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When you travel to another country, it’s good practice to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings to keep yourself safe from possible threats. But what about online threats?

Did you know that when you travel to other countries, in many cases, you are more vulnerable to online threats than you are at home?

For many of us, when we connect to the Internet, we don’t think at all about how we’re connecting. We just do. The devices we use even connect themselves to the Internet sometimes, for all kinds of things like backups and automatic updates.

While that’s just the nature of the way we live now, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful to protect yourself and your information. Because most internet connections we used by travelers are open public networks, this puts our personal data at risk.

Abstinence has never been a practical solution, so the one way to solve this is by using one of the best free VPNs. Here’s why you need to be traveling with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for the sake of your data.

Your Privacy is at Risk When You Travel: Here’s Why You NEED a VPN

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Connecting to the Web in Unfamiliar Countries

Travelers these days have a tonne of reasons to go online, from looking up the things you should do while you’re traveling, to pulling up Google maps to help you out of a maze of backstreets, and sharing live images on social media.

BUT … you shouldn’t be too quick to just establish an Internet connection in any old place.

Most places you visit these days offer free WiFi hotspots. And you think great, I’ll look up the restaurants in the area. But what you might not think about are the Internet prowlers who are lurking and waiting to access your information as soon as you make your connection.

Sound far fetched? Maybe a little too paranoid? It’s not.

Most of the public networks we connect to while traveling (cafes, airports, hotels etc) are open networks, which aren’t safe, and allow anyone using them to access your information. They can see data like your usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, how much adult content you’re streaming!

Cyber criminals have even been known to set up WiFi hotspots specifically to trick people into connecting, so they can then proceed to hack or infect your device with malware.

It’s a real problem that far too many people take the risk with.

So How Can You Protect Your Online Activity?

To protect yourself against identity theft or cyber hacking, you need to connect to the internet via a secured private network; typically, anything that requires a password to log on is a secured network.

However, that’s not always going to be available when you travel, so the way you get around it is by installing a VPN on your computer or phone. This allows you to encrypt your traffic before it reaches the Internet Service Provider (ISP) who is connecting you to the internet, and everything stays private.

A VPN is basically like a middle man between you and the internet: you’re able to browse the internet anonymously by connecting through a secure network.

Dave Dean describes how they work fabulously: “think of the Internet as a river. Drop a load of dye into the river — that’s your (unencrypted) data. Anyone standing along the riverbank can see that dye: what color and consistency it is, and where it ends up.

Now, put a small pipe in the river, running from wherever you are to somewhere along its length, and tip your dye into that instead. Until it emerges from the end of the pipe, nobody on the bank can see the dye or knows anything about it. Your VPN is that pipe.”

Does a VPN Cost a Lot of Money?

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Getting a VPN setup does not cost a lot of money. In fact, you can find good VPNs that don’t cost anything. You’ll still want to do your research and look into which service provides the best free VPN, but just know that there are some great ones to choose from.

Just like anything else, when it comes to a VPN you can pay for upgraded features, maybe a faster connection speed, or a range of choice between which country you want to connect to the internet from.

Most allow you to sign up for a subscription and pay monthly. In some cases, you can choose to pay for a year up front and save money that way, but it all depends on what you’re looking for.

Whatever makes the most sense for your needs is what you need to go with.

Should You Be Using a VPN at Home Too?

While you’re more vulnerable to cyber attacks when you travel and connect to open networks, it’s not a bad idea to use a VPN at home.

Your connection at home is likely to already be private, though if you live in a share home or an apartment block where everyone uses the same network, it’s worth having for that extra level of privacy.

But there are many other benefits of using a VPN than just keeping your information secure: you also have a way to get around certain geo-blocks that are put in place by companies who are trying to filter their websites to only show in certain countries.

Ever been told a website wasn’t available in your country? Maybe Netflix, or Youtube? Being that a VPN allows you to connect to the internet through your choice of servers, you can choose to connect through a different country, which will allow you to view previously blocked content.

Every time you connect, your connection has an IP address attached to it that shows where you’re located while you’re on the Internet. If you use a VPN, your IP address can be shown to be somewhere else so you won’t have to be blocked from certain kinds of content.

VPNs: Good for Home But a MUST for Travel

Phone Mobile VPN

Getting yourself a VPN to use for connecting online is a good idea these days no matter what you’re doing or where you are. They’re good for added protection when you’re at home, and allow you to access content that otherwise may have been blocked.

If you’re traveling to a foreign country though, you really need to get setup with a VPN before you leave for your trip. It’s something that will keep you better connected, and in a much safer way.

Your privacy matters. Don’t learn the hard way.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    2 Comments

  1. So… Your home country is safe without vpn…. When you travel to a foreign country you should use vpn….. But your home country is a foreign country to me…. I’m lost here. Vpn only blocks your location, it cloaks your ip address, it encripts data you send to an end website, if that end-website uses ssl, the website does incript data you send already for you. Public networks have nothing to do with that. If you believe that, you should always use vpn even in your home country, which is safer you indicate in the biggest half of your article because it is your home country, unless I travel there…

    • Hi JC. The reason you’re usually safe in your own home country is because you connect via a private home network. If you connect via public networks in your home country, then you’re also at risk, but people don’t tend to do this. Travelers are more vulnerable because they typically don’t have access to private networks when traveling, so connect via public networks in cafes, hotels, airports, on the street etc. It comes down to whether or not you need a password to connect.

      Hopefully this explanation will make it a bit clearer:

      Normally, when you connect to the internet you first connect to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) which then connects you to your websites.

      All of your internet activity passes through your ISP servers and anyone using the same network (which could be thousands of people if you’re connected at a hotel, café, or airport) can easily see your data: usernames, passwords, credit card numbers. If you’re using a network at home, you’re the only one using that, which is why I’ve said you’re typically fine in your own home country.

      When you use a VPN, it encrypts your traffic before it reaches your ISP, which means that only you and your VPN server can “see” it. It’s basically a middle man between you and the internet: you’re able to browse the internet anonymously by connecting through a secure network.

      Think of the Internet as a river. Drop a load of dye into the river — that’s your (unencrypted) data. Anyone standing along the riverbank can see that dye: what color and consistency it is, and where it ends up.

      Now, put a small pipe in the river, running from wherever you are to somewhere along its length, and tip your dye into that instead. Until it emerges from the end of the pipe, nobody on the bank can see the dye or knows anything about it. Your VPN is that pipe.

      Let me know if this helps clear up the confusion :)

      Thanks for reading!

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