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Best VPNs for public wifi

While working or studying in coffee shops sounds wonderful, using their public wifi hotspots is not safe. Because it is public, it can be accessed by anyone, even a cybercriminal. If that happens, the attacker may infiltrate your device with malware and steal sensitive information through an unsafe wifi connection.

That is, unless you use a VPN which encrypts your Internet traffic and makes it unreadable, protecting your sensitive data.

But in a market full of VPNs that advertise themselves as being the best, which ones truly provide high-quality protection? To answer this, we’ve tested dozens of providers and picked out the best VPNs for public wifi.

Best VPNs for wifi hotspots – our shortlist:

  1. NordVPN – best overall public wifi VPN
  2. Surfshark – fast VPN for public wifi
  3. IPVanish – affordable wifi hotspot VPN
  4. PrivateVPN – solid VPN pick for public wifi
  5. Norton VPN – all-rounded VPN protection

Why do I need a VPN for public wifi?

There are a few reasons why you need to use a VPN when connecting to public wifi. Let’s see what are the benefits of having a VPN:

  1. Protects you from cyberthreats. Because a VPN hides your data, including all of your online activities, no cybercriminal can use that information against you.
  2. Secures sensitive information. With the use of a reputable VPN, no third parties will have a chance to find your banking information, login credentials, or other personal information.
  3. Secures you while working remotely. If a hacker accesses your work device, he may even attack the whole company that you work in. A VPN helps you prevent the trouble and consequences of such cyberthreats.

These are only several reasons for using a VPN for public wifi. Some people may use it for streaming, scoring better deals at online shops, or other reasons.

The best VPNs for public wifi – our detailed list:

The VPN market is simply flooded with providers, making it much harder to choose the right one for you. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of the best VPN providers for public wifi in terms of security, speed, privacy, and more.

1. NordVPN – best overall VPN for public wifi

NordVPN banner
Based in:Panama
Severs/countries+5500 servers in 59 countries
Compatible with:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Current deal:🔥 Get NordVPN with 68% OFF + 3 months FREE 🔥

NordVPN is one of the best VPNs to use with public wifi because it offers excellent security and a variety of features. It uses one of the strongest encryptions on the market – AES-256 – which makes your data unreadable for prying eyes.

On top of that, there’s a reliable kill switch which shuts down your Internet connection if your VPN connection drops. As an extra security layer, you can make use of the threat protection feature which blocks malicious websites, ads, trackers, and dangerous files.

Also, it’s headquartered in a privacy-friendly location (Panama) and has a strict no-logs policy. Therefore, it’s a trustworthy provider.

When using this VPN, you’re not likely to experience visible speed drops while doing your daily activities – its NordLynx protocol creates the best combination of speed and security.

It’s also worth mentioning that NordVPN offers 6 simultaneous connections – you’ll be able to protect all of your devices at once.

If you have an Android, you can claim NordVPN’s 7-day free trial. If not, you can still make use of the 30-day money-back guarantee without instantly committing to a long-term subscription. Considering what the provider offers, you get great value for your money, with prices starting from $3.09/month.

If you want to learn more, you can read our in-depth NordVPN review.

2. Surfshark – speedy VPN for public wifi

Surfshark banner
Based in:The Netherlands
Severs/countries+3200 servers in 99 countries
Compatible with:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Current deal:🔥 Get 82% OFF Surfshark + 2 months FREE 🔥

Surfshark is highly competitive as a VPN for public wifi because of its amazing security and great bang for the buck. For only $2.30/month, you get yourself a first-rate VPN service with the unbreakable AES-256 encryption.

As for features, you can make use of a kill switch that helps prevent accidental information leaks. And for extra protection from different types of malware, you can get the Surfshark antivirus that comes with the One bundle.

The VPN is based in the Netherlands, which isn’t not the best location for a VPN. However, considering Surfshark has a no-logs policy that was independently audited twice, your information is in safe hands.

One of the reasons why Surfshark stands out is because it’s one of the fastest VPNs out there. It offers a few tunneling protocols, including one of the fastest on the market – WireGuard.

If your whole family tends to use public wifi, Surfshark is a top-notch solution as it offers unlimited simultaneous connections.

It’s worth mentioning that Android or iOS users can claim Surfshark’s free 7-day trial. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind, so feel free to try the service out yourself.

To learn more about this provider, check out our full Surfshark review.

3. IPVanish – wallet-friendly VPN for public wifi

IPVanish banner
Based in:The United States
Severs/countries+2000 servers in 50 countries
Compatible with:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Current deal:🔥 Get up to 69% OFF IPVanish + Antivirus 🔥

Another provider that offers great security while using public wifi and is soft on your wallet is IPVanish. Just like most top providers, it uses the AES-256 encryption which is a great combo of speed and security.

IPVanish has quite a few features to offer, including traffic obfuscation which hides the fact that you’re using a VPN. You also get a free SOCKS5 proxy which hides your IP address and a kill switch which lets you block LAN access to shut the device off from the local network devices.

The downside of IPVanish is that it’s based in the US which isn’t privacy-concerned and belongs to the 5-Eyes alliance. However, the provider promises to not store or sell your data with its audited no-logging policy.

As for speed, IPVanish didn’t have good results until it implemented the WireGuard protocol. Now, it’s one of the speediest VPN providers that we’ve tested.

You can get one IPVanish subscription and share it with your whole family or a few friends because it offers unlimited simultaneous connections.

Because of that, IPVanish is a great deal money-wise, with prices starting from $3.33/month. Although the provider doesn’t offer a free trial, you can still get a 30-day money-back guarantee which is basically a great workaround.

To find out more, you can read our in-depth IPVanish review.

4. PrivateVPN – solid VPN for public wifi

PrivateVPN banner
Based in:Sweden
Severs/countries+200 servers in 63 countries
Compatible with:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Current deal:🔥 Get PrivateVPN, now 85% OFF! 🔥

PrivateVPN is a solid choice for connecting to public wifi that doesn’t fall far behind market leaders. It’s another provider that includes the military-grade AES-256 encryption, which is also customizable.

PrivateVPN offers support for SOCKS5 proxies and includes the Stealth VPN feature. The latter lets you bypass geo-restrictions, meaning you can even use it in China. As for the kill switch, none of the connections leaked during our tests.

The provider is based in Sweden which belongs to the 14-Eyes surveillance alliance and enforces data retention laws. Yet, the provider promises to keep no logs, except for your email address and payment information. However, you can bypass that by paying with crypto.

One disadvantage that PrivateVPN has is the lack of the WireGuard protocol. It only offers the UDP and TCP variants of OpenVPN, resulting in mediocre speeds.

On the bright side, you do get 6 simultaneous connections, meaning you can protect all of your devices.

If you’re not sure whether this provider is the one for you, you can opt for its free 7-day trial. After that, you also get a 30-day money-back guarantee. The cheapest subscription is $2.00/month, which is on the more affordable side.

If you wish to learn more, you can check out our PrivateVPN review.

5. Norton Secure VPN – all-round security for public wifi

norton vpn banner
Based in:The United States
Severs/countries+1000 servers in 30 countries
Compatible with:Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Current deal:🔥Get up to 40% OFF NortonVPN! 🔥

Although more known for its antivirus suites, Norton Secure VPN is a great tool for fundamental security. It includes the market-standard AES-256 encryption, ensuring top-notch data protection.

Norton Secure VPN offers a wifi security feature for mobile users, both Android and iOS, which automatically connects you to a VPN when there’s an insecure network detected. Windows and Android users also get a system-wide kill switch.

Although the headquarters of Norton Secure VPN are in the US, the only information the provider does collect is customer information for communication purposes. This includes the kind of device you use and bandwidth usage.

What Norton Secure VPN is missing is the WireGuard protocol. Windows and Android users get the OpenVPN protocol, while Apple users get L2TP/IPSec. However, during our tests, the speeds of Norton Secure VPN depended on how far the server is. So, if you connect to the nearest server, your speeds are going to be solid.

Just like most reputable VPN providers, Norton Secure VPN provides you with multiple simultaneous connections. You’ll get to secure 10 devices, whether they’re yours or your family’s as well.

Norton Secure VPN subscriptions start from $2.50/month. However, if you purchase the VPN with the Norton 360 antivirus suite, you’ll get a free 7-day trial. Also, the annual VPN tier includes a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.

To find all features, you can read our Norton Secure VPN review.

How we selected and tested these VPNs

Considering how wide the VPN market is, selecting the best VPNs for public wifi is not that easy. One thing is clear – the top priority is security. Having that in mind, here are all of the things we kept in mind when choosing these VPNs:

  1. Encryption. A VPN encryption is responsible for making your data unreadable for hackers and third parties. That’s why we only chose providers that offer first-rate and unbreakable AES encryption.
  2. Security features. A VPN’s security also depends on what additional features it offers. For instance, a kill switch is a necessity because it protects you even if the VPN connection drops. Other beneficial security features include traffic obfuscation or threat detection.
  3. No-logs policy. We only picked out reputable VPNs that promise to keep no logs. You can be sure that your data won’t be shared with or sold to a single soul.
  4. Speed. It’s not sensible to compromise speed for security. You don’t want a service that visibly affects the speed of your device and disturbs your work, so we chose providers that offer solid speeds.
  5. Supported platforms. Nowadays, it’s rare for people to have one device only. We made sure that the providers we recommend support at least four major platforms – Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
  6. Simultaneous connections. When investing in a service long term, you want to get you your money’s worth. We chose VPNs that let you protect multiple devices with a single subscription.

The risks of public wifi

Although what you’re doing online might be completely harmless and something you do every day, doing it when connected to public wifi can become a gamble. Here are some of the risks that come with using public networks:

  • Your information can be stolen. If a cybercriminal intervenes between you and the service or website, they might be able to read and even steal sensitive information.
  • An attacker can infiltrate malware. Hackers can find device vulnerabilities and use them to distribute malware on a public network.
  • An attacker can hack the whole business. If you tend to work at public spaces, using public wifi can result in a company-wide attack.
  • You can be redirected to untrusted websites. Hackers may redirect you to websites that don’t have secure protocols in order to trick you into giving up your sensitive information.

How does a VPN protect you on public wifi?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) protects you on public wifi by encrypting your data. To put it simply, all of your activities and information are going through an encrypted tunnel which makes it all unreadable for third parties, including governments, ISPs, or cyber felons.

Also, a VPN hides your real IP address. This means that once you connect to a server, the IP address that others see is the one of that specific server. And if you get a VPN that lets you enable LAN invisibility, it’ll hide your device from being seen by others connected to the public network.

How to set up a VPN for a public wifi

One of the best parts about using a VPN is that you don’t need any technical knowledge to set it up. All you have to do is:

  1. Get a trustworthy VPN service that suits your needs. Our top suggestion is NordVPN, which is now 68% off!
  2. Download the app and follow the installation instructions.
  3. Open the app.
  4. If you wish to connect to the fastest server, you should press “Quick connect” or a similarly named button. To connect to a server in a specific country, just find the country list and click on the location you want.
nordvpn quick connect button

That’s it! You’re now connected to a VPN and can enjoy your secure browsing experience.

Tips for staying safe on public wifi networks

A VPN alone is not always going to protect you on public wifi networks, especially if you’re not aware about the possible threats. So, here are some tips to make sure you’re protected from all corners:

  • Disable auto-connect. Make sure your devices don’t connect to public wifi automatically because you can never be sure when a hacker can place themselves between you and the wifi connection.
  • Avoid typing sensitive information. Because public wifi typically has weak security, your sensitive information, such as passwords or banking details, may be accessed by hackers.
  • Visit secure websites only. Hackers can redirect you to a different website, so make sure you only visit websites with secure protocols (HTTPS).
  • Beware of shoulder surfing. When in a public space, be aware of your surroundings. Some cybercriminals might try to peek at your devices when you’re typing sensitive information.
  • Practice good password hygiene. The harder your passwords are, the more difficult it is for hackers to get them. So, it's good practice to use a strong password generator. While using different login credentials on every website is virtually impossible to remember, a password manager is a must on public wifi.
  • Enable two-factor authentication. This makes it harder for cybercriminals to access your accounts – if they don’t have a way to authenticate themselves, they’re not getting in.
  • Set the wifi network to “Public”. In order for other devices to not see you connected to the public network, you have to set it to “Public”. On Windows, you can even use the “disable device discoverability” feature.

Can I use a free VPN for public wifi?

Technically, yes, you can use a free VPN for public wifi. However, it’s not recommended because most free VPN providers have certain limitations. Some of them include:

  • Speed. Because free VPN services are, well… free, they’re often overloaded. This often negatively affects the speed of your device.
  • Servers. While paid VPNs usually have tons of servers to choose from, the free ones typically provide a very limited number of locations.
  • Data limit. With free VPNs, you only get a set amount of gigabytes per month. If you use it all up, you’ll be blocked from using a VPN until the following month.
  • Number of devices. One account usually lets you connect to a VPN on one device. If you secure your laptop and will also want to protect your mobile phone, you’ll have to create another account.

These are only a few disadvantages that free VPNs have. It’s known that some untrustworthy free VPN providers may even sell your data to third parties. Therefore, if you still wish to use a free VPN, make sure you find a reputable one, such as Atlas VPN.


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