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How to get free wifi away from home

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Wifi connects your device to the internet, and it’s mainly used when you are away from home. It’s a way to connect a device to the internet wirelessly, as long as the device is in close range to the router.

What likely brought you here is the question, “How can I get wifi for free?” If you’re looking for resources to get free internet access at home, we have a separate post on that. See “How to get free internet at home.”  

Some places to look for free wifi:

6 places to look for free wifi

These are some ways you can find free wifi:

Use wifi map app 

You might have access to a free wifi hotspot near your home. Use the WiFi Map app on your smartphone to locate free wifi spots wherever you go.

For example, New York City offers free wifi in subway stations, parks, restaurants and tourist areas like Times Square. Through networks like LinkNYC, payphones are being replaced with free public wifi stations that also allow phone calls and phone charging.

Look for “free wifi” stickers when you are out and about.

The WiFi Map is essential for finding free wifi when you are on the go. You can use it as an app or try the desktop version. You can also use Open WiFi Spots to find public wifi networks.

If you need to use the internet for a few hours or more, libraries, restaurants, and coffee shops are the best options — though you may have to make a purchase to work in some places.

Free wifi at libraries

A young Asian woman in a library. This is how to get free wifi away from home.

Public libraries are excellent resources for free wifi, especially for kids. They offer free wifi as well as internet-connected computers. For example, the Palm Springs, California, public library provides free wifi inside or in designated areas in the parking lot. Find a library near you with World Cat.

Free wifi at fast food restaurants

These are some fast food restaurants that offer free wifi to patrons:

  • McDonald’s: McDonald’s wifi is powerful enough that you can use it just sitting in the parking lot. But, if you go in, you can get a quick, cheap bite while you work or surf the internet. Find a McDonald’s near you.
  • Burger King: Burger King offers free wifi to customers at most locations. To find one that does, use the Burger King restaurant locator.
  • Wendy’s: Wendy’s has free wifi but requires guests to register to use the service. Find a Wendy’s near you.
  • Taco Bell: You can use free wifi at Taco Bell. Find a Taco Bell.
  • Chick-fil-A: Not only does Chick-fil-A offer free wifi for dine-in guests, but you also get free drink refills when you order a soft drink, tea, or lemonade. Find your nearest Chick-fil-A.
  • Panera Bread: Panera Bread is an ideal spot to use wifi if you need to get work done because it offers comfortable seating and plenty of outlets. Find a Panera near you.
  • Arby’s: You can also get free wifi at Arby’s. Find your nearest Arby’s.

Free wifi at coffee shops

  • Starbucks: Starbucks is a solid place to get free wifi. The cafes tend to be small, so seating may be limited. Starbucks requires an email signup the first time you use the public wifi, but you can unsubscribe from the email newsletter at any time. Find a Starbucks near you.
  • Dunkin’: Dunkin’ provides strong wifi at its restaurants through OneWiFi, a top-rated wifi service. To access the web, you can sign up as a guest or with your DD Perks login. Find your local Dunkin’.
  • Tim Horton’s: At Tim Horton’s, you can grab a quick bite and a coffee and get on the internet for free. When you are in any cafe, just sign in, accept the terms of use, and you are all set. Search for the nearest Tim Horton’s.
  • Peet’s Coffee: Peet’s Coffee is a good place to use free wifi, but there are a limited number of locations. You can often find them at shopping centers, college campuses, and airports. Find a Peet’s near you.

Free wifi at retailers

  • Target: Target offers shoppers free wifi in-store through Target Guest Wi-Fi. It’s easy to get connected and blocks access to explicit web content. Some Target stores also include a Starbucks, making Target an excellent choice if you need to sit down and work.
  • Staples: Staples stores have free wifi. This is ideal when you are on the go and need quick access. However, there aren’t designated seating areas, so it’s not ideal for extended work.
  • Office Depot: You can get connected to free wifi at Office Depot to handle quick tasks.
  • Barnes & Noble: Barnes & Noble stores are in major shopping areas and on many college campuses nationwide. If you need to get some work done, they have seating and cafes where you can order food, beverages, snacks and pastries.
  • Whole Foods: Whole Foods provides free wifi in store, and most larger stores have a café area where you can sit and use the internet for an extended time.

Public buildings and spaces with free wifi

A woman checks her phone in the middle of a city. Read more on how to get free wifi away from home.

Check with your local state, city or county government, as many offer free wifi in government buildings or sponsor public wifi in designated spaces. For example, people who live in the District of Columbia can use DC Net, a program offered by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer. 

DC Net is available at:

  • Community pools
  • Community health clinics
  • District government administration buildings 
  • Golden Triangle area (west of the White House)
  • National Mall area
  • Parks and recreation centers
  • Public housing developments
  • Public libraries and senior centers
  • Public schools and public charter schools
  • Public safety sites
  • Social services buildings 

DC Net also offers a free wifi finder so you can pinpoint the closest location to get connected.

To find free wifi in public spaces near you, Google public wifi using your state, city, county or town name. For example, searching “Alabama public wifi” or “Los Angeles County public wifi” will provide search results for any public wifi networks in those areas.

Safety tips when using public wifi

If you are not at home and plan to connect to public free wifi, look into a tool like NordVPN, a great resource to use if you plan to access public wifi networks. A VPN adds a layer of protection between your device and the public wifi, protecting you from hackers. You can get a monthly plan for $11.95 or an annual plan for $143.40. 

Other than using a VPN, here are some safety tips when using public wifi:

  • Only visit secure websites: Websites that start with https are encrypted, making them safer to access than http (non-encrypted) while using public wifi
  • Don’t access personal accounts: Don’t access bank accounts, use online tax software, or access any other account that requires a username and password or other sensitive data, such as your social security number
  • Be careful what you download: Don’t click on unfamiliar links or download files from sources you don’t trust
  • Verify the wifi network: Before connecting, ask the establishment the name of their network, as some hackers create networks that sound similar 
  • Don't use automatic wifi connections: Turn off automatic connections to avoid connecting to a hacker’s network by mistake
  • Turn off file sharing: When you are home on a secure network file sharing is fine, but disable it on public networks to avoid sharing files with strangers by accident
  • Ensure your anti-virus/anti-malware software is on: The software will protect your devices from attacks to steal your personal information

Connecting your device to wifi

If you aren’t sure how to actually connect your device to public wifi, here’s where to find the settings for Macbooks, Windows PCs, iPhones, and Android devices. Keep in mind that developers are changing their operating system setups all the time, and settings can vary depending on the age of your device and operating system version. 

How to connect to wifi with a MacBook

Use these steps if you are using a MacBook:

  1. Click on the wifi icon (it will be in the top right corner of your screen).
  2. If the wifi is turned off, click the toggle button to turn it on.
  3. Select the wifi network you wish to connect to (there will be a list of available networks).
  4. Click connect.
  5. Enter a network password if prompted (you’ll need to ask the wifi provider for a password).
  6. Open your internet browser. If a login page opens, you must agree to the terms of use before you will have access to the wifi connection.

How to connect to wifi with a Windows PC

Use these steps if using a computer or laptop with Windows operating system (OS):

For Windows 10:

  1. Click on the wifi icon (it will be at the far right side of the Windows taskbar).
  2. If you don't see the wifi icon, click the up arrow to show more options.
  3. Select the wifi network you wish to connect to from the list of options.
  4. Click connect.
  5. Enter a network password if prompted.
  6. Choose Yes or No to decide if you want your PC to be discovered by other devices on the network (No is preferred on public wifi networks).
  7. Open your internet browser and follow any instructions necessary to connect to the network.

For Windows 11:

  1. Click on the Network icon to open quick settings.
  2. Click on the wifi quick setting and choose manage wifi connections.
  3. Select the wifi network you wish to connect to from the list of options.
  4. Click connect.
  5. Enter a network password if prompted.
  6. Open your internet browser and follow any instructions necessary to connect to the network.

How to connect to wifi with an iPhone

To get connected to wifi with an iPhone:

  1. On the home screen, go to settings.
  2. Select wifi (make sure it is toggled on).
  3. Tap on the name of the wifi network you wish to connect to from the list.
  4. Enter a network password if prompted.
  5. Open your internet browser and follow any instructions necessary to connect to the network.

How to connect to wifi with an Android device

To connect to wifi with an Android device:

  1. Go to settings on your device.
  2. Choose the network and internet setting.
  3. Select wifi.
  4. Click or tap on the name of the wifi network you wish to connect to from the list.
  5. Enter a network password if prompted.
  6. Open your internet browser and follow any instructions necessary to connect to the network.

Answers to misc FAQs about free wifi

Can you access wifi without a router?

You don't need to worry about how to get wifi without a router, since it's up to the business or host to use a router. If you're wondering whether you need a router for your home internet, to make your wifi accessible, the answer is yes, you will need a router. If you want to understand what routers do and what routing is, NordVPN has a post, What is routing?  

What can you tell me about a low-income hotspot? Is this worth looking into?

A hotspot allows you to create your own private wireless network. You can connect to it with a tablet, laptop, desktop computer or other wifi-connected device. You can use it when you don’t have access to free public wifi or when you prefer a private connection. 

The hotspot can be a small, portable device. However some smartphones have a built-in hotspot. Both options require you to activate the hotspot with a data plan through a cellular service provider.

If you’re looking for a low-income hotspot, you’ll find that some cellular service providers offer mobile hotspot plans at a reduced cost. 

For example:

  • TruConnect offers a $30 per month hotspot plan that offers 8 GB of data1
  • T-Mobile’s Project 10 Million provides free hotspots with 100 GB of data to eligible households with a K-12 student2

Bottom line: What’s the best way to find free wifi?

You can get free wifi in a variety of spaces. Many businesses offer complimentary wifi to their customers, like coffee shops, restaurants, and retail stores. But you can also find free wifi without spending a dime when you go to public spaces, such as libraries, schools, and government buildings. 

The best way to find free wifi is to Google free wifi options near you, whether you’re near home or traveling. Resources like wifi map apps are also helpful in pinpointing the exact locations of wifi networks. Just be sure to practice safe public wifi access by using a VPN, protecting your personal data, and only visiting secure sites.  

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How do I get free wifi without internet?

You can get free connections in public places like libraries and schools. Wifi is commonly available in bookstores, cafes, and coffee shops, but you’ll probably need to be a customer to use it.

Can you get wifi without paying monthly?

Yes, you can get wifi without paying monthly. Start by researching free wifi hotspots in your town. If you want it in your home, you’ll need an internet provider or to use your phone as a hotspot.


  1. “Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots” Accessed February 12, 2024. TruConnect.  
  2. “Project 10Million Direct to Parent/Guardian Eligibility” Accessed February 12, 2024. T-Mobile.

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