When you travel in a foreign country, one of the common problems that araises is that your personal data, passwords, and files can be publicly exposed, as you are more dependent on public Wi-Fi networks, one of the easiest ways for hackers to get into other people’s devices.
Furthermore, it can also happen that some websites and internet services may be blocked, your favorite Netflix TV show may not be available in that particular country or booking a flight from that specific destination is more expensive.
Well, the fact is that all these problems can be easily solved by using something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network), as it allows you to connect to a different server from a different location.
No worries, in this post I will walk you through the importance of using a VPN for travel, plus how to find the right one, depending on which kind of traveler you are.
Why use a VPN for travel
There are several reasons for using a VPN while traveling:
To prevent hackers from stealing your data, especially to stay safe on a public Wi-Fi
Either from your hotel or a cafeteria, when you are traveling abroad, you are continuously connecting to public networks, and that is particularly dangerous because it means that all your personal data, such as passwords and credit cards may be exposed to prying eyes.
Public networks tend not to be secured and, for this reason, it is one of the most preferred ways for hackers to steal other people’s info. By connecting to a VPN, your data will automatically be encrypted, making it impossible for a hacker to steal it.
This should be the top reason to use a VPN while traveling.
To access blocked sites
You should know that in countries like China, the United Arab Emirates, Iran or Oman, the internet is censored, and popular websites and services, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype, and large etcetera, may be blocked.
If they are blocked, the only way to access them when traveling in these countries is by using a VPN, as it will allow you to connect to a country of your choice. For example, if you connect to a server located in London, you will be able to access Facebook, because Facebook is not banned in the United Kingdom.
To access specific content from your home country
As you may know, the internet user experience varies enormously per country.
If you are Googling in the Philippines, you will get different results than if you do it from the USA.
Moreover, the content available on Netflix or HBO in Thailand is quite different from Netflix USA, so you may not be able to watch the last TV show you got addicted to.
You should also know that you can only watch HBO from the country you subscribed, which means that if you have UK account and you travel to Mexico, you won’t be able to access it.
The best VPNs for travel have a large list of countries to choose from, so you will be able to connect from the country you want to.
To get better deals, such as cheaper flights
Did you know that depending on the country you are connecting to, the price of a flight ticket may change?
When you look for a flight ticket, it is recommended to check a couple of locations before booking it.
To prevent your bank account to get frozen
For security reasons, when you try to access your online bank account from a foreign country, they may ask for some extra verification steps or, in the worst case scenario, they may block your account directly, and that is something you don’t want to happen you are traveling.
It actually happened to me when I tried to access my PayPal account from Iran. It got automatically blocked and, since there is no PayPal customer service in Iran, in order to access it, I had to make a very expensive phone call to Spain.
The best VPN when traveling
If you check some techy-oriented sites, you will see that authors use very complicated terms such as DNS queries, PPTP protocols and crazy stuff like that.
Their articles are more oriented to professionals but seriously, you don’t need to know any of that when using a VPN for travel.
That is why I have classified them into the following criteria:
- Level of security provided
- Speed (a VPN slows down your connection)
- Number of countries you can connect from
Moreover, there are other features which are usually gathered by all GOOD VPNs for traveling, including the ones recommended in this article:
- They are super user-friendly
- Available for both Android and iPhone
- Can be used on both desktop and mobile
- Offer a 30-day money back guarantee
- Are compatible with Netflix (Note that Netflix is really good at detecting VPNs and proxies and depending on the server you connect to, it may not work, but this happens with all VPNs).
And based on that criteria, these are the best VPN for travel:
- Fastest VPN for international travel – ExpressVPN
- Best value-for-money VPN for overseas travel – NordVPN
- Cheapest VPN for traveling abroad – PrivateVPN
Fastest VPN for traveling abroad – Express VPN
Price for 1 month – 12.95USD
Price for 6 months – 9.99USD a month
Price for 1 year – 8.32USD a month
ExpressVPN is the most premium VPN in the market and the most recommended for foreign travel.
It is extremely fast, super reliable and, according to internet geeks, it offers impeccable double encryption, making it the safest VPN in the market.
Moreover, it allows you to connect to 2,000 servers from 160 cities in 94 different countries.
I have tried quite a few VPNs but, as a long term traveler and someone who works online, ExpressVPN is the one I am currently using, especially because it so fast that, usually, I don’t even remember that I am actually connected to a VPN.
The best VPN for traveling for:
- Travelers who want the fastest securest VPN in the market
- Digital Nomads who are continuously on the road and need a powerful connection
- Travelers who want to watch mainstream videos, do Skype Calls, or any activity that requires a good internet connection
Not good if:
- You are price sensitive
- You are just going on a few weeks’ trip and want it for merely browsing Facebook.
Best value-for-money VPN – NordVPN
Price for 1 month – 11.95USD
Price for 1 year – 6.99USD a month
Price for 2 years – 4.99USD
Price for 3 years – 3.49USD a month
NordVPN is another great VPN for traveling abroad.
It was the first serious VPN I ever used (got the 1-year plan) and, overall, it was a good experience, as it can connect to 64 countries and experts claim that its security has some really insane levels.
However, after 1 year, I decided to move to ExpressVPN because I really could feel that NordVPN had some speed issues when I was connected to a public Wi-Fi network with a not very strong connection and, for my online job, that was something I couldn’t afford.
Still, NordVPN is great, really, faster than the average and offers some very appealing long-term plans.
The best VPN for traveling for:
- At this price, you won’t find a better VPN
- Long-term travelers who care about the highest speed and security, yet, they can’t afford ExpressVPN plans
Don’t buy it if:
- If you go on a short trip (and only want it for 1 month), you can get ExpressVPN for 1 more USD
- You require the fastest internet connection
Cheapest VPN for travel – PrivateVPN
Price for 1 month – 7.12USD
Price for 3 months – 4.20USD a month
Price for 3 years – 1.89USD a month
PrivateVPN is the cheapest good VPN, which means that they offer a great price, yet the security offered is outstanding and the speed is relatively good.
Actually, some speed tests have proven that PrivateVPN is faster than both ExpressVPN and NordVPN, so why should you go for any other one?
Because PrivateVPN has a big downside, which is that it is not very stable.
This means that one day you may download a movie at a high speed and, on the next day, you may Skype with your family through a pixeled screen.
The best VPN for traveling for:
- Price sensitive people
- Long-term travelers, as it offers a super cheap 3-year plan
- Travelers who go on short trips and just want a VPN for browsing
Don’t buy it if:
- You need the fastest connection, as it can be quite unstable
- It can only connect to 100 servers
How to setup a VPN for traveling
The first time I heard about VPNs, I kind of understood the concept, yet I thought it would be such a complicated thing to use or install on your computer.
I couldn’t be more wrong. VPNs are designed so the least tech-savvy person can use them, as all you have to do is choose one country from a list and click on connect.
Step 1 – Enter ExpressVPN website through this link and choose your plan
Step 2 – Download Express VPN to your desktop or get the App on Google Play or Apple Store.
Step 3 – Choose a location from the list and connect – It is so easy!
Should you use a free VPN?
Some budget travelers may prefer not to pay for a VPN.
Sure, you can do this, but you should know that free VPNs have the following disadvantages:
- They are extremely slow
- You get infinite ads
- Usually, they are only available for mobile, not desktop
- Forget watching Netflix
- The country or server cannot be selected but they assign one randomly
- They are not secure
Seriously, for a couple of dollars a month, a good VPN is a game changer.