As much as I love to disconnect while traveling in Europe, I’m mildly addicted to the Internet and often require WiFi! I’m a cheapskate when it comes to paying extra data fees, carrying around an expensive Wi-Fi device, or needing to pay extra to simply check my data. These are my tips for finding Wifi for free (ish) while traveling in Europe, so you can easily stay in touch with family or look up things! It’s easier than you think to find free Wifi in Europe!
Some countries are far more Wi-Fi friendly than others. Austria surprised me in terms of how little public Wi-Fi I found in smaller cities as many traditional cafes weren’t keen on people being on their laptops. I find most countries in Eastern and Western Europe to be good about Wi-Fi although many public Wi-Fis
You generally need to look for the password and/or accept the terms after connecting to the network. In some cases, you might need to connect a phone number when signing in. I had issues with this when I was in Russia and if this is a reoccurring issue, you should get a local SIM card if you’re traveling for a longer period.
If you’re traveling on urgent business where you might need to take video calls, I’d recommend looking into getting a local SIM card once you arrive in Europe. You can click for my guide on how to buy a local SIM card and get data for your smartphone here.
I should caution that if you are on public WiFi, you should be using a VPN as it’s not 100% secure to be sharing sensitive information without encrypting your data. I use NordVPN for my phone as well as my computer, which is helpful as some websites abroad idiotically block European IP addresses, so I need to pretend to be in the United States.
I recommend using some caution in terms of carrying around all your electronics (e.g. laptop) and placing your bag on the floor while traveling in many city centers and popular foreign chains (Starbucks and McDonalds). Some cities are popular destinations for pickpockets who often target tourists. Minimize your items and ensure that you keep a close eye on your items. I usually carry a zippered bag with me.
Check your hostel/hotel has WiFi before booking it
The best source of getting free WiFi is generally at your hotel or hostel. Be sure to check the terms and conditions, which generally include WiFi. Still, I’ve stayed at some cozy rural guesthouses that did not have WiFi as a way of allowing people to disconnect. You can easily see this on Booking, so see what people say about the WiFi before you book your hotel/hostel if you’ll need reliable internet.
One of my best tips is to find the local library using Google Maps. The local library should have a steady Wi-Fi connection and in theory, anyone should be able to connect to the Internet. I routinely go to my local library for free WiFi. The Central branch should be more tourist-friendly within a city.
Large tourist squares
I generally don’t recommend popping open your laptop in large tourist squares as these squares often have unsavory figures. However, if you really need to look something up, I recommend finding a quieter part of the square away from people prior to popping onto the WiFi briefly. More European cities are making fast and free WiFi a standard within
McDonald’s, Starbucks, and other popular chain restaurants
You can always count on the popular chains for reliable Wi-FI when you’re in a pinch. I don’t seek out McDonald’s or Starbucks when I’m traveling, but most major international chains should have fast and free Wi-Fi, perfect for checking information. A pro tip: You can usually catch the WiFi if you’re near the doorway.
nomad” hotspots and cafes
My best tip for finding fast WiFi in Europe is to look up digital nomad hotspots in your city or coffee shops/cafes recommended by local bloggers. I’ve compiled a list of the best cafes for coffee in the Hague, where I live. (I sometimes look up hipster guides to a city, which works well for finding nice coffee shops.)
Usually fancier hipster coffee places have better WiFi as traditional cafes are less likely to have public WiFi in my experience. You might also find digital nomad workspaces, but these are generally not free to tourists. A lot of restaurants often have WiFi, but you might need to ask for the password.*
“International” Hotel lobbies
If you’re looking for WiFi at night, it can be trickier to find a spot where you can sit for a while. I find that large international hotel chains often have lobbies that are free to visit although you might need to show that you have a reason to be there whether it’s simply getting a tea or looking business casual…
Tourist information/Large tourist attractions
In the age of Instagram, many large tourist attractions (including museums) have free Wifi as a way of encouraging people to post photos online of their experience. I was able to pick up some free WiFi while hovering near a canal cruise information one of the days that I was walking in Amsterdam. In some cases, you can visit the cafe within a museum for the Wifi (with buying a coffee) if you’re desperate. Similarly, tourist information might have free WiFi for you!
If you’re looking for WiFi, you might want to head to the major train station for the city. Usually cafes within train stations cater to business travelers and will have Wifi. Similarly, Airports more reliably have good WiFi although it definitely depends on where in the airport you are and the airport itself.