We Always Use A VPN When Travelling
We always use a VPN when travelling. Do you? Many people think of VPNs as something that only computer-savvy geeks use. Or something that is mandatory for business travellers accessing their company networks. As a former technology executive, I probably am a bit of a tech geek. And I used VPNs for business communications.
But VPNs really are easy to find, install and use. And subscribing to a reputable VPN service is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
How To Get And Use A VPN
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. It provides a secure communications channel between your device (computer, tablet or phone) to the web services you are using.
There are many options out there for VPN services. You simply sign up for the service and then install the client software on all of your devices.
When you want to turn on the VPN, you just start the app. You will often get the choice of a server location when you start the service. If you have installed the app on your cell phone, you may be able to just turn on the VPN through the phone settings page.
Some VPNs include the capability to “auto start” when they detect a network login. This means you will never forget to turn on the VPN. But I prefer the ability to turn on the VPN when I need it. You probably do not want or need a VPN always on.
A VPN Keeps You Anonymous
A VPN helps to keep you anonymous. Every computer when connected to a network gets an IP address. This IP address identifies you to services you connect to. This means that anything you do when connected can be tied to your device. A VPN provides you with a random IP address that is never directly linked to you. And that IP address changes every time you log in.
There are many reasons why you may not want to be identified with what you are doing on the internet. As a traveller, you may want to get access to travel services that don’t remember who you are. This may get you different pricing or different options. You may use your internet browser in “private” mode. But a VPN adds another layer of anonymity.
A related issue is traffic logging. The more reputable VPN services keep no traffic logs whatsoever about what you do on the internet. Even if they were asked to provide data, there is nothing that can be tied to you. There may be times when you would not want your data exposed if that logging server is hacked. Or accessed with a warrant.
A VPN Keeps You Safer
When we travel, we find that so many of the networks we encounter are totally open with no password. Or the password for a network is a generic one for everybody. These networks are never safe from the potential to have network traffic hijacked. Whenever we connect to these networks, we turn our VPN on.
The internet data then travels in a secure “tunnel”. The data is encrypted. So even if someone can intercept the data, they can do nothing with it.
Even if we have logged on with a specific password, there are times when we want to have our VPN on for security. If we need to enter a secure password or do a financial transaction, we put the VPN on. We would never want to have this data compromised.
VPNs Give You Access To Sites In Other Areas
If you log into a network, you IP address is identified to a specific location. Many internet sites limit access based on where you are located. If you want to watch your home tv streaming services, your device probably needs to look like it is in that location.
When you log on to your VPN, you can usually pick a server location. And if you get a VPN with a broad set of server locations, there is a good chance that you can log in and look like you are local to almost anywhere.
It is easy to get and use a VPN when travelling.
VPNs Get You Online When Internet Access Is Blocked
There are countries that block access to the internet. When we travelled to China, we knew in advance that many social media sites where blocked. A VPN allowed us to get around this. We logged into another country and had full internet access while we travelled in a country with restricted access.
How To Pick A VPN
Since there are a large number of VPN providers, you need to decide which one to use. Some considerations for picking one …
There are both free and paid VPN services. This is a case where you often get what you pay for. While free services may be tempting, you may be sacrificing reliability, access and support if you are getting something free.
We wanted a VPN with lots of servers and locations of servers. This meant that we had greater flexibility in picking a server close to where we were or where we wanted the server to be located.
Support For Multiple Devices
You want a service that supports multiple simultaneous device connections. This lets you have more than one device connected at at time. And share it with other travel partners.
Support For Specific Countries
You may want a VPN that supports specific countries where the internet may be blocked (e.g. China). Not all VPNs have this capability.
Alway read the fine print to see if the VPN service logs the data. It defeats the purpose of using a VPN if there are logs that might allow someone access to your network traffic.
You want to pick a company that has a great support reputation. They will help you to troubleshoot when you run into a problem. Or quickly answer any support questions you have.
These are the key things we considered when we chose a VPN to use when travelling.
What VPN Did We Choose?
When we got our first VPN, we talked to many of our techy friends. We decided that IPVanish provided all the things we were looking for. It was reasonably priced if you paid the annual fee. This works for us since we travel all year around. There was no logging, good support and it let us have 10 simultaneous connections. We can pick the location when we start up the VPN. There been no problems with IPVanish since we started using it. It is installed on every device we own.
When we planned our trip to China, one of the early things we looked at was VPN requirements. China blocks many internet services and the only way to access them is through a VPN. But it also became clear that not all VPN services worked equally well in China. We finally decided to add a second VPN that was recommended for use in China. We added ExpressVPN to our tech toolkit. It worked well most of the time we were in China. We got updates with server recommendations. The major downside of this VPN is that it only allows 3 simultaneous connections. David and I continually juggled the connections between us. ExpressVPN is a great option but since we really only need one, we will not renew this VPN when our annual subscription expires.
It was never a question that we wanted to use a a VPN when travelling. We just needed to do a little research to pick the VPN that was best for us. For the situation we needed it for.
Things To Consider When Using A VPN On Your Travels
A VPN fixes a lot of issues when travelling. But it does introduce some challenges that we needed to be aware of too.
There were many networks we found that did not support a VPN. We are finding this to be less of an issue than it used to be. But often the free fully open networks will block the VPN (e.g. airports). This is particularly annoying since these open networks are where the biggest risk exists.
Some internet sites required you to be local for access. The fastest connection VPN server may not be the one located where a web site wants you to be located. But if your VPN allows you to select a server exactly where you need to be, you should be able to get in. Even if it is a bit slower.
That leads me to the next point. Your network access speeds will slow down when you are going through a VPN. Depending on the VPN service or server location you select, your speed degradation will vary. The more reliable VPN services have less slow downs.
And sometimes a web site will just not work with a VPN on. I have had trouble with banking, hotel and credit card sites being very finicky when I am trying to get in through a VPN. And these are the services I want to access behind the VPN. Often I can get in if I try a server in Canada. Not surprisingly I guess, the websites know I am Canadian and may be doing a location check as part of some security checks on login.
There are some downsides to using a VPN. And thus you may not want to use a VPN all the time. But there are also so many reasons why you should use a VPN when travelling.
Why Aren’t You Using A VPN When Travelling?
We have a lot of apps we use for travel planning and when travelling. If we are travelling with any kind of device, we would not travel without the ability to turn on a VPN. We are often on the road for extended periods. And simply cannot disconnect from the internet. We need to do banking, travel booking and access our secure data when we travel.
A VPN is easy to purchase and use. It gives us a sense of security when we access online services. We can’t imagine not using a VPN when travelling. If you can disconnect or limit what sites you access when travelling, then maybe you can pass on a VPN. But if not, are you prepared for the risk?
Do you use a VPN when travelling? Any other advice on picking or using a VPN?
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