(Photo by woodleywonderworks)
Maybe you need to find free WiFi for your laptop or your tablet and you’re in completely unfamiliar territory. Or perhaps you want to make a video call while you’re on the road and a network connection’s just not cutting it (or it’s sucking the life out of your battery). Before you hop into your car or start walking the neighborhood on a WiFi-find quest, try a few of these tips to find free WiFi no matter where you are.
Start With What You See
Certain places tend to have free WiFi, so if one of these options is nearby, give it a try.
Start with restaurants
Head for the library
Most public libraries offer free WiFi to their patrons.
Try a bookstore
Barnes & Noble offers free WiFi in all of their locations. However, even smaller independent bookstores may offer free WiFi and a quiet workspace.
Go for groceries
Whole Foods and other upscale grocery stores that have extensive takeout bars and cafes often offer free WiFi to paying guests.
Hit the park
Many large cities offer free WiFi and will also have picnic tables under pavilions that have electrical outlets. In addition, Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision and Bright House recently opened 50,000 WiFi hotspots that are free for their customers around the country. Go to CableWiFi.com and click on your provider to find a hotspot near you.
Pick a good hotel
More and more hotels are offering free WiFi as a perk for guests. If you or your company have chosen a hotel that doesn’t offer perks in an effort to be cost-conscious, you may still be able to access free WiFi if you have dinner in a restaurant at a nice hotel or find a quiet nook in the lobby.
Go to the mall
Many mall stores offer free WiFi. The competing signals can make surfing slow, but you can use different apps to find the best connection. More on that in a minute.
Try a hospital, church or university library
Hospital cafeterias and churches often offer free WiFi. If the local university doesn’t offer free WiFi guest access, ask the librarian to reserve a study room with WiFi access.
Use an App to Locate Free WiFi
Apps that are designed to find free WiFi aren’t perfect. You may want to download two or three of them and compare the results. If you’re feeling helpful, you can submit missed hotspots to the app developers in-app or via e-mail.
WeFi for Android, PC and Symbian has been a really popular program that people have used to find free WiFi, but use it with caveats. The latest Android upgrade is getting negative reviews on Google Play, and PC users have complained that they have to login with their Facebook information and that the program may install spyware on a PC. Still, it’s worth a try if you’re in a bind.
WiFi Finder for iPhone and iPad finds both free and paid WiFi hotspots around your current location. Your mobile device will detect your location, and the app simply generates a map that is color-coded with free and paid locations. Tap the icon for the location, and WiFi Finder generates an address that you can plug into your Maps app. The app has a Directions tab so that you can find your way to your location, but it’s a little temperamental.
WiFi @ (also called WiFi Get in the iTunes store—a bit confusing) is another generally good WiFi finding app. For optimal performance, go into Settings, tap WiFi and turn your WiFi off.
FreeZone WiFi on Android is a solid app for finding free WiFi hotspots. Be careful using it when you get back home, however. The app can interfere with your known network connections.
Try this Android app when you want to not only find networks but also to find the optimal WiFi connection in a crowded spot. You can find the best available channels for WiFi if you’re in a busy location, like a mall or a hotel. When you’re back at home, WiFi Analyzer is great for base station setup and for finding the best channel for your router. This app is only available in a free version, so you’ll have to deal with ads.
By combining logic with available tools, you can easily find free WiFi when you’re traveling. If you know any other secrets that will help others to find free WiFi, leave a comment.