Sometimes you need a free Wi-Fi connection but you do not have any cell reception and you do not have any Wi-Fi apps installed on your phone, so you can’t even download a Wi-Fi app to help you find a free hotspot. Since you do not have cell reception, tethering is of course also out of the question.
For a situation like that, your best bet is to go to a business establishment or a public place that is likely to offer free Wi-Fi. In this section, we will go over a list of such places.
Where Are Public Places with Free WiFi?
The most commonly used public places with free Wifi are chain restaurants such as Starbucks. You can also get free WiFi at retail stores like Target and Best Buy. If you are a student, most schools and libraries offer free WiFi as well.
Many chain stores offer free Wi-Fi at various speeds. The following table summarizes the information of the top 5 free Wi-Fi from chain stores.
|Starbucks||Apple Store||Taco Bell||Arby’s||Subway|
|Average Wi-Fi Speed||51.2 Mbps||20.8 Mbps||14.3 Mbps||12.2 Mbps||4.8 Mbps|
|Fast Enough for 4K Movie Streaming?||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Fast Enough for 1080p Movie Streaming?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Borderline|
|Fast Enough for Video Conferencing?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Starbucks – 51.2 Mbps
Starbucks is ubiquitous. It has more than 15,000 locations in the United States and more than 16,000 locations outside the US. It used to be the case that you needed to make a purchase before you could sit at a Starbucks.
That is no longer true. Since 2018 anyone can sit inside a Starbucks without buying anything. And best of all, the Wi-Fi speed at Starbucks averages a blazingly fast 51.2 Mbps, far faster than that at any other national chains.
To access free Wi-Fi at a Starbucks, just select the “Google Starbucks” Wi-Fi network, and when the Starbucks WiFi landing page loads, complete the fields, click “Accept & Connect,” and you are all set!
Dunkin’ Donuts – 1.7 Mbps
Dunkin’ Donuts has almost 10,000 stores in the United States and almost 13,000 locations worldwide. With that many locations, you have a good chance of finding a Dunkin’ Donuts no matter where you are. Dunkin’ Donuts offers free Wi-Fi at all of its locations.
You do not have to make a purchase to use the Wi-Fi there. To login to Dunkin’ Donuts Wi-Fi, just enter a random web address into your web browser. You will be re-directed to the Dunkin’ Donuts landing page.
You will need a DunkinNation, DunkinDonuts.com, or a DD Perks account ID to sign in. Once you are signed in, you will be free to use the Wi-Fi there.
Taco Bell – 14.3 Mbps
Taco Bell has almost 7,300 locations in the United States and about 300 locations outside the US. Just like with Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, you do not need to make any purchase in order to use the free Wi-Fi at Taco Bell.
The Wi-Fi connection speed at Taco Bell clocks in at over 14 Mbps on average. That is a very respectable speed and faster than that of most other national chains. If you need free Wi-Fi in a pinch, Taco Bell is a great choice.
Arby’s – 12.2 Mbps
Arby’s has more than 3,300 locations in the United States and about 100 locations in 6 other countries – Canada, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, and South Korea. While Arby’s is not as ubiquitous as some other chains, it makes up for it with connection quality.
The Wi-Fi speed at Arby’s clocks in at over 12 Mbps on average, significantly faster than most other fast food chains in the United States. And you do not need to buy anything to use the Wi-Fi there. So if you are looking for free Wi-Fi and there is an Arby’s close to you, count yourself lucky.
Subway – 4.8 Mbps
Subway has more locations in the United States and worldwide than any other fast food chain. As of 2020, it has more than 24,000 locations in the United States – that is almost as many US locations as Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.
It also has more than 20,000 locations outside of the US. Subway is as ubiquitous as it gets when it comes to fast food chains. And that is good news for anyone looking for free Wi-Fi because Subway offers free hotspots at all of its locations. Moreover, the Wi-Fi speed at Subway averages a very respectable 4.8 Mbps. If you ever find yourself in need of free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world, look for a Subway.
McDonald’s – 4.2 Mbps
McDonald’s has close to 14,000 locations in the United States and close to 24,000 locations outside of the US. McDonald’s has more locations outside of the United States than any other fast food chain.
If you ever find yourself in a foreign country in need of free Wi-Fi, try looking for a McDonald’s first. Free Wi-Fi hotspots are offered at all of McDonald’s locations worldwide. The connection speed varies based on countries and locations. In the United States, the average Wi-Fi speed at McDonald’s is a nice 4.2 Mbps.
Burger King – 3.6 Mbps
Burger King has more than 7,000 locations in the United States and close to 10,000 locations outside of the US. It is behind McDonald’s in terms of number of locations.
Unfortunately, it is also behind McDonald’s when it comes to Wi-Fi speed. The average Wi-Fi speed at Burger King locations in the United States is a bit less than 3.6 Mbps, more than 10% lower than that of McDonald’s.
If you want to stream a Full HD movie or participate in a real time video conferencing, the Wi-Fi speed at Burger King might not be enough. But for everyday web surfing and email usage, it is plenty enough.
KFC – 1.9 Mbps
KFC has close to 4,000 locations in the United States and more than 20,000 locations outside of the US. It is more popular overseas than it is at home in the United States.
It has more locations in China (more than 4,500 restaurants) than it does in the US (approximately 4,000 restaurants.) There are also close to 1,200 KFC locations in Japan.
So if you are in a foreign country in need of free Wi-Fi, KFC is not a bad place to look for. When it comes to Wi-Fi speed, the average network speed at KFC in the US is a decidedly underwhelming 1.9 Mbps.
Panera Bread – 1 Mbps
Panera Bread has more than 2,100 locations in the United States plus a few (fewer than 20) locations in Canada.
The average Wi-Fi speed at Panera Bread is an anemic 1 Mbps. So forget about watching a movie or taking part in a video conference call there. You can surf the web and check your email but that is about it.
To make the matter worse, some Panera Bread locations have instituted a 30 minutes time limit for Wi-Fi access during lunch and dinner rush hours – after 30 minutes of connection, you will get kicked off the Wi-Fi there automatically.
Wendy’s – 0.5 Mbps
Wendy’s has close to 6,000 locations in the United States and more than 500 locations outside of the US. If you think the 4.2 Mbps Wi-Fi speed at McDonald’s and the 3.6 Mbps speed at Burger King were slow, wait till you have tried the extra slow 0.5 Mbps Wi-Fi speed at Wendy’s.
Watching movies and video conferencing are completely out of the question. Even regular web surfing or emailing would be barely usable. So unless you have no other option, I would not recommend using the Wi-Fi at Wendy’s.
Best Buy – 3.8 Mbps
Best Buy has close to 1,000 locations in the United States and more than 200 locations outside of the US. For a chain that specializes in electronics and gadgets, the Wi-Fi speed at Best Buy in the US is hardly cutting edge – it clocks in at an average of 3.8 Mbps.
It is not enough for 4K or Full HD (1080p) movie streaming but it is barely enough for 720p HD movie streaming. You can also do video conferencing quite comfortably on this speed. All in all, Best Buy is not a bad choice for free Wi-Fi as long as you stay away from bandwidth intensive applications such as 4K or Full HD movie streaming.
Target – 1.9 Mbps
Target has close to 1,900 locations in the United States (it only operates in the US.) The Wi-Fi speed at Target leaves a lot to be desired – clocking in at 1.9 Mbps on average, it is enough for medium quality video conferencing and web surfing but not much else.
But at least you would have no problem doing online price comparison using Target’s Wi-Fi connection. In general, there are other options better than Target when it comes to free Wi-Fi.
Apple Store – 20.8 Mbps
Apple Store has more than 270 locations in the United States and more than 230 locations outside of the US. As the biggest high tech company in the world, you would expect Apple to equip its retail stores with insanely fast Wi-Fi.
The reality is that the network speed at Apple Store is fast but not insanely fast. It clocks in at about 20.8 Mbps, fast enough for the 2nd place in Wi-Fi speed on our list here but still trails that of Starbucks by almost 60%. All in all, Apple Store is still an excellent choice for free Wi-Fi.
Search Free Wi-Fi on Yelp
If you’re reading this post, the chances are you have temporary internet access, and maybe looking for a way to get connected later. There are many businesses that offer free Wi-Fi near you. Here is how to search for free wifi on Yelp:
- Type in the address
- On the left column, under “Features”, click “See All”
- Scroll down, expand on “Wi-Fi”, and select checkbox “Free”
Taking advantage of the public library is the quintessential frugal behavior. Most public libraries offer free books for borrowing, free use of computers, and free Wi-Fi.
If you are looking for a quiet place with free Wi-Fi connection for you to work or study, your local public library should be one of the first places you try. Many people are using the library as their office or study hall, all for free.
Pretty much all universities offer free Wi-Fi on their campus and inside their buildings. The only problem is you need to know the password. You can try asking a student there for the password and there is a reasonably good chance that they will just give it to you.