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Lots of places in today’s world are offering free wifi to attract customers. Public wifi channels are offered by pretty much any business, as well as many other public areas and institutions. While the spread of public wifi has definitely afforded more than a few conveniences, there are some risks that come along with it as well.
Using wifi in public places without any protection can expose your device and traffic to a myriad of dangers. Besides being compromised by a malicious hacker, your device can become infected with malware or spyware. In order to protect yourself against the majority of these dangers, it is important to take some precautions, such as finding the best VPN for public wifi.
Some VPNs are better than others
When it comes to deciding which VPN is the best for protecting ourselves on public wifi, there are a few key points to consider. The first is encryption. The best VPNs for public wifi will use strong encryption (such as AES-256) and secure protocols like OpenVPN or IKEv2 to protect your device and traffic.
Another important thing to consider is the actual features of the VPN. Things like an effective kill switch and multiple device support are good to have. This factor tends to vary between free and paid plans.
The legal considerations deal mostly with the laws in the country where the VPN operates. If your VPN operates in a country that has strict laws about VPNs, or data logging for surveillance purposes, this is a red flag in terms of security. Good jurisdictions for VPN services are countries with minimal surveillance/data retention laws.
In terms of price, the consideration is obvious. Cheaper is better, as long as you get the same bang for your buck. Some VPN services offer free versions or trials, but these are generally not recommended due to their limited features and security.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the contenders for the best VPNs for public wifi.
No time to read? Here are our best VPNs:
The best VPN for public wifi
Budget-friendly and powerful
Cheapest VPN for public wifi
One of the fastest VPNs for public wifi
NordLynx, OpenVPN, IKEv2
24/7 live chat, Email
- Unbeatable in terms of security and privacy
- NordLynx protocol for the best speeds without sacrificing security
- 6 simultaneous connections
- No router app
This is a very well-known option that is very popular among VPN users in today’s market. NordVPN uses AES-256 bit encryption with the OpenVPN protocol. This combination is considered very secure. The company is based in Panama, which is a great jurisdiction for VPN services.
NordVPN has clients available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and other platforms. Up to six devices can be connected simultaneously. Their subscriptions start at $11.95 per month for the monthly plan, which drops down to $4.92 per month for a year’s subscription. The two year plan is $3.71 per month, and there’s also a 2 year plan for $3.71 per month.
Overall, NordVPN is a very well-known and trustworthy option for people willing to shell out a few bucks to keep themselves protected. Some other options might have special features or additional security compared to NordVPN, but it remains a very well-established and competitive option.
For a deeper investigation of NordVPN, read our NordVPN review.
2. Surfshark VPN
WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
24/7 live chat, FAQ
- Packed with solid security features
- Speedy connections
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Weak self-help support section
Surfshark VPN ends our Top VPNs for wifi list on a high note. For some users, this VPN might be just the one they’ve been looking for. It’s an up-and-coming service with some features that are unique to the industry, clearly setting Surfshark apart.
For starters, it has military-grade encryption and both OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. Surfshark is based in the Netherlands, a VPN-friendly territory even though the country is part of the Nine Eyes intelligence alliance. It also has a no-logs policy, no leaks, and a kill switch.
Surfshark’s server fleet can be compared to that of PrivateVPN – it’s not huge, but it’s growing and should provide above-average speeds in most cases. And if it doesn’t, you can always use your 30-day money-back guarantee. Finally, when it comes to paying, we suggest skipping the expensive monthly option and going for the bi-annual ($2.21/month) plan.
For a deeper investigation of Surfshark VPN, read our Surfshark VPN review.
OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP
24/7 live chat
- Great security features
- 7-day free trial
- macOS and iOS apps have fewer features
While Sweden is not the best country in terms of privacy, PrivateVPN certainly shouldn’t be looked over only because its located in a country that belongs to the 14 Eyes alliance. This service counters that with a strict no-logs policy, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, leak protection, and a kill switch.
Despite its smaller server fleet, PrivateVPN offers above-average speeds and decent global coverage. While there will be providers who offer better connectivity, that doesn’t mean that PrivateVPN doesn’t offer one that’s simply good enough.
The last argument for this service is the one that’s hard to counter. Yes, we’re talking about the prices. You can grab PrivateVPN for a month by spending only $8.99. But to save some serious money, we advise taking a look at the annual price of $2.50/month. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For a deeper investigation of PrivateVPN, read our PrivateVPN review.
WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
24/7 live chat
- Relatively fast connection speeds
- Free trial (Windows and Mac)
- Not the best option for veteran users
This is a great VPN solution designed to be easy to use, even for people that aren’t so tech-savvy. CyberGhost employs AES-256 encryption with OpenVPN, which is very secure as we discussed earlier. This program also includes a functional kill switch feature, which is important for killing your connection in case the VPN fails.
The company is based in Romania but operates out of the UK. The UK is a member country of the Five eyes Alliance, which is a red flag when it comes to VPN jurisdictions. Even still, the service offers good security and competent features while retaining an active focus on simplicity and usability.
The service starts at $12.99 for one month, with a money back guarantee. You can also pay $3.95 per month for a one-year subscription, or $2.15 per month for three years.
For a deeper investigation of CyberGhost, read our CyberGhost review.
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2
24/7 live chat, email
- Bulletproof security
- Super fast
- Apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, routers, Linux, and more
- Very expensive
ExpressVPN uses AES-256 bit encryption over OpenVPN. Although both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are limited in the protocols they offer, OpenVPN is considered to be very secure and effective.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is another good jurisdiction we mentioned earlier. The company itself isn’t very transparent about their corporate environment or their employees, but they do have a wide range of servers spread across a myriad of countries. This gives users a lot of freedom and control over where they connect from.
It’s hard to turn away from ExpressVPN’s stellar track record, high popularity, and low price. The service itself only costs about $8.32 per month for 12 months plan.
For a deeper investigation of ExpressVPN, read our ExpressVPN review.
Why use a VPN and how to choose the right one
Taking steps to protect yourself is key, but many people don’t even know the options at their disposal. Besides protecting yourself with mobile antivirus apps and similar software solutions, one of the best approaches is to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. VPN services use heavy encryption and secure protocols to tunnel your connection through special servers for added security and protection.
There are many different criteria that go into a good VPN service, and the market is basically overflowing with options promising the best security and the fastest service. While it can be easy to simply go for the cheapest or easiest option, taking the time to consciously consider the options at your disposal is key to safeguarding your devices on public wifi.
Julie is a firm believer in equal rights for everyone. She is a traveler and blogger, focusing her efforts on exposing censorship and discrimination around the world. She wants to hold corrupt governments and shady companies accountable by writing investigative articles and helpful guides.