Unlikely Places To Find Free WiFi

Most people who need a free WiFi fix instinctively head to the bookstore or coffee shop, but other public places who want in on that foot traffic have been steadily adding hotspots.

Vowel-deficient blog Unplggd spots what it calls 12 unexpected places WiFi is becoming more common.

Among the sources included in the list:

City buses — If people expect WiFi on commuter trains, it naturally follows that buses need to add similar access to stay competitive.

Museums — Hotspots at cultural hangouts feed your brain answers to questions that arise from stimulating displays, as well as to help you plan out where to head next.

Auto service centers — Old-school magazine racks and stacks of alt-weekly newspapers can’t quite cut it in the era of FaceTime.

What’s the most surprising place you’ve spotted WiFi?

12 Places You Didn’t Know Had Free WiFi [Unplggd via Lifehacker]


Edit Your Comment

  1. reimero says:

    One of our local grocery store chains also offers free wi-fi. I like it because I can do up a shopping list in Google Docs then simply use a wi-fi-enabled device (like an iPod Touch) instead of using paper to print out the list.

    • Rose says:

      I do that without wifi. Ah, the joys of decades old e-mail on a boring old Blackberry…

    • selianth says:

      If you use an iPod Touch, why not try out one of the shopping list apps that are out there? I use “Shopper” which I love because my husband and I both have it on our phones – and can sync our lists automatically over 3G or wifi. Then you just check items off as you shop so it’s easy to see what you have left to get.

  2. Larraque eats babies says:

    My neighbour has free wi-fi.
    I guess that doesn’t count.

    • obits3 says:

      Fun thought: If a neighbour has wi-fi without protection, can you ethically use it? If you think about it, the wi-fi goes “into” your house. Also, does their wi-fi cause interference with my rabbit ears? I know that if I stand in a certian place, my body messes with the OTA channels. While this would be similar to using someones cable, there is a difference:
      Using their cable involves you installing a splitter on their cable.
      Using their wi-fi involves you using their wi-fi which they have broadcast into your house.
      Final thought: is broadcasting wi-fi without protection like saying “use it if you can”? After all, if I go to a car shop, I don’t ask “can I use your wifi?” if it has no password. I just assume that they are allowing me to use it.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        It depends. Some people just don’t know any better, and it doesn’t occur to them that there are reasons to password protect their wifi. For a lot of people, it’s a hassle because they don’t want to keep track of another set of data but the benefits heavily outweigh the hassle of storing your account information somewhere.

        • obits3 says:

          Thanks, I like to play devil’s advocate every once and a while. Do you know if Wi-Fi has an effect on getting OTA TV? Before the digital change, my channels might get a little fuzzy, but now they don’t come in at all unless I put the antena just right.

          • Rachacha says:

            WiFi and Digital TV are in different frequency ranges, so WiFi should have no impact on TV reception. WiFi can interfere with some cordless telephone and Baby monitor transmissions however.

            If you were getting Fuzzy signals with analog TV, you were likely in a fringe area, so when you went to digital the signal was extremely weak, and you are now losing so many packets of information that your TV can not decode the signal. Visit http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx and you can put in your information and they will recommend an antenna for you if you can actually receive a signal.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Ethically? No. If a wire (power, phone) for their house goes through your property, that doesn’t give you the right to tap it. At best, you’re leeching off of a service that someone else pays for, and you should, too, if you want it. It seems less creepy when you talk about radio waves than wires, but the principle is exactly the same.

        In a practical sense, you probably won’t cause any noticeable impact unless you torrent, but that doesn’t mean it’s ethical. Besides, it’s not hard to set up a honeypot open access point that logs everything or redirects you.

        • APCO25guy says:

          nothing unethical about it. In the USA, WiFi operates as part 15 devices under FCC rules. Part 15 specifically states two basic principles:

          1)-users must accept interference that can cause undesired operation, and cannot cause harmful interference to other LICENSED radio services
          2)-privacy of communication is not ensured

          It’s a public unlicensed radio band. If you don’t want people using your equipment that radiates RF through open space onto OTHER PEOPLE’S PROPERTY, SECURE IT! If one is too lazy or inept to enable encryption, than you cannot expect it to be unreasonable that other users may connect to it.

          By it’s very design, 802.11B/G/N clients seek out connections automatically. So does your unsecured open access point or router interfere with my client when it keeps trying to offer up a connection? It’s up to ME to make sure my clients only connect with networks I want them to. It’s not an issue of ethics, all users should be aware of how this stuff works or not use it if they fail to understand the risks of unsecured unlicensed radio devices.

          The same issue was around back in the 80’s and 90’s with analog cordless phones which transmitted the most privy conversations over shared part 15 radio frequencies. Anyone with a scanner or even another cordless phone operating on the same channels could intercept the calls. Only when the issue became widely known after a few cases of eavesdropping being played out in the media, did manufacturers come to the answer with more secure digital models that use spread spectrum and encryption. The consumer WiFi devices are no different, the manufacturers have stepped up and encouraged users to use encryption. Linksys routers have a one button easy setup that sets a random key and creates a setup disk you set all your clients with.

          It’s on you if you leave it open.

        • El_Fez says:

          On the other hand, if you dont want someone using your service, dont broadcast it into my house.

          • The Marionette says:

            Hit the nail on the head there. Routers come with a startup guide that usually tell you how to set it up so nobody else can tap into your wifi. If people can’t take the time to read the documents and set it up then that’s their way of saying “Here’s some free wifi”. It’s not a very complicated process to set it up either, so there should really be no excuse as to why nobody secures their connections

    • Paladin_11 says:

      In some areas using someone else’s wifi without permission, even if the access is not secured, is a felony. So be very careful.

  3. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    For some reason, ‘Museums’ and ‘Bookstores’ doesn’t surprise me. I don’t know why. Launfromats make sense cuz, hey… waiting for your whites to dry is only so entertaining.

  4. chipslave says:

    Its nice they have it at the mall. Keeps me amused while the misses goes shopping at stores I don’t want to venture into with her, plus I can price compare to the interwebz on things I am looking for in the mall. I hate the mall though, especially around this time of year.

  5. George4478 says:

    All of my neighborhood coffee shops (all 2 of them) have free wi-fi. One of them is tiny and only has 2 tables, so it seems kind of a waste. All their business is walk-up.

    • chipslave says:

      More than likely the do their CC transactions over internet so they are probably just sharing the same connection that the transactions are going over.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I have a dream – where WiFi is everywhere, and I no longer need a cellphone plan, I just use Google Voice on my phone connected to a public WiFi network. A dream where no one pays for phone service any more.

    Alas, it is but a dream.

    • obits3 says:

      I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all computers are created equal.”
      I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood and use free Wi-Fi.
      I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of free Wi-Fi.
      I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content in their Smartphone.
      I have a dream today!
      I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious dumb phones, with its service providers having lips dripping with the words of “arbitration” and “ETF” — one day right there in Alabama little Apple fan boys and fan girls will be able to join hands with little Android fan boys and fan girls as sisters and brothers.
      I have a dream today!

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      Vote Democrat and your subsidized life could become reality!

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      What you’re describing is basically just free-to-access 3g or 4g network, similar to the Kindle’s whispernet. That’ll never happen until Google takes over the telecom industry and successfully adifies our life into oblivion (the only way it would be “free”)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      If you live in an area serviced by Clear, you might be able to do this. I haven’t tried it yet, though. I’ve been getting mail spam from Clear nearly every week.

  7. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I sometimes follow ambulances or Greyhound buses to get free wifi.

  8. krom says:

    At the bar. Although it doesn’t always work… it was surprising to see the “free wi-fi” sign. Also the deli in the local natural food store.

    • crackers says:

      Ditto. I have a local pub that has free wifi, a great selection of Belgian beers, and kickin’ air conditioning. My home office moves there once or twice a week during the summer.

  9. FangDoc says:

    I jokingly suggested to my husband that he check to see if Labor & Delivery at our local hospital has wi-fi (I’m 5 days past my baby-birthin’ due date) and he had already found out that they do! I’m so relieved that he’ll be able to liveblog my contractions…

  10. bdgbill says:

    A surprising number of gas stations have wi-fi available. Either the intentional kind “Free Public wi-fi” or the unintentional “Linksys”.

    I find it annoying that wi-fi is either free or ridiculously expensive and almost never in between. I would be more than happy to pay something like .50 or 1.00 an hour to use wi-fi. At a coffee shop this would probably generate enough cash to pay all of the costs associated with providing the signal. Even a small fee would probably be enough to discourage the cheap bastards that buy a small coffee and take up a table for five hours.

  11. jason in boston says:

    My rooted Epic 4g :P

    Other than that, apparently BU has satellite offices around the city and my student account works in random spots. I’m sure other schools have this.

  12. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    my mechanic doesn’t have it but the limo rental place across the street from them does and it’s strong enough for me to pick it up on my netbook.

  13. AllanG54 says:

    I found it at a food court in one of the rest stops on the NY Thruway

    • jasonq says:

      In Iowa, I recall *all* of the rest stops having wi-fi. No food courts or oases to be found – just places to pee with wi-fi.

  14. pixiegirl says:

    Library usually has free wifi along with most colleges.

  15. metalman420 says:

    Where I live..central Delaware we
    have free wifi at:
    Taco Bell

  16. Jeff says: "WTF could you have been thinking?" says:

    The hospital. Made waiting for grandbaby #2 bearable. DIL was in labor for 21 hours. Guess what grampa did?

  17. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I can’t imagine any mechanic having free wi-fi. Most don’t even have any place to sit down. Coffee, wi-fi, flat screen TVs, etc. are just unnecessary overhead.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      Every mechanic I’ve ever used had a few seats in the front office. But I suspect that in that case it is not only for the customers. Well, maybe not at the lube place (those tend to have large waiting areas, because they expect people to stay there while their car is worked on, since it is usually fairly quick), but a dealership or some other place with real mechanics would have call to have techs running around with notebooks, or code scanners that could need to download software. (Now, I don’t know for a fact that they can do this, but I do know it is something that would be useful.)

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      My auto service place does. So does another that I’ve had to go to on occasion (I’m in Iowa). I can sit down (I prefer the wooden rocker), jump on the WiFi network, connect to my corporate VPN, and get work done while the car get fixed. Really convenient – I can get things done on weekdays and not have to take personal time or arrange for someone to drop me off and pick me up.

  18. redskull says:

    According to their radio commercial, the local bloodbank offers free wifi. I guess bleeding out is boring, so you can surf while you donate?

    • Doncosmic says:

      I wish mine did, I pretty much killed the battery on my iPhone last time I donated blood because I was using 3g to listen to a baseball game.

  19. Macgyver says:

    I hope NJ transit doesn’t get it. If they do, the drivers are going to be on there all the time(they already on their cell phones all the time). And they already can’t drive to begin with.

    • buzz86us says:

      I don’t see why they would on a full NJ Transit bus you can barely move let alone use a laptop unless you use a smart phone or a tablet.

  20. jessjj347 says:

    No way I would take out my laptop on a city bus. That’s like taking out a laptop on a subway…
    It’s just asking to get robbed.

    • MrEvil says:

      There’s Wi-Fi on the train here in Austin Texas and they’re proposing rolling it out to the busses. However this being Texas stealing a Laptop is asking to get shot by the Concealed Weapon holder.

    • Doncosmic says:

      Wow, your subways must be scary, people take out laptops on the Metro in DC all the time.

  21. NoThankYou says:

    I spotted one in my medial groups Urgent Care building.

    Weekend visits of taking one of my kids in due to a ear infection or some other child ailment has become much more entertaining. Now I can stream netflix while waiting.

  22. knackeredmom says:

    When I need WiFi when I’m driving long-distance. (I have a dumb phone.) I pull off on exits with lots of hotels. Most of them have free WiFi that reaches to the parking spaces on the perimeter of the building. It’s not as nice as some locations, but it works in a pinch.

    • SwoonOMatic says:

      I did a cross country drive a couple of weeks ago. Found free wi-fi at a Denny’s, Sheetz, red Roof Inn (Although Red Roof had a password, but that was posted in the lobby.) At least I think the free wi-fi was from Sheetz, I was in their parking lot – but I could have been getting it from a house nearby – it wasn’t identified.

      Truck stops are know for free wi-fi. I remember seeing signs for free wi-fi at some rest areas along I-90, but I can’t remember if it was Indiana, Ohio, or New York. (It was a loong night.)

      • quail says:

        Truck stops have had T-Mobil or AT&T hotspots for some time. Even some no-name spots, but the last I looked they were all the ‘pay-for’ variety.

        Truck stops and many other places I’d be reluctant to use anything that was free and unencrypted.

  23. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Oddly enough, I’ve picked up wifi in the middle of the highway in Michigan. Probably from a restaurant, though, or the apartments but its hilarious and weird.

  24. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I need to get a small netbook so I can run around and take advantage of this bounty. My giant laptop is too damn heavy.

  25. DeeJayQueue says:

    Here in DC there are several different companies running cheap-o bus lines between here, Philly and NYC.

    One of them, called DC Trails, offers free WiFi on their buses. This is great for the passengers, but it’s not secured and not limited. So as you’re traveling around the beltway in your car, if you spot one of their buses, you can wardrive their WiFi.

  26. Geekybiker says:

    City buses? Seriously? Trains are lower cost per passenger and alot higher capacity and I see where they could absorb the cost. Plus they often run underground so some sort of repeater makes more sense. On a bus, just use your 3g/4g connection or tether if you have a PC.

  27. Donathius says:

    The Lowe’s a few blocks from my house has free wifi. It’s kind of nice actually since the cell service in there sucks.

  28. palace_gypsy says:

    Some of the rest areas on I-94 in North Dakota have wi-fi in them,
    I found that surprising.

  29. feralparakeet says:

    Here in Birmingham, we have a giant statue of Vulcan on top of Red Mountain. The park up there has free wi-fi that they advertise, which I suppose would be cool if you wanted to sit under Vulcan’s bare ass while surfing all afternoon.

  30. chipslave says:

    They offer it at some of the MN State Parks. Nothing says camping like checking your fb account :)

  31. quail says:

    Lots & lots of malls seem to have it. First sprouted at the malls struggling to survive 5 years ago.
    My tire place has it.

  32. aquanetta says:

    Most of the hotels I stayed at in Costa Rica this past winter had free wi-fi.

  33. Baka-no-Kami says:

    Unlikely places to find WiFi? I’m surprised no one mentioned this one, Mount Everest.


  34. raytube says:

    How could no one not have mentioned Hooters yet?
    They all have FREE WIFI!