Hobobo Guide to Finding Free Wifi

As any true hobobo knows staying connected is paramount to just about anything else. Some might argue free access to the internet is necessary for good health… we would agree. After all, our trip and this blog have been brought to you by the internet. So where are the best places to get free or cheap internet? Read on to find out.

Driving around the states there are a few stand out locations that are great places to spend a few minutes or hours using the internet.

Public Library

The public libraries are often forgotten about, but provide wifi and computers for your use all for free. Even the smallest rural American town usually has a library with friendly librarians and wifi. It is also a great place to go if you need to make some copies or print pages from your guide book. We stopped at the library in St. Louis and they gave us a temporary library card complete with a 200 page print quota.

Not all libraries are this generous but you are likely to find what you need. Plus paying to print at the library is usually cheap and helps keep them open to the community. Other great things you will find at most libraries are audio books and DVDs that can readily be ripped to your computer, legally!

How to find public libraries? The maps in our GPS have waypoints for libraries. If you are traveling without a GPS you can always do some internet searching for your upcoming destinations to find locations. Alternately you can do the old fashioned thing and ask at the gas station or other shops in the town you are passing through.

All of the above is generally true for libraries in the States, you might find different rules abroad.


Cafes and Restaurants

“Free” internet access can also be found at most chain restaurants and cafes throughout the world. McDonalds and Starbucks are two obvious chains that nearly always have free internet. You are usually obliged to purchase something, which at McDonalds might be a 50 cent ice cream. Starbucks tends to be more expensive, especially abroad, which might make it less than ideal.

For a quick email check you can always pull into the parking lot and get connected from your car which avoids the need to purchase anything.

Another unlikely place we’ve found wifi, is at large supermarkets. This provides a great guilt free marriage of internet and groceries. You can do your shopping and check your email without worrying about being kicked out for hanging out too long.

War Driving

wifiWar driving is just the fancy name for driving around neighborhoods looking for open wireless networks.  There are obvious problems with this, mainly it’s stealing. Should you choose to go this route there are other security issues that may deter you. Some people may keep open networks for the purpose of stealing your personal information. We usually avoid this option unless absolutely necessary.


Most of the internet we’ve found while traveling abroad has cost money. Internet cafes seem to dominate the market, especially in developing countries where internet tends to be expensive. You can still find cafes with free internet, but of course it requires you patronize them to ensure you can stay as long as you want.

We wrote previously about getting online in South East Asia here.

We had a difficult time in Europe trying to procure a data sim card. It might have partly been the language barrier, but from what we were told, they usually wanted an address or a contract which kept us from buying them.

Aside from the bureaucratic difficulties, the cost was generally prohibitive for the convenience it offered. Generally, the cost per MB would have been more than buying food at McDonalds daily to use the internet.

The exception was South Africa where internet cafes were ludicrously expensive (as much as $5 an hour) and data plans were relatively cheap though difficult to obtain as a tourist.

Where Them Wifis At?

Do you have any other tips for finding internet while you travel? Poor, MB-starved hobobos are dying to hear your comments.


3 Responses to “Hobobo Guide to Finding Free Wifi”

  1. Vicki said:

    I’ve found that colleges usually have a Guest network, and many hotels don’t use a password…this seems to be the same in Europe and the states.

    July 4th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  2. Adriana said:

    While I was in South Africa I’d just go to restaurants and use their wi-fi. Generally, the serves weren’t too happy about a customer using up an entire table just for a pot of tea, but they were nice enough to never kick me out. There are a few cafe’s that offer wifi as well, 50mb for free at a time. This is however, all in Cape Town. I’d imagine the only other two cities with this sort of free wifi would be Joburg or Durban. Ah yes, and a few backpackers offered free internet, sometimes free wifi. South Africa is definitely not ideal when it comes to internet usage.

    July 12th, 2011 at 3:28 am

  3. RVR said:

    We’ve been living in a 26′ Sprinter van for the past month, and have found that Lowe’s hardware almost always has the longest-ranges wifi, with generally pretty fast network speeds. During business hours it’s slower, but overnight it’s been fast enough to watch Netflix on.

    Granted, we’re in a giant work van complete with brushguard, so we might blend in a little better than private campers. Either way, if you show up after hours, you’ll probably have decent luck. The cops have shown up on us once in the van, and we’ve had employees come check in with us one other time. Haven’t officially been kicked out, though.

    March 8th, 2017 at 8:50 am

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