Whether you travel for business or leisure, using your electronic devices when abroad comes with very real security dangers. Electronic scams and information theft have become rampant across touristic locations, hotels, and internet cafes alike. Anytime you connect to an unknown network, be it free Wi-Fi, or private access to the hotel’s connection, you are putting your data at risk of being stolen by malicious individuals preying on open devices to show up on the network.
Being a travel buff myself, I don’t hold back from using the internet, in fact I love to and doubt I could pass it over. Almost everywhere I have been, I have been able to find cafes and restaurants providing free access to customers, and my lodgings rarely don’t have their own either. But I know all too well that public networks are the perfect place for cyber criminals to steal personal information from others. What happens is that they often setup fake, but functional Wi-Fi hotspots in such high traffic areas like bars, cafes, restaurants, and unknowing tourists connect to the open network, allowing the criminals to start accessing not only their web traffic, but also personal data and passwords in worst case scenarios.
Although security should be your main concern when travelling abroad, identity theft is not exactly what you or the kids have in mind when joining public Wi-Fi connections. Online entertainment can often be completely unavailable in certain countries. Netflix may be blocked, while local websites and news could also have geo-restrictions. With the VPN, simply connect to a server located at home, and gain access to all your favorite online websites.
Below are my top picks for best VPN service for travel, vacation, and globetrotters. I included an alternative to software as well, a portable VPN in the format of a USB key that could greatly benefit ease of use while travelling. I also recommend our post on how to save money with VPN services, where we go in detail on how to get better deals on a variety of travel related expenses.
PureVPN – Full Review
Some important factors for a good VPN when travelling overseas are; security, speed, and accessibility. PureVPN covers 101 countries, with over 450 servers to provide good speeds no matter where you’re located. They provide software for all platforms including mobile. OpenVPN is the go to option for best secure protocol, but some server support IKEv2, which could be a more reliable solution if you’re worried about the VPN disconnecting. Although PureVPN does have an internet kill switch in case of dropping from the server, it is only available on the Windows client for now.
Up to 5 devices can be connected per account, enough to cover all your mobile hardware and computers. The yearly plan provides considerable savings, leaving you more cash for your trip expenses, while giving you piece of mind when using the internet.
ExpressVPN – Full Review
If you want great 24/7 customer service, and a really solid money back guarantee, ExpressVPN sets out to satisfy or a full refund for 30 days. For travelling, they cover 79 countries and 97 cities total with high bandwidth servers to provide the best possible speeds and routes. I find the software clients to be more than good, bug free, and probably the best ones I’ve tested when comparing cross-platform versions. In other words, no matter what operating system you’re on, ExpressVPN’s clients deliver a great experience. SmartDNS is also included for game consoles and TV boxes, but I do not particularly recommend it when travelling overseas, and using unknown internet access points.
Each account can support one desktop and one mobile device simultaneously. Although you can use a streaming console and VPN router simultaneously as well, those two are rarely useful when travelling. Overall, the global coverage, secure OpenVPN 256-bit encryption, cross-platform software, and top of the line customer service, are what make ExpressVPN a great global choice.
IPVanish – Full Review
If you want simplicity, without sacrificing speed or security, IPVanish has you covered. They also run a very large network of close to a couple hundred servers located across 60 countries. OpenVPN 256-bit encryption is offered as optimal protection across all platforms, with easy to use software clients. The service does not fuss around with much, just select your server location, connect and enjoy. They have instead focused on engineering a very fast infrastructure of private server routes to achieve the shortest possible pings.
The service limits 1 OpenVPN connection and 1 alternative protocol available; PPTP or L2TP per account. This is limiting for travelling needs if you have a family or multiple hardware devices you wish to use at once. However, if you only use one device at a time, you get a superb service with impressive speeds. A 7-day money back guarantee is offered.
Hide My Ass – Full Review
A great choice for travelling, HideMyAss has one of the largest networks around. They cover almost 200 countries, in over 300 locations. No matter where you need to connect, HideMyAss probably has a server for you. Great software clients make it usable without hassle on all platforms. Good customer service has allowed them to stick around and become one of the most used VPN services internationally. OpenVPN and all major protocols are supported and over 850 servers carry the necessary bandwidth for good speeds.
Although only 2 simultaneous devices can connect per account, that is usually more than enough during travels, and the yearly plan only costs $6.50 per month. The service is backed by a solid 30-day money back guarantee, so you can test the service extensively before settling risk free.
Private Internet Access (PIA) – Full Review
If all of the above options are too costly for you, your next best bet is PIA. They are not a bad VPN service by any means, and I have been a satisfied customer ongoing for more than five years now. The yearly plan only costs $3.33 per month, and allows up to 5 simultaneous devices with no restrictions. 256-bit encryption is offered over OpenVPN with software clients on all major platforms. Very good customer service, and thousands of servers are up kept in order to handle the load of their large user base.
The main drawback is the shorter list of server locations. Only 17 countries are available, smaller than all the larger VPN providers, but in reality, it serves the needs of most users, including when travelling. 28 regions are available, giving better chances of finding shorter routes for speed, and if the locations you need are available, they are certainly worth considering.
SurfEasy USB Portable Private Browser
If you’re looking for something a little bit different and more hands on, the SurfEasy Private Browser USB key is one I particularly enjoyed over having to install software, because you can literally use it on anywhere, on any computer available to you. Just like a VPN, the software on the key encrypts your data so that it cannot be sniffed across public Wi-Fi networks, or collected online. You can use it at work, or anywhere else, and no one can verify your browsing history, the software ensures nothing is left behind.
But, the software operates locally from the USB key with no dependency on encrypted servers, and also negates the ability to unblock geo-restricted websites or streaming services. You can web search locally in order to get results related to the city you are in without being traced, but connecting to a US server for Netflix as you would with a VPN is not possible. SurfEasy does offer a VPN service as well, so you can simply get both if needed.
SurfEasy’s Private Browser USB is more of a portable security and privacy solution, but it does include some additional perks, including a secure password manager, ghost keyboard to prevent keystroke loggers, and is designed to be the size of business card, fitting in your wallet. The product is sold for a single payment of $69.99, no recurring fees and free updates for life.