one is definitely not a legal way to access the internet. Tethering is also against the terms and conditions of some mobile phone contracts. As the rest of the article shows you should never be far from a LEGAL access point.

    • Is it stealing?
      February 9, 2013 at 2:10 am

      So, if a signal is out there, and you can receive it without paying a fee, is it stealing? I have an AM/FM radio and I don't pay. If I turn on my wifi and a signal is there and I receive it........

      I hope that you don't have any downloaded mp3s on your computer that you didn't buy!!!!

      • Spin
        February 9, 2013 at 9:24 am

        Radio is broadcast under terms and conditions that allow you to receive the signal free of charge (though it's not so long ago you did need a licence to receive it!) but hitching a ride on someone's unsecured wifi without their knowledge or consent is a very different matter and it's an offence in most countries, not just the UK. According to BBC article, the UK Communications Act 2003 says a "person who (a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and (b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service, is guilty of an offence".

        The morality or otherwise of the issue is not the point of my original comment, it concerns the fact that this particular article is encouraging people to commit (knowingly or unknowingly) an act that is in most countries an offence, and one that people have (to the best of my knowledge) been prosecuted for in the UK.

        In general I find this site useful on occasion but on this occasion I'm surprised that someone with some legal knowledge hasn't had the red pencil out and deleted that particular part of the article.

        • is it stealing?
          February 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

          Spin, research the places it is legal and illegal and let us all know so that we don't end up as criminals. It would be a great favor to all mankind!!!!

        • Dave Watkins
          February 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm

          Please don't feed the trolls.... They have been known to feed on free wifi as well as small children.

  27. Jamie Clelland
    February 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Another tip for the UK: if you have an old dongle, mi-fi or 3g data device without a sim you can buy one from samba mobile and in exchange for watching video advertisements on their website you get free data. I found a deal on moneysavingexpert where they where selling sims for £1 (instead of £5) perhaps makeuseof can arrange the same type of deal or an reward for it's readers.

  28. Randy Knight
    February 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks for the helpful article Christian.

  29. luca m
    February 8, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Sorry i found this article really saying NOTHING useful or new!

  30. Ron
    February 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Found another 'Death Valley' last year. It's known as 'France'.

  31. Zhong Jiang
    February 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Free wifi doesn't mean you can check your banking account or purchase an item through online. It comes with risk on personal information, privacy, and security. But it's convenient and affordable.

  32. Anonymous
    February 8, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Very Informative - Thanks!! Take advantage of these FREE WIFI connectivity tips and save minutes on your 3G / 4G data plan.

  33. whyFi
    February 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    how to protect yourself from people sniffing your wifi packets?

  34. Tom Zucker-Scharff
    February 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I've noticed that BoltBus (at least on the run between D.C. and New York) has free wifi, if you pay a little extra for the fare. (the bargain basement fares do not get free wifi)

    • Elena Sicconi
      February 11, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      In the northeast, the Bonanza Busses (greyhound and peter pan) have outlets and wifi!

  35. Steve Montgomery
    February 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Also, airports nowadays usually have wi-fi--although almost every airport here in the States that I've visited charged a ridiculously expensive hourly rate for their wi-fi services. I suppose the paid service would be useful if you absolutely had to get online, but I tend to just tether to my cell phone when I HAVE to get online for something at those places. It's slow, but it's free (at least for my unlimited cellular data plan).

    Trains are getting better every day at offering free wi-fi to their passengers, too.

    • John Summers
      February 9, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      I read that airport WiFi can be dangerous, is that true?

  36. Steve Montgomery
    February 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Good article, Christian! I tend to use Wi-Fi Finder on my iPad (which is available for free from the App Store). I'm going to try some of your tips on my next roadtrip, so thanks again for an interesting article.

  37. Glen
    February 8, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    in Canada, London drugs offers free wi-fi.

  38. Alan Burnstine
    February 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    If you have Verizon Fios for your home internet (I am not sure about DSL), you can log onto Verizon hotspots for free. You will need to download and install Verizon WiFi Connect software from your MyVerizon site, and it is currently windows only unfortunately.


  39. Uros Vukasinovic
    February 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    yes,it's true.When i go outside,on every place,there is WI-FI ! And i love that!

  40. Patrick Mckay
    February 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    I would like to share that I travel frequently. I find myself trying to find hotels in which to stay that offer wireless to their customers... for FREE. I will walk two blocks to get to where I need to be or take hotel shuttle, even rent a car, before I will stay in a hotel that charges for wireless. Just out of principal. If you are a hotel and want my business, you can provide me with internet access while I am 'home' in your hotel!

    Insist on it!

  41. Paul Hays
    February 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    In the U.S., Some Greyhound buses have WiFi on board.

  42. Paul Hays
    February 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Nice article. Don't forget to cover your WiFi goodness with Hotspot Shield/Hotspot Shield Elite.

  43. Ruth H
    February 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    In our small town on the Texas Gulf Coast the Dairy Queen has free wi-fi. Several of the coffee shops in town also have it. Granted we are a tourist and snowbird mecca but it is very convenient for meetings with laptops.

  44. Henry Porter
    February 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Or live in Estonia. :)

  45. Moez bouhlel
    February 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    at school, i always to connect to the net throw the wifi, just need to get the conf of the connection from any pc. they are without password.

  46. Mac Witty
    February 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    A lot of big hotel around the world offer free wi-fi to costumers and I use to be one by buying a cup of coffee in the bar/lounge and ask for the password at the same time. Usually less crowed than cafés and have better space

  47. Bob Henson
    February 8, 2013 at 9:25 am

    A good article, with good advice for those who have not yet cottoned on to free WiFi. However, if anyone is planning a visit to the UK and hoping for free WiFi everywhere, they should note that the whole of the UK outside major cities falls into your "Death Valley" category - there isn't any. It's not even nice and warm and dry like Death Valley either, but that's another moan altogether. In Gloucestershire, where I live, your best bet is to look up in advance which chains of pubs offer free WiFi, as many places don't even have a mobile phone signal either. Where they do have a signal, the same applies to 4G - a lot of Gloucestershire has yet to get 2G, never mind 3G and 4G. You can sometimes, but not always, get a signal for BT or BTfon - but you have to pay for that. Some business hotels will offer you WiFi, but again, it's unlikely to be free, or fast. The very popular, very busy pub where I had lunch yesterday didn't have anything - no cellphone signal, no WiFi, not even a public payphone.

    One day, maybe, we'll catch up - but I wouldn't hold your breath while you wait.

  48. Garey Boone
    February 7, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Public libraries usually offer free wi-fi and I've also noticed some McDonald's restaurants offering free wi-fi as well.

  49. michel
    February 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    How does this work? Are these networks just open, or do you have to acquire a password somehow?

    • Aaron Couch
      February 8, 2013 at 12:15 am


      Sometimes they're just open — depends on the venue and demand. If they aren't open, say your at a coffee shop or local cafe, you can simply ask the waitress or barista and they'll give it to you.

      Granted, it's common etiquette to purchase something in exchange for the Wi-Fi, so it's not always entirely free.

  50. SinkingShipProd_UK
    February 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Another option is Free wi-fi on buses. Arriva bus service (in the UK) offer free wi-fi. I've seen this in Liverpool and the Shropshire area. I have used it twice and found that although slow (to be expected) it is another option for those who want to connect while travelling, especially in the countryside.

    • Márcio Guerra
      February 12, 2013 at 4:43 am

      Some in Portugal, and trains, start doing the same.


      Márcio Guerra