Nowadays almost everybody owns a computer, a netbook, a PDA, an iPhone, or some device that is Wifi Capable. Many people have a tough time deciding whether or not to bring them along during their backpacking trip. I have traveled both with and without my laptop, and can tell you honestly that there are pro’s and con’s to either situation. If you do end up deciding to bring along your tech-savvy self, you’re going to need some free wifi. So to give you some ideas, here are some common places to check.
Many large hotel chains offer free wifi to it’s residents. If you’re able to get close enough to the hotel without looking too suspicious, you might be fortunate to find an unencrypted wifi signal. If it’s encrypted though, you’re going to have to either find someplace else, or find the balls to pretend you’re staying in the hotel and asking the front desk for the Wifi Key. Check out hotels like Days Inn, Travelodge, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Delta Hotels, Super 8’s, Howard Johnson Hotels (aka Hojo’s), or any other decent looking hotels.
Canada’s public library system is pretty awesome. With most large cities having several locations, you’re never too far from one. Almost all public libraries will have some public computers to use the internet on for free, and many locations are beginning to offer free wifi. Particularly those that are close to Colleges and Universities. A quick google search in your area should turn up the cloesst Public Library in your area.
Tim Hortons aside, there are thousands of small locally owned coffee shops that offer wifi to it’s patrons. Order whatever’s cheapest on the menu and you can hang around. Most of the larger coffee shops such as Starbucks and Second Cup will have free Wifi as well.
Canada’s favourite coffee shop has slowly, and begrudgingly begun to put free wifi in many of it’s locations. Just ask one of the Staff and they’ll know right away whether it’s offered. It’s a bit of a hit and a miss though.
It’s becoming more frequent that hostels offer wifi to it’s patrons. Hostels normally indicate if it’s offered on their brochures and on their website. If you don’t see it a quick phone call will let you know if the internet’s free or if they have Wifi.
Computer / Technology Shops
Many shops that offer computer repair or sell computers and technology have free wifi to offer. Check your local Best Buy, FutureShop, and particularly any Apple Store. You’re best bet is at an Apple Store though, I haven’t come across one yet that doesn’t offer it.
This one’s a head scratcher, but I’m not one to complain about free Wifi. Many Fast Food joints are starting to offer wifi. Check McDonalds first (read more), then try A&W, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, or any other store that’s prepared to sell you burgers and fries.
Large Apartment Buildings
If you have any morals against hopping onto somebody else’s Wifi signal, this one may not be for you. But for those who don’t care, hang out around a large apartment building and you’re sure to see a whole list full of signals. You wouldn’t believe how many people leave their wifi signals unencrypted.
Take a walk or drive through campus and you’ll probably find an unsecure Wifi hotspot somewhere. Check the dorms and the library first. Universities these days are getting pretty secure about this kind of stuff, so you might want to leave this as a last resort, unless it’s real close by.
Like Universities, most offices remain pretty secure. But if you’re desperate and you’ve got time, they might be worth giving a try. Smaller business’s tend to be a lot less secure than the larger ones.
Free Wifi Services
Many larger cities have begun to offer free wifi throughout their cities. Keep in mind they are usually a little spammy, with lots of ads and what not, but with a good ad blocker, they’re perfect in a pinch. Check out Wireless Toronto for details
Downtown City Centres
Many large cities offer Free Wifi in the downtown core of it’s city. They are usually unsecure and always busy. Expect slow speeds and intermittent connections.
Believe it or not some of the larger campgrounds offer free wifi. You’re best bet are ones with RV and Motorhome facilities. If it’s just a piece of land in the bush, you’re probably out of luck. But a quick phone call will reveal if it’s offered.
**If you’ve got any other tips or locations you’d like to reveal, feel free to post a comment and let the world know.