Best VPN for global travel?

Working in the travel industry I’ve received numerous top tips, advice and best practises from colleagues in different roles. Something that I never really gave much consideration to was internet security, preferring to focus on the latest smart luggage, and packing tips. However, once the benefits were explained to me, and I started using a VPN I realised I should have sorted it out sooner.

This article will give you of an overview of VPNs: why you need one, and which VPN I use for my international travel. If you don’t know where to start, or you’re unsure which the best vpn for use across the globe is, you should find this useful.

What is a VPN?

Put simply, a VPN, or virtual private network, is a safe tunnel between your device and the wider internet.

While I’ve heard VPNs described as a filter, it’s actually the opposite. VPN’s create a secure link that will keep your data safe, and away from prying eyes or state interference.

5 reasons you need a VPN for international travel

  1. Security
  2. Calling home
  3. Avoiding state surveillance
  4. Entertainment
  5. Saving money

What can travelling holidaymakers do to protect themselves? The short answer is to invest in — and install — virtual private network (VPN) software on any device that travels with you.

The Guardian — John Naughton

express vpn android phone security

At home, you probably have a personal Wi-Fi connection, secured via an encrypted password.

Here, you are pretty low risk and a simple password is probably enough to keep you safe.

At your hotel, or the airport Wi-Fi, coffee shops and more, it’s a different story.

For most people the internet has massively changed how much we can do from a hotel room:

  • It’s commonplace to book flights, reserve restaurants and tours, even catch up with admin work such as paying bills and remembering to place that amazon order.
  • But hotels aren’t cybersecurity experts, and some hacks have been really elementary.
  • Essentially, you should treat anything you do on public Wi-Fi as being freely available, and yes, that includes entering your credit card details!

Describing hotel Wi-Fi as leaky would be an understatement — hundreds of millions of guests have been exposed — here’s a list of some recent hotel hacks. VPN’s secure your data, so that even on the leakiest public connection, your personal data remains hidden from view.

A huge advantage of modern tech is the connectivity that it has brought. No longer do we have to make do with a crackly phone line, often at great expense, there are a multitude of apps like FaceTime WhatsApp and Skype for calling home and staying in touch.

Unfortunately, virtually all these systems work on a protocol known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This means you are at the mercy of the respective firewall and internet systems in the country you are in.

The Middle East is notorious for banning VoIP services, with WhatsApp and FaceTime banned for years under the guise of “protecting local telecoms companies”. However, it’s not just the Middle East. There are over 20 countries globally that ban VoIp.

By using a VPN such as Express VPN, not only is your data safe, but you can route via servers in different countries that enable you to use VoIP services wherever you are in the world.

Countries banning VOIP in 2020 — By VipVOIP

State surveillance has for years been thought of as something that happens in a few states abroad — China for example — necessitating the use of VPNs to safeguard your security whilst abroad.

However, with technology increasing the amount of data points captured on us all the time, and state surveillance fears much closer to home, it’s really something we should all be taking more care of wherever we are in the world.

By accessing your metadata, governments and organisations can discover a great deal about almost every individual in the UK. The kinds of things you like, what you’ve searched for, web pages and physical locations you’ve visited, and more. Accidentally (and unknowingly) match one of those 40,000 triggers with the things you’ve done on the internet, and it’s very likely you’re being watched.

UK state surveillance — Amnesty International

VPN’s not only keep your data safe, they ensure that it stays anonymous, so that detailed pictures of your spending, personal information and lifestyle, cannot be used to build up a picture of you.

Netflix and other on-demand streaming services have revolutionised TV.

They have also highlighted regional differences, with some parts of the world accessing the next series of a favourite TV program months before others.

This is known as a Regional lockout. Regional lockouts are commonly enforced through streaming services by identifying your IP address — and hence your location — then filtering the content they allow you to watch.

Great VPN’s have servers located globally, so that you can mimic being in any country you like for regional lockout purposes. If you’re travelling internationally and want to continue watching that series that’s only available in your home country — select a server based at home.

Equally, aside from international travel, you can use the VPN subscription at home and select a server in a country that has the latest entertainment. Express VPN is compatible with virtually all major streaming networks — unlocking all content wherever you are.

RFID protection credit cards

This final tip is also related to regional lockouts, alongside privacy and data concerns, but it is often overlooked.

By hiding your data you can actually get cheaper flights in general. I know what you’re thinking. Wait wait, I know about this one you have to clear your cookies or use incognito mode I do that already.

That might have worked several years ago, but there are actually a huge number of ways that companies track your identify, and clearing cookies often isn’t enough any more. Way back in 2012 travel company Orbitz was showing more expensive hotels to users based solely on them using Mac’s and not Windows PCs.

Since then, things have got even more advanced, with browser tracking through a huge range of identifying features such as your computers processor and screen size known as HTML Canvassing, and different pricing structures based on IP and Geolocation data — not just cookies. While a VPN won’t help some more advanced canvassing it will mask your IP and Geolocation data, which can mask the fact you are in a country with a high cost of living, and lower prices.

As a demonstration, open up a new tab in private browsing and see the effect it has on your data.


pilot tech tips express vpn

Choosing the best VPN for global travel

In short, Express VPN is the VPN that I use for international travel, as I’ve found it offers the best connectivity globally and a mix of server locations, reliability and speed.

There are slightly cheaper alternatives, but it is a premium product and I haven’t been disappointed.

These are the three key points that Express VPN excels at, and why I chose it for global travel.

Put simply, Express VPN has the largest choice of server locations of any current VPN.

express vpn international countries selector

There are over 3000 servers — and the key part for connecting while travelling internationally, and having greater choice for regional unlocking benefits — they are spread over 94 countries.

Europe and the US have the best coverage, but ExpressVPN also has many locations in Asia and several countries that rarely appear elsewhere. There are 27 Asia Pacific countries alone, for instance — even the massive TunnelBear network only covers 22.

Tech Radar — ExpressVPN

The full list and available server specifications can be found here.

No two VPN servers are alike. Even servers located in the same country can have different speeds. Run a Speed Test to pinpoint the fastest server location for your needs.

ExpressVPN

One downside to VPNs is that as you are taking extra steps to secure your information — and routing via external servers — these extra steps can potentially slow your internet connection.

As a result, it’s important to choose a provider that uses high-speed servers so that the additional layers of security don’t slow down your connection to any noticeable level. In addition, it’s important to use the fastest server within the country you have selected.

All servers’ performance will vary slightly depending on where you are among a host of external factors. Express VPN have an inbuilt speed test module so that you can easily identify which server is the fastest in your country of choice, making it easy to get an ultra-secure connection without compromising your internet speed.

I don’t just mean the excellent tech support offered:

  • Written step-by-step guides
  • Video tutorials
  • 24/7 live chat
express vpn can be used on multiple devices internationally

Express VPN is compatible with a huge range of devices, from home routers — to ensure all your home connections remain private — through to Android and IOS devices.

When I travel it is with a range of devices depending on the trip, sometimes work smartphones and laptops alongside my personal smartphone and tablet. I have yet to find a device that isn’t supported.

When I fully embraced using a VPN and the added benefits it brings, I wanted to make the most out of my subscription. Having a VPN that wasn’t easy to use or set up multiple devices didn’t make sense to me. With one subscription, all the devices I use are supported, there are no data caps, and I can maximise my usage.

Summary — ExpressVPN is the best VPN for international travel

The website has previously spent a lot of focus on the physical smart accessories and luggage that make travelling easier and keep your tech secured.

But this digital product can make arguably the most significant difference to your security whilst travelling, and having used Express VPN I wouldn’t revert.

There are numerous benefits to using a VPN, besides the obvious protection of your privacy. And with a huge range of global servers, excellent speeds and customer service, using Express VPN for international travel is an easy decision.