Why use a VPN? Reasons why your travel checklist should include a VPN…
While online security is something you may not initially think about when setting off on your travels, it’s an important element – especially when you’re hopping from place to place, connecting to all kinds of unsecured public networks. Using a VPN should be considered as essential for travel as packing your toothbrush or phone charger. If you’re not sure why that is, below are a few reasons why a VPN is highly useful when you’re travelling. But first let’s look into what a VPN actually is and whether it’s even legal to use one.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network is a connection method used to add security and privacy to private and public networks, like WiFi Hotspots and the Internet. Privacy is increased with a Virtual Private Network because the user’s initial IP address is replaced with one from the Virtual Private Network provider. Subscribers can obtain an IP address from any gateway city the VPN service provides. For instance, you may live in San Francisco, but with a Virtual Private Network, you can appear to live in Amsterdam, New York, or any number of gateway cities.
VPN meaning from https://www.whatismyip.com/what-is-a-vpn/
As well as hiding your IP address, a VPN can also hide your entire internet connection; that is, adding a layer of encryption so that hackers and other third parties can’t see what you’re sending and receiving.
Are VPN’s legal?
It sounds like using a VPN is dodgy, however it’s perfectly legal to use VPN’s in most countries around the world. Wherever you’re travelling to you should double check the laws that apply because laws do change. Should you be travelling to the countries below in particular, you should definitely check the current legal ramifications of using a VPN. The countries listed below have either outright banned the usage of VPN’s (with possible prison time for offenders) or restricted the use of them to certain approved providers.
- United Arab Emirates
- North Korea
Why use a VPN?
The most common users are corporations, however travellers are beginning to see the benefits of using virtual private networks when travelling around the world. These are the main reasons to use a VPN when travelling…
1. Staying safe on public Wi-Fi
Depending on where your travels take you and how long you’re planning to be away from home for, you’ll likely jump at the opportunity to connect to Wi-Fi and get in touch with family and friends – but do so with caution.
Whether it’s a café or an airport, connecting to local public networks can make you vulnerable to data thieves and hackers. They’re able to access and steal your data by connecting to the same unsecured Wi-Fi network as you. If you’re connected to a public network and you begin entering important information like your bank details or passwords, these can be easily compromised by a lack of security. This is where a mobile VPN comes in handy.
Also known as Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts your connection to the web, turning any unsecured public network into a private and secure one. This means that if anyone tries to intercept your data, all they’ll see are encryption keys, which are practically impossible to decipher. In other words, VPNs lock down your connection so that bank details, payment cards, emails and anything else can’t be read or monitored by anyone but you. This means a safe and secure way to connect to free Wi-Fi while you’re abroad.
2. Accessing geo-restricted content
VPNs are popularly used for accessing geo-restricted content, something you may need when travelling.
While you may not recognise it from its name, you’re sure to have experienced ‘geo-blocking’ at some point in your life. Whether you’ve been trying to watch a video or read news online, you may have come across the little warning sign telling you that you’re unable to access content due to regional restrictions. For instance, if you’re from the UK but you’re currently in Australia and want to watch a show on BBC iPlayer, ordinarily you can’t, because this service is for use by viewers in the UK only.
VPNs can bypass these restrictions because they can hide your actual location. They offer you the ability to connect to the internet via servers in a range of other countries. By connecting to a VPN server based in your home country, you can access news sites and catch up video services just like you’re at home.
3. Staying social
On your travels, you’re bound to see some stunning places. Naturally you’ll want to document those moments and share them with all your social followers and friends, but this may not be as easy as it seems. Some countries, like China and the UAE, put strict restrictions in place for social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Uganda have even implemented a social media tax, so that internet users have to pay more if they want to use these kinds of sites and apps.
In the same way that you can access your favourite video streaming services, you can use a VPN to override geo-blocked social media platforms, allowing you to post and share what you want while keeping in touch with your loved ones online. This isn’t a major concern while you’re in a location that allows you online freedom, like Australia or New Zealand, but if you’re globe-hopping it’s good to be prepared.
4. Cheaper to travel
Having a VPN can also get you cheaper flights, which is great when you’re plane hopping from country to country. You may already know this, but if not, you may be surprised to learn that airlines and flight comparison websites offer flights at different prices to people purchasing them from different locations.
A VPN allows you to change your IP address to one from another country, allowing you to see the prices offered in that location as if you were there while hiding your actual location. For example, if you’re browsing for flights in New Zealand, changing your IP address to one in Nigeria could give you more of a chance of finding flights for cheaper rates. Plus, you’ll still be able to book flights from your chosen place of departure.
Another way to save money on flights using a VPN is by changing your IP address to the country where the airline is based. If you’re looking to fly with Jetstar for example, you can change your IP address to one in Singapore and you’ll sometimes find lower prices.
When you’re putting together your list of travel essentials, it may be wise to add ‘VPN’. So to answer the question of “why use a VPN?” Using a VPN not only ensures you’re safe from data hackers and thieves, it can also bypass geo-restrictions and save you money – a great benefit when you’re travelling on a budget.
Author: Tabby Farrar is the author of Just Can’t Settle, a global travel and lifestyle blog. When she isn’t writing up travel tips and seeking the best international foodie destinations, she moonlights as a professional copywriter for a number of digital security brands.