Best VPNs for public wifi in 2023
Public wifi hotspots can often be lifesavers if you’re travelling or working in a coffee shop. However, public wifi networks often have poor security and attract malicious actors. Hackers may execute attacks to steal your data, create fake public networks, redirect you to fraudulent websites, or infect your device with malware.
To be safe on public wifi, you must use a VPN. It will encrypt your traffic by rerouting it through a secure tunnel, hide your IP address, and make any of your online activities invisible and inaccessible to any hacker.
But in a market full of VPNs that advertise themselves as being the best, which ones truly provide high-quality protection? We tested dozens of different VPN providers and looked at their encryption, security features, and tunneling protocols to ensure only the best protection. Below, we put together a list of the best VPNs for public wifi in 2023.
Best VPNs for wifi hotspots – our shortlist:
- NordVPN – best overall public wifi VPN
- Surfshark – fast VPN for public wifi
- IPVanish – affordable wifi hotspot VPN
- ExpressVPN – fast and secure VPN service
- CyberGhost – VPN wit the most servers
How does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi?
A VPN protects you and your data on public Wi-Fi by routing your online traffic through a secure VPN server, using secure encrypted protocols. That way, everything you do online is invisible to outsiders, and your real IP address is hidden – you get a new IP address every time you connect to a VPN server.
Enabling a kill switch is another extra security measure that you can take. If the secure VPN connection gets dropped for any reason, a kill switch will block your device’s access to the internet and thus prevent any data or IP leaks.
Since public networks at airports, cafes, or other public hotspots are often unsecured and not protected by passwords, they are a common hiding place for hackers. Any third party can see what you browse on a public network, and intercept your traffic to execute attacks or steal data. If you use a VPN, your connection is obscured and encrypted, and all personal information is safe.
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
|Severs/countries||5,800 servers in 60 countries|
|Compatible with:||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS|
|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 $3.19/month.
If you want to learn more, you can read our in-depth NordVPN review.
2. Surfshark – speedy VPN for public wifi
|Based in:||The Netherlands|
|Severs/countries||3,200 servers in 100 countries|
|Compatible with:||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS|
|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, 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.
3. IPVanish – wallet-friendly VPN for public wifi
|Based in:||United States|
|Severs/countries||2,200 servers in 52 countries|
|Compatible with:||Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get 75% OFF IPVanish! 🔥|
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 $2.99/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. ExpressVPN – VPN with a fast connection speed
|Based in:||British Virgin Islands|
|Servers/countries||3,000 servers in 94 countries|
|Compatible with:||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get ExpressVPN, now 49% OFF the 1-year plan! 🔥|
ExpressVPN stands as one of the most popular VPNs on the market, and, without a doubt, it ensures secure browsing while using public wifi. After all, it uses market-leading AES-256 encryption, which is a tough nut to crack.
But strong encryption is not all. Its functional kill switch protected our IP perfectly while testing, and the Threat Manager successfully blocked trackers and other malicious activities. Apart from those, you will also find split tunneling and obfuscated servers that mask your VPN connection.
Unfortunately, ExpressVPN belongs to Kape Technologies that are known for a dirty past related to users’ privacy. On the bright side, this VPN follows an audited no-logs policy and relies on RAM-only servers that ensure your data gets removed from the database after each system reboot.
Another good thing about ExpressVPN is its connection speed. Due to its in-house-built Lightway tunneling protocol, you receive blazing-fast connections!
It’s also a good option for those who want to secure more than only one device, as you can have up to 8 simultaneous connections.
This VPN offers a 7-day free trial for those who get the app from Google Play Store. However, a trial week doesn’t really soften the fact that ExpressVPN’s starting price is $6.67/month, which can be too much for most users. But a 30-day money-back guarantee can help you feel the service before committing to it.
5. CyberGhost – VPN with an extensive server fleet
|Servers/countries:||9,600 servers in 91 countries|
|Compatible with:||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get CyberGhost VPN, now 83% OFF + 2 months FREE 🔥|
CyberGhost is a great option for public wifi with a massive selection of 9,600 servers in 91 countries so that you can use it anywhere in the world. And if you’re facing VPN blocks, there are obfuscated servers that mask your VPN connection.
This VPN seems simple, but it offers everything you need. Starting from industry-leading encryption that makes your data unreadable. Its kill switch feature protects your IP address at all times, just like an ad blocker removes adware.
Speaking of security, privacy is also a crucial factor. Sadly, not everything is perfect here, as CyberGhost is owned by the same Kape Technologies as ExpressVPN. And yet, an audited zero-logs policy is a reliable enough aspect to trust this VPN.
Sever fleet isn’t the only thing that this VPN can brag about. The connection speed is also one of them. With an implemented WireGuard tunneling protocol, this VPN can deliver as fast a connection as our favorites – NordVPN and Surfshark – can.
CyberGhost has apps for all popular devices and allows up to 7 simultaneous connections, so it has you fully covered.
Finally, this VPN costs from as low as $2.19/month, has an extended 45-day money-back guarantee, and offers free trials with different lengths for desktop, Android, and iOS devices.
Check out our CyberGhost review to get to know more.
6. PrivateVPN – solid VPN for public wifi
|Severs/countries||+200 servers in 63 countries|
|Compatible with:||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|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 10 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.
7. Norton Secure VPN – all-round security for public wifi
|Based in:||United States|
|Severs/countries||+1,000 servers in 29 countries|
|Compatible with:||Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS|
|Current deal:||🔥Get up to 56% OFF Norton VPN! 🔥|
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 $1.67/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:
|Security features:||Kill switch, obfuscation, threat protection, IP leak prevention|
|No-logs policy:||Independently audited|
|Secure protocols:||WireGuard, NordLynx, Lightway|
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Using public wifi networks might seem harmless, however, there are some threats lurking in the dark that you might’ve been unaware of. Here are some of the most common risks of using public wifi:
- Password theft. Via public wifi, a hacker might install spyware to monitor your activities and record your keystrokes. That way, a threat actor can steal your passwords and other sensitive information even when you’re not connected to the internet.
- Malware infection. Using public network vulnerabilities, a hacker might gain access to your device and install all kinds of malware, including adware, spyware, ransomware, and others.
- Man-in-the-Middle attack. With this attack, a hacker intercepts or alters the communication between your device and the network server. They can also reroute your traffic through a fake website. This attack is most commonly used to get access to private information such as passwords and conversations.
- Evil Twin attack. With this method, a hacker might set up a fake wifi hotspot disguised as a legitimate network. Once a user is connected, the hacker can see and extract everything they do online, and steal passwords and other data.
- Ransomware attacks. Using MitM or Evil Twin attacks, a hacker might infect your device with ransomware. These attacks are very dangerous, since ransomware can lay dormant for a while, and only activate once you’re connected to a workplace network, for example.
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:
- Get a trustworthy VPN service that suits your needs. Our top suggestion is NordVPN, which is now 68% off!
- Download the app and follow the installation instructions
- Open the app
- Enable the kill switch from maximum security
- 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
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.
- Make sure you’re connecting to the right network to avoid getting caught in an Evil Twin attack.
- 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.
More VPN guides from Cybernews:
Which VPN is best for wifi?
The best VPN to use when connected to public wifi is NordVPN. That’s because it offers great security features, protection, and the best value for your money.
Is VPN needed for home wifi?
Yes, a VPN is recommended for the wifi at your home. That’s because no matter where you are connected, your information can be tracked by governments, advanced hackers, or even your Internet service provider (ISP). A VPN is good option for remote workers and also allows you to access geo-restricted content.
Is it safe to use public wifi with a VPN?
Yes, it’s much safer to use public wifi with a VPN than without it. A VPN makes your Internet traffic private by making it go through an encrypted tunnel that no third parties can take a peek at.
Does a VPN protect your sensitive information?
Yes, a VPN protects your sensitive data on public wifi networks by encrypting your traffic and making anything you do online invisible to third parties. A VPN, such as NordVPN, will also hide your real IP address, and a kill switch will prevent data leaks in case you lose a secure connection.
Is it safe to use airport wifi without a VPN?
No, using airport wifi or any public wifi without a VPN is not safe. You can fall victim to various attacks, such as Evil Twin, Man-in-the-Middle, and malware infections. You should always use a reliable and high-quality VPN such as with airport wifi, and enable the kill switch for extra security.
Where can I find public Wifi hotspots?
Public wifi hotspots are most common in places like airports, cafes, shopping malls, or any other places where there are a lot of people. You can also find public or guest wifi hotspots in some conference halls, schools, or museums. If you connect to a public wifi network, always use a secure VPN such as to protect your device and private data.
Can a public Wi-Fi provider see your browsing history?
Yes, a Wi-Fi network admin can always check router logs and see your activity online. However, this information does not appear on internet bills, for example. Nevertheless, you should always use a VPN like on public Wi-Fi to protect yourself from tracking and hackers.