Wondering if you need a VPN for travel and which one is best? Then you’re in the right place!
In this post, we’ll discuss the many reasons why you absolutely need a VPN for traveling, how to choose the right one for you, and which one we recommend based on our experience as full-time travelers and digital nomads.
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Why Do I Need a VPN?
The majority of people don’t think twice about connecting their devices to public wifi networks like those available at local coffee shops and libraries.
This is especially true when traveling, because a lot of people don’t have international data on their phones, so connecting to the wifi at airports, hotels, and on airplanes is the only way to get online without paying huge international roaming fees.
What they don’t know is that using unsecured wifi networks is extremely risky because you’re leaving yourself completely vulnerable to data theft and hackers.
Believe it or not, there are data thieves hanging out at places with free wifi snooping on your internet activity and just waiting for you to enter your bank account password to check your funds or type in your credit card number while reserving a hotel.
At that exact moment, they’ll take your info and be off on their merry way to make some bank transfers or online purchases – WITH YOUR MONEY!
This can happen one block from home or halfway around the world, but it’s more likely to occur while traveling since you’ll probably be spending more time on public wifi networks.
How can you stop this from happening? By getting a VPN!
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network which gives you privacy while browsing the internet, hides your location, and encrypts your data to prevent it from theft.
Most VPN services provide an app you can easily download and use on your phone, tablet or laptop.
What Does a VPN Do?
It’s a magical tool that can do a lot more than protect you from the credit card hackers.
It creates a private connection between devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones and the internet. Think of a VPN as a secret tunnel between you and the internet that keeps your information secure from hackers, governments, and snoops.
Why You Need a VPN for Travel
Now that you have a basic understanding of what a VPN is, let’s talk about why you need a VPN for traveling.
Keeping Your Banking Information Secure
Think about how many times you’ve used unsecured wifi networks to make a hotel reservation using your credit card at an airport or to check your bank account at a cafe WITHOUT using a VPN and leaving all of your baking information exposed to hackers waiting nearby.
Pretty scary, huh?
Using public wifi networks isn’t safe and a VPN encrypts your credit card and banking information to protect it from theft. Bye bye, hackers!
Protecting Your Internet Browsing Data
It’s not just the credit card and password thieves you need to watch out for. It’s also possible that your own ISP (Internet Service Provider) is selling your browsing data to third-parties. A VPN prevents them from doing so by encrypting your data.
Watching Netflix (and other streaming sites)
One of the key things that VPNs do is that they allow you to choose the country or location you’d like to access the internet from.
This means that if you’re traveling internationally, you can set your VPN location to a city within the United States (or whichever country you live in) to continue accessing websites and apps exactly as you do from home.
Let’s use Netflix as an example. When you login to your Netflix account (without a VPN) from your hotel in Oaxaca, you’ll only have access to whatever shows and movies are available on Mexican Netflix, which will vary from the shows available in the US and will include a large selection in Spanish.
This can be a good thing if you want to practice your Spanish, but a bad thing if you simply want to finish bingeing a specific show.
However, if you use a VPN to set your location as somewhere within the US, and then connect to Netflix, you will have access to exactly the same stuff you watch at home.
Bypassing Country Censorships
Internet censorship, bandwidth limits, and surveillance are practiced by some countries around the world. Check out this list of countries that censor.
One of the top offenders is China. They’ve banned Google and Facebook from being accessed within their borders.
When we visited Shanghai in China we could not access Google searches, Google Maps, G Drive, or Gmail. In other words, a ton of things we needed to work and navigate the city. So what’s a Google-dependent travel blogger to do?
Once we arrived at the airport, we used our life-saving NordVPN to set our server location to the US and bypass China’s internet censorship. We were back in business in no time; using Google Maps to get to our hotel and find our way around the city, and using Google Search to find some delicious street food spots.
Finding Cheaper Flights
Yet another cool thing that a VPN can do is help you find cheap flights! If you’re looking for cheap domestic flights in a certain country, you can usually set your location to that country to get a better deal on airfare.
Accessing Websites in Your Language
This is one of the least appreciated, but still useful benefits of a VPN. When you’re traveling and searching the internet, websites – like Google or Booking.com – will appear in the local language, which you may or may not speak.
Yes, you can set it back to English, but it’s such a pain to find that setting when everything is in Thai. It’s so much easier to just turn on your VPN and not have to deal with languages constantly switching.
How to Choose the Right VPN
There are so many VPN services to choose from that finding the right one for you can be a hassle.
To help you out, here are some of the things we considered when searching for the right VPN:
Does it log your internet use? Some of the free VPN options do, so be wary because a good VPN should never log your data.
Does the service offer different pricing plans? You may only need a VPN during your 2 week trip. If so, look for a company that has an option to purchase one month of service. If you travel frequently or long-term, find one that offers a good discount for the annual plan.
Does it work with all of your devices and operating systems? We use Apple devices, so we needed something that works well with iOS, including our laptops, iPads and iPhones.
Ease of Use
Is it user-friendly and easy to understand? Some interfaces are easier to use than others. VPNs can be a bit complicated. Make sure you choose a service that’s easy to set up and has good customer service.
How many devices can it connect to simultaneously? There are limits on the number of devices that can be use a VPN at the same time. For example, we needed to connect at least four devices (two laptops and two iPhones) simultaneously, but some services only offer two at a time.
Speed and Servers
Does it slow down the connection? How many servers does it have? To ensure speed, you should use a VPN that has plenty of servers in as many countries as possible.
Does it work with Netflix and other streaming services? Some VPN services and servers don’t work with Netflix and HBO. Make sure yours does if you plan to do some bingeing while abroad.
The Best VPN for Travel
After researching and reading reviews for dozens of VPN services, we decided to go with NordVPN based on its winning combination of reliability, speed, and cost.
We’ve been using NordVPN the entire time we’ve been traveling full-time and it has proven to the best VPN for travel.
Why We Use NordVPN as our Travel VPN
- Risk-free trial and 30-day money back guarantee
- Turns on automatically when connecting to a new wifi network
- Easy to use apps for Apple and Android
- 24/7 Customer Support via email and chat
- Automatically blocks malicious ads and sites
- Doesn’t log online activity, meaning that no information is shared with third parties.
How to Use a VPN While Traveling
Using a VPN while traveling is super easy! Since we use NordVPN I’ll walk you through the quickest way to set up this VPN on your device.
- Sign up for NordVPN
- Download the NordVPN app to your device.
- Log in using your new account info.
- Click the “Quick Connect” button.
- Allow Notifications and VPN configurations.
Done! You’re ready to watch Netflix during your taco-induced food comas in Mexico.
Do You Need a VPN for Travel?
Short answer: Yes! You should be using a VPN – especially when traveling – to protect yourself from identity theft, credit card fraud, and hackers. You can also use a VPN to get cheaper flights, access banned websites, and watch Netflix abroad.
Don’t risk it! Be a prepared and get a VPN before your next trip.