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5 Best Free VPNs for Public WiFi in 2021 — Secure & Reliable

WiFi hotspots can leave you vulnerable to third-party trackers and hackers trying to steal your information. A good VPN will keep you safe while you’re connected to public WiFi. However, when I connect to a public network, I shouldn’t have to pay extra to make it safe to use.

That’s why my team and I tested 150 free VPNs to see which ones can keep you safe while using public WiFi. The top free VPNs never leak your info and offer top-notch encryption and security features.

Out of all the VPNs I tested, ExpressVPN was by far the best. I admit it’s not technically a free VPN, but the free options came with a lot of restrictions that ExpressVPN doesn’t have (most notably, slow speeds and limited bandwidth). However, ExpressVPN comes with a money-back guarantee, which means you can test ExpressVPN out for 30 days before committing to a subscription.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Today!

Short on Time? Here Are the Best Free VPNs for Public WiFi — Tested in October 2021

  1. ExpressVPN — Military-grade encryption, great security features, and superfast speeds let you browse and stream safely on public WiFi without interruptions. You can try it risk-free for 30 days because it offers a money-back guarantee.
  2. CyberGhost — Automatic WiFi Protection encrypts your data every time you connect to public WiFi, so you don’t even have to think about it.
  3. Avira Phantom VPN — Leak protection makes sure your information is never exposed when you’re on public WiFi, but it only offers 1 server location.
  4. ProtonVPN — Developed by some of the world’s leading scientists for top-notch security on public WiFi, but it doesn’t offer 24/7 live chat support.
  5. hide.me — Several advanced security features to protect you on public WiFi, but you can’t use it to access streaming sites.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Now!

Best Free VPNs for Public WiFi — Full Analysis (Updated October 2021)

1. ExpressVPN — Stay Anonymous on Public WiFi with World-Class Security Features

  • Military-grade 256-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch to protect you on public WiFi
  • Unlimited data and superfast speeds to stream and browse on public WiFi without slowdowns
  • 3,000 servers in 90 countries that can access geo-blocked sites worldwide
  • 5 simultaneous device connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, Apple TV, and more
ExpressVPN’s latest deal October 2021: Get 3 months completely free on your annual subscription with this current offer! It’s not for certain when this deal will end so it’s best to check the deals page to see if it’s still available.

ExpressVPN has industry-leading security features to keep you safe on public WiFi. Its 256-bit encryption and IP/DNS leak protection ensure that your traffic is unreadable and that you’ll have a different IP address than the public network. That means no one can even see that you’re connected to it or be able to intercept your data through the hotspot. ExpressVPN’s kill switch adds another layer of security, too. When I was at the library, the app warned me that my internet had been disabled until it could establish an encrypted connection.

Screenshot of leak tests from IPleak.net performed while connected to ExpressVPN

While connected a server in Italy, ipleak.net only showed the IP and DNS addresses of ExpressVPN’s server, so I knew my real info wasn’t accessible.

I was impressed by its fast speeds as well. I tested more than 15 servers, and my speeds averaged 56.7 Mbps. You only need 5 Mbps to watch shows in HD, so this is more than enough to stream in high quality. You can watch videos and browse on public WiFi without having to worry about any annoying slowdowns.

The VPN has an app for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and more. I tested ExpressVPN using my local library’s WiFi hotspot with my Windows and Mac laptops, as well as my Android phone. I found the app’s clean design made it easy to use on all these operating systems. It surprised me that the mobile version has all the same features as the desktop ones, too — sometimes VPN mobile apps are just a simplified version of the Windows version. But, that’s not the case with ExpressVPN.

While ExpressVPN isn’t really free, it is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. This allows you to test all its premium features risk-free and ask for your money back if you’re not impressed. I tried the policy myself and asked for a refund using its 24/7 live chat support. After the support agent asked me a few questions, he approved my refund. I had my money back in 3 business days.

Start Risk-Free With ExpressVPN!

2. CyberGhost — Automatic Protection on Public WiFi So Your Data is Always Safe

  • Automatic WiFi protection, so you’re always anonymous on public networks
  • Military-grade 256-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch to protect you from hackers on public WiFi
  • Unlimited data and lightning-fast speeds to browse on WiFi hostpots without lag
  • 7,350 servers in 90 countries that can access geo-blocked content
  • 7 simultaneous device connections
  • 45-day money-back guarantee
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, and more
October 2021 Deal: CyberGhost is currently offering 83% off its most popular plan! Take advantage of this offer now and save more on your CyberGhost subscription.

CyberGhost’s Automatic WiFi Protection will make sure your connection is always encrypted on public WiFi. I tested this out by activating the setting before I took my laptop to the local library. CyberGhost automatically hopped on a local server when I connected to the library’s network.

On public WiFi, you’ll always want the VPN connected because CyberGhost’s AES 256-bit encryption and leak protection will hide your data from hackers. Many public WiFi networks aren’t encrypted, so your traffic can easily be intercepted. CyberGhost prevents this by concealing your IP and internet traffic; plus it has an automatic kill switch to protect you in case your connection is ever interrupted.

Screenshot of CyberGhost app settings showing where to toggle automatic WiFi protection

I recommend choosing “Always launch a VPN connection” just to be safe

It also offers unlimited data and superfast speeds, which let me stream without interruptions on the public WiFi at a nearby cafe. I tested its US and UK servers, and I could easily unblock all my streaming accounts, including US Netflix.

CyberGhost also comes with an easy-to-use app compatible with all major operating platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. I normally use my phone on public WiFi, so I was happy that the mobile versions are practically identical to the desktop apps. I passed leak tests on devices with every OS it supports and essential features like automatic WiFi protection worked great on all my tech.

While it is only free for one day, you’ll be able to test out all of its features using CyberGhost’s 24-hour free trial. When you subscribe you also get a 45-day money-back guarantee. After using CyberGhost for 43 days, I decided to test its refund policy. The agent I contacted through the live chat didn’t ask me to stay and approved my request after a quick chat. I had my money back within 5 days.

Start FREE with CyberGhost!

3. Avira Phantom VPN — Strong Leak Protection Keeps You Anonymous on Public WiFi

  • Protection from DNS, IP, and WebRTC leaks, so no one can steal your vital information on public WiFi
  • 1GB of data per month and fast speeds to use public WiFi without annoying interruptions
  • AES 256-bit encryption to protect your online data
  • 1 server location
  • Unlimited simultaneous device connections
  • Can unblock: Only local sites (the free plan only connects to local servers)
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

Avira Phantom VPN comes with IP/DNS/WebRTC leak protection, so you’ll be protected from hackers on public WiFi. Sometimes hackers set up fake WiFi hotspots to steal the information you send out from your device (like passwords and personal information). I performed leak tests on my laptop and 2 phones to make sure it works as advertised, and I didn’t find any leaks at all.

Screenshot of leak test with Avira Phantom VPN

Avira Phantom VPN keeps your online identity safe when browsing on public WiFi

Avira Phantom’s leak protection will make sure your internet traffic can’t be read by anyone. Additionally, Avira Phantom VPN’s military-grade encryption hides your IP for added security. However, I was disappointed to find out that Avira Phantom VPN doesn’t come with an automatic kill switch.

Its fast speeds will let you browse on public WiFi without any slowdowns. During my tests, I averaged 36.7 Mbps while online at a crowded cafe. However, it comes with a data limit of 500MB per month, so it’s not the best option for streaming. It does give you 500MB more if you sign up using your email address.

Unfortunately, you can only connect to 1 server using the “Nearest Location” feature. Many free VPNs limit the number of servers you can use, compared to a premium service like ExpressVPN which offers 3,000 servers. However, you can download Avira Phantom VPN on your smartphone to receive a 7-day free trial of the premium version that offers 1,400 servers worldwide.

The free VPN doesn’t allow you to make use of its customer support. Luckily, Avira Phantom VPN’s website has a huge database where you can find answers to most of your questions. This means you shouldn’t have any issues finding an answer to your questions; it even offers video tutorials.

Start FREE with Avira Phantom VPN!

4. ProtonVPN — Created by World-Renowned Scientists for Powerful Security on Public WiFi

  • Developed by encryption experts, so you can use WiFi hotspots safely
  • Unlimited data and fast speeds to browse on public WiFi without slowdowns
  • AES 256-bit encryption and a kill switch to protect your data on public WiFi
  • 3 free server locations
  • 1 simultaneous device connection
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Youtube, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Kodi
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and routers

ProtonVPN was created by CERN scientists, so it offers some of the best protection you can get while on public WiFi. The people who developed ProtonVPN are also responsible for creating Protonmail, the world’s leading encrypted email service. When you’re using public WiFi, connecting to a VPN made by some of the world’s top experts in encryption technology ensures your data stays safe.

It uses AES 256-bit encryption, IP/DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch to keep your data secure on public WiFi. During my tests, I switched servers, and it disabled my public WiFi connection until the VPN was reconnected. These features protect you in case you connect to a fake network. Your online data will always be hidden, even if your VPN connection suddenly drops.

Screenshot of Proton VPN's kill switch

With ProtonVPN, you don’t have to worry about your data being leaked.

ProtonVPN gives you unlimited data, so you can stream videos on public WiFi for hours. Local servers provide good speeds; I had an average download rate of 31.5 Mbps on the Netherlands server at a busy cafe. However, your speeds may drop on long-distance servers (I had 15.6 Mbps in Japan).

ProtonVPN can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and more. I tested the different versions while using my library’s public WiFi. The phone versions are almost as feature-packed as the desktop versions. It even has a kill switch for iOS, which is rare. So, you’ll be able to protect your data just as well using a phone or a laptop on public WiFi.

One minor negative is that it doesn’t offer 24/7 customer service. It took 2 days to get a response back by mail, but it was still very informative and helpful.

Start FREE with ProtonVPN!

5. hide.me — Top-Notch Security Features to Protect Your Data on Public WiFi

  • AES 256-bit encryption, automatic kill switch, and DNS leak protection to keep you safe on public WiFi
  • 10GB data per month and fast speeds for browsing on public WiFi without interruptions
  • 5 free server locations
  • 1 simultaneous device connection
  • Can unblock: Youtube, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and routers

The free version of hide.me has advanced security features that keep you safe while you’re using public WiFi. It comes with strong AES 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and IP/DNS leak protection. When I tested its 5 free servers, I didn’t find any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

Hackers sometimes hang out on public WiFi to perform session hijacking. This lets them trick sites into thinking they’re using your computer, so they have access to online accounts you’re logged into (like your banking or social media profiles). With hide.me’s encryption technology and leak protection, no one on a shared WiFi hotspot can see your IP address or spy on your traffic, which prevents session hijacking and every other cyber threat.

I got impressive speeds with hide.me using my local coffee shop’s public WiFi. I tested all 5 servers and had an average speed of 23.4 Mbps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t access popular streaming sites like Netflix or Disney+. However, with its 10GB of free data every month, I was able to stream videos from my favorite YouTubers in HD for 4 hours using the public WiFi at my favorite cafe.

The VPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux. Even though the phone versions look a little different than the desktop versions, they work just as well. You’ll have great protection from hackers lurking on public WiFi whether you’re working on your laptop or simply browsing for a few minutes on your phone. Its 24/7 live chat agent even told me that you could download the app without signing up or registering, which is really convenient.

Start FREE with hide.me!

Quick Guide: How to Set Up a Free VPN on Public WiFi in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Download a free VPN. Because of its robust security features, superfast speeds, and an extensive server network, I recommend ExpressVPN (You can try it risk-free as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee).
  2. Connect to a server. If you want to keep your speeds as fast as possible, make sure to connect to a server nearby.
  3. Start browsing! Now you can safely connect to public WiFi.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Today!

What Are the Risks of Free VPNs

Free VPNs often have limitations like a small server network, bandwidth restrictions, and slow speeds. Even worse, using a free VPN can be super dangerous. All of the free VPNs on this list have been tried and tested, and I’ve read through their privacy policies to ensure their safety.

When downloading a random free VPN, some of the dangers are:

  • Free VPNs can log and sell your data: Free VPNs often sell your user data for profit. You should always read the VPN’s privacy policy carefully (especially free ones) to ensure you’re being protected.
  • Free VPNs can leak your info due to weak security features: Many free VPNs cut costs by eliminating essential security features. You miss out on kill switches, advanced encryption, and necessary server updates. When you’re using a public WiFi hotspot, you’re more vulnerable to hacking. So, you need up-to-date, high-performance security features to protect you.
  • Free VPNs can come with harmful malware embedded in the apps: Many free VPNs come with viruses and malware. Besides, they often don’t block ads since they need advertising to make a profit. This increases the risk of infecting your device with malware.

The best way to stay safe while using public WiFi is to use a low-cost premium VPN. They offer robust security features that protect you from hackers waiting on public WiFi networks. Plus, they don’t have limitations like data caps, slow speeds, and small server networks. Luckily, these services often offer a money-back guarantee so that you can test it for a limited period of time. You can always ask for a refund if you’re not impressed.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Today!

Tips on How to Choose the Best Free VPN for Public WiFi

I tested all the VPNs on my list for these key features. Here’s a rundown of what to look for, so you can make your own informed decision when choosing the right free VPN for public WiFi:

  • Really free. A free VPN means that you don’t have to sign up to install the VPN. I made sure that all the VPNs on my list are 100% free or come with a reliable money-back guarantee.
  • Robust security features. A VPN for public WiFi should have AES 256-bit encryption and IP/DNS leak protection. This protects you against hackers and other malicious third parties. I made sure that all the VPNs on my list come with these security features.
  • Fast speeds and enough data. You need a VPN with fast servers that gives you enough data to prevent constant delays while streaming, torrenting, or browsing the web. I made sure to test the speeds of all the VPNs on my list while on various public WiFi networks.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Today!

FAQs About Free VPNs for Public WiFi

What are the risks of WiFi Hotspots?

Public WiFi hotspots are unencrypted, meaning that snoopers and hackers can easily access your device. This gives them access to your accounts, photos, videos, and even credit card information.

You could also be a victim of a man-in-the-middle attack. This happens when hackers create hotspots with a deceiving name (like “Starbucks Free WiFi”) specifically to steal information from the people who log on. Other dangers of WiFi hotspots are Packet Sniffing and Session Hijacking.

The best way to protect yourself against these dangers is by using a reliable VPN. I’d recommend ExpressVPN as it comes with strong encryption and advanced security features that really free VPNs sometimes can’t offer. You can test it out before committing to a subscription because it comes with a money-back guarantee. This way, you can browse the web safely while using public WiFi.

Why use a VPN for public WiFi Hotspots?

A VPN protects your online data by masking your IP address and encrypting your internet traffic. Whenever you connect to a WiFi hotspot without a VPN, you are vulnerable to hackers and attackers that will track you and steal your data.

A top-tier VPN offers military-grade encryption, an automatic kill-switch, and leak protection to protect your online information while using public WiFi hotspots.

Is it safe to use a free VPN for public WiFi?

Unfortunately, a lot of free VPNs aren’t safe. However, I made sure that all the VPNs on my list are safe to use.

Using a free VPN can be risky for several reasons. A lot of free VPNs keep logs and sell your data to third parties. Besides, some free VPNs don’t offer proper encryption and can even have malware-infected apps.

I’d recommend using a premium VPN like ExpressVPN to stay safe on public WiFi. Not only does it offer robust security features, but it also doesn’t come with annoying limitations like free VPNs do.

What else can I do to stay safe when using public WiFi?

There are several ways to make using public WiFi a bit safer. However, the only way you can protect yourself 100% is by using a VPN with robust security features.

Other tips to stay safe on public WiFi include double-checking the network’s name and avoiding using public WiFi for tasks that make you handle sensitive information. It’s best not to log in to WiFi that doesn’t require a password. In addition, you should always ask the staff what the proper name of its WiFi connection is, so you’re not signing in to a hotspot operated by hackers. You should also only connect to websites that use HTTPS and disable automatic WiFi connection on your phone. Lastly, it’s a good idea make sure file sharing on public networks isn’t enabled on your device.

Is it safe to use hotel Wifi without a VPN?

No, it is not safe. Hotel WiFi comes with the same risks and dangers as any other public WiFi hotspot. The only way to be completely protected while using public WiFi is by using a top-tier VPN.

My recommendation is ExpressVPN. It comes with robust security features to keep you safe on public WiFi. Besides, it offers unlimited data and superfast speeds.

Can I watch Netflix on a public WiFi hotspot?

It’s possible, but not always. Public WiFi providers often block streaming platforms like Netflix so that they can save bandwidth for all users. With a top-tier VPN, like ExpressVPN, you can connect to one of its 3,000 servers and bypass content blocks. This way, you’ll be able to stream Netflix on a public WiFi hotspot. Just be aware that the speeds probably won’t allow you to stream as smoothly as you can at home.

How can I find public Wifi hotspots near me?

If you search for “free WiFi near me” on Google Maps, you’ll be able to find local places that offer public WiFi hotspots. However, keep in mind that you should never log into public WiFi without using a VPN.

I’d recommend using ExpressVPN, its advanced security features will keep you protected and anonymous while using public WiFi.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Today!

The Bottom Line

Using a public WiFi hotspot without a VPN can be very dangerous. It makes you vulnerable to hackers, phishing, and man-in-the-middle attacks. You could use a good free VPN to protect yourself, but they often come with many limitations like data caps, slow speeds, and small server networks.

A better way to stay safe on public WiFi is to use a low-cost premium VPN that comes with a free trial or money-back guarantee. These VPNs offer top-notch security features to protect you on public WiFi without limitations and you can try them all out before committing to a subscription.

My top choice is ExpressVPN because of its robust security features, and lightning-fast speeds. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test it out completely risk-free. If you’re not satisfied, you can always claim a refund.

The best VPNs for public WiFi you can try risk-free with money-back guarantees are…

Privacy Alert!

Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!

Your IP Address:

Your Location:

Your Internet Provider:

The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.

VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend ExpressVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we've tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it's currently offering 49% off.

Visit ExpressVPN

About the Author

Kristel is a tech researcher and writer with a keen interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. She advocates for digital freedom.

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