We’ve written a lot about the ins and outs of using a VPN for travel, and why it’s an absolutely essential piece of tech – and that’s because it legit is essential; something every traveler should have, and treat with the same importance as your passport and insurance.
Because that’s exactly what a VPN is – in most cases it’s both a passport, and an insurance; a passport to information and free access to uncensored internet, and insurance against a cyber attack.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of a VPN, or if you’ve heard the acronym but don’t really know what it stands for, this is a Virtual Private Network – a program you run on your devices which allows you to securely and privately connect to the internet.
The perks of using one as a traveler include accessing region-restricted websites, minimizing your risk of being hacked while using public WiFi, and preventing your bank accounts and email from being frozen.
And while they’ve previously been thought of as ‘a nice thing to have’, now it’s more important than ever to have a VPN.
Reasons to Use a VPN for Travel
Reason #1: Don’t Get Hacked
The simple fact is, that if you’re traveling without a VPN and connecting to public WiFi, your privacy is at risk, and there’s a very good chance you could be hacked.
Free internet is something we’ve come to expect as travelers, but it’s because we’re traveling, and constantly connecting to different networks, that we put ourselves at an incredibly high risk of cyber attacks.
Most of the public networks you connect to in airports, cafes, and hotels, aren’t safe. They’re often open networks that allow anyone using them who knows what they’re doing to access your information.
And while the know-how and technical knowledge for how to hack someone may not have been super widespread in previous years, society has become increasingly tech savvy, and criminals are now exploiting this vulnerability.
While safety concerns used to center around being mugged, nowadays, criminals have figured out they can mug you much more subtly, without coming into any physical content.
A common trap now is to set up WiFi hotspots specifically to trick people into connecting, so they can hack or infect your device with malware. The data they can get is pretty unlimited; usernames, passwords, credit cards, social media.
How a VPN Solves This
While there are a whole range of benefits that come from traveling with a VPN, internet security is the biggest reason you need one.
When your devices 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 can access this info.
However 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. So it’s essentially a middle man between you and the internet: you’re able to browse the internet anonymously by connecting through a secure network.
#2 Avoid Being Monitored by Foreign Governments
I know, I know, first I tell you you’re at risk of being hacked, and now I’m ranting on about foreign governments who are watching.
Being able to connect to the internet anonymously is of huge importance to your cyber security, but it’s also a very good idea for avoiding possible monitoring by foreign regimes and governments.
As we mentioned above, your ISP has total access to viewing your internet activity. Everything you do is logged, every website you visit; your complete browser history. You might not care about this type of surveillance if you’re not doing anything wrong, but you might not even know you’re doing something wrong.
For instance, if you’re visiting a country with a strict regime, where it’s illegal to say anything that could be interpreted as anti Government, and you share your uncensored thoughts on social media – this is a big risk.
Many travelers have been arrested overseas for commenting on political issues, forgetting that free speech is not a right in every country. And you might not think that you’re important enough to attract attention, but Government agencies are monitoring online activity, and they do take action against those they see as a threat to their regime.
Foreign Governments may have been slow to the game in recent years to actively start monitoring social media, and internet activity within their country, but they’re definitely doing it in 2021.
If you’re a researcher / whistleblower / activist / journalist / political dissident, using a VPN cloaks your internet usage when you can’t risk government bodies or other organizations watching your activity.
#3 Get Around Internet Censorship
As we said above, free speech is not a right in every country, and not every Government around the world believes in providing free and open internet to their citizens.
Many, many governments around the world censor the internet, which means when you’re connecting to ISP’s in that country, you’re unable to access certain content. The extent to which governments do this will vary, but China is the most notorious.
The the Chinese Government blocks a lot of the internet, so much so that their censorship has become known as ‘The Great Firewall of China’ – sites that are blocked include popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, news sites like the NY Times, and even search engines like Google.
Because a VPN allows you to connect to the internet through a server which is located in a different country, using one means you’re able to break this censorship barrier; a VPN basically routes your internet through a server in a different country, which doesn’t have any censorship.
#4 Because We’re All NetFlix Addicts
It’s true, in 2019 Netflix was officially given its own subcategory of screen addiction, which is a subcategory of addiction in general. It’s become quite a widespread cultural addiction, and more than 167 million people use it!
And, because your addiction controls you, as opposed to you controlling it, you’re probably going to stream shows while traveling. Let’s just be honest!!
However, it might come as a shock, but Netflix have many geo-restrictions in place, so the content and shows you’re able to watch do vary greatly from one country to the next.
For instance, you could be traveling from the USA to Japan, and login to find that your favorite shows are just gone. Suddenly your catalog is up to 90% smaller.
Shock, horror! It happens.
Thankfully, though, being that a VPN allows you to “spoof” your location, you can use it to switch your IP address to any country you like.
No matter where you are in the world, it’s always worth trying to access the US catalog. This truly is the king of Netflix libraries containing approximately 1160 TV shows and 4600 movies.
#5 Because They’re Super Cheap!
For all of the above benefits, VPN’s are ridiculously cheap, so there’s really no excuse not to get one.
Yes, there are some VPN’s out there that are even totally free, though it’s often the case with these that you’ll have a limit on the data / internet surfing you’re able to do before they prompt you to upgrade and purchase their paid version.
Great VPN’s like Surfshark can cost as little as $2 a month – and are a lot cheaper if you sign up for 12 – 24 months. You can get one month plans too, and only sign up when you need to travel, but these are more expensive.
If you’re signing up for singular months, this will be more around the mark of $15, so at that point, you may as well get a 12 – 24 month plan, which is far cheaper, and means you can benefit from the use of a VPN at home too.
Surfshark is a great option because within this cost, you’re able to use the VPN on unlimited devices, which makes it a great option for families, or digital nomads who operate off phones, iPads, and laptops. You can protect as many devices as you’d like at once.
And unlike other VPN’s, Surfshark doesn’t monitor, track, or store your data (which many free VPN’s do). They have a strict no logs policy, which means what you do online is 100% private to you.