So you have connected to a random public WiFi when traveling, like the typical #FreeAirportWiFi. We have all done that, its convenient, satisfies our need for connectivity, and hey, it’s free right.
Do I Need A VPN For Travel?
However, it might not always be the best idea in terms of security, and certainly not if you want to access confidential information on your devices. This is becoming more common because many essential items are moving to apps, even our internet banking verifications, crypto wallets, and more sensitive accounts.
When you’re traveling, you want to make sure that your data is as safe as possible. This is why using a VPN service is so important, particularly if you like to tap on WiFi from cafes, airports, and other public spaces.
We use NordVPN for data protection and travel convenience.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that encrypts your traffic and hides your IP address. This means that your data is protected from hackers and thieves. A VPN can also allow you to access blocked websites and content while you’re abroad.
What Does A VPN Do?
Without going deep into technicalities, a VPN essentially creates a secure, private network over a public one. This means that all of your traffic is encrypted and cannot be read by anyone else.
It also hides your IP address, so you can’t be tracked or traced. This is especially important when you’re traveling and sharing a network with strangers, as it keeps your data safe from prying eyes.
Why Should I Use A VPN When Traveling?
We all want to research travel information or access work-related stuff while on the go.
As digital nomads, some of us like to work in public cafes and coworking spaces. Being overseas long-term, we will eventually need to access online banking or carry out online transactions.
The ability for VPNs to encrypt data, mask your IP address and change the location of your IP address can serve multiple benefits for travelers, remote workers, and digital nomads.
Extra Security Layer
Public WiFi often has terms and conditions that we don’t usually read, although they often include caution on security. When you connect to WiFi that does not require login credentials, these are actually very insecure networks.
The lack of security opens a loophole for hackers to steal your personal information on your devices when connected on the same network. A VPN protects that by encrypting the data and making it much harder for any security breach in your connection.
This is especially important if you’re a remote worker or freelancer working from anywhere, and accessing confidential information.
Access Blocked Websites And Content
This is probably one of the main reasons a lot of long-term travelers go for VPN services. In many countries, certain websites or online content are blocked due to media censorship.
The most common example is the Great FireWall of China, where you cannot access the likes of Facebook, Google, etc unless you use a VPN. However, China has been pretty successful even in blocking out VPN bypass.
Gaining content on streaming services is another typical use of VPN. This can include accessing Hulu while outside of the United States, as well as continuing to access shows on Netflix or Disney+ that are only available to specific geographical locations.
Get Better Prices
While the previous one might sound more mundane, you can potentially also get better deals on travel products such as airfares.
Certain websites and service providers offer cheaper prices based on geographical locations. A VPN allows you to connect via an IP address in a geographical location of your choice, therefore being able to take advantage of cheaper prices.
Avoid Bank Account Lock Outs
If you have accessed your bank accounts from different countries, this is probably a familiar issue. Some banks also block credit cards when they detect transactions in foreign countries, and mark them as suspicious activity. However, this could just be you trying to buy a souvenir while on vacation.
This is good security from the banks but it does get troublesome when you continuously have to call to clear things up. This is particularly so for nomads who like to around multiple different countries. And phone banking customer service isn’t always the most efficient.
Using a VPN that hooks you back up to your home country server helps to give some convenience back to you. The bank will detect the connection from within your home country and is less likely to trigger any red flags.
Convenience In Logging In
This sort of protection is actually getting more common for various websites. It is likely to become more mainstream. A relogin is triggered when they detect a different IP address from another country that is not your usual activity, some might ask for a new verification code that is sent to your phone or email.
Having a VPN for travel can help reduce such hassles and keep your workflow smooth as if you are back at your usual work station.
What To Look Out For In A Good VPN For Traveling?
When selecting a VPN for travel, there are a few important factors to keep in mind:
If you’re traveling to a country with strict internet censorship laws, it’s important to make sure your VPN can bypass those restrictions.
Some VPNs are better at this than others, so it’s worth doing some research beforehand.
As mentioned, China is one of those cases where regular VPNs might not be as successful. There are specific services that are catering to this market.
Make sure the VPN service does cover where you plan to be at.
Speed Of Connection
Some VPNs tend to slow down your internet connection drastically, whereas the best ones wouldn’t affect it as much. Sometimes switching the server helps and that is also why having multiple servers even in the same country (geographical coverage) is advantageous.
Test them out or read customer reviews to see if speed is constantly an issue for users.
Reputation Of VPN company
That said, you want to go with a reputable company that already has a user base and is relatively known in the market. Customer reviews can help with deciding if it is good for where you want to go.
While there are different prices from various providers, it pays to go with reputation vs cost when it comes to security. A good VPN should be reliable and have few if any connection issues.
It is also important to note that the VPN provider can gain access to your online actions (e.g. the websites you visit etc) much like an Internet Service Provider is able to. Therefore, you don’t want to go with a dodgy company or a free one for that matter.
Simple User Interface
You don’t want to go with a VPN provider that has a complex interface and is difficult to use. If this is something you rely on often, a clean and straightforward interface works best. This is particularly so if you are using VPN for travel while on the go.
Covers Multiple Devices
Some VPNs might charge you based on per-device connection. Although this can be a personal preference, it is important to cover all the devices that you plan to be using.
You don’t really want to be scrimping about paying extra for one device and creating a security vulnerability in the end. Therefore, it is ideal to go with one that doesn’t have a small limit in device coverage.
VPN Free Trial
Some of the best VPNs offer a free trial period before converting into a paid subscription. This is definitely a bonus if you can test it out yourself.
Even if you aren’t on your trip yet and can’t really test the connection from your destination, it is still good to see if their interface is easy to use.
How To Use A VPN?
VPN services should be simple to use. After you sign up for a plan, you just need to download the app on the devices that you want to run it on (e.g. Mac, Windows, Android etc).
That said, do make sure that the VPN you sign up for supports the operating system of your device. Most reputable ones should support the major platforms.
Once you launch the app, you should have a selection of servers that you can connect there. Simply choose the location of your choice and just connect.
The same principle usually applies that the closer you are physically to a specific geographical location, the faster the speed. So if you find the speed is slow after connection, try changing the connection to another server from a country that is closer to your physical self.
What Are Some Of The Best VPNs For Travel?
There are a few providers in this space that are relatively well-known and trustworthy to go with for your travel VPN.
NordVPN is often considered one of the best VPNs around security-wise and is one that we use ourselves. The interface is simple and they have good geographical coverage with approx 5000 servers in 60+ countries. NordVPN also have a strict no logs policy which is good for data privacy.
NordVPN has a 30-day free trial (money-back guarantee) which makes it an easy choice. Prices start at $3.49/month.
ExpressVPN is another reputable name that is recommended by many travelers and commonly appears in “Best VPN” round-ups. Known for their all rounded capabilities ExpressVPN also works on a 30-day money-back guarantee model and starts at $8.32/month. They have a 24/7 customer support that is not regularly found with most providers.
Surfshark is a relative newcomer to the VPN market in 2018, but it has made a big splash. The company offers a speedy service with good security features and an easy-to-use interface.
One of the best things about Surfshark is that it covers unlimited devices. It is also the cheapest, going as low as $2.49/mo. They offer a 7-day free trial and 30-day money-back guarantee.
Using The Best VPN For Travel
When it comes to using the best VPN for travel, there are a few key things you should look for. Geographical coverage is important, as well as an easy-to-use interface. You also want a provider that has a no logs policy and good customer service.
NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark are all reputable providers that offer a free trial or money-back guarantee. This makes it easy to try out a few and see which one works best for you.
No matter which VPN you choose, using a VPN while traveling is always a good idea to protect your data and online privacy. It can help make your trip much more enjoyable and hassle-free. So whether you’re a vacation traveler or a digital nomad, be sure to use a VPN when you hit the road!