Best VPN for Public WiFi: 5 Fast and Secure Options in 2024

Marketing 22 minute read 21st February 2024

Searching for the best VPN for public WiFi is advisable since these networks come with multiple security risks.

It’s not just the hackers you have to worry about. Even some hotspot providers track your history and collect your information to sell. But with the use of a VPN, you can encrypt your data.

It will “hide” everything from your details to the activities you perform on the unsecured network.

Since you’re reading this, you’re already off to a great start. But with so many options cluttering the market and claiming to be the best, it’s hard to choose one. Here, we’ve shortlisted five of the best options to help narrow your search down.

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Why You Need a VPN When Connecting to Public Networks

While most people understand that public WiFi is not safe, they might not know much about those dangers. Familiarizing yourself with the problem can help you choose an appropriate solution, which, in this case, is a VPN. So, before we reveal the top choices, let’s get some background on why we need protection.

The main goal of public WiFi networks is to provide a free and convenient internet connection. To do that, businesses have to make it easy for a large number of people to connect to them.

Even if the network requires a password, anyone can gain access since businesses readily provide it to customers.

The same goes for a captive portal. Anyone, even a person with bad intentions, can pose as a customer and gain access to the network. Once they do that, they can easily eavesdrop on the online activity of unsuspecting users.

Having a large number of connected devices means more vulnerabilities. If a device with viruses or malicious software connects to the network, it puts other devices at risk as well.

Even worse, hackers might create fake networks and use them to gain access to personal information. They replicate the public WiFi hotspots in a particular space and make them look like guest wireless networks. For customers, it’s hard to distinguish between the fake and legitimate networks.

With these risks, protecting yourself with a VPN is necessary, Even if you use the best public WiFi available. Keep reading to learn how a VPN helps keep you safe.

Does a VPN Protect You on Public WiFi?

Even though VPNs are fairly popular, people still wonder if a VPN can protect you on public WiFi.

Well, to answer this question, you must know what a VPN is and how it works. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, allowing you to navigate an unsecured network by creating an encrypted channel for data.

When you connect to a public network without a VPN, there’s a direct link between your device and the network.

But a VPN works with a separate server in between. Here, the public network only connects you to that server, which, in turn, connects you to the internet.

In this way, your device can hide behind the server’s IP address, keeping your identity safe from prying eyes.

In addition, VPNs use strong encryption protocols to make your data unreadable. Even if an unauthorized party gains access to the data, they won’t be able to make sense of it. They’ll need the encryption key to do that.

So yes, a VPN does protect you on public WiFi. Sometimes, businesses implement a VPN on a router level to secure guest networks. With that said, there’s a small window of vulnerability and issues that you must be aware of.

Many public networks take you through a captive portal login page before providing internet access. This is a web page where businesses might ask you for basic information like names and email addresses. Or they might get you to agree to terms of use.

But a VPN prevents you from viewing this page, so you might have to disconnect it temporarily. Once you’ve successfully logged in, you can reconnect to the VPN. Even in this case, it’s still much better than exposing your device for a long time.

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How To Choose the Best VPN for Public WiFi

Now that we’ve established the importance of using a VPN, you’re ready to make a choice. However, the quality and features vary from provider to provider. So, here’s a list of the important features to help you choose the best VPN for public WiFi.

Since privacy and security are the name of the game, the first feature to look for is 256-bit encryption.

Secondly, your chosen VPN must have leak protection. Without robust security features, information about your location and online activity might be visible even through a VPN.

Of course, you should be able to connect multiple devices simultaneously, especially if you’re using a paid service.

Some local laws require VPN providers to hold onto your information, which the government can access at any time. While you can’t do much about that, some companies might use this for the wrong purposes. Your best bet here is to read their privacy policy thoroughly.

If the terms put you at ease and nothing seems off, it might be an indication of authenticity.

Lastly, the best VPN service will let you choose a server of your choice. You may want to hide your location. In that case, you can select a server in a different country. Or maybe the current server doesn’t provide the desired speed, so you just connect to a different one.

5 Best VPNs To Give Your Devices a Secure Connection

According to a survey from Forbes Advisor, 40% of people said using public WiFi compromised their information.

That’s a huge number, and if you don’t want to be a part of it, using a VPN might help. However, choosing the wrong service might do more harm than good.

To help you decide, we found the five best VPNs that keep your data secure on public networks.

To judge whether a free VPN would be enough or if you’ll need a paid service, look at your usage. As long as you’re using public networks on rare occasions, a free service should work fine.

But even then, downloading the first app that appears on the app store isn’t the best course of action. That’s because very few of the available options are high-quality services. You’ll need a bit of research to land on the right one. Otherwise, you might find yourself facing slower speeds, bandwidth issues, and a lack of security.

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1. Proton Offers the Best Free VPN for Public WiFi

Let’s look at the best free VPN for public WiFi first. Proton VPN comes out as the clear winner here, and with good reason.

Proton is a secure and open-source VPN with unlimited data. Even though you’ll have to pay for the more advanced security features, the basic ones come free. You’ll get 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and access to robust security protocols.

That will be enough if you use a public WiFi network for things like streaming, browsing, etc. But you should avoid heavy financial transactions. Plus, it only has three servers so you won’t have much choice there.

2. ExpressVPN Is the Overall Best in Paid Options

If you use public networks regularly, you’ll want to upgrade from a free VPN to a paid option.

These services can invest more in providing you with advanced security features. For many people, the prospect of keeping their data safe is worth the cost of a paid VPN service. Speaking of which, ExpressVPN is the best choice here.

ExpressVPN has more than 3,000 servers and many security features that work together to protect your device.

Apart from the mandatory AES 256-bit encryption, its automatic kill switch blocks the internet session if the VPN connection drops. That saves you from threats, even for the small window the VPN takes to re-establish the connection.

Plus, there’s a threat manager that blocks malicious activities. You’ll also get access to a split tunneling feature to manage your bandwidth usage.

What this means is you can use the VPN server and the public network simultaneously. Only apps that contain sensitive data will use the VPN, while other apps will use the local network. It’s truly the best of both worlds in terms of security and speed.

Additionally, its no-logging policy means it will automatically remove all your data from the database after each session.

However, you might not need all of these advanced features. So, before you buy its paid version, try it for seven days to see if it fits your needs. Even if you change your mind after paying, its 30-day money-back guarantee will keep you safe.

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3. Choose Surfshark for a Cheaper Yearly Option

Surfshark is a cheaper alternative if you go for the yearly plans. In addition to the basic security, it comes with an antivirus that protects your device from malware. You can also schedule regular scans to make sure your device always remains clean. Remember, hackers use malicious software as the number one trick up their sleeves.

Plus, we already mentioned that the best VPN should allow you to connect multiple devices simultaneously.

Well, Surfshark hits this one out of the park by letting you connect unlimited devices! Now, if you’re thinking this would mean lower speeds, you’re in for a surprise. It also provides lightning-fast speed thanks to various tunneling features.

But speed isn’t the only reason for choosing this VPN. Its reliable kill switch, no-logs policy, and robust encryptions give real competition to other services.

What’s more, it has a comprehensive infrastructure with apps for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. Then there are the browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox that offer convenience on laptops and other devices.

However, if you choose to pay for the monthly subscription, this VPN will prove to be the most expensive. So, if you’re not up for a long commitment, you might want to look into other services.

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4. Private Internet Access Says It All in the Name

It’s time to discuss a VPN that stays true to its name: Private Internet Access.

Back in the day, it only allowed users to connect ten devices simultaneously. But now, it has removed this limit, and you can connect unlimited devices to a public network using this VPN.

In addition to a split tunneling feature for efficient bandwidth allocation, you’ll also get a multi-hop feature.

This means you can use two servers to route your traffic instead of just one. Other companies also provide this feature, but Private Internet Access stands out because it gives you control over it.

How does it do that? By letting you choose the proxy settings as well as the second server. Plus, it has all the mandatory security features, including a kill switch and DNS leak protection. As a result, you get the best speed and security.

In addition, it uses its custom app, MACE, to block ads and trackers. But note that Private Internet Access had to remove this from their Android app to comply with Google’s rules.

So, you’ll have to download an APK from the company’s website to use this feature.

Despite this small hiccup, this service is quite trustworthy. Not only does it remove all your logs after you disconnect, but it also has a clear privacy policy.

However, some people find it hard to use the app, so it might take time to get used to it.

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5. IPVanish Is Affordable and Secure

Another affordable option is IPVanish, which is not only secure but fast as well.

It has become one of the fastest VPNs since implementing the WireGuard protocol. To put it into perspective, its speeds are enough to stream Netflix!

Plus, it has over 2,000 servers in more than 60 countries. So, you’ll have no problem choosing a server that fits your specific needs. And you won’t have to worry about a learning curve since the app is quite easy to use.

A free proxy hides your IP address, while the no-logs policy and kill switch keep your data safe.

You’ll also be able to connect to the VPN automatically when it detects a public network.

Another feature that makes this VPN so good is the constantly changing nature of the encryption keys. Even the most experienced hackers will have a hard time getting their hands on the right combination.

IPVanish scrambles account authentication using robust hash functions, which protect online accounts. And it does all this at quite an affordable price!

How To Use a VPN on Public WiFi

Apart from choosing the best one, another pressing question about VPNs is how to use them. Well, the process is quite simple, provided you have the correct information. So, here’s how to use a VPN on public WiFi:

  1. Once you’ve chosen a service that fits your needs, you have two options to download it. You can visit its website and locate the Downloads page to find the app. Or you can download it from an app store if it is available there.
  2. If you go for the second option, read the company’s documentation first. That’s because companies may remove some features from their app in the stores to comply with regulations. If that’s the case, you might prefer to choose the first option.
  3. Follow the instructions to install the downloaded apps on your devices. During sign-up, you’ll usually be able to create your username and password.
  4. Use those credentials to log in, after which the VPN app will connect you to the nearest VPN server. Once that happens, you’ll be able to enjoy a secure, tunneled connection to the public WiFi.

However, if you don’t want to download extra apps, you can do the process manually. This involves using the device’s internal VPN infrastructure. But that may limit access to important VPN features.

Plus, you’ll need some technical knowledge to make it work. So, downloading an app would be a better option.

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What Else Can You Do To Keep Your Information Safe on Public WiFi?

While public networks often pose great security risks, using a VPN can mitigate them significantly. But if your first instinct is to download a free app, you should reconsider.

Only a select few of the free options are secure, and ProtonVPN is one of them.

If you want more advanced protection, choose ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, Surfshark, or IPVanish.

Apart from using the best VPN for public WiFi, there are some other things you can do for your safety. These include turning off the file-sharing and auto-connect options on your device. Plus, avoid entering your personal information as much as you can. All of this will work together to keep you in the safe zone.

If you want to make your public WiFi connection safer, Beambox helps you simplify the process. Our software changes the password daily and lets you easily create guest networks. This will make your network safer.

You can also use Beambox to automate marketing campaigns and collect customer data. Start your free trial today!

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