Using a VPN (virtual private network) when traveling abroad provides several important benefits related to privacy, security, and access to content. However, there are also some potential downsides to consider. Let’s discuss the key pros and cons to help you decide if using a VPN for travel is right for you.
Benefits of Using a VPN for Travel
Here are some of the main advantages of using a VPN when traveling internationally:
1. Enhanced Privacy and Security
Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks in airports, hotels, cafes and other locations can expose your data to hackers. Reliable VPN service providers encrypt your internet traffic to help prevent snooping or data theft when using these types of networks. This allows you to browse, bank, and access email more securely.
2. Access Blocked Websites and Apps
Some countries block access to certain websites and apps due to censorship or geo-restrictions. A VPN allows you to bypass these restrictions by masking your location. This means you can use services like social media, messaging, and streaming sites regardless of where you are.
3. Avoid Throttling and Tracking
ISPs and governments sometimes throttle or restrict bandwidth usage for certain sites and services. A VPN prevents the ISP from seeing which sites you use, allowing you to avoid potential throttling. It also hides your browsing from advertisers and other third parties looking to track your online activities.
Potential Downsides of Travel VPNs
While very useful in many cases, there are a few potential disadvantages to weigh:
1. Slower Internet Speeds
Routing your connection through a VPN can result in slower download and browsing speeds compared to a direct internet connection. For basic web use this might not be noticeable, but can impact streaming quality or large downloads.
2. Connection Reliability Issues
VPN servers go offline occasionally for maintenance or other reasons. This can cause connectivity problems if you are traveling and need reliable internet access. Having multiple server options from your VPN provider helps minimize this issue.
3. VPNs Blocked by Some Networks
In some regions, certain VPN protocols may be blocked by internet service providers, Wi-Fi networks or even governments. This renders the VPN unusable and requires switching protocols or providers to regain access.
Tips to Choose a Reliable Travel VPN
If you decide a VPN makes sense for your situation, keep these tips in mind when selecting a provider:
- Choose a paid VPN over a free one for better speeds, reliability, and security.
- Prioritize VPNs with lots of global servers and unblocking capabilities.
- Consider bandwidth caps and simultaneous device limits based on your needs.
- Verify no-logging policies and jurisdiction outside restrictive regions.
- Select VPN apps that allow internet kill switches and split tunneling.
- Test the VPN thoroughly at home before relying on it abroad.
The Bottom Line
A quality VPN can be an extremely valuable tool when traveling overseas. It enables you to safeguard personal data, bypass filters, and maintain access to blocked sites and apps. Just be aware that VPNs can occasionally introduce connectivity problems or slow speeds. With a reliable provider that fits your use case, however, a travel VPN provides significant security and convenience benefits.