Using a VPN while travelling is very important, in fact many would say using a VPN at all times is crucial.
With the world working remotely more and more, the opportunity for cyber attacks and data theft are higher than ever.
I engaged with the team at VPNOverview.com, experts in the VPN space, to help us understand more about why a VPN is important, why you should use one for international travel and to make some recommendations of their favourite services you can use.
The Digital Revolution
Before we start on the topic of VPNs, it’s important to understand the recent history of digital transformation and why a VPN is now so crucial for your online life.
The 2000s saw a total digital transformation in with smartphones and ‘applications’ being born.
Following the 2000s, the next decade marked the rise of social media, the Internet of Things, or IoT and higher internet speeds than ever (as well as 4G and now, 5G).
Exponential rises in internet penetration marked the 2010s, which means that more people across the globe are connected, than ever before.
Anyone that has even an elementary level of tech-literacy has experienced several changes to their lifestyle and habits in the not-so-distant past. Our lifestyles and habits have changed most notably last year due to the fact that millions upon millions are now having to work remotely, already used to the Work From Anywhere (WFA) model of living. The last decade has also marked neverending issues in cyberspace (the internet) with regards to our cybersecurity (online safety).
What does this imply in terms of your online security when travelling internationally? What does this all mean when we think about the terms; cybersecurity, privacy and travel together?
Well, regardless of whether this is the ‘new normal’ or not, when it comes to the remote workforce (which probably includes a lot of us reading this), travel is and always will be a part of our lives.
When we think about travel at present, whether you are a business traveler, tourist, or vlogger, your online security has become more important than ever in the age of cybercrime (online criminal activity). To explore this, especially with travelers in mind, let’s mention a very, very important software tool that is essential for every traveller; a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.
VPN’s have become a staple for modern travellers who depend on their devices, and are safety conscious. Let’s look at what a VPN is, and why you must have it especially as an international traveller, below.
What is a VPN And Why Do You Need It?
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN as it is popularly known, is a software that you can download from the internet. The sole purpose of this software is to protect you, online. So, a VPN needs to do the following:
- Keep you anonymous
- Encrypt your connection
- Connect you to a server (local or international) of your choice
When you connect to a VPN (once you have downloaded one) you will be offered some choices to connect to. The list of ‘servers’ that you will see, exists between you and the internet. In essence, by connecting to an additional server, you are ideally hiding the IP address of your computer, as well as encrypting it. This means that your computer’s location, and details of your activity online, are kept away from prying eyes, as well as attackers.
So, keeping the above points in mind, let’s list a few more things that a VPN will shield you from;
- Allow you to stay secure on websites that do not have good security features (HTTPS)
- Someone’s attempts at accessing your data when you connect to a public wi-fi
- Issues where your ISP, as well as other websites, will misuse your data
The Benefits of Using a VPN While Traveling
For international travellers, whether they depend on their devices for work or are simply connecting to public Wi-Fi at an airport, hotel or cafe, or even the city’s public Wi-Fi, VPNs are indispensable.
Here are seven very important advantages of using a VPN during your international travels;
- Be able to access online content in countries with internet restrictions
- Stay safe while connected to public wi-fi at an airport, or any public place
- Ability to install a VPN on multiple devices, (tablet, smartphone, laptop etc.)
- Use your bank cards online without blocks or restrictions
- Stay anonymous in other countries (especially if you are a journalist or researcher)
- Access your social media without restrictions or problems connecting
- If you are a digital marketer, you can access content like a local via VPN
Now let’s get onto the best VPN service for international travel.
Recommended Best VPN Service For International Travel
Now let’s look at three well-established VPN providers that will tick the boxes for you, and will satisfy the safety needs of international travellers in general;
- Offers fantastic ease of use
- Great for unblocking Netflix, streaming and anonymous browsing
- Access to 3000+ servers in 94 countries
- Great customer service
Express VPN is not the cheapest option but aims for quality, speed and great reliability. It is a well-known provider, with a good track record and functions well with unblocking Netflix. The customer service is excellent, and the brand is trustworthy.
- High-level protection
- No-log policy
- Streamlined application
- Advanced security features
NordVPN has a high-level security focus, offering sleek design and ease of use. Due to high levels of security, it will be slightly slower than ExpressVPN, but will offer the same trustworthy qualities, which is to be expected of top-tier VPNs. NordVPN includes many advanced security features as well.
- Offers one of the best free subscriptions
- No-log policy
- No data limit with the with free service
- Similiar security levels to paid providers
ProtonVPN do offer a paid subscription, but the magic is with the free option. It is one of few providers that offer a legitimate, safe and relatively quick service without having to pay for it. The only drawback is that you only get a couple of servers to connect to.
Key Things to Remember When Using a VPN For Travel
Keeping all of the points above in mind, it is essential, and cannot be stressed enough that international travelers equip themselves with VPN software, on every device (they can be used on mobile phones and tablets too).
Another very important thing to remember is this; do your research when it comes to VPNs. You don’t want to download a shady VPN, just like you wouldn’t want to download anything you know very little about.
- Read up on encryption protocols
- Research your VPN provider, ideally via professional reviews
- Check if VPN usage is strictly illegal in the country you have travelled to
Be careful when it comes to free VPNs, especially, as there are hundreds of them in the app stores. There are several, legitimate, paid options out there which are usually the preferred way to go. Always check the company’s privacy policies (who’s VPN you will be using), and make sure that the following are included;
- No-log policy
- Minimum 128-bit encryption
- Download from reputable providers
Finally, once you set up your VPN software and connect to it, run a DNS diagnostic test online to see if you are truly being protected. Remember, nothing can guarantee 100% anonymity or protection, so as a general rule always try to avoid activity that may potentially lead to trouble.