How to Choose the Best VPN for Travel in 2023
Experts estimate an astonishing 20% of travelers fall victim to cybercrime when abroad. Using readily available spyware, hackers in your vicinity can activate your camera, monitor your emails, read your files, and steal your credentials.
It’s easy to see why cybercriminals target touristy places — they assume most travelers have money. Without a local SIM for cheap mobile data, they often need to connect to open Wi-Fi networks to transact and communicate.
The best way to keep your data and devices protected while traveling is with a VPN. However, not all VPNs are great for the long haul. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the VPN features you need most while on an international trip.
What Is a Travel VPN?
A travel VPN is a virtual private network with all the features you need for traveling. When you turn on a VPN, it encrypts your internet traffic and personal data. This keeps you safe from hackers and surveillance on any network. A VPN also helps you access content that’s blocked due to your IP being from another country.
Do I Need a VPN When Traveling?
Yes, it’s good to have a reliable VPN with you when you travel. This is especially true when on public Wi-Fi, like at the airport or hotel. Without a VPN, you risk giving cybercriminals and state-sponsored surveillance operations the keys to your sensitive data.
How to Choose the Best VPN for Traveling
Unless you’re familiar with everything that VPNs can do, it can be tough to know what to look for when shopping for a travel VPN. Certain features are more critical for frequent flyers. Let’s take a look at what counts most in a VPN for traveling.
1. Security and Privacy
Good VPNs fortify your internet traffic against interception and make it impossible for cybercriminals to see your data. Encryption uses unbreakable ciphers to scramble your data, so even if someone intercepted it, they wouldn’t be able to make any sense of it.
Additionally, VPNs mask your IP address behind one from their private servers. This conceals your real location from snoopers or websites you visit, helping you maintain your privacy.
If your VPN connection drops, you’ll be temporarily exposed to threats — this is where a Kill Switch comes in. It stops traffic to and from your device and keeps you safe even if your connection slips.
Some VPN providers keep logs of your activity and might share them with authorities if requested to. If you care about keeping your activity private from your ISP or authorities, choose a VPN provider that adheres to a strict No Logs policy.
2. Server Network
One of the most important elements of any VPN is its server network. Not all VPNs work everywhere. You’ll want to check that the VPN has servers close to home and near your destination before subscribing to ensure you’ll get the best speeds. If you’re going to need to access location-restricted accounts from back home (like your bank) while you’re away, you’ll need one with servers in your country.
3. Performance and Speed
A VPN can slow down your internet speed. This is because your data has to travel to and through additional servers when you use a VPN. Several factors can affect how fast your VPN works, including your ISP speed, encryption level, how many people are connected to the same VPN server, and the VPN protocol you’re using.
The best way to know if a VPN has fast speeds is to read customer reviews. Just remember — you’ll get the best performance when you connect to a VPN server closest to your real location. For this reason, it’s important to choose a VPN with a large global server network.
4. Compatibility with Your Devices
If you’re going to pay for a VPN, you’ll want it to work with all your devices. You don’t want to have a number of different VPN subscriptions if you can get one that works with them all.
5. Customer Support
Live customer service is the hallmark of a trustworthy VPN provider. If you’re having technical issues with your VPN while traveling, you shouldn’t have to wait to resolve them. Make sure your VPN provider has 24/7 customer support, so time zone differences don’t interfere with your attempts to get help.
6. Reviews & Reputation
Before you put your faith in a VPN provider, read reviews from trusted sources to see what other customers have had to say about their services. Independent audits are also a good indication a VPN provider delivers on the features and protections it claims to provide.
When Should I Use a Travel VPN?
A travel VPN comes in handy:
When You Need Extra Security
You may need to use public Wi-Fi in airports, cafes, or hotels while you’re traveling. Sadly, local cybercriminals often prowl these open networks seeking to intercept sensitive data — especially in tourist hotspots.
Free public Wi-Fi is typically unsecured, so it puts your data and device at risk from the moment you connect. A VPN encrypts your connection so hackers can’t make sense of your data. When your VPN is turned on, you can use any public Wi-Fi with full immunity.
When You Need to Access Blocked Websites
You may need to use certain sites for work or study while you’re abroad, only to find they’re blocked due to your foreign IP address. A VPN for international travel lets you switch to an IP from back home so you can access sites and services freely again.
When You Want to Avoid Censorship and Surveillance
Some countries practice heavy censorship and online surveillance. Using a VPN stops any surveillance agencies from seeing what you do online. A VPN also masks your IP address, making your online activity tougher to track. It also helps you to overcome censorship — simply connect to a server in another country to instantly change your IP and encounter fewer restrictions when traveling.
When You Want to Find the Best Deals Online
Using a VPN can help you get cheaper flights! Online prices can change depending on where you are. Websites can see your location from your IP address and may adjust the currency and price accordingly. When you use a VPN, you can swap your IP address with one from another country to compare and find the best travel deals.
Don’t Make These VPN Mistakes
Here are my top tips to get the most out of your international travel VPN:
1. Don’t Go for the Cheapest One
You may be tempted to go for a free VPN instead of paying for one – but remember that there’s a reason it’s free. Free VPNs often have data caps and to keep using them, you need to pay eventually in any case. Free VPNs aren’t generally suited for traveling. Their server networks are typically limited, congested, and likely to leave you stranded when you need a secure connection the most.
Just like travel insurance, you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to your VPN. What matters is whether it has what you need to stay safe online while traveling. Look out for strong encryption, VPN servers where you need them, and a proven track record for performance and speed. Your VPN should keep up with you — a cheap or free VPN will likely only slow you down.
2. Don’t Turn It Off
People often feel safer simply because they have a VPN downloaded on their devices. It doesn’t work like that. You need to keep your VPN on at all times to ensure your activity is always hidden from any prying eyes.
Pack the Best Travel VPN
When it comes to features fit for traveling, PIA VPN has everything you need to trot the globe worry-free: 256-bit AES encryption to fortify your connection against intruders, a commitment to privacy, and a global network of high-speed servers. You’ll be able to protect yourself with a fast, secure VPN connection, no matter where you go.
Yes, it’s a good idea to get a VPN on all your devices before you travel abroad. Using a VPN will protect your sensitive data when you connect to public Wi-Fi, book transport online, and browse the internet from abroad. If you travel to countries with heavy censorship and surveillance, a VPN keeps your online activity private and helps you access content freely.
The best VPN for travel is one that has all you need to ensure a safer trip. Look for a VPN with strong security features, fast servers in your destination, and a tested commitment to your privacy.
PIA’s feature-packed VPN is designed to provide everything you need for a safer connection while traveling. Get PIA VPN and go abroad with far greater digital security and freedom.
You can easily set up a VPN for travel in 3 simple steps:
1- Download a reliable travel VPN.
2- Sign up.
3- Connect to a server from a country of your choice.
Once you’ve connected to a server, you’ll be able to access content securely without worrying about cybercriminals intercepting your personal data.
Yes, using a VPN in the airport is a smart move. Cybercriminals target public Wi-Fi networks at busy places like airports and train stations. A VPN encrypts your traffic so you can browse safely while you wait for your next connection.
Using a VPN routes your internet traffic through servers in your chosen location. This masks your true IP address and location and encrypts your traffic. You can use a VPN to unblock geo-restricted content, stay secure on public Wi-Fi, and keep your online activity private while abroad.
It’s a good idea to use a VPN whenever you travel, but this is especially true if you go to places with strict internet censorship or high cybercrime rates. Travel destinations where a VPN comes in particularly handy include China, India, and many of the Middle Eastern countries.
While free VPNs can be tempting, they often provide slower speeds, data caps, and inferior security. It’s better to get a premium VPN when you travel to ensure you don’t get stuck with patchy protection when you’re far from home. Try PIA VPN risk free for 30 days.
When you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to keep your VPN switched on all the time. Staying connected to a VPN will keep your sensitive and financial data safe and your online activity private. It also lets you unblock websites and bypass unfair censorship, no matter where you are.