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Happy Data Privacy Day! This holiday focuses on raising awareness about protecting your personal information online, so it’s a fitting day to talk about why you should use a VPN and which is the best VPN for travel (in my opinion).
I’m nearly three years into being a digital nomad, and I’m ashamed to say I only recently started using a VPN. That means my Internet connection and all my data, from emails to bank accounts, have potentially been exposed to hackers in countless coffee shops and public Wi-Fi areas from Cusco, Peru, to Paris, France. Oops.
If you work from coffee shops using public Wi-Fi, you need to use a VPN. Really, everyone could benefit from using VPN, which I’ll detail below.If you work from coffee shops using public Wi-Fi, you need to use a VPN. #DataPrivacyDayClick To Tweet
I even interviewed an employee of VyprVPN (the VPN I use), about why digital nomads need to use a VPN, so skip to the bottom if you want to see her answers.
You can also get 25% off my favorite VPN at the bottom of this post. :)
What’s a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. When you use a VPN, your Internet connection is secured and encrypted so hackers can’t see your personal information, and when you visit a website, that website will no longer see your IP address or location. Instead, that website will see your VPN server’s IP address and location.
A VPN hides:
- Your IP address
- The websites you visit
- Your location
- Your personal communications
Why Should Digital Nomads Use a VPN?
1. Encrypt your Internet connection to prevent hackers from stealing your data.
Digital nomads are notorious for using public Wi-Fi all over the world, so it’s more essential for them than any other group to use a VPN.
2. Bypass censorship and firewalls by appearing to be accessing sites from a different country.
Additionally, digital nomads may find themselves in a country with government censorship. That means if you’re traveling in China and want to be able to access Google or Facebook, you’ll need a VPN to look like you’re in the U.S. or another country. That will help you get around blocked content.
How Can Everyone Benefit From a VPN?
Even if you don’t consider yourself a digital nomad, a VPN is a handy tool to have if you ever use the Internet (which…if you’re reading this…I’m assuming you do?).
Pros of Using a VPN
Protect your privacy and security. Using a VPN encrypts your internet connection to prevent from hackers or snooping governments from viewing your online communications, location and browsing activity.
Access geo-blocked content. Some sites and YouTube videos aren’t accessible from other countries, so if you use a VPN, you can make it look like your location is in a country where it is accessible. More practically speaking, for me, while I was in Canada I was irked that every time I did a Google search, it automatically went to Google Canada, giving me Canadian results (which obviously weren’t as relevant). By using VyprVPN, I was able to search Google as I normally would from the U.S. as well as access other sites, like my online banking, without running into issues.
Bypass Internet censorship. As stated above, if you’re traveling in a country like China which blocks certain sites, you can bypass those firewalls by using a VPN that makes it look like you’re in a different location.
Cons of Using a VPN
Slower internet speeds. Any VPN will slow down your Internet speed a bit because it’s encrypting your data. How much slower will it be? Well, I tested this on VyprVPN. I used the SpeakEasy Speed Test to check my connection speeds 3 times while connected to VyprVPN and then 3 times disconnected from VyprVPN. Internet connection speeds fluctuate wildly from second to second, so I figured testing several times could give me a decent average. Please note, however, I understand this is NOT a perfect test…but it’s something to go off of.
My Internet speed without VyprVPN:
My Internet speed with VyprVPN:
As you can see, the upload speeds were not affected, but the download speeds slowed down by about 7 Mbps. Practically speaking, I didn’t notice a huge difference in speeds while doing my work connected to a VPN. I still am able to do my work without any issues while connected to VyprVPN.
VPNs, like everything, are not perfect. Just because you’re using a VPN does NOT mean you should be lax about proteting private info, and of course, it does NOT mean you can now do illegal things (tsk tsk).
The Best VPN for Travel? I Use and Recommend VyprVPN
I’ve been using VyprVPN since September 2016 and have been really happy with it.
VyprVPN has a mobile app too, so you can use a VPN on all your devices—desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone. It launches a small browser that allows you to connect to either the fastest server (if you don’t care about location) or, if you do care about location, you can select from its 70+ server locations.
Speaking of being disconnected, the one and only issue I have with VyprVPN is that it will randomly disconnect a few times throughout the day. The good news is VyprVPN has a “kill switch,” which will stop all Internet traffic if VyprVPN is disconnected so your connection is always secure. Not a big deal, but it’s a little bit annoying when I’m loading a site and suddenly my connection gets interrupted and I have to wait a few seconds for VyprVPN to reconnect.
No 3rd parties handle your data! While other VPN providers use 3rd-party servers, VyprVPN writes 100% of its code and owns and operates its servers, so your data is protected end to end.
VyprVPN works in China. It’s important to note that China, a country infamous for its strict Internet censorship, is actively working to block VPNs. However, VyprVPN is still usable inside China, and since they are incorporated in Switzerland and do not operate any servers within China, they are not subject to the new regulations. This is one of the reasons I think VyprVPN is the best VPN for travel. You can read more about China’s latest crackdowns in VyprVPN’s blog post.
While it has servers all around the world, VyprVPN is headquartered in Switzerland due to its favorable Internet privacy laws. They’re a pretty fascinating company on their own. You can read more about their mission here.
Interview With Liz Kintzele, VP of Sales and Director of Marketing at Golden Frog (which owns VyprVPN)
Why do digital nomads in particular need to use a VPN?
Digital nomads are always on the go – whether at the airport, a hotel, a coffee shop or a top tourist attraction – they’re constantly connecting to the Internet from public Wi-Fi hotspots in various locations. While convenient and essential to keeping in touch, these Wi-Fi hotspots are often unsecured or open. This means users are vulnerable to hackers, snoops, malware and other invasive practices, posing great threats to their online privacy.
Digital nomads are away from home a lot, so they may experience censorship or encounter geo-blocks. Many restrictive countries block access to popular sites such as social media sites and news, so digital nomads need a VPN to stay in contact with their friends and family at home. Additionally, access to some content (for example regional sporting events) may be controlled by geo-location, meaning users outside of a specified area cannot view this content. Since digital nomads are often on-the-go, they need a VPN to retain access to their favorite shows, content and programs.
What real risks are there to connecting to public Wi-Fi at, say, a coffee shop in Budapest?
There are many ricks associated with connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop in Budapest, or anywhere. Hackers and snoops can easily access personal information – including communications (the contents of your emails or chats!), login credentials and passwords, credit card details, the sites you visit and other personal details. Running a Google search for terms like ‘Wi-Fi hacking tool’ shows how easy it is to access tools that can be used to intercept this personal information.
I heard using a VPN can slow down my Wi-Fi speeds; why is that?
While it’s possible for a VPN to result in a slight slowdown of speeds, due to the underlying encryption, VyprVPN is extremely fast. In fact, VyprVPN users frequently experience an increase in speeds, as VyprVPN works to bypass network congestion and defeats throttling performed by Internet service providers.
There are a lot of VPN services out there; what makes VyprVPN different?
Unlike other VPN services, at VyprVPN we operate 100% without the use of third parties. We own, engineer and manage our VPN servers so we can deliver fast and reliable connections, while other providers use 3rd-party companies to host their VPN servers. We also own and manage 100% of our hardware, DNS and network – we are the only company that handles your data from end-to-end so we can always ensure privacy.
The team behind Golden Frog’s VyprVPN are Internet veterans who have owned and operated Internet businesses since the dawn of the public Internet in 1994 (before the Web!). And, aside from the hardware, what really makes Golden Frog and VyprVPN different is we passionately believe the Internet should be free and open. With Golden Frog, this is more than marketing jargon. Golden Frog actively advocates for policies and legislation that support our mission and the technology we create.
Additionally, VyprVPN is one of the few VPN providers that is still able to access streaming sites such as Netflix USA, the BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and Sky Go Italy.
What other cyber security tips can I use to protect myself as a digital nomad?
There are a variety of measures you can take to protect yourself when traveling.
Before you travel we recommend the following:
- Back up your files
- Remove sensitive data from your devices in case of theft or loss of equipment
- Install strong passwords, and use tools like two-factor authentication to ensure your accounts remain secure
- Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date
- Adjust your privacy settings to ensure you are limiting the information your apps are collecting and sharing
When traveling we recommend the following:
- Be vigilant. Try not to let your devices out of your sight
- Be aware of your surroundings, and who may be able to see your screen
- Use HTTPS whenever possible when browsing online
VyprVPN Special: Get 25% Off an Annual Plan AND a 3-Day Free Trial!
I personally use and recommend VyprVPN Pro.
For me, it’s essential to get a VPN plan that provides at least 2 simultaneous connections (one for your laptop and one for your smartphone), and the NAT Firewall adds an extra layer of protection. And Chameleon, for me, is a must-have. Chameleon is VyprVPN’s trademarked, proprietary VPN technology that their engineers developed, and it works in very technical, complicated ways that I don’t understand, but what it means for regular folks like you and me is that VyprVPN won’t get blocked by governments that impose censorship and VyprVPN won’t slow down your Internet speeds like other VPNs. If you want the techie details on Chameleon, you can find them here.
You could get a one-year VyprVPN Pro plan that normally costs $99.96 for just $75! Click here to get this deal.Happy #DataPrivacyDay! Get 25% off @VyprVPN to protect your data while you travel. #digitalnomadClick To Tweet
I hope this VyprVPN review helped you find the best VPN for travel.