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Top 10 REALLY Free VPNs for WiFi Hotspots for 2021

When I connect to a WiFi hotspot, I don’t want to pay extra to make it safe to use.  That’s why I have tracked down and tested the top free VPNs for WiFi hotspots. 

No “free VPN” is ever 100% free. Most restrict your data and bandwidth. WiFi hotspots are notoriously slow, and many free VPNs limit your speed to make them even slower.

That’s why I prefer ExpressVPN. It’s a budget-friendly premium VPN with reliable high-speed connections and advanced security features.

Still, there are some free VPN services that are fast enough to use on WiFi hotspots. I have only listed services that are secure and don’t have any hidden costs. 

Best Free VPNs for WiFi Hotspots – Quick Guide

  1. ExpressVPN: Advanced security features, including OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec protocols. You can try it risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. Windscribe: Military-grade encryption, lightning-fast speeds and 10GB of free data per month, but it can’t access streaming services.
  3. TunnelBear: 500MB of free data monthly. That’s enough to check your emails and social media, but not for streaming or torrenting.
  4. Hotspot Shield: User-friendly apps and strong security protocols. You get 500MB of free data per day, but there is only one free server location.
  5. hide.me: 2GB of free data per month, five free server locations, and an automatic kill switch, but you can’t watch BBC Player.

Plus, five more totally free VPNs | How We Ranked and Tested These VPNs | What’s the Catch with Free VPNs? 

Protect Yourself with ExpressVPN

The Top Free VPNs for WiFi Hotspots

I tested 33 free VPNs to find the top free VPNs for WiFi hotspots.

I have featured one premium VPN that you can try with its money-back guarantee, but the other VPNs on this list offer 100% free accounts. I gave preference to services that use strong encryption protocols and don’t log your browsing activity.

1. ExpressVPN

  • Automatic WiFi protection
  • DNS and IPv6 leak protection
  • 3,000+ servers in 94 countries
  • Specialty P2P servers available
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Works with: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV
  • Compatible with: Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Raspberry Pi, Chrome, Firefox, routers

ExpressVPN’s latest deal July 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.

While ExpressVPN is a premium vendor, I’ve added it to my list because it offers a generous risk-free money-back guarantee. That means you can test it without committing to a subscription — if you’re not satisfied, you can claim a full refund within 30 days.

ExpressVPN offers AES 256-bit encryption and keeps a strict no-logs policy. This means your data is protected from cyber thieves, even if a hacker has compromised the WiFi hotspot you’re using.

It uses some of the strongest VPN protocols, including OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec. Because it’s based in the British Virgin Islands, it’s beyond the reach of the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance. It means that ExpressVPN isn’t required to share any of your browsing activity with the authorities.

You can configure ExpressVPN to start automatically when you connect to a public WiFi hotspot. This keeps you safe if, like me, you forget to turn on your VPN manually. All of its servers are tested to make sure they can bypass censorship or surveillance while you’re travelling.

It operates a high-speed network of 3,000+ servers in 94 countries that are ideal for streaming. I was able to unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and SlingTV during my test.

ExpressVPN’s apps are really easy to use. Its straightforward layout makes it simple for you to find and configure its features and settings. You can also use its.onion site, which lets you download the app even from restrictive regions that have its website blocked.

You can connect up to 5 devices at the same time with one account and there are apps for all major platforms. This is perfect if you want to protect your whole household, or if you’ve got a collection of devices.

If you run into any issues, no problem! Navigate to ExpressVPN’s extensive FAQ section, access the Help Center, or talk to a representative via live chat 24/7.

Read our full ExpressVPN review to discover more about its performance and features. Or check out our ExpressVPN deals and coupons page to get the best savings on your subscription.

Get Started With ExpressVPN!

2. Windscribe

  • 10GB of free data per month
  • DNS/IPv6/WebRTC leak protection
  • Stealth Mode bypasses censorship in restrictive regions
  • Perfect forward secrecy
  • Supports torrenting on most servers
  • Works with: Kodi and YouTube
  • Compatible with: Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Amazon Fire TV, Kodi, and Nvidia Shield

Windscribe offers you 10GB of data per month for free, but only if you supply your email address.  This sounds pretty generous, but really, it’s only enough to stream in high definition for around three hours. If you run out of data before the end of the month, you also have the opportunity to earn an extra 5GB for free.

If you don’t want to provide your email address, you only get 2GB of free data per month. My trick? Create a new email account that you only use for free trials and VPNs. Problem solved!

Windscribe keeps a strict-no logs policy and uses port forwarding, a kill switch, and military-strength encryption. DNS/IPv6/WebRTC leak protection ensures that your browser doesn’t accidentally leak your DNS requests and activity to the hotspot’s ISP.

Its perfect forward secrecy protocol gives you a new encryption key for each browsing session. Even if a hacker lurking on public WiFi manages to compromise your current session, the rest of your browsing activity is safe and invisible.

You can use its Stealth Mode to bypass censorship in restrictive regions like China and Russia.

The free version doesn’t let you unblock streaming services like Netflix US and Hulu. Its streaming-optimized servers are only available to premium users. Still, you can watch videos buffer-free on YouTube and Kodi. It also supports P2P connections so you can protect yourself while you torrent.

If you have trouble connecting to a server or enabling any of Windscribe’s features, you can contact support using live chat. The chatbot, Garry, can answer most basic questions. If it can’t, it connects you to a human representative for further support. Windscribe also has a large FAQ section and step-by-step installation guides.

We ran heaps of tests on Windscribe. Check out the results in our in-depth Windscribe review.

3. TunnelBear

  • 500MB of free data per month
  • Vigilant, GhostBear, and Always On security modes
  • Separate ad blocker extension available for free
  • Fast connection speeds
  • Works with: HBO GO, YouTube, and Kodi
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Opera, Firefox, and Chrome

TunnelBear gives you 500MB of data each month.  You can use it to browse for about seven hours, but it’s only enough to watch 30 minutes of your favorite TV show per month.

You have access to servers in 22+ countries, so there will always be a local server nearby when you travel. It has apps for phones and laptops, too, so you can protect your mobile devices on public WiFi.

TunnelBear doesn’t deliberately limit your connection speed, but I found that it can be slow during peak times.

Unfortunately, TunnelBear isn’t the best choice for streaming. It can’t access Netflix US, Hulu, or SlingTV.  However, I was able to unblock HBO GO, YouTube, and geoblocked Kodi add-ons without any buffering.

TunnelBear’s high-end security features are strong enough to protect you while you’re using a WiFi hotspot. It offers military-grade encryption and it doesn’t record your browsing activity. 

You can use its GhostBear mode to make your VPN traffic look like regular traffic so that it can bypass deep packet inspection (DPI) undetected. This is useful if you’re in a country that blocks or limits VPN use, like China.

There are two other security modes to choose from. Its Always On mode launches the TunnelBear app and connects to a VPN server as soon as you start your device. You don’t need to worry if you forget to turn your VPN on, because the app does it for you automatically.

Vigilant Mode acts like an automatic kill switch and stops unprotected traffic leaving your network if your VPN connection fails. This is essential when you’re using a WiFi hotspot because it prevents hackers from seeing any of your leaked personal information.

You can download its free, separate TunnelBear Blocker extension. The extension blocks ads and trackers, but it’s only available for the Chrome browser.

We ran heaps of tests on TunnelBear. Check out the results of our in-depth TunnelBear review. 

Start FREE with TunnelBear!

4. Hotspot Shield

  • 500MB of free data per day
  • Access to one US server location
  • One-click connect
  • Works with: YouTube and Kodi
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Chrome

Hotspot Shield offers 500MB of free data per day. You can use it to catch up on your emails, update your social media, and watch YouTube for just under two hours, but you won’t be able to stream any movies.

It uses a TLS-based security protocol called Catapult Hydra. This protocol is designed to improve your connection speed and latency. This is ideal for using a WiFi hotspot because they are notoriously slow.

Hotspot Shield typically is fast, but because all of its free users are connected to the same server, your connection will lag during peak times.

It allows P2P traffic, but its Terms of Service document states that it must inform law enforcement agencies of any copyright infringement reported by third parties. So, if you accidentally download a copyrighted file on BitTorrent and the copyright holder reports you, Hotspot Shield will alert the authorities.

Hotspot Shield doesn’t log your browsing activity, but it does record information about your session duration.

During my tests, I discovered that Hotspot Shield doesn’t allow streaming with the free version. When I tried to load Netflix and Hulu, I hit a premium payment indicating that I would have to upgrade to access streaming services. However, I was able to unblock YouTube videos and Kodi add-ons from other regions.

The free version is supported by ads, which Hotspot Shield implements using Google’s advertising SDK. In the Terms of Service, I noticed that it states it will cancel your account if you use ad-blocking software while you’re connected to the VPN.

To create targeted ads, Hotspot Shield provides Google with your approximate, city-level location. Its privacy policy also states this SDK may send Google information about your device and your IP address. But, since you’re using a VPN, Google will only see the IP address of the server you’re connected to.

Hotspot Shield offers 24/7 support to premium members, but there is no dedicated support for the free service. The FAQ section and troubleshooting guides can answer most basic questions.

We ran heaps of tests on Hotspot Shield. Check out the results in our in-depth Hotspot Shield review.

Start FREE with Hotspot Shield

5. hide.me

  • 2GB free data monthly
  • Access to five server locations
  • Automatic kill switch
  • IP leak protection
  • Works with: Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video
  • Compatible with: macOS, Windows, Android, iOS

The free version of hide.me gives you 2GB of free data per month. This is enough to stream for two hours in standard definition or browse the internet for around 31 hours. But, this data won’t last long if you’re downloading games, software, or other large files.

hide.me offers an automatic kill switch, a strict no-logs policy, and 256-bit military-grade encryption.  There’s also IP leak protection to prevent browser glitches from showing your real location when you’re connected to a WiFi hotspot.

There is a wide range of VPN protocols for you to choose from, including OpenVPN, SoftEther, IKEv2, SSTP, and PPTP. I recommend using OpenVPN on WiFi hotspots because of its security and stability.

The apps are easy to install and use. Because it includes a split tunneling feature, you can access other devices on your local network without turning your VPN off. This is handy if you want to save data by accessing local sites with the hotspot’s IP, and international sites with your VPN IP.

You can use hide.me’s Stealth Guard feature to stop certain apps running when you’re not connected to the VPN. This provides an extra layer of security by making sure that programs like uTorrent can’t accidentally expose your real IP address.

There are free servers in Singapore, Canada, the Netherlands, US East, and US West. I was able to unblock Netflix US, Hulu, and HBO GO using the US East server. hide.me doesn’t limit bandwidth, so you can stream with minimal buffering.

Customer support is available 24/7 via live chat, email, and contact form on hide.me’s website.

We ran heaps of tests on hide.me. Check out the results in our in-depth hide.me review.

Start FREE with hide.me!

6. Speedify

  • 2GB free data per month
  • AES-based encryption and no-logs policy
  • Captive Portal Assist
  • Supports P2P activity
  • Works with: YouTube and Kodi
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android

Speedify offers 2GB of free data every month, so you can stream for two hours in standard definition. You don’t need to register before using the service, which means you don’t need to give it any of your personal or contact details.

It uses a strict no-logs policy, DNS leak protection, and strong AES 128-GCM encryption. True, it’s not as strong as 256-bit encryption, but it will still protect your devices and data from sneak attacks.

It uses its unique Captive Portal Assist (CPA) technology to make logging into public WiFi easier. Normally, you need to disconnect your VPN to log into the hotspot’s splash page, but with CPA, you can stay connected throughout the process.

There’s also an automatic failover feature that makes sure that you stay connected, even if your internet connection fluctuates.

Speedify also has 200 servers in 50 countries. This is useful because you can connect to a nearby server, wherever you are in the world.

It’s one of the only free VPNs to offer channel bonding. Channel bonding combines the WiFi hotspot with your mobile data connection to increase the speed, reliability, and overall performance of your connection.

I wasn’t able to access Netflix US or Hulu while using Speedify. I found that it can only unblock HBO GO, YouTube, and Kodi add-ons.

We ran heaps of tests on Speedify. Check out the results of our in-depth Speedify review.

Start FREE with Speedify!

7. ZenMate

  • Unlimited free data
  • Automatic kill switch
  • Miltary-strength encryption
  • Works with: Netflix US, Amazon Prime Video, HBO GO, YouTube, Kodi
  • Compatible with: Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera

ZenMate’s free version gives you unlimited data, but it caps your speed at 2Mbps. That isn’t fast enough for streaming, but you can still browse with minimal interruptions.

It offers a NAT firewall, no-logs policy, and strong encryption. The browser extensions use a lower 128-bit encryption, while the desktop and mobile apps use 256-bit AES. Although 256-bit is ideal, 128-bit is still safe for WiFi hotspots.

It uses DNS leak protection, which stops security flaws in your device revealing your DNS requests. This shields your information from the hotspot’s ISP and helps you overcome geoblocks and censorship.

ZenMate is a German VPN, but because it doesn’t keep logs, it has nothing to report to other countries in the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance

You can access servers in Germany, Romania, Hong Kong, and the United States. ZenMate doesn’t work in China, Iran, or Saudi Arabia due to strict VPN blocks.

We ran heaps of tests on ZenMate. Check out the results in our in-depth ZenMate review.

Get ZenMate Free Today!

8. Betternet

  • 500MB of free data per day
  • Military-grade encryption
  • Access to one server in the US
  • Works with: YouTube and Kodi
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, Chrome, and iOS

You can get 500MB of free data per day on one device with Betternet VPN. That’s enough to browse for around seven hours if you are traveling, or just want to access a public WiFi hotspot at a local cafe or tourist attraction to update your social media or check your email. You’ll need more data if you’re planning to stream movies or torrent, though.

Betternet uses military-grade encryption and keeps a no-logs policy to protect your data and devices.

There is one free server, but it’s based in the US. You can’t access geoblocked websites from other countries. If you’re near the US-based server, you’ll enjoy optimal speeds – but if you’re in another country, your connection will lag because your data has to travel across the world.

Betternet can’t bypass VPN blocks. This means you can’t stream Netflix, but you can access YouTube and geoblocked Kodi add-ons.

If you have questions, you’re in luck because it has an extensive FAQ section. I was able to find answers to basic questions on plans and services quickly and easily.

We ran heaps of tests on Betternet. Check out the resuls in our in-depth Betternet review.

Start FREE with Betternet!

9. PrivateVPN

  • 7-day free trial with unlimited data
  • 150+ server locations in 60 countries
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Works with: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and YouTube
  • Compatible with: Windows, iOS, Android, and macOS

PrivateVPN is another premium service that you can try free with a 7-day trial. This Swedish service doesn’t keep any traffic logs, and your data is protected by strict privacy laws.

PrivateVPN uses a variety of secure protocols including OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, and IKEv2/IPSec. Private VPN also allows you to connect to six devices at the same time using one account. This is great if you’re looking to protect your whole family because you don’t need to pay for multiple subscriptions.

During my tests, I found that PrivateVPN can unblock Netflix US and BBC iPlayer. However, it is not able to bypass the Great Firewall, so it’s not a good choice if you’re traveling to China.

If you need help at any point, you can contact PrivateVPN via live chat or through the contact form on its website. You can even get assistance from the actual developers.

We ran heaps of tests on PrivateVPN. Check out the results in our in-depth PrivateVPN review.

Get PrivateVPN Free Today!

10. ProtonVPN

  • Unlimited free data
  • No ads
  • Perfect forward secrecy and AES 256-bit encryption
  • DNS leak protection
  • Three free servers to choose from
  • Works with: Netflix, YouTube, Kodi, and Hulu
  • Compatible with: macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Windows

ProtonVPN has no no data or bandwidth limits, so you can torrent and stream as much as you like. You can connect to servers in the US, Netherlands, and Japan. Limited servers mean you can’t access geoblocked content from outside these three countries, but during my test it was able to unblock Netflix US and Hulu. 

It uses 256-bit AES encryption, an automatic kill switch, and DNS leak protection to keep your identity and browsing activity safe on public WiFi hotspots.

PrivateVPN keeps a no-logs policy, which means it doesn’t track your browsing activity at all. Perfect forward secrecy means that PrivateVPN uses a temporary Private Key for each session. So, even if one of your previous sessions is compromised, the rest of your sessions are safe.

ProtonVPN also supports Tor over VPN, so you can access.onion sites anonymously.

Although ProtonVPN isn’t ad-supported, there’s no built-in ad blocker. So, your streaming sessions may still be interrupted by third-party ads.

We ran heaps of tests on ProtonVPN. Check out the results in our in-depth ProtonVPN review.

Start FREE with ProtonVPN!

How We Ranked and Tested These VPNs

I downloaded each VPN on this list and tested it on my local cafe’s WiFi hotspot before recommending it. I made sure each service met my high standard for security, speed, and usability.

I looked for VPNs that:

  • Offer reliable apps for mobile devices
  • Use military-level encryption
  • Provide a kill switch leak protection
  • Don’t log your browsing activity
  • Offer enough data for 5-6 hours of browsing

I have only recommended VPNs that give an excellent performance in the following categories:

Unbreakable Security

All of the services I recommend use 256-bit encryption and keep a strict no-logs policy. 

I looked into each VPN’s privacy policy to confirm its no-logs status. I have given preference to services that use automatic kill switches and IPv6/WebRTC/DNS leak protection.

High-Speed Connections

After confirming each VPN’s security features, I connected to the closest server and performed a speed test. I have only recommended VPNs that are fast enough for you to browse without any lag.


You need a VPN that’s going to work well with your mobile devices. I tested each service on both my laptop and my phone to make sure its apps are sleek, reliable, and easy-to-use.

What’s the Catch With Free VPNs?

Most of the time, you get what you pay for when it comes to free VPNs – nothing. The free VPNs I recommend are safe, but there are a few ways that using other free services can cost you more than a premium VPN.

Quality VPNs are expensive to build and maintain. Many free services cut costs by eliminating essential security features. You miss out on kill switches, advanced encryption, and necessary server updates. When you’re using a WiFi hotspot, you’re more vulnerable to hacking and man in the middle attack. So, you need up-to-date, high-performance security features to protect you. 

Most free VPNs operate tiny server networks. If you’re using a hotspot to check in back home while you’re traveling, you’ll struggle to find a local server in most countries. You’ll have to connect to a long-distance server, which will reduce your connection speed. Typically, free VPNs already limit your speed and data, so you’ll spend a lot of time waiting for websites to load.

Very few free VPNs offer apps for mobile devices. This means you can’t protect your phone, Chromebook, or tablet.

Premium VPNs like ExpressVPN have apps for all major platforms, including mobile devices.


 Why Use A VPN for WiFi Hotspots?

Anyone can create a WiFi hotspot.

Every time you connect to a WiFi hotspot without a VPN, you are vulnerable to hackers and attackers that will track you and steal your data.

VPNs hide your location and encrypt your traffic. So, even if a cyber thief intercepts your connection, they can’t access your private information or find out where you are.

 Do Free VPN Vendors Keep Logs?

Most free VPNs record your browsing activity and personal information, like your location and passwords.

The free VPNs on my list do not log your browsing activity or any personally identifiable information. 

 Can I Use a VPN While I’m Traveling?

VPNs are legal to use in most countries. But, there are still some places that restrict or forbid the use of VPNs.

It’s illegal to use a VPN in Iraq, Belarus, and North Korea. China, Turkey, and Russia place heavy restrictions on VPN use. Most VPNs are blocked in China. You can overcome this by installing your VPN before you arrive.

If you are visiting one of these countries, don’t panic. No tourist has ever gotten in trouble for using a VPN in these countries.

Bottom Line

Even the best free VPNs come with restrictions. They limit your security, speed, and ability to bypass geoblocks.

If you need a short-term VPN for accessing WiFi hotspots while you are on vacation, I recommend using a reliable service with a free trial or money-back guarantee, like ExpressVPN.

Not sure which premium service to choose? Learn about our top VPN choices. Then, check out our deals and coupons page to get exclusive offers on subscriptions.

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

Kristin is a Multimedia Visual Communications entrepreneur who is experienced with identity access management and online security.

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