8 Reasons to Use a VPN When You Travel
What makes well over a billion people around the world use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in their daily lives? Even if you’re aware of their motives – such as government surveillance and ISPs selling your browsing data – what’s a good reason to use a VPN for travel? Here are eight of them!
#1 Online Privacy
If the ISP at home isn’t selling your data, then there’s bound to be one abroad that has no qualms about it. That might not bother you too much at first, but did you know your video and voice calls can also be monitored by the ISP of that hotel, airport, and so on? Think about that the next time you want to make a more personal call back home.
In any case, using a VPN means all your network traffic is encrypted (i.e. obfuscated), meaning anyone trying to snoop in will just find a bunch of gibberish text.
#2 The Threat of Hackers
Eavesdropping isn’t just an ISP problem – hackers regularly use eavesdropping software on public WiFi to read people’s texts and emails, usually to gather useful data for identity theft crimes. That is, when they’re not actively trying to steal your login or payment info with man-in-the-middle attacks and other techniques. The worst part is that even “secure” WiFi is affected by security exploits that could leave your data exposed.
And if you’re on the road a lot, you’re bound to pay for something online eventually – whether you forgot about some bills at home, get some emergency plane tickets because your flight’s been cancelled, and so on.
#3 Free Fake WiFi
If unsecure WiFi and security exploits weren’t enough, you need to know that hackers also create fake hotspots (nicknamed “Evil Twins”) that almost perfectly mimic the real thing. Cybercriminals prey on the fact that everybody loves free WiFi and set these traps to easily steal your data or redirect you to malware-infected websites, which is a type of phishing scam.
The only effective way of avoiding this attack (short of not using WiFi at all) is using a VPN to encrypt your data before it even leaves your device. Obviously, you’ll still need to triple-check that you’re on the right website before inputting any login data on untrusted networks. This can be avoided by using a password manager in your day-to-day, as these often recognize fake websites and prevent auto-filling information.
#4 Internet Censorship
When you’re not in a minefield of hackers and fake hotspots, it’s the government’s turn to ruin your day. Things like the Great Firewall of China and the increase in Turkey’s Internet censorship are perfect examples of this. Unfortunately, the Internet just doesn’t have the same level of freedom everywhere (and this “freedom” is up for debate – just look at some proposed Internet regulations in the UK).
This type of government overreach could leave you unable to do basic things such as chat with friends and family back home – all easily avoided with a VPN.
#5 Bypassing Geo-blocks
A less serious, but still highly irritating version of these country-spanning restrictions, are copyright-related geo-blocks. You probably already know this infamous message: “This video contains content from [corporation], who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.” Or the fact that streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and others don’t offer their entire catalog everywhere in the world.
Both of these can be circumvented because your real IP address is replaced with the one used by the VPN server – making the platform think you’re watching from the “correct” area. Of course, the further the server is from you, the slower your connection speeds.
A fast VPN, like ExpressVPN, is essential if you want to have a seamless experience watching your favorite TV shows from abroad. Their sheer number of servers (in 94 different countries) means you have better and closer options wherever you travel – guaranteeing faster VPN speeds anywhere in the world.
And if you're traveling somewhere that isn’t VPN-friendly (like China, Iran, and others), ExpressVPN’s obfuscated servers will serve you nicely.
#6 Public WiFi Firewalls
Let’s say the places you visit are light on Internet censorship and all your favorite shows are available. Or at least that one you’re currently watching. Well, hotels, airports, cafés and other places tend to place filters and blockers on certain websites – including services like Netflix – because fun isn’t allowed.
Luckily, your friendly neighborhood VPN saves the day. Firewalls can be easily bypassed so you can enjoy the things you like in the comfort of your room, at the end of a long day of sightseeing or being stuck in a meeting room.
#7 Save Money on Flights
Did you know that airports are “guilty” of something called price discrimination? Plane ticket prices are much higher in places where they believe customers have a higher purchasing power. It might be possible to get a better deal on your next flight if you switch your VPN location to a country with a less powerful economy.
As a disclaimer, this is not a 100% guarantee, and the prices might not be that much cheaper.
#8 Safe and Private Torrenting
We don’t condone illegal file-sharing, but there are plenty of valid uses for torrents. If you travel for work, you probably need a lot of large work files, and torrents are the fastest way to download them. Well, hotels can sometimes kick you off WiFi just for trying to do your job. Just look at this example in New York of all places.
Independent artists and video-makers also like to distribute their creations for free through BitTorrent. So if you want to download an album from your favorite indie artist from your hotel WiFi, you’re out of luck. Unless, you guessed it, you use a VPN to prevent the hotel or airport from knowing what you’re doing online.
On top of that, torrenting exposes your IP address to online strangers, who could use it to find your approximate location. Since your IP is replaced with the VPN server’s once you’re connected, your privacy remains intact. Enjoy your safe, private (and hopefully, cheaper) traveling!