Best VPNs for public wifi hotspots

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. When you use a VPN, you connect to the internet through one of the VPN’s servers. In doing so, your device’s traffic is encrypted, protecting you from some of the security threats coming from public wifi hotspots (more on these later!). Aside from being beneficial for your privacy, a VPN lets you unblock geo-restricted content including streaming services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

However, not all VPNs are created equal. Some are much faster than others, some have privacy flaws and others won’t work with your favorite streaming services.

In case you’re short of time, here’s a quick summary of the best VPNs for public wifi hotspots:

Best VPNs for Public Wifi Hotspots

  1. ExpressVPN: Strong security and excellent speed. Servers in 94 countries unblock most geo-restricted content including Netflix. Easy to use, 24/7 customer support and plenty of security features including encryption and a kill switch.
  2. NordVPN: Over 5,000 servers worldwide for unblocking Netflix, Skype and more. Easy VPN to use and 24/7 live chat support. Secure with encryption, a no logs policy and automatic VPN connection for wifi (Android).
  3. CyberGhost: Fast and reliable servers for streaming and video calling. Secure up to 7 devices simultaneously. Protects your privacy with encryption, a strict no-logs policy and wifi auto-protect feature.
  4. IPVanish: Secure up to 10 of your devices. Servers in 60 countries for unblocking geo-restricted content. Keeps zero traffic logs and secures your data with encryption.
  5. PrivateVPN: Fast VPN service for streaming and video calling. Easy to use apps and safe to use with encryption, a no-logs policy, and kill switch.

The best VPNs for public wifi hotspots are those that provide a high level of security while offering high-speed servers and easy to use apps. We’ve narrowed down the options and only selected the VPNs that offer the following:

  • Highest level of security with encryption.
  • Additional security such as DNS leak protection and kill switch.
  • No logs policy that protects your privacy.
  • Fast and reliable servers for browsing, streaming and video calling.
  • A network of servers in dozens of countries worldwide.
  • Customer support with a live chat feature.
  • User-friendly apps for desktop and mobile.

Best VPNs for public wifi hotspots

Here’s our list of the best VPNs for public wifi hotspots to protect your privacy:

1. ExpressVPN

Express VPNSep 2019

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for public wifi hotspots thanks to its combination of speed and security. Over 3,000 servers in 94 countries mean you’re unlikely to have a problem finding an appropriate server wherever you are. Whether browsing or streaming the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, ExpressVPN performs well. Unlimited bandwidth with no throttling is evident, and this secure VPN service even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

You may think that such a secure and fast VPN would be complicated for beginners to use, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. ExpressVPN offers very user-friendly apps and browser extensions. It’s easy to search for and select a server as well as adjust the various preferences. ExpressVPN comes with 24/7 customer support available via live chat as well as email. We’ve found them to be fast and efficient in answering queries.

Due to the risks involved with using public wifi hotspots, security is of the utmost importance. ExpressVPN’s security is as good as any VPN we’ve come across. It uses 256-bit AES encryption to protect your device’s traffic. Also offered is DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and split tunneling, all of which make it more difficult for your device and data to be compromised. Lastly, ExpressVPN doesn’t store any identifying logs of its users, ensuring the protection of your privacy.

ExpressVPN apps are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and routers. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also offered.

Pros:

  • Fast servers in 94 countries for browsing, streaming and video calling at public wifi hotspots
  • Keeps you safe when using public wifi with encryption and a kill switch
  • Unblocks most geo-restricted content including Netflix
  • Wide range of apps and browser extensions that are easy to use
  • Includes 24/7 live chat support
  • No identifying logs, protecting your privacy

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive than the other VPNs on this list

BEST VPN FOR PUBLIC WIFI HOTSPOTS:ExpressVPN is our #1 choice. It offers a combination of speed and security. Ideal for streaming and video calling at public wifi hotspots. Easy to use apps, 24/7 live chat support and highly secure with encryption, kill switch, and no logs. You can try it risk-free as it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

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2. NordVPN

NordVPN is the perfect VPN if you’re abroad for work or a holiday. It offers approximately 5,300 servers worldwide. Whether you’re connecting to a public wifi hotspot at your hotel or a local restaurant, there’s plenty of secure servers to choose from. This VPN is ideal for unblocking geo-restricted content, such as Netflix to catch up on your favorite TV show or Skype to keep in touch with family and friends.

We’ve found that NordVPN is very well designed. It’s quick and easy to use with a wide range of apps and browser extensions offered. Aside from 24/7 live chat support, you can use NordVPN on up to 6 devices simultaneously. NordVPN protects you from hackers and snoopers with the use of 256-bit AES encryption. As well as a strict no-logs policy, NordVPN offers DNS leak protection and a kill switch feature. NordVPN also has an automatic VPN connection for wifi feature, automatically connecting you to the VPN when you join a wifi network.

Choose NordVPN and you’ll have access to apps on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and Android TV. Also available are browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Routers require manual setup.

Pros:

  • Over 5,000 secure servers to choose from worldwide
  • Fast speeds for streaming Netflix and video calling on Skype
  • Automatic VPN connection for wifi, protecting you from hackers
  • Secure up to 6 devices simultaneously
  • Customer support available 24/7 via live chat

Cons:

  • No app available for routers

BEST FOR THE BUDGET:NordVPN has over 5,000 servers worldwide. Unblocks geo-restricted content including Netflix and Skype. Secure to use at public wifi hotspots thanks to encryption and a strict no logs policy. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full NordVPN review.

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3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a fast and reliable VPN service with strong security to boot. It has an ever-growing network of servers which stands at over 3,700 at the time of writing. CyberGhost offers unlimited bandwidth and traffic which is great whether you’re browsing, streaming or video calling using a public wifi hotspot. What’s more, you can use your CyberGhost account to secure up to 7 of your devices simultaneously.

We’re impressed by the level of security provided by CyberGhost. Firstly, this Romania-based VPN has a strict no-logs policy that ensures your personal information remains private. Further security features include 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection and a kill switch. As such, you’ll be able to use public wifi hotspots with reduced risk. CyberGhost has a wifi auto-protect feature, offering the option of automatically starting a VPN connection to protect you in the process.

CyberGhost’s apps are available for desktop (Windows and Mac), mobile (Android and iOS) as well as Amazon Fire Stick and Android TV. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available. Manual setup is required for Linux and routers.

Pros:

  • Servers are fast and reliable for streaming or video calling at public wifi hotspots
  • Wifi auto-protect feature ensures your VPN is on before you connect to public wifi
  • Over 3,700 servers for unblocking geo-restricted content worldwide
  • Secure up to 7 of your devices simultaneously
  • Strong overall security with encryption and a strict no-logs policy

Cons:

  • Some difficulties unblocking certain streaming services
  • Users have to follow manual setup for Linux and routers

EXCELLENT OVERALL SECURITY:CyberGhost keeps you secure when using public wifi hotspots. Offers encryption, a no logs policy and kill switch. Unblocks geo-restricted content for browsing, streaming and video calling. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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4. IPVanish

IPVanish is well worth considering if you or your family have a lot of internet-connected devices. The reason is that IPVanish lets you secure up to 10 devices simultaneously which is particularly important if you’re using public wifi with family and friends. This VPN service has a respectable network of over 1,200 servers which are located across 60 countries. As such, you should have no problem finding the right server for your needs and unblocking geo-restricted content.

Having tested out the various IPVanish apps we can say that they’re simple to use. You’ll find various options to customize your preferences while you can also search for servers via a map as well as by region and latency. Customer support is available should you encounter any issues. With zero traffic logs, IPVanish is a secure VPN to use and includes 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch and DNS leak protection. You’re also presented with various ‘On Demand’ options. This allows you to automatically connect to IPVanish, protecting from unsafe public wifi hotspots.

IPVanish apps are available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Fire TV. However, manual configuration is required in the case of Linux and routers.

Pros:

  • Great for families using public wifi as it allows up to 10 simultaneous connections
  • ‘On Demand’ security options let you auto connect to VPN, ensuring protection from public wifi
  • Apps are quick and easy to use for beginners
  • Protects you with encryption and a kill switch

Cons:

  • Headquartered in a Five Eyes country (USA)
  • Doesn’t offer any browser extensions

SECURE UP TO 10 DEVICES:IPVanish allows up to 10 simultaneous connections which is ideal for families using public wifi hotspots. Keeps zero traffic logs and uses encryption to secure your data. 7-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is a VPN service with fast servers for browsing and streaming. If you’re using a public wifi hotspot and want to stream Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or make video calls, PrivateVPN is as a good choice. Offering unlimited bandwidth and speed, you’re unlikely to see much buffering or lag. You can connect up to six devices simultaneously with PrivateVPN, allowing you to secure all of your devices from hackers.

What stands out about PrivateVPN is how user-friendly it is. We recommend this easy VPN for anyone as the apps are simple to navigate while selecting a server takes seconds. PrivateVPN is headquartered in Sweden and states that it doesn’t keep any traffic logs. Your privacy is also protected with 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection and a kill switch feature that ensures your internet traffic is cut should the VPN connection drop.

PrivateVPN apps are offered for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. If you want to use this VPN with Linux or a router, some manual configuration is needed.

Pros:

  • Fast servers for browsing and streaming on public wifi networks
  • Doesn’t keep any traffic logs
  • Security features such as encryption ensure you’re protected
  • Allows up to 6 simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • A smaller network of around 100 servers
  • A limited selection of apps with no browser extensions

UNINTERRUPTED STREAMING:PrivateVPN offers high speed servers for streaming and video calling. Offers user-friendly apps and keeps your connection on public wifi hotspots secure with encryption and a kill switch. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full PrivateVPN review.

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How to get a VPN for public wifi hotspots

We recommend you use a VPN not only for public wifi hotspots but for any time, anywhere to keep your information safe. Regardless of when and where you use a VPN, the process is always the same:

How to get a VPN for public wifi hotspots in four easy steps

  1. Find a secure VPN for use at public wifi hotspots – we recommend ExpressVPN.
  2. Download the app or browser extension of the VPN.
  3. Open the VPN app or browser extension and connect to a server.
  4. You’re now connected to the VPN and more secure as a result!

Are VPNs legal in my country?

The legality of VPNs varies by country. Thankfully, VPNs are legal in the vast majority of countries. Indeed, the only countries in which VPNs are illegal (or at the very least a grey area) are the following:

  • Belarus
  • China
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates

Why do I need a VPN for public wifi hotspots?

Whether you’re in your local cafe or in a hotel abroad, public wifi hotspots can be highly convenient. The problem is that public wifi hotspots can also be a threat to your privacy and are something of a hacker’s paradise. Unfortunately, many public wifi hotspots aren’t secure and are used for phishing your private information.

For example, Man in the Middle attacks (MITM) involve hackers positioning themselves between your device and a web server. This allows them to see what you’re doing online, from the websites you’re visiting, to the content of messages you’re sending. Needless to say, this can be highly detrimental to your privacy. In some cases, this results in the loss of your data and even identity theft.

By using a VPN, you can create a private tunnel between your device and the VPN server. Traffic is encrypted in the process, protecting you from snoopers such as your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the hotspot provider. The best VPNs for public wifi hotspots offer important security features such as encryption, protection from DNS leaks and a kill switch. There should also be a strict no-logs policy to protect your privacy.

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

Aside from using a VPN, there are a few things you can do to improve your online security when using public wifi hotspots:

  1. Double check the name of the network to which you’re connecting. Using a network with a similar name to a legitimate network is one of the tricks used by hackers.
  2. If possible, avoid using public wifi hotspots for tasks that require sensitive information such as online banking or making purchases with your credit card. The same goes for passwords – you’re better off using a good password manager to be safe.
  3. Make sure you connect to websites that use HTTPS and SSL. This makes your connection to the websites much more secure. You can easily see if a website uses HTTPS as it should display a closed padlock icon at the beginning of the address bar.
  4. Stick to secure networks that require a password where possible. Whether this is a cafe or a hotel, this is much safer than connecting to a public wifi hotspot that is completely open and without security.
  5. Disable the automatic wifi connection on your phone. Many smartphones automatically connect to nearby wifi networks to ensure you don’t go without internet. You can set your device to ask before connecting to a network.

Can I use a free VPN for public wifi hotspots?

We strongly recommend against the use of free VPNs for public wifi hotspots for the following reasons:

  • Free VPNs are not secure. Many free VPNs lack encryption, DNS leak protection and other important security features such as a kill switch. Without these, your online security isn’t any better than that of a person who isn’t using a VPN. As a result, you’ll be an easy target for hackers, particularly when connected to public wifi hotspots.
  • Free VPNs can’t be trusted. Very little is truly free and this is certainly the case with VPNs that claim to be free of charge. Free VPNs typically make money by logging your data and selling it to the highest bidder. Others make money from ads which may interrupt your browsing and streaming.
  • Free VPNs are slow. This can be a frustrating experience when you want to browse, stream, and video call. Due to the fact that many free VPNs have a lot of users and very few servers, the server load becomes too high and your bandwidth is restricted. This is not the case with the best VPNs for public wifi hotspots in this list.