Most women I know have one deeply awkward story or another about a time they bought condoms from a convenience store, either alone or with a partner. When it comes to buying condoms covertly, the internet is full of countless tips: Don’t buy them alone, make distracting conversation with the cashier, casually throw them in with a bunch of chips, Gatorade, and packs of gum you don’t want. If you’re a minor, safe access to birth control and condoms can be even more complicated. Thankfully, there are several ways to get free condoms.
Safe sex shouldn’t be embarrassing. Here’s your guide to finding free condoms, buying condoms shame-free, and liberating yourself from awkwardness in 2018. Who knows, soon we could all be proudly slamming rubbers on the counter and high-fiving the cashier.
How to buy condoms and where to get them for free
Not only are condoms one of the oldest forms of birth control, they’re also often the cheapest and most effective in reducing the risk of transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If used perfectly, condoms are up to 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
You can buy condoms from any local grocery store, drug or convenience store, or supermarket and usually find them for free at community healthcare centers, doctor’s offices, and through numerous resources online.
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How old do you have to be to buy condoms?
Despite any goofy YouTube pranks you may have seen involving underage kids asking for condoms, there is no age restriction for legally purchasing condoms. Sure, it might feel awkward to ask for help while buying condoms for the first time, but as long as you do as much research as possible beforehand, there is no reason you wouldn’t be able to buy a box. Your health and protection are always paramount, and definitely more important than a few moments of discomfort.
How to know what size condoms to buy
What is the best condom? The answer depends on what you’re looking for, but no matter what, the best condom is one that fits properly. The best way to find out which condom fits properly is by trying multiple sizes. Start with a regular size. If it rolls on easily and stays on, it’s the right size. If it feels loose or painfully tight, go for a different size. There’s no perfect “measurement” that automatically fits in the “regular” or “magnum” category.
On average, condoms cost about a dollar each—depending on where you buy them. It’s typically best to stock up on more than a few at a time to save money and to ensure that you’ve got multiple backups in case the condom breaks. Don’t forget to check the box to make sure the condoms aren’t expired.
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Where to get free condoms
You can get condoms for free from community health organizations like Planned Parenthood Health Centers, most urgent care clinics, doctor’s offices, and (as you’ve probably seen) in public restrooms. You can also check out niche websites like Endangered Species Crisis, a volunteer network that gives out condoms to raise awareness about species extinction and reproductive rights.
Other little-know condom distributors include:
- Bar bathrooms
- Condom brand websites with free sample options
- College or university health centers
- Trusted friends or family
It’s easier than ever to find free condoms online. Cares Community Health Condom Distribution Program started CondomFinder.org, a nationwide condom finder network that pinpoints your location and connects you with organizations, individuals, and businesses near you that give away condoms for free.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.