The Unbound Adventurer:

The Best VPN for Travel in 2019

by Daniel | Last Updated November 18th, 2019

Picture this.  

 

You’re on the road. You’re hitting up the best cafes in New York City. Or you’re seeing the sights in Monaco. Life is a dream. So you decide to share the dream with the world (or, at least, the world of social media). And you don’t think twice about how your data is traveling with you.  

 

Here’s the thing: if you’re traveling and using an unsecured network, all that data is up for grabs. 

 

And if you’re transmitting any kind of data you’d like to protect, that’s a huge risk for your privacy.  

 

This is where a VPN can save the day. Of course, if you’re a smart traveler, you won’t settle for any old tool. You want the best protection on the market. That’s why we’re here to help you find the best VPN for travel. 

What is a VPN? 

If you’re the least technical person you know, you can still make sense of VPNs.  

 

A virtual private network, or VPN, is a service that allows you to access the Internet privately, protecting your data from prying eyes. It masks your internet protocol (IP) address so that your actions online are untraceable.  

How Do VPNs Work? 

It sounds complicated, but at the heart of it, VPNs are actually rather simple. First, you have to understand how your online interactions normally work.  

 

Let’s say that you log onto the Internet. If you don’t have your own hotspot and you’re traveling, you’re probably going to hop on a provided network, like Starbucks free WiFi. Let’s say you open a search engine, like Google. 

 

Real talk: search engines know a lot about you. A disturbing amount, actually. For example, if you have location tracking turned on, search engines have a timeline of where you’ve been.  

 

And that’s just search engines. Websites are equally good at tracking information about you--what you click, what sites you visit, how you spend your money, even where you live. 

Remember cookies, those handy little packets of data that websites use so that you can see your preferences displayed between one visit and the next?  

 

They’re so effective at collecting data about you that the National Security Agency piggybacked off of them to widen their surveillance capabilities.  

 

This brings us to VPNs.  

 

Let’s say you’re traveling with a VPN. If you use a public network, the software encrypts your data before your internet provider or WiFi provider sees it. In fact, it won’t see your data coming from that location, even if you’re sitting right next to the WiFi router. Instead, your online destination sees your data coming from the VPN server and location.

RECENTLY REVIEWED

The Best VPN Service - 
Our Top 8 

ExpressVPN 
TunnelBear VPN 
IPVanish 

Why Do You Need One?  

To understand why you need one, you have to think about the difference between a VPN connection and a regular connection.  

 

When you connect to a site normally, you’re routed directly to the host server of the site you’re visiting. All your data is out there in the open for anyone to take a peek, at any point in the process. Visiting a fun site is one thing, but visiting your bank is another.  

 

When you use a VPN, the VPN essentially acts as a stop in the road. Instead of going straight to the host server, you go to the VPN server first. The VPN server then connects to the web on your behalf, encrypting your data in the process.  

 

There are a number of benefits to doing this. 

Bypassing Regional Restrictions 

 

For one thing, it allows you to bypass regional restrictions.  

 

Let’s say you’re traveling in France. You’re at your hotel, and you want to watch Netflix. Here’s the problem: your favorite show ever isn’t available on French Netflix. Thanks to licensing agreements, Netflix content (and content on other platforms) is often region-locked.  

However, that doesn’t need to slow you down—if you have a VPN.  

 

With a VPN, you can access all of your favorite content no matter where you are.  

 

Remember, when you use a VPN, you’re going through the VPN’s server first and your original location is encrypted. Because of this, in the eyes of any site you visit, your location is wherever your VPN server is located.  

 

So, for example, if you connected to a VPN server in the region where the content you want is available, you can access that content as though you’re actually there. 

Unrestricted, Uncensored Access 

 

This has certain key benefits, particularly when you’re traveling.  

 

It’s extremely common for network administrators to block certain websites when they don’t want their users to access it. Schools, for example, may block sites that involve adult content. Hotels and corporations may block gaming or streaming sites.  

 

Certain governments will even block social media sites.  

 

A VPN is a simple solution to this problem. Since your connection is encrypted, the network can’t capture the request and block it, which allows you to access blocked sites without issue.  

Protecting Your Private Data 

 

Most importantly, VPNs allow you to protect your private data, no matter where you are in the world.  

 

If you need to complete a bank transaction but can only get online through a public network, for example, a hacker could easily snatch up your data when you complete the transaction. A VPN acts as a shield so that you can complete these transactions without fear.  

Wait, This is Legal, Right? 

If you’re like some world superpowers, you’re contemplating this with a bit of trepidation.  

 

Think about it.  

 

On one hand, a VPN is a fantastic privacy tool if you’re worried about your data floating around for anyone to see. On the other hand, VPNs are specifically designed to mask your online activity and are conveniently located just outside the jurisdiction of major superpowers.  

 

See the big picture?  

 

There’s nothing wrong with the integrity of VPNs in principle. However, there are valid cases where a VPN is illegal due to hacking concerns.  

 

So, is a VPN legal? Yes, but it can be a bit more complicated than that. 

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility 

The biggest concern with VPNs is not what VPNs do on their own, but rather the potential for abuse.  

 

If your online activity and location are masked, allowing you to sidestep geo-restricted content and keep your data out of the eye of third parties, you could watch Netflix, but someone with less innocent ideas can use VPNs for other things.  

 

This is why VPN providers have a list of activities that are prohibited while using their services. For example:  

  • Distributing internet viruses 

  • Copyright infringement 

  • Patent infringement 

  • Trademark infringement 

  • Gaining illegal access to other computers or networks 

  • IP spoofing (pretending to be another machine for the express purpose of illegally accessing another computer or network) 
     

Here’s the good news: if you’re not planning on doing something obviously illegal or morally questionable, you’re probably fine.  

 

But, just in case this requires clarification: you are never safe if you’re using a VPN to torrent copyrighted content. In plain English, if you’re using a sketchy website to illegally watch a copyrighted movie, that’s 100% definitely illegal.  

11 Countries With Banned or Restricted VPN Use 

Now, some countries have laws expressly banning or restricting VPN use. There are 11 countries with such laws currently on the books:  
 

  1. China 

  2. Russia 

  3. Iran 

  4. United Arab Emirates 

  5. Oman 

  6. Turkey 

  7. Turkmenistan 

  8. Iraq 

  9. Belarus 

  10. North Korea 

  11. Uganda 
     

In North Korea, Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Iraq, VPNs are fully banned. In China, Russia, Oman, and Iran, only government-approved VPNs are allowed. Turkey and the UAE have restricted access for individuals, and in Uganda, internet service providers block VPN services.

But It’s Not Quite That Simple 

 

So, that’s the story, right?  

 

Not quite.  

 

First, many of these bans are recent developments and it remains unclear how strictly they’re enforced. Also, keep in mind that many media networks and companies in these countries rely on VPNs to conduct business, so it’s unlikely that VPNs will be completely blocked.  

 

Second, there’s a gap between enforcement for citizens and residents and enforcement for foreigners.  

 

You’re not free from the rule of law as a foreigner, but foreigners are usually fine to use VPNs. In China, for example, many long-term expats use offshore VPNs without issue, despite the fact that using them is frowned upon and the Great Firewall uses deep packet inspection to detect and block VPNs.  

 

As a rule, locals will have more problems in these countries than visitors. Locals using VPNs could be targeted for anti-government action, which could even result in jail time.  

VPNs for Travel

If you know you’re going to travel overseas, VPNs are a must-have.  

 

Many governments—including the United States—have provided their citizens with extensive safety precautions when using public WiFi networks. The fact is, these public networks are convenient, but they’re rarely secure.  

 

And if you’re trying to access your financial institution, for example, you just can’t afford to gamble. Especially if you’re in a foreign country and could wind up stranded far away from home.  

 

Imagine what a nightmare you’d be in for if your bank account was frozen while you’re abroad and you couldn’t access it. Or, worse, you used a public, unsecured network to access it in a hurry and the next thing you know, your account has been hacked.  

 

Don’t mess around with your private data—especially when it comes to your money. 

What to Look for in a VPN 

So, what should you be looking for in a VPN?  

 

Think of it this way. You’re using a VPN because you want to protect your valuable data, right? It doesn’t make much sense to replace one questionable connection with another. So if you’re in the market for a VPN, it pays to do your homework.  

 

Treat it like looking for a business partner, because that’s exactly what you’re doing. If you’re going to allow a server to encrypt sensitive data about you, you want to make sure that you trust that server first.  

 

Here are a few things to look for. 

Compatibility 

Start by looking at compatibility.  

 

When you use a VPN software, you should be able to use it on any device that accesses the Internet. Otherwise, you’re paying a lot of money to secure only a small part of your data.  

 

Look for a VPN service that’s compatible with a variety of devices—and a variety of providers. If you switch from Apple to Android down the road, or if you have to scramble to replace a piece of lost tech while you’re abroad, you want to make sure your VPN will continue to protect your devices, no matter who made them.  

 

Trust us: you don’t want to have this learning curve happen while traveling. Do your homework in advance.  

 

Also, keep in mind that certain devices can’t connect directly to VPNs due to software restrictions. Mobile devices, laptops, and tablets are typically fine, but smart devices with limited, pre-programmed connectivity can’t.  

 

Your iPhone is good to go. But Internet of Things (IoT) devices generally aren’t, including gaming consoles, smart TVs, smart appliances, and Alexa or Echo devices. Then again, you’re not exactly logging onto your bank through these devices. You probably don’t need a VPN for these items anyway.  

Security Protocols 

 

Once you’ve found a VPN that will cover all of your devices, it’s time to look at how that VPN will protect all of your devices. VPNs use a wide variety of security protocols, so it pays to investigate which ones will best serve your purposes.  

 

For example, some VPNs Secure Sockets Layers (SSLs), which are the standard technology used for securing internet connections. It works by ensuring that data transferred between two systems (like a user and a site, for example) is impossible to read. It scrambles the data in transit so that hackers can’t read the data while it’s being sent.  

 

VPNs could also use Transport Layer Security (TLS), which is an updated, more secure version of SSLs. It’s actually one of the most widely-used security protocols used in data transfers today.  

 

Your VPN could also use a Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), a set of communication rules developed by Microsoft that has become popular among corporations. Basically, instead of sponsoring their own private network, a corporation can securely use a public network by creating private tunnels.  

 

Once the VPN tunnel is established, PPTP uses control messages and data packets to send communication through the secured tunnel, protecting data from prying eyes even though it’s still traveling through a public network.  

 

For a casual user only concerned with protecting your personal data, the type of security protocol isn’t hugely important unless you’re transmitting extremely sensitive data. If you’re worried about protecting data, look for VPNs using IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) or SSLs. 

Server Locations 

 

Depending on where you’re traveling, it’s also important to look at the server location of your VPN service.  

 

Remember, your data goes through the VPN server first. Any site you visit through a VPN will see your data as originating from the VPN server location. As such, the location of the server is important for two main reasons.  

 

First, if a VPN has a larger number of servers, there’s a higher chance that you’ll be close to one of the servers, which means your service will be faster.  

 

Second, a larger number of servers makes it easier to circumvent region-specific restrictions for a larger number of locations.  

Logging Policies 

 

You’d think in the era of Cambridge Analytica that we would spend more time thinking about who is logging our data. Hint: most services are logging your data, or want to.  

 

This includes some VPNs, depending on whom you use.  

 

As such, if you want to maintain anonymity, it’s vital that you check whether or not your VPN provider is logging any data about you. Spoiler alert: most free VPNs do log your IP address. 

 

This is a huge privacy risk for you. Remember, if they have that information, someone else could get it too.  

 

Trustworthy VPNs will visibly and explicitly state that they don’t log your data or any identifying information about you.  

Red Flags When Choosing a VPN 

You know what makes a good VPN—what about what makes a bad VPN? 

 

There are a few red flags that show up before you sign on the dotted line and give your credit card information. Privacy and security are the biggest factors, so look at those first. If a VPN doesn’t explicitly state that they don’t log your data, chances are that they do. Take your business elsewhere. And if security protocols look iffy, they probably are. Move on.  

 

Beyond privacy and security, take a look at bandwidth limitations. Pay particular attention to downgrading bandwidth for specific types of traffic. The last thing you need is for your VPN to fritz at a critical moment.  

 

Also, watch out for data caps. Remember back in the day when cell phones only had a limited amount of data you could use in a month? Some VPNs have limits on the amount of data you can use per billing cycle.  

 

They’ll try to present it as economical. Here’s the thing: if it’s a crisis and you need to access something without worry that your data will be compromised, the last thing you should have to worry about is your data limit.  

 

Keep an eye out for customer service reviews. If customer services seems limited at best and nonexistent at worst, that tells you something important: the service provider doesn’t care about its customers beyond collecting credit card payments.  

 

Also, if a provider doesn’t allow you to choose different servers or regions to connect through, that’s probably because they don’t have that many servers. If you’re traveling to the far corners of the world, at best, you’ll have slow service. At worst, you’ll have a VPN that flat-out doesn’t work in your region.  

The 8 Best VPNs on the Market Right Now 

ExpressVPN 

Now that you know what to look for in a VPN, let’s talk about the best VPNs to choose from.  

 

The good news about a VPN is that it’s not a bulky travel accessory. You don’t need to worry about suitcase space—you just need to find the perfect VPN for your trip. Better still, many VPNs are now available as apps, the perfect complement to your other travel apps.  

 

Here are a few of our favorite VPNs for overseas travel, no matter how far-flung your adventure may be. Keep in mind that different VPNs excel at different things, so it depends on what you want from your VPN.  

TunnelBear VPN 
IPVanish 
 

1. ExpressVPN 

ExpressVPN 

15 months  US$6.67/mth

6 months  US$9.99/mth

1 month  US$12.95/mth

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ExpressVPN shows up on pretty much every top 10 VPN list on the Internet right now. The reason is simple: it offers the best all-around service for your money.  

 

This VPN excels in pretty much every category. They have more than 3,000 servers worldwide at 160 locations in 94 countries, on top of the broadest platform support you’ll find from any VPN provider.  

 

Seriously, who even uses Blackberry anymore? Someone must because ExpressVPN supports that. Even Linux users are covered.  

 

Oh, and it has amazing ease-of-use, fantastic speed, and 24/7 customer support that puts others to shame. Did we mention the apps? Or the custom firmware for some routers and DNS unblocking for even smart TVs (remember earlier when we said smart TVs often struggle with VPNs? These guys figured it out).  

 

That can sound intimidating to the uninitiated. Happily, ExpressVPN goes above and beyond the call of duty to help you make the most of their services. They have libraries of detailed tutorials and how-to guides, plus 24/7 support if you really can’t figure something out.  

 

Even veteran VPN users will love how simple it is to use. It’s got a crazy-simple one-click startup option (but if you need more advanced functionality, it brings home the bacon with DNS leak protection and a kill switch).  

 

And, of course, there’s industrial-strength encryption. It’s not on the Pentagon’s level, but you’ll feel like it is, and it’s more than enough to protect what matters most to you

Things We Liked
 

Here’s the highlight reel of what we love about ExpressVPN:

  • It works on almost any platform

  • Incredibly easy to use

  • Strict no-logging policy

  • Enterprise-level encryption

  • Speedy service in 94 countries

  • Outstanding customer service

 

These guys are consistently rated #1 for a reason!
 

Things We Didn’t Like
 

There’s actually not much about ExpressVPN that we don’t like. 

 

The company is based in the British Virgin Islands, which would make them officially a UK company. However, BVI privacy laws are less strict than the UK, which could be a drawback. 

 

That said, the company does seem to be doing all the right things to keep their customers happy and protected. 

 

Honestly, the biggest drawback is that they were slightly behind other VPNs on download and upload speeds for a few popular ‘local server’ options, but not by much. 

Cost
 

ExpressVPN has three pricing options: one month, six months, or fifteen months. 

 

One month of coverage costs $12.95 billed monthly, six months costs $9.99 per month billed monthly, and fifteen months costs $6.67 per month, billed annually. Regardless of your choice, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

2. NordVPN  

36 months  US$3.49/mth

24 months  US$4.99/mth

12 months  US$6.99/mth

1 month  US$11.95/mth

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ExpressVPN is a rising superstar in the field, but NordVPN remains the most famous VPN in the business and a top contender with ExpressVPN.  

 

It actually has more servers than ExpressVPN (something in the family of 5,600 servers) spread over 60 countries.  

 

If security is your biggest concern, NordVPN is the one to beat. They have security that would impress (and block out) even the military. Seriously, that 2048-bit encryption is not child’s play.  

 

NordVPN also holds its own in terms of available features. It supports up to six devices, has strong DNS leak protection, two kill switches, and fantastic speed (seriously: 5,600+ servers). 

 

It’s unique for offering proxy extensions for Bitcoin, PayPal, Chrome, and Firefox. Plus, it has SmartPlay to help you get around geographic restrictions with ease.  

 

The biggest downside of NordVPN is the user experience. It doesn’t have major issues so much as minor quibbles. Destination cities, for example, aren’t listed alphabetically. Specialist task functions require some brief (very brief!) moonlighting as Sherlock Holmes.  

 

That said, these are all minor issues when compared with the overall functionality you get for the price. Plus, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if those minor annoyances are really driving you up the walls, you can get your money back without issue.  

 

And really, when you compare the price of NordVPN to similar competitors on the market, it’s a tough price to beat, especially considering what you get for your money.  

Things We Liked

Here’s what we liked about NordVPN the most: 
 

  • More than 5,600 servers in more than 60 countries

  • Unique, specialized servers for fast service

  • 2048-bit encryption

  • Strict no-logging policy

  • Apps compatible with most major platforms

  • Suitable for users at all levels

  • P2P allowed

  • Strong customer service

 

If you’re looking for a great all-around VPN, these guys are a fantastic choice. 

Things We Didn’t Like

Like we said, the biggest downside is minor quibbles with the user experience. It’s not a major functionality problem, but it is a list of little problems that may well make you nuts over time. 

 

And given the cost, the functionality you’re getting for your money isn’t the best on the market. 

Cost

It won’t break the bank, but it’s not the cheapest option either. You also don’t get a discount unless you get a longer subscription. 

 

NordVPN offers four plans: one month, one year, two years, and three years. 

 

The one month plan is $11.95 per month, billed monthly. The one-year plan is $6.99 per month, billed annually at $83.88. The two-year plan is $4.99 per month, billed annually at $119.76 every two years. The three-year plan is their most popular--$3.49 per month, billed at $125.64 every three years. 

3. Surfshark

24 months  US$1.99/mth

12 months  US$5.99/mth

1 month  US$11.95/mth

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Another company based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark takes its cues from the Great White Shark--they never stop swimming, and they’re one of the fastest swimmers in the VPN sea. 

 

That’s good news for the company, considering that they’re a relative newcomer to the VPN field. 

 

The service is lean, mean, and powerful if a bit bare-bones on the mobile front. They have squeaky clean security for Windows and Mac alike. 

 

They also cover most of the common protocols, have a built-in kill switch, and a private DNS reinforced by a double VPN hop. 

 

Add in their logging policy (no records except your name and billing address) and you’ve got a decent VPN on your hands. 

Things We Liked

Here are a few areas where Surfshark channeled their inner Jaws and went in for the kill: 
 

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections

  • Multi-hop and split-tunneling tools

  • Fast connections

  • Reasonable pricing

  • Decent live chat support

  • Stripped down, super-easy interface
     

Like TunnelBear, it’s an animal-inspired VPN that’s all about exceeding expectations on the basics. If you want a rock-solid basic VPN, they’re a great option. 
 

Things We Didn’t Like
 

Like TunnelBear, SurfShark is a younger company, which means that their reach isn’t as impressive as some established giants. 

 

They also have less flashy functionality. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you’re looking for. Some people will like that they only get what they need, while other people may find themselves longing for more complex features. That’s up to you. 

Cost

The price is by far one of SurfShark’s best features. 

 

They offer three plans: one month, one year, and two years. The one month plan is $11.95 per month, comparable to many other plans on our list. The one-year plan is $5.99 per month, billed annually at $71.88. The two-year plan is a jaw-dropping $1.99 per month, billed annually at $47.76 per month. 

4. CyberGhost 

36 months  US$2.75/mth

24 months  US$3.69/mth

12 months  US$5.99/mth

1 month  US$12.99/mth

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If you’re looking for a powerful tool, CyberGhost more than meets that demand.  

 

A Romanian- and German-based company, CyberGhost offers around 4,700 servers in over 60 countries worldwide. It has apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.  

 

It relies on a task-based interface that’s refreshing for new users and veteran users alike. Many VPNs force you to guess which server you need to unblock to get a site. CyberGhost, on the other hand, just as you select the geo-blocked site you want to access. Then the app connects with the right server automatically and opens the site for you.  

 

Like we said: refreshingly easy.  

 

There are plenty of other bells and whistles, too, like automatic HTTPS redirection and blocking of malicious websites and ads. That said, the desktop interface can be complicated at best and the customer service standard is often frustrating.  

 

If you’re truly paranoid about your private information, you’ll feel a lot better with CyberGhost. You’re not even required to use your real name—you just need a working email address.  

 

Like IPVanish, CyberGhost definitely falls on the expensive end of the spectrum. In fact, they have one of the most expensive month-to-month subscriptions on this list. However, you do get good security for the price, so if you’re willing to shell out, you’ll get your money’s worth for security.

Things We Liked

Our favorite CyberGhost features include: 
 

  • Most beginner-friendly

  • Packed with features

  • Wide server spread

  • Connection for seven devices with a single subscription

  • You don’t need to provide your real name

 

If you’re new to VPNs, CyberGhost’s accessibility is its greatest quality, especially when it comes to the task-based interface. 
 

Things We Didn’t Like
 

The bells and whistles are CyberGhost’s greatest feature, but they’re also its greatest flaw. 

 

The task-based interface doesn’t leave you guessing which server to use, but it’s also a confusing interface until you get used to it. The customer support isn’t as strong as other providers, either, and the desktop trial is decidedly stingy--just 24 hours to make up your mind.

Cost

As the price goes, CyberGhsot is on the high end of the spectrum. 

 

They currently offer four plans: one month, one year, two years, and three years. 

 

The one month plan is $12.99 billed monthly. The one year-plan is $5.99 per month, billed annually at $71.88. The two-year plan is $3.69 per month, billed every two years at $88.56. Their best offer is the three-year plan, which is $2.75 per month billed every three years at $99. 

5. TunnelBear VPN 

TunnelBear VPN 

Free (Limited data)  US$0/mth

12 months  US$4.99/mth

1 month  US$9.99/mth

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If you’re a chronic technophobe or a total newbie to VPNs (or both) you need to check out TunnelBear. Seriously: if you want a VPN that’s absurdly easy to use, this is the one for you.  

They’re on the small side compared to other VPNs on this list, with around 1,500 servers in 22 countries.  

 

The VPN is easy to use because the company elected to emphasize simplicity in its design. Also, bear puns. So many bear puns.  

 

If you’re happy with the basics, there’s plenty to like here. You get a healthy serving of privacy and security. In fact, TunnelBear gets bonus points for privacy—they hire independent specialists to run outside security audits on their servers, systems, and code.  

 

They also have pretty solid performance, given the simplicity of the platform. Even the most far-flung locations in Asia get a respectable 20Mbps.  

Things We Liked

So. Many. Bear. Puns. 

 

Bear-y funny humor aside, here’s what we liked: 
 

  • Highly usable for newbies, technophobes, and advanced VPN users alike

  • Bright, colorful, and perfect for those tired of black hoodie-clad hackers in their security products

  • Apps for Windows, Mac, and iOS

  • Extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera

  • Plain English security policies

  • Third-party security audits

  • Speedy performance from Europe to the far corners of Asia

 

If you like your VPN short, sweet, and to the point, TunnelBear is the one to beat. 

Things We Didn’t Like

TunnelBear emphasizes the basics, and that’s what you’re going to get here: the basics. 

 

There isn’t much here for demanding users and not much in the way of geographic diversity--they only have 20 locations and you can’t change protocols or settings. 

 

They also have a rather weak customer support site. 

Cost

For the cost, though, it’s a pretty good VPN for the money. 

 

TunnelBear has three plans: free, one-month, and one year. The one-month plan costs $9.99 per month billed monthly and the one-year plan costs $4.99 per month billed annually at $59.88. So, as budget options go, it’s hard to do much better than TunnelBear. 

6. HotSpot Shield

36 months  US$2.99/mth

12 months  US$6.99/mth

1 month  US$12.99/mth

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If you’re looking at HotSpot Shield, their premium options offer a pretty decent VPN service for the money. 

 

Let’s put it this way: HotSpot Shield is best-known for its free option. They’re on this list based on the quality of their premium offerings. 

 

You get unlimited bandwidth and good performance with more than 2,500 servers in more than 80 countries. No ads, 24/7 support, and fantastic performance. HotSpot Shield relies on its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol to deliver download speeds that stand out from the crowd. 

 

That said, HotSpot Shield’s reliance on its Catapult Hydra protocol does have some drawbacks. Since it no longer supports many standard protocols, you can only set up the service on devices that run Windows, Mac, or iOS apps.

Things We Liked

Out of HotSpot Shield’s features, a few key elements stood out: 

  • Great budget option

  • Super easy to use

  • Fast download speeds

  • Free data allowance

  • No activity logging

 

The company is U.S.-based, which has some drawbacks, but on the flip side, they have servers in China and Russia, which is unique. 
 

Things We Didn’t Like
 

The biggest downside is HotSpot Shield’s proprietary protocol, which limits the functionality of the apps despite the fact that you can theoretically support multiple devices at once. 

 

There are also a few other issues, like the inability to unblock U.S. Netflix, no Bitcoin support, and a shortage of configuration options. That said, these issues won’t matter to everyone. The wider issue is the Catapult Hydra protocol. 

Cost

We get that when you’re traveling on a budget, free is hard to beat. That said, if we’re being completely frank, HotSpot Shield’s free option is iffy. If you choose this provider, do yourself a favor and spring for their premium plans. 

 

The good news is that the premium plans are actually quite budget-friendly. 

 

They have three premium plans: one month, one year, and three years. One month is $12.99 per month. One year is $6.99 per month, billed annually, and three years is $2.99 per month, billed every three years at $107.64. 

7. IPVanish 

IPVanish 

12 months  US$6.99/mth

3 months  US$8.99/mth

1 month  US$10.00/mth

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IPVanish is a smaller provider than NordVPN or ExpressVPN, but don’t let that deter you. They’re great at what they do.  

 

And IPVanish excels in particular with torrenting and similar P2P traffic. In fact, they’re unique in offering unlimited P2P traffic.  

 

The company claims to be the best VPN on the market. The jury’s still out on that one, but their performance numbers are nonetheless impressive. They have around 1,300 servers in more than 75 locations.  

 

They stand out when it comes to connections: you can use up to 10 connections simultaneously. That sounds like a lot, but given the number of platforms they support, you may well end up using all 10 connections.  

 

The apps are also a major draw, as they offer an impressive array of unique features and options for customization.  

 

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, and the apps are indeed powerful. There are some minor usability issues, like a lack of kill switches in apps. In addition, a small number of servers don’t appear in the advertised locations like they’re supposed to.  

 

In addition, the price is definitely on the high end of the spectrum. That said, if you really need 10 simultaneous connections and you’re willing to pay for it, IPVanish is the one you’re after. 

Things We Liked

Want high speeds and extreme privacy? IPVanish is showing up to the table. Here’s what we liked most about this VPN: 

  • Own and manage their own servers

  • Good geographic diversity of servers

  • Great torrenting capabilities

  • Up to 10 simultaneous connections

  • Automatic IP address cycling

  • Powerful, configurable apps

  • Speedy live chat support

 

All in all, it’s a fantastic all-around VPN service for beginners and advanced users alike. 

Things We Didn’t Like

There are a few main downsides with IPVanish. 

 

The apps are powerful, but they do have some usability issues. That said, these aren’t issues that really warrant driving customers away. 

 

The lack of a kill switch in the mobile app, for example, is something that some customers won’t mind and some customers will. 

 

The biggest drawback is honestly the lack of free trial. Then again, given how well the apps worked overall, you may not mind that much once you take the plunge. 

Cost

IPVanish has three plans which are shorter than many other plans: one month, three months, or one year. 

 

The one month plan is $10 per month. The three-month plan is $8.99 per month billed every three months at $26.99. The one-year plan is their best value at $6.99 per month, billed annually at $77.99. 

 

They’re not the cheapest plan on the market, but they’re also not the most expensive. Given the functionality, that’s a reasonable trade-off for many users. 

8. StrongVPN

12 months  US$5.83/mth

1 month  US$10.00/mth

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Last but not least is StrongVPN, a tiny but mighty VPN service. 

 

They have 650 servers in 26 countries (like we said, tiny). The mighty part comes from the fact that you can use the service on up to 12 devices at once. 

 

For the brawn of the service, they take a minimalist approach. What it does, it does with gusto. You have the usual suspects (no logging, no selling personal information, no cookies, etc.) as well as surprisingly fast connection speeds and a 24/7 helpline.

Things We Liked

Like we said, StrongVPN is small on features but big on performance for the features it does offer. Here’s what we liked:
 

  • Support for 12 devices at once

  • Strong connection speeds

  • No logging

  • 30-day money-back guarantee

 

It’s a to-the-point type of VPN, which is good if you just want a VPN to get the job done without any fuss and feathers. 

Things We Didn’t Like

That said, the lack of fuss and feathers is a major drawback for users who want an overabundance of functionality. It’s a basic VPN and isn’t pretending to be anything else. 

 

The other big drawback is that you don’t get a free trial. You do get a money-back guarantee, though, so take that as you please. 

Cost

Like the VPN itself, the plans are decidedly minimalist. There are two available plans: one month or one year. 

 

The one month plan rings in at a respectable $10 per month, while the one-year plan is $5.83 per month, billed annually at $69.99. They’re not the lowest prices on the market, but for a basic VPN with good basic functionality, they’re decent prices. 

The Unsexy (But Essential!) Travel Item 

VPNs aren’t as fun as a new sundress or as flashy as the newest clever travel gadget, but they are absolutely essential if you want to protect your data, whether you’re in London, Calcutta, or Siberia. Because at the end of the day, you can’t have fun exploring the world if you’re worried about your private information.  

 

If you’re packing for your next big adventure, make sure to check out our blog for more useful tips, like these essential travel hacks for packing or our must-have luggage buyers guide for 2019.  

ABOUT DANIEL

Welcome to LuggageGuru!
My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.

My goal with luggageguru.com is to provide helpful information about travel-related products and accessories and also useful travel tips to make your vacation or trip more enjoyable!
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