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Best VPNs for Wi-Fi Hotspots in 2022 | How to stay secure on public Wi-Fi

If you're out and about in your hometown, or abroad, it's highly likely that you'll have access to public Wi-Fi networks to get online. However, public networks often come with risks to your data and privacy. In this article, we'll show you the best VPNs to use on public Wi-Fi hotspots.

 

What are the best VPNs for Wi-Fi hotspots?

Here's a sneak peek at the best VPNs for Wi-Fi, if you're in a rush. However, if you would like more information, check out our in-depth analysis.

  1. ExpressVPN - The best VPN for public Wi-Fi hotspots. You get blazing speeds and excellent privacy, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. NordVPN - The best buy VPN for public Wi-Fi. A well-known service with slick apps for all OS and comprehensive security features. It's super fast too.
  3. PrivateVPN - A beginner-friendly VPN for public Wi-Fi. It can beat the toughest content blocks and offers superb privacy features, at a cheap price.
  4. Surfshark - An all-around VPN for public Wi-Fi. It's great for security and bypassing ISP throttling, it's fast, and won't break the bank.
  5. Ivacy - The cheapest VPN for public Wi-Fi on our list. For a little over a $1, you get a very capable VPN for browsing the web in privacy from anywhere.

There are hundreds of VPNs on the market and knowing which one to choose can be daunting. It is for that reason that we have put together a list of the best VPNs for public Wi-Fi hotspots in 2022.

The best VPN for public Wi-Fi | In-depth analysis

Here you can learn more about the best VPNs for public Wi-Fi.

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for public Wi-Fi hotspots. It provides strong privacy and security through excellent features and robust encryption; a 30-day money-back guarantee.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    • 12 months + 3 months FREE + Backblaze backup: $6.67/mth
      49% OFF
    • 6 months: $9.99/mth
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • Super fast - great for streaming!
    • Unlimited downloading
    • Exceptional privacy features
    • Very secure 256-bit encryption
    • Audited no-logs service
  • Cons

    • Expensive, but you get top-notch online security
    • BVI jurisdiction is not ideal
    • Currently lacks port forwarding
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

ExpressVPN Demo

ExpressVPN Demo ExpressVPN Demo


ExpressVPN is the best VPN for public Wi-Fi for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides OpenVPN encryption implemented to a very high standard. That means it will stop anybody from hacking you while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. In addition, it has DNS leak protection and a kill-switch (which guarantees that the VPN doesn’t leave you exposed to cybercriminals on the public network if it drops out for a moment).


ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries and those servers are all lightning-fast. That means you will be able to stream in HD if you want. It also means you will be able to unblock content from around the world, or access geo-restricted accounts when you are overseas traveling. It can be downloaded for all popular platforms and can be used on three simultaneous devices. In addition, ExpressVPN keeps no usage logs, which means that even at home, the VPN will keep your data safe from the prying eyes of ISPs and the government.


Finally, customer care is 24/7, incredibly helpful and will support you quickly and easily with any problems you might have. The provider also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for you to make sure the VPN works well for you.

NordVPN is the best buy VPN for public Wi-Fi hotspots. It boasts superb OpenVPN encryption, and even obfuscated servers, as well as access to streaming sites and sleek apps.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    • 24 months + 3 months FREE: $3.69/mth
      70% OFF
    • 12 months: $4.99/mth
      59% OFF
    • 1 month: $11.99/mth
  • Pros

    • Blocks ads and trackers, so you can browse with peace of mind
    • Strong OpenVPN encryption
    • Audited zero-logs service
    • Apps for desktop and mobile devices
  • Cons

    • No port-forwarding, not ideal for torrenters
    • Not as many locations as ExpressVPN
    • Only 6 simultaneous connections
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

Nord Demo

Nord Demo Nord Demo


Nobody wants hackers or nosey ISPs tracking the things they do online – especially when they're relying on public Wi-Fi hotspots. Fortunately, NordVPN puts a stop to this with well-implemented OpenVPN encryption and a variety of privacy features.


Users can check out an automatic kill-switch that'll prevent their original IP from leaking in the event of a VPN dropout; and a huge network of servers dotted across 60 countries worldwide, so no site, streaming service, or gaming lobby is beyond reach. I particularly like that NordVPN has a selection of servers optimized for P2P activity, as well as obfuscated servers.


Plus, NordVPN's apps are incredibly easy to use and are compatible with just about every platform you can imagine. It's easy to select a server using its sleek UI, and mobile users should take advantage of the handy "Quick Connect" feature that'll automatically match them with a speedy, secure server in the blink of an eye – making it even easier to avoid cybercriminals taking advantage of weak hotspot connections! You can try NordVPN for yourself thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee, and put all of its features to the test in your own time.

PrivateVPN is an easy-to-use VPN for public Wi-Fi. Easily navigates even the toughest content blocks and keeps your privacy secure with a zero logs policy – without spending a fortune.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    • 36 months: $2/mth
      84% OFF
    • 3 months: $6/mth
      50% OFF
    • 1 month: $9.99/mth
      17% OFF
  • Pros

    • Beginner-friendly service with great apps for all platforms
    • SmartDNS functionality on every server
    • Strong OpenVPN encryption
  • Cons

    • Smaller pool of servers compared to its competitors
    • Slower than ExpressVPN
    • Not audited (yet)
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

PrivateVPN Demo

PrivateVPN Demo PrivateVPN Demo


PrivateVPN is a service based in Sweden that is a favorite among consumers worldwide. The VPN is incredibly good value for money considering the level of service it provides. In terms of privacy it has a zero logs policy, which ensures that they never have any information about what you do online.


The apps are available for all platforms and they implement military-grade OpenVPN encryption to ensure that your ISP and the government can never snoop on your web history. PrivateVPN is low-cost, but it does not scrimp on features. The VPN has a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and stealth for concealing VPN use and bypassing firewalls. Plus, this VPN can unblock more Netflix catalogs than another service (as well as iPlayer, and any other streaming service you might want.


With PrivateVPN you never have to worry about hackers on public Wi-Fi, and your privacy is assured, regardless of your Wi-Fi hotspot provider intentions. Test this amazing VPN thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.

SurfShark is a great all-around VPN to use on public Wi-Fi. This robust VPN combines great security, with blazing speeds, and unlimited simultaneous connections.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    • 24 months + 2 months FREE: $2.3/mth
      83% OFF
    • 12 months: $3.99/mth
      70% OFF
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • Advanced features like multi hop and split tunneling
    • Lightning-fast, perfect for data-intensive tasks
    • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Cons

    • A relatively new provider on the VPN scene
    • One month price is not the cheapest
    • No port forwarding, not ideal for torrenting
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

Surfshark Demo

Surfshark Demo Surfshark Demo


Surfshark is a VPN based in the British Virgin Islands that is extremely well-liked by subscribers. The VPN allows an unlimited number of subscribers to use the VPN with a single subscription, which means you can install it on all your devices and use it on the go. This makes it the perfect VPN for families who need to use the VPN both at home and while out of the house.


With Surfshark, you get access to servers in over 65 countries around the world, and those servers are fast for streaming. And, unlike many VPNs, this service will unblock sought-after services such as Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime.


To ensure that your data is secure, this VPN provides industry-standard OpenVPN encryption, and it has all the best VPN security features such as a kill-switch and obfuscated servers. That means you can unblock content while also concealing the fact that a VPN is in use. Finally, you can test this VPN thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.

Ivacy is the cheapest VPN for Wi-Fi hotspots on our list. For a little over $1, you get a solid VPN service, loaded with privacy features and fast enough for streaming.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    • 60 months: $1.19/mth
      89% OFF
    • 12 months: $3.99/mth
      60% OFF
    • 1 month: $9.95/mth
  • Pros

    • Allow 10 simultaneous connections
    • Among the fastest VPNs we test
    • Strong OpenVPN encryption
  • Cons

    • Lack some features compared to ExpressVPN
    • Not very privacy-friendly jurisdiction
    • Speeds can vary
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

Ivacy Demo

Ivacy Demo Ivacy Demo


Ivacy VPN is an excellent service that is well suited to protecting your data on public Wi-Fi. The VPN is based in Singapore, a location that is out of reach of invasive jurisdictions such as the US and the UK. In addition, Ivacy provides watertight privacy policies and security features for protecting your data. 


Thanks to strong OpenVPN encryption, this VPN will protect your data from hackers while on public Wi-Fi and it will stop ISPs and local network administrators from tracking what you do online. Ivacy permits its subscribers to install the VPN on up to 5 devices - meaning that you can protect all your individual tablets, phones, and laptops on public Wi-Fi.


And, because it is great value for money, you can try it out without breaking the bank. Test it now using its 30-day money-back guarantee.

Tips on staying secure on Wi-Fi

If you want some tips on how to stay secure on public Wi-Fi or at home, check out our ultimate Wi-Fi privacy guide.

Which is the fastest VPN for public Wi-Fi?

Depending on what you want to do when connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, speed may be important to you. For example, if you want to stream, then you will require a fast VPN to avoid any frustrating buffering. To help you understand what sort of speeds you can expect from our VPN recommendations, we run regular speed tests on them and display the results in the table below.

ExpressVPN NordVPN PrivateVPN
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 60.3 85.9 55.5
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 565.7 568.0 663

Unblock content on Wi-Fi hotspots

Some Wi-Fi hotspots restrict the websites that you are able to visit. For example, streaming services use up a lot of bandwidth and so these websites are restricted in order to keep costs down. With a VPN, you can unblock websites on Wi-Fi hotspots, so you can access your favorite sites from work, school, a café, airports, etc.

Why do I need a VPN for Wi-Fi?

These days, public Wi-Fi is widespread, providing internet access wherever you go. But, for all its convenience, this extended connectivity comes with risks. 

To ensure privacy

When you use public Wi-Fi, the Wi-Fi provider can track all the websites that you visit. Those Wi-Fi hotspots often create profiles of their customers, meaning that if you have rented a room in a hotel and use the public Wi-Fi, they will know every single website you visit.

If you want to ensure that you have privacy while accessing the internet, you need to use a VPN. A VPN encrypts all your data so that the Wi-Fi hotspot cannot track your browsing habits and sell your data to its partners and affiliates.

To overcome the limitations of public services

Besides this, sometimes public Wi-Fi owners block websites on their network to preserve bandwidth, stopping users from accessing data-intensive services like streaming sites.

Fortunately, using a VPN on public Wi-Fi networks protects your data while bypassing ISP throttling and, as a result, enables you to keep up with demanding tasks – like streaming in HD.

To stay safe

A lot of public Wi-Fi networks lack basic security measures, making them a target for hackers looking to steal your personal data. VPNs provide encryption and allow anybody to join a hotel, coffee shop, or any other public network without the risk of being hacked.

However, a VPN's encryption allows you to safely access services like your bank account without worrying about exploits – including the likes of KRACK. You'll be able to shop securely online too, thanks to this comprehensive encryption that deters even the most opportunistic hackers.

To find out more, visit our beginner's guide to VPNs and our ultimate guide to online privacy.

Staying secure on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Using a VPN to stay secure on public Wi-Fi hotspots is the best way to stop hackers and Wi-Fi network providers from snooping on you and potentially stealing your data. However, there are also some general precautions you can take for staying secure on Wi-Fi networks:

Set Network Sharing Options to Off

The very first thing you can do is revoke your PC's network sharing privileges. To do this in Windows, go to your Control Panel and navigate to:

Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center > Change Advanced Sharing Settings.

Now turn off file and printer sharing and turn off network discovery and public folder sharing.

On a Mac go to:

System Preferences > Sharing and un-tick all the boxes.

In addition, turn off network discovery. This will stop your PC from too easily being penetrated on a public network (if you have those settings on, you are literally inviting other users to go through your laptop).

Turn on Your Firewall

The next thing to do if you are regularly using public Wi-Fi networks is to turn on your firewall (if it isn't already on). It will stop people from poking around on your computer on any local network. This is important for usage at home as well as on public Wi-Fi if you live in shared accommodation (for example).

On a Windows system, go to:

Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Firewall.

On a Mac go to:

System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall.

You can also custom set particular programs to be allowed through the firewall in Advanced. Remember: a firewall won't protect you from everything, but it is a helpful start.

Use HTTPS Websites and SSL Whenever Possible

If you are using websites on public Wi-Fi (in a coffee shop, for example) then you must use HTTPS to be safe. Most websites these days do automatically load as HTTPS. You are advised, however, to keep your eyes on your navigation bar to ensure you are visiting HTTPS sites. Also, look for the little padlock on the left-hand side. If, for any reason, the padlock isn't closed, leave the website at once and leave what you were doing until you are on a more secure network. If you use a software email client (like Apple Mail or Outlook), you should also set it to SSL – do this in Advanced Settings.

Using a VPN on public Wi-Fi hotspots

Now that you have done the basics to keep yourself safe, let's look at why it is important to use a VPN.

Sadly, even if you have taken the steps above, using public Wi-Fi can still leave you open to attacks. Hackers know all the tricks and if you are on a public Wi-Fi network, a number of things can put you at risk.

Some sites and programs simply don't have SSL encryption, and you may want to use HTTP sites that don't have an HTTPS option (do check, because sometimes they have an HTTPS option – even though the HTTP loads up by default). In those cases, you will want to use a VPN to encrypt your traffic.

Hacking Methods

Below, we take a closer look at some of the more common methods used by hackers to access your personal data or scam you on Wi-Fi hotspots.

Cloning Wi-Fi networks

Some hackers go to coffee shops, hotels or airports and set up a clone network that appears to be the real Wi-Fi. If you connect to their fake network, the hacker will potentially be able to steal your data. Often, the real Wi-Fi may need a password or require you to give some details (like an email address or phone number to receive an SMS). A clone will usually let you on without verification. With a quality VPN's strong encryption, you are even safe to log on to a hacker's cloned network – because your data is encrypted, the hacker can't 'sniff' your traffic; if you accidentally visit an HTTP site.

POP3 snooping

POP3 snooping allows hackers to access users' email details when they sync to POP3 servers.

Fake fees

Some hackers may attempt to make people pay for their publicly available Wi-Fi network – stealing their card details in the process.

Physical exploits

Physical exploits can allow hackers to attack outdated routers using the KRACK vulnerability. Again, this could potentially allow the hacker to intercept and steal your data. 

Encryption Protocols

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to get a VPN for Wi-Fi hotspots. Sadly, however, not every VPN will do. There are nearing a thousand different VPN providers nowadays, and the vast majority provide outdated or poorly implemented encryption protocols. 

The PPTP protocol, for example, must be avoided as it is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. That is why all the VPNs we have recommended provide strong OpenVPN encryption at high implementation levels, to keep you fully secured on both public and private Wi-Fi. 

If possible, we advise 256-bit or higher encryption, but in fairness that is very, very strong encryption, and even 128-bit OpenVPN will protect you from eavesdroppers.

If you would like to know more, check out our ultimate guide to VPN encryption, to help pick the right protocol for you.

Use a VPN to access more content

A VPN will allow you to unblock geo-restricted content from around the world. Have you ever experienced a 'not available in the country where you reside' notification? With a VPN, you can simply 'spoof' your location to one overseas and unblock that content. 

To learn more about unblocking content, check out our best VPNs for Netflix or best VPNs for iPlayer guides.

In addition, a VPN will protect you against governments' overreaching data retention laws. VPNs encrypt all user-created web traffic, which means that ISPs cannot retain web browsing histories on behalf of the government. This is a hugely important factor, and with the Edward Snowden revelations proving that governments secretly snoop on citizens' internet traffic, using a VPN in 2022 is advisable all the time - not just on public Wi-Fi networks. 

Final thoughts

With Wi-Fi hotspot administrators snooping on your traffic, creating databases using your information, and potentially selling it on, it's easy to see why public Wi-Fi can be a huge privacy concern. Thankfully, VPNs protect you from all prying eyes.

The VPNs we have recommended come out on top because they provide excellent OpenVPN encryption, have fast servers located all over the world, and are dedicated to anonymity. 

These VPNs are ideal for doing everything you would normally do without prying eyes. We are confident there is a VPN for public Wi-Fi networks in this article for everyone, no matter what your circumstances might be.

Now that we have covered everything you need to know about using a VPN to stay safe on public Wi-Fi, let's review our top VPN picks.

  1. ExpressVPN - The best VPN for public Wi-Fi hotspots. You get blazing speeds and excellent privacy, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. NordVPN - The best buy VPN for public Wi-Fi. A well-known service with slick apps for all OS and comprehensive security features. It's super fast too.
  3. PrivateVPN - A beginner-friendly VPN for public Wi-Fi. It can beat the toughest content blocks and offers superb privacy features, at a cheap price.
  4. Surfshark - An all-around VPN for public Wi-Fi. It's great for security and bypassing ISP throttling, it's fast, and won't break the bank.
  5. Ivacy - The cheapest VPN for public Wi-Fi on our list. For a little over a $1, you get a very capable VPN for browsing the web in privacy from anywhere.

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

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