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Whether you are commuting or working abroad, you don't have to leave security and privacy behind at home.
With that in mind, a travel VPN -- unfortunately, often overlooked -- is a tool available to you to keep your data safe and give you peace of mind when you're on the go. Of all the situations you might find yourself in when using a VPN, perhaps the most mission-critical is when you're traveling. When you're away from home, you're dependent on whatever communication infrastructure exists where you are. You might have a strong Wi-Fi connection in the airport or café, but is it secure?
In most cases with open Wi-Fi hotspots, the answer is a resounding no.
Also: 12 gift ideas for travelers
That's where a VPN comes to the rescue. The create secure tunnels that protect your internet traffic. This gives you an extra layer of protection against having financial information or login credentials exposed or stolen.
Keep in mind that VPNs are illegal in some countries, precisely because the host government wants to snoop on all traffic. Make sure you check your local laws before you do something that may be frowned upon and investigated, possibly with quite serious consequences.
Also: What are the best mobile VPNs, and do they slow down your connection?
The service you use at home may be great for streaming movies, but VPNs can serve a much more serious purpose when you're abroad. Choose carefully.
ExpressVPN specifications: 160 server locations, 94 countries | 5 simultaneous connections | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
ExpressVPN has a sizable server network comprising 160 server locations in 94 countries. No matter where you're traveling, there's a good chance you'll be able to connect to a local server.
ExpressVPN is a widely used VPN provider that supports a large number of platforms and devices. It's also one of the best VPNs for iPhones and a , which makes it useful for traveling, especially when you are using multiple devices on different operating systems.
You can use the native app or set up ExpressVPN manually on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chromebooks, and more.
A key advantage of ExpressVPN is the private DNS it runs on every VPN server when it comes to travel. That means that when you're trying to access Gmail, for example, ExpressVPN's DNS will give you an actual IP address for Gmail. You don't have to opt-in to ExpressVPN's private DNS as requests are protected automatically, and without exposure to third parties.
ExpressVPNs clearly lays out what information it collects. It doesn't log information that could be used to identify you, such as your IP address, browsing history, or DNS queries. However, it does track the dates you connect, how much data is transferred, and the server location. ExpressVPN has made this information , which is a plus.
At the time of writing, subscription costs begin at $8.32 per month on a 12-month plan; $9.99/month for six months, or $12.95 for a month of access.
Read the review: Our ExpressVPN review
Surfshark VPN specifications: Servers: 3,200+, 95 countries | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome | Logging: No activity logs | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
In our most recent testing, while speed was rather average, the Surfshark connection was reliable and had fast connection times. Surfshark VPN is a very secure option and we found no DNS leaks during recent tests.
The company doesn't log your activity while using the service and also offers private DNS capabilities, as well as what they call NoBorders mode. This feature is designed to enable you to access sites regardless of restrictive border connections. Be careful, though. Countries restricting access tend to frown on bypassing those restrictions.
Surfshark VPN comes with a number of standard features, including split tunneling, a kill switch to keep your connection secure if it drops, MultiHop (a double VPN), static and rotating IP addresses, and an ad/tracker blocker. There are also inexpensive add-on tools, including a tracker-free search engine, data breach scanner, and antivirus software.
Surfshark operates a live and is independently audited.
At present, Surfshark is running a sale. Reduced from $12.95/month (the typical one-month subscription fee), the VPN will only cost you $2.30/month for a two-year subscription plan. Alternatively, you can sign up for a year and you will pay $3.99 /month. You are billed for the full package at the time of sign-up.
Read the review: Our Surfshark VPN review
NordVPN specifications: Servers: 5,000+ | Simultaneous connections: 6 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox, Edge | Logging: No activity logs | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
In our review of NordVPN, it was fast (only reducing speeds by 32%) and had a reliable and consistent connection. NordVPN's performance was generally consistent across a wide range of test situations. This means that if you're traveling, you're likely to be able to count on the same performance from NordVPN no matter where you're connecting from.
NordVPN also supports P2P sharing and is one of our favorite VPNs for torrenting. It offers a second layer of encryption through its Double VPN feature and has a dedicated IP if you're trying to run a VPN that also doubles as a server. As far as compatibility goes, NordVPN supports all of the major platforms and has additional browser plugins for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
Overall, NordVPN is a solid choice. It has a 30-day money-back guarantee, which should give you enough time to test out the product and see if it's a good fit for you.
The subscription cost can be also considered expensive outside of sales events. You can select between Complete, Plus, and Standard on a two-year, one-year, and monthly plan, the difference being whether or not you also want access to a password manager, data breach scanner, or encrypted cloud storage service.
Prices start from $4.19 /month on a two-year standard plan to $14.49 /month on a complete, one-month subscription. At the time of writing, NordVPN is running a birthday promotion for new subscribers. If you sign up for the two-year plan, on any tier, will be given a gift of either three months or one year free.
IPVanish VPN specifications: Servers: 2,000+ | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, Android TV, Chrome | Logging: No activity logs | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
IPVanish is a highly configurable product with a user-friendly interface and a raft of configuration options for the app. The app gives you a good number of server selection options and shows you the ping speed and server load for each location.
These features can be valuable when you're on the road because it gives you the option to choose the optimal server based on your current location, which can vary depending on where you are in the world.
IPVanish's connection speed was fast, but the download speeds were subpar (cuts speeds by 73%) compared to other services in our most recent testing for the fastest VPNs. If the freedom to configure your VPN to your liking and the ability to choose from an extensive list of countries and servers are your priorities, this is the VPN for you.
If you commit for two years, IPVanish offers a discounted plan for $3.33 /month. This increases to $3.99 /month for a yearly plan, and $11.99 for one month. However, unless you turn off automatic renewal, you can expect a price hike once your deal time ends.
Read the review: Our IPVanish review
We found the best VPN for travel is ExpressVPN, with servers in 94 countries and 160 locations. ExpressVPN has a fast and reliable connection and offers top-notch security features, like private DNS. It also supports the most popular mobile platforms and a wide range of other platforms and devices. So even when you're not traveling, ExpressVPN can secure your internet connection from just about any device.
|Best VPN for travel||Price||Kill switch||Logging||Simultaneous connections|
|ExpressVPN||$6.67/mo w/ 1-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||No browsing logs, some connection logs||5|
|Surfshark VPN||$2.05/mo w/ 2-year plan + 2 free months||Yes||None, except billing data||Unlimited|
|NordVPN||$3.69/mo w/ 2-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||None, except billing data||6|
|IPVanish VPN||$3.19/mo w/ 1-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||None, except billing data||Unlimited|
The travel VPN that best fits your needs is going to provide a balance between security and speed. Some VPNs prioritize encryption and other security measures over performance, and while this won't affect your web browsing or streaming speeds too much, it's still a factor to consider.
Choose this travel VPN...
If you need...
A massive server network
Surfshark or IPVanish
Unlimited simultaneous connections
Consistent performance across multiple devices and platforms
Reliable and highly configurable VPN
We looked at a list of different metrics to decide which were the top picks for travel VPNs, including ping speeds, encryption, platform compatibility, and the number of servers each brand has worldwide.
Also, we made sure that each of our picks offered strong security, which means that your data will not be visible while using the program, and certain features (like a kill switch) are included. We also considered the importance of server and country availability, as the more expansive the network, the more user choice.
A VPN is also known as a Virtual Private Network. These services allow users to browse the internet privately and securely connect to open or public Wi-Fi networks with a layer of security designed to mask your data. VPNs give users the ability to change their virtual location by redirecting the connection through servers located worldwide. A VPN will also encrypt your traffic, so your online activities are kept hidden from prying eyes.
However, if your online activities are being monitored at the ISP level -- say, by a government -- they may recognize the signature of a VPN and while they can't see what you are doing, they will know you are using VPN connections.
VPNs are useful in unblocking geo-restricted content and can be a vital tool for accessing information in countries with repressive governments. And they are important services for anyone that wants to maintain a high level of safety and privacy online.
There are a number of sources. First, it's always a good idea to reach out to your VPN vendor. They often have a good feel for the countries their services operate in and will often post guidance on their websites. If you're an American citizen, you may wish to consider contacting the US State Department. It lists travel advisories for US citizens, and they have foreign service officials who can provide general guidance. Check the . Your nation's foreign ministry may have a similar service if you're outside the US.
If you're looking to understand which countries either ban or discourage VPN usage, NordVPN has a that lists countries with severe restrictions, bans, and possible penalities for breaking VPN laws.
No, no way. VPNs can, generally, protect your data while it's in motion. But if your computer or phone is seized (whether or not it's encrypted), it's possible law enforcement can access your data. Some governments might simply hold your devices for whatever reason they deem useful. Online services you access in-country might have less protection than the very same services in your host country. And, of course, there are all the normal travel security issues, like being careful what you spend, how you handle cash, who you trust, and so on that could cause risk while traveling.
Yes. Don't assume any network endpoint is safe when traveling. Always make sure your connections are encrypted when communicating from any network connection.
Many VPN services definitively claim you can save hundreds of dollars on flights by using a VPN to change your location. And there are plenty of blog posts with anecdotal evidence supporting the theory that a VPN can help cut the price of your plane ticket. But the reality is less clear, and the most likely scenario is that no one knows for sure how much, if at all, a VPN can help you score cheap flights.
Airfare prices are set by algorithms based on a complicated number of factors, such as demand. You could notice a price different using a VPN to spoof your location, but the change in cost may or may not be related to your location. From a practical standpoint, it's difficult to account for every possible variable. Also, given the amount of data available on consumers, maybe the real advantage in using a VPN is remaining anonymous.
Another way to look at it is, if a VPN actually reduces the cost of airfare, it's most likely not going to have as big of an impact as other factors. There are other tactics for booking cheap flights that should be higher on your priority list. Booking early and keeping an eye out for price drops (check if there are change fees before booking), or traveling during days or times of day when there is less demand are great ways to secure the best possible prices on flights.
If the services we've highlighted in our best travel VPNs list aren't a good fit for you, there are other reputable products worth trying out. Proton VPN, VyprVPN, and Atlas VPN are all secure and reputable providers that could better suit your needs.
You can also check out ZDNET's guide on the top VPNs for more options.