10 Public Places to Go for Free WiFi

Looking for WiFi alternatives to those trendy bistros you’ve been working from? As conventional hotspots become more and more crowded, resulting in some cases with additional charges and/or restrictions on internet access, it’s useful to have other options at your disposal. Luckily, there’s a growing list of just such places, and several means of finding them.

Here’s a look at 10 public places where you can get online for free:

  1. Bookstores – Retail book chains such as Barnes and Noble, in a move designed to increase traffic and sell more books, have become a great alternative to the usual coffee shop routine. In addition to free WiFi, there’s the added benefit of not having to worry about tying up a table for too long, or making a minimum purchase to justify your stay. Plus, there are all those books to help you with your research.
  2. Public Parks – Let’s face it, one of the reasons you’re lugging that laptop around is to get a change of scenery. Working from home is a terrific perk, but some fresh air can be a fabulous balm for boredom and the routine. You may not be able to plug into AC, but this option, after all, is about recharging your battery.
  3. Public Libraries – Most public libraries are now offering free WiFi access. With no membership required (provided you’re connecting with your own device), and no time limits enforced, this is a great option for getting some work done in a quiet, relaxed environment.
  4. Local Colleges/Universities – On-campus sites such as the library, courtyards, quads and study lounges are also excellent alternatives for free, and stress-free, Wifi access.
  5. Airports – WiFi access can range anywhere from the entire airport to certain areas such as the terminal, lounges or baggage claim/waiting areas.
  6. Hotels/Motels – A number of hotel and motel chains such as Holiday Inn, Best Western, EconoLodge and Doubletree provide free WiFi for guests in common areas such as lobbies, restaurants and lounges.
  7. Highway Rest Stops - Working on the road can mean long spells without web access. Here’s an option for you road warriors, when you’re between that last client and your next hotel room. Many roadside facilities are being equipped with free WiFi, just for you. Isn’t life grand?
  8. Public Transportation – Some large municipalities are wiring their buses and trains for commuter WiFi access. For the non-commuter looking for a stationary hook-up, a good number of bus and train terminals also have hotspots.
  9. Best Buy – It’s not exactly an ideal choice for the casual surfer, but Best Buy does provide a means for sampling the goods before making a purchase, or for browsing the web while your partner browses the merchandise.
  10. Laundromats – No longer relegated to just watching the clothes go round and round or reading a book, you can now bring along the laptop or break out that smart phone for some online productivity, and get the most out of laundry day.

Granted, not all of these options are likely to be available to you locally. Fortunately for you, dear roving browser, there are some handy tools available for finding out which ones are:

Wifi Hotspot List- this self-described “Definitive WiFi HotSpot Directory” allows you to input a street address to find local hotspots within a 1- to 10-mile radius, and includes a means to add any that you’ve discovered on your own.

WaiFi – With a stylish look and interactive Google-powered map, this site lets you type in a country or city, then flags nearby hotspots with WaiFi markers. There’s an additional feature (which at present does not work with Firefox) that allows you to drag a marker across the map to add a hotspot to the WaiFi directory.

JiWire – Boasting a directory of hotspots in 144 countries, JiWire has a clickable map for navigating through them in search of WiFi hotspots, and offers an app for iPhone users.