common sense guide to vpns

The Common Sense Guide to VPNs for Travel

If you use a phone, laptop or tablet to access the internet then you should be using a VPN for travel.  A VPN will let you access Facebook in China.  Using a VPN when you are travelling will help protect your personal information.  VPNs can let you watch content restricted to certain areas, like the BBC online outside of the UK.  If you want to tether your laptop to your mobile data then a VPN lets you do just that!.  A VPN can let you use applications that might be blocked in a country (like Skype in the UAE).  If you use a public wifi connection to access your bank, or book flights, or a hotel, then you should be using a VPN while travelling to protect your data.  This Common Sense Guide to VPNs for travelling will explain all the reasons to use a VPN and the benefits of a VPN.  It will go through the cost of VPNs, share details of free VPNs and show you now VPNs can save money.

Why Use a VPN?

You should use a VPN if you do ANY of the following on the Internet.

  • Use a VPN if you want to tether your phone and use your home mobile data when traveling
  • Book hotels or dorm beds
  • You need a VPN if you want to access Snapchat in Cuba – we found the best VPN for snapchat is ExpressVPN
  • Pay for things via Paypal
  • Manage bank accounts with a VPN
  • Watch content from the BBC, CNN, Netflix, Sky, or other country-specific media providers
  • Use a VPN to Pay a credit card bill
  • Use a VPN to Book a flight
  • Apply for an e-visa
  • Download your Email
  • Use a VPN if you want to use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp in censored countries
  • Use Skype for voice or video
  • Update Blogger
  • Use a VPN to use Google Search or Google Translate in censored countries

Get the best VPN that we’ve found that works in ANY country we’ve been to including Turkmenistan, China, Myanmar &Cuba.  This link gives you a coupon for THREE MONTHS for free as a reader of ASocialNomad

Reasons to Use a VPN

The internet in its basic form and all the data whizzing over it is just like sending a postcard – anyone can read it.  These days it’s really easy for attackers to pose as legitimate WiFi hotspots, and act as a “Man in the Middle”.  The goal of the attacker is to sit and watch the traffic from your machine to the legitimate sites you’re accessing.  If they can get between your device and the legitimate site, they can fool your device into sending them the login credentials you use – that secure banking isn’t quite as good as it seemed now is it, and that bargain you popped your credit card details in for…..

It doesn’t matter if you had to put a password in to access the free wifi hotspot or not.

One of the better ways to connect to the internet without revealing all your secrets is to use a VPN.

Here’s our guide to the TOP VPNs for Travel compared.

What is a VPN?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is like having your own private, secure tunnel to the Internet.  It allows you to encrypt all the information that you send and receive.   And even if someone tries a Man-in-the-Middle attack on you, it won’t succeed as the traffic you’re sending and receiving is using different secured channels.

Why Use a VPN?

When you use a VPN data leaves your machine in a format that can’t be read by others.  It’s encrypted.  Hackers, private companies or governments can’t read it.

A VPN can also make it look like you’re accessing a site from a completely different geographic location.  This is useful if you want to download from BBC iPlayer from outside the UK or use Facebook while you’re in China.

9 Reasons to use a VPN while traveling

1. Use A VPN to save money

Let’s start with the biggest win of all.  You can save money with a VPN.  We do, all the time.  By using a VPN while travelling we saved hundreds of dollars.  Literally that.

We just saved hundreds of dollars in December 2018 by using our VPN to book flights in Colombia!

Your computer stores information about what you’ve been reading on the internet.  The way in which it stores this information is known as cookies.  These cookies are used by websites that you visit to show you relevant information based on your browsing history.

So, search for a flight from London to Frankfurt 10 times and someone might get the idea that you really want to go to Frankfurt.   It’s unlikely that the price that you’re shown will be lower.  Airlines and travel sites use this information to get themselves a better deal.   In order to increase your chances of getting a better price you should

  • delete your cookies between searches < just google how to do this, its easy and doesn’t hurt you or your device
  • Go incognito with your browser < this means that the browser shares NO information about where you are

The price you are shown for flights, hotels and special offers will also depend on your location.  Change your location and you’re likely to get a better deal.  You can use a VPN to spoof your destination to get that better deal.

The folks at ExpressVPN put together this great infographic to show just how much you can save by using a VPN.  I’ll give you a clue.  It’s more than US$2,000!! – find out more about this by clicking on the infographic.

UPDATE:  I used my VPN while booking a flight in September, I used an ExpressVPN server to show that I was in the USA while trying to book a return flight from Bulgaria to the UK.  Without a VPN the cost was 934 euros, with my VPN on set to the USA, my flight cost 276 Euros.  IT WORKS!

Check out more on how ExpressVPN can save you money.

Want to know other ways of saving money while traveling?

a) Get a fee free debit card – read our guide to Wise here

b) Get a Portable Travel safe and keep your gear safe and secure

c) Drink tap water using a filter water bottle

2.  Use a VPN to circumvent mobile data tethering limits

If you’re traveling with your mobile phone contract or PAYGO packages you may notice that you can’t use the mobile data package to tether any other devices and use your data.  So you’ll just be able to use all that data on your phone.  If you want to share the data with your laptop or tablet, then you need to mask it.  That’s where a VPN comes in.

Fire up your VPN (we recommend ExpressVPN for the best coverage), turn on your mobile hotspot and all your data and your location are encrypted.  It works.

3.  Use a VPN to Watch Netflix around the world  – aka accessing GEO restricted Content

This is as simple as the following. If you’re from the UK and want to watch the BBC online away from home, you can do this with a VPN.  A VPN will let you watch Netflix.  Content from many media sites is restricted to specific countries.  In the UK for instance, even if you’re a BBC license payer you’re not allowed to view licensed BBC content when you’re outside of the UK.  This is known as a geo-restriction.

Common Sense Guide to VPNS

Other examples of geo-restrictions include Spotify in Japan, CBC, and Hulu.

A VPN allows you to pretend that you and your computer or phone is in a country that allows you to access that site.

4.  Use a VPN to access Facebook in China – aka bypassing censorship

Certain countries restrict access to particular services and websites.  The most well-known of these is China blocking access to Facebook and sometimes Google.  During the second of our 30-day visits to China, Google was blocked without warning.  This meant that we couldn’t have accessed our email, use google maps or google translate if we didn’t have a VPN.  We also needed VPNs in Myanmar and Russia to access Google and Facebook.  In December 2017 friends successfully used Express VPN in Turkmenistan, Cuba and China when other VPNs did not work.

We found ExpressVPN to get the best VPN for Turkmenistan.  We also found it to be the best VPN for Cuba and overall the best VPN for travelers.  We used our VPN in Cuba extensively, to protect ourselves while connecting to public wifi in parks!

What VPN works in China? ExpressVPN for sure and consistently well – sign up for ExpressVPN now and get up to 49% off!.  We found it to be the best Cuba VPN in our month there.  It was also the best VPN for Turkmenistan – working easily when others simply would not connect!  Through our VPN in Turkmenistan, we booked flights when others couldn’t even load a browser!.

Even with the slow speed of the internet in Myanmar, this was also the best VPN in Myanmar.  We found that by using a VPN in Myanmar we actually stabilized the internet connection and while it was slow, it was consistent and didn’t keep dropping.  If you want a Myanmar VPN (and we recommend it, then ExpressVPN is a great choice, if not the best VPN for Myanmar and this link will give you 3 months for free.

A VPN allows you to spoof your location and pretend that your device is in a country that allows you to access that site.

5.  Use a VPN to Access Skype and other VOIP services

We use Skype to call home on a semi-regular basis.  If your call originates in or is directed to one of the countries that are restrictive when it comes to surveillance, then you may not be able to call.  Countries such as China, Egypt, Cuba, Dubai and Saudi Arabia are cited as having restrictive policies on VoIP (voice over IP) services.  Often it is not just the country that places the restriction.  In order or protect their bandwidth, some wifi hotspots will specifically block Skype on their network.  We had problems accessing Skype without a VPN in Vietnam, China, India, New Zealand and Australia!  A VPN will generally allow you to use the VoIP service wherever you are.

I use ExpressVPN on my mobile and while using data to be able to use my cheap data to call home from all over the world.  I’ve found ExpressVPN to be the best VPN service for Skype.

Wherever we’ve been around the world we’ve found ExpressVPN to be the best VPN for Skype – try it out now and get up to 49% off RRP or 3 months for free.

6.  Use VPNs on wifi hotspot to protect your information

When you’re travelling (and especially on a budget) you have little choice but to use public wifi connections.  This might be at the airport, the local library, from the hostel you’re staying in, or the café that you’re eating in.  Most of the content you type into your phone, tablet or laptop crosses the internet in plain text, which means it’s not protected or masked at all.

Sign up for ExpressVPN now and get up to 49% off RRP or 3 months for free.  

It doesn’t matter that you’re the one traveling on a budget, with a backpack.  Cybercriminals on public wifi hotspots just suck up all the information about everyone regardless of how wealthy or broke you look.  Your travel VPN will protect you.

Anyone who is on the same network as you can grab your unencrypted data as it flies through the air.  And they don’t need to be experts.  There are YouTube videos galore on how to utilize freely available applications to steal your data, usernames, passwords, and life online.

A VPN allows you to mask your details and encrypt your information.

7.  Use VPNs to prevent your bank from locking you out

The advice from all our banking organizations is to let them know when you’re travelling aboard so that they won’t stop your ATM or Credit Cards.  When you log onto your bank’s online services the bank will be able to identify where you are by the IP (internet) address of where you’re connecting from.  If that’s a different – or unusual – country from normal then you may face additional security questions.  Or they may lock you out.  And it usually happens in the middle of the night, when you’re nowhere near a usable phone connection to get things reinstated.  If, indeed your bank will reinstate access without a quaint “send a password via the postal services” situation.

Get the best VPN that we’ve found that works in ANY country we’ve been to including Turkmenistan, China, Myanmar &Cuba.  This link gives you a coupon for THREE MONTHS for free as a reader of ASocialNomad

The same is true with Paypal.  There’s no one you can call at Paypal.  Believe me, you don’t want to get locked out of Paypal, you may just spend the rest of your natural life trying to regain access to your money.  Or maybe it just feels like that.

Most VPNs provide servers in countries around the world so that you can connect to your home country and enable easier access to your banking accounts.  We’ve found over the years that Express VPN is the best VPN for traveling because we’ve been able to access accounts in several different countries simply and easily and we’ve ALWAYS got a connection.

8.  Use a VPN to give anonymity

Each time you go online someone, somewhere is tracking your actions.  The service provider that you’re using right now is monitoring your usage.  If you take up too much bandwidth they may slow down what’s available to you.  If you use certain applications they may stop your access.

Each website that you visit gets your IP (internet) address, your location, the device that you’re using, your browser, operating system, screen resolution, and inside leg measurement.  Oh, you are still listening?

And it’s all of use to market to you.  It’s no surprise that the next time after you’ve been looking for that flight to Sydney, advertisements pop up on every website you’re on.  Offering you another deal to Sydney.

Fire up your VPN and they don’t know it’s you.

9.  Use VPNs to Download stuff – privately

So, you’re downloading the ENTIRE Internet through whatever nefarious sources you’ve just been told about.  Someone somewhere is tracking what you’re doing.  Whether that’s the National Security Agency, GCHQ from the UK, or film distributors and book publishers the world over.  They’d all love to know exactly what you’re downloading, in case it’s something that you shouldn’t be.

Get the best VPN that we’ve found that works in ANY country we’ve been to including Turkmenistan, China, Myanmar &Cuba.  This link gives you a coupon for THREE MONTHS for free as a reader of ASocialNomad

Most download sites use a technology called peer-to-peer – most commonly known as P2P.  BitTorrent is the most famous, but it used to be Napster and Kazaa.  While many of these sites are often affiliated with illegal music and movies, P2P sites are also used for legitimate purposes.  Often new services on existing platforms are built on this P2P technology.

While we don’t advocate that you download pirated or illegal anything, you also may not want to be tracked in what you download.

How to Select a VPN.  Features to Look for in a VPN for Travel.

Here are just a few features to look for when you’re selecting a VPN for travel.

  1.  Make sure it works with ALL your devices – and look for VPNs that support other devices, should you move from iPhone to Android for instance.
  2. . Make sure your VPN has many servers you can connect to around the world.
  3. The ability to use multiple devices at once.  Chances are you’ll want to connect on your phone and your laptop at the same time or your partner will.
  4. Check the speed that the VPN offers.  Some free VPNs will provide a free, but slow service.  We have never had problems with ExpressVPN slowing a connection.  Ever.
  5. Easy installation.  Make sure there’s a guide that you can follow – and details of what to do if you get stuck.
  6. Support.  Make sure that the VPN that you select either has someone you can email, or chat with or call if you need help.

How much does a VPN cost?

Nothing.  You can get a VPN for free.  But you should be wary of those VPNs that are JUST free and do not offer a paid-for service.  (I would worry what they’re doing with my information!) So when people ask me “Do VPN’s cost money?” I always say Yes, because if you want one that’s going to do the right job, then you need a great one.  A good or great VPN will cost money.  Not a huge amount, but yes VPNs cost.

Get the best VPN that we’ve found that works in ANY country we’ve been to including Turkmenistan, China, Myanmar &Cuba.  This link gives you a coupon for THREE MONTHS for free as a reader of ASocialNomad

There are, however, VPN services that provide a free solution.  They generally offer a certain amount of bandwidth or data that you can “push” through their service each month or limited VPN locations.  This is rarely very much, so if you want to do much more than look at Facebook it’s not going to be of much use to you.  And yes you can install lots of different ones and switch between them.  But seriously.  Life is too short.

Which VPNs are Free?

If you’re on an extreme budget, then this is a good option, you can always upgrade to their paid-for service later.  Simply ensure that whenever you’re using a site that involves entering confidential information that you fire up the VPN before you log in.  Here are a selection of free VPNs that get good reviews from the tech community.

Best VPN for Travel

Paid for VPN services are NOT EXPENSIVE.  We’ve used ExpressVPN for years now.  What does Express VPN cost?  We pay just US$6.67 a month.    And that’s for unlimited data and 148 worldwide VPN locations in nearly 100 countries.    And it covers all our devices – that’s two laptops, one iPad, one android, and one iPhone.

What a VPN will NOT do

  • A VPN won’t protect you against computer viruses.  You’ll need an anti-virus solution for that.
  • A VPN won’t protect you against internet malware.  It’s providing an encrypted tunnel if you click on an infected link you’re still going to get infected unless you have an anti-malware solution.  These are normally bundled with anti-virus solutions.
  • A VPN won’t protect you and your family from visiting pornographic, illegal or gambling sites on the web.  You’ll need a firewall or common sense for that.
  • A VPN will not make you completely anonymous. It is not a license to go and commit a crime.   You can’t commit huge financial fraud hiding behind a VPN and expect to get away with it.

What a VPN will do is provide you with a level of security and privacy that will enable you to use free open wifi hotspots so that you can enjoy your traveling.

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