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Where you can get free Wi-Fi

Published 15 March 2016 by

We’re constantly connected nowadays – you only have to be on a train or tube at rush hour to see the number of people scrolling down their phones. And it’s no wonder really when you can make dinner reservations, find out what time your next bus is or the name of a local taxi firm, all at the swipe of a finger.

But there’s no reason why you should use up your own data allowance to get online when there’s free Wi-Fi hotspots available – here’s how to spot one.

Wi-Fi hotspots

If you’re not familiar with what a Wi-Fi hotspot is, it enables you to connect via your mobile, tablet or laptop to a broadband signal when you’re within range of it. Hotspots are typically found in more populated areas like towns and cities and can be easy to spot by the Wi-Fi symbol (usually displayed in a public area or at a till).

When trying to use a hotspot you may be required to register in order to gain access. There may be restrictions on how long you can use the Wi-Fi for and what sites you can click onto while you’re on it. If you’re on the move a lot, then you’ll have to connect to a new hotspot (if there’s one available) each time you change locations.

Where to find them?

As we’ve mentioned you should be able to find Wi-Fi hotspots in most town and cities, while they’ll be more of a rarity in more secluded areas. Some cities have even started to offer citywide Wi-Fi – this is now available in York, Glasgow and Manchester so you should check whether this is available in your local area.

Do be aware though that you there may be restrictions placed on your use of Wi-Fi. In Manchester city centre for example, you can only connect to the on-street network '_FreebeeMcr' for 30 minutes for free, and then you’ll have to pay £3 to stay connected for the rest of the day.

In most public buildings you should be able to find free Wi-Fi. This includes restaurants, cafes, pubs, museums, libraries, train and underground stations as well as in your workplace, university, school and potentially your local hospital in the future. These hotspots will rarely be open though, and you’ll most likely be required to create a login or input a password.

There are a number of different websites and apps that you can use to find public hotspots. These include Wi-Fi Finder, My Hotspots and Boingo.

Things to consider

Although free Wi-Fi hotspots can be ideal for when you’re on the go, they’re open networks so you’re not as secure when browsing as on private ones. Here are a few safety precautions you should follow:

• When using public Wi-Fi, try to avoid logging into your online banking or making purchases, as anyone on the network could access your information.

• Always check that the website you’re on includes ‘https’ in the address bar as this indicates that the site is secure.

• Be aware of your surroundings and anyone looking over your shoulder as you browse or type your log-in details in.

• Use up-to-date antivirus software on the device that you’re using.