International travel and local travel are now prevalent and there are plenty of reasons to be jetting off, crossing borders or travelling nearer to home.
But as travel has increased so has the use of internet-enabled devices and with this comes the obvious security implications.
Travelling overseas for whatever reason now requires you to be a little savvy about what and where you connect your devices.
Everything from honeypot Wi-Fi networks in hotels and cafes, unscrupulous users attempting to snoop on your usage and government monitoring through internet service providers are genuine threats.
After all, your internet provider does have complete insight into what you do online, and they record it for their own purposes. That is why you need to do whatever you can to ensure that you have a secure connection on all your devices, whether you are at home or travelling.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the best ways to beat those threats, even when it comes to your internet service provider. But, with more than 500 VPN companies out there, how do you even begin to know which is the best for travelling?
Well, we aimed to find out and in this guide we've rounded up our top seven recommendations for VPN apps that will keep you secure while you're quenching your wanderlust.. or you know, just working (hey, not all travel is glamorous, right?).
Best VPN for International Travel
We've listed our top seven VPN sites best for international travel below.
However, it's worth remembering that although ExpressVPN is our top pick, there may be some features of the others that are more suitable for your needs. So if you've got time, it's worth checking them all out individually.
- Best in class for travelling
- 94 countries globally
- Superfast download speeds
- Apps for most devices
- Unblocks most streaming services
- Fully audited no log guarantee
- Owns VPN ‘review' sites
- Paying month by month expensive
ExpressVPN is one of the industry's leading VPN services, so much so that we gave them our Editor's Choice award the last three years running.
For international travel they make the best choice due to their extensive range of VPN servers. These connection points are available in some 94 countries worldwide, making them suitable even if you're the most well-travelled traveller.
It doesn't offer double VPN servers, but its service is protected by several additional security features, like DNS leak protection, split tunneling, 3,000 server locations, optimized servers, and more. All working to help protect your data and secure private internet access at the best connection speed.
They also work well in countries with restrictive internet regimes such as China. In our recent best VPN for China study, we found them to offer the fastest and most reliable connections in China.
Another positive feature of the service is its range of apps. Offering apps for Android, Apple iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Fire TV and many more, there aren't many services that compete.
It means whatever type of device you travel with, you'll be able to connect without wasting time setting things up. At this time, ExpressVPN allows you to make up to five simultaneous connections.
The service claims not to log any of your data while connected which has been tested and they have a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can check it in many different circumstances to make sure it's suitable for your needs.
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- Reliable connections
- Connections in 70 locations
- Time proven service
- Audited no log policy
- Easy to use apps
- No crypto payment options
- Few African locations
VyprVPN is another longstanding VPN service that has built up a reputation for offering a fast and reliable service.
They have VPN servers in some 70 different locations. Aside from central and southern Africa, most of the world is covered, so regardless of where you travel you'll be able to find a VPN server nearer enough to provide a secure and fast connection.
We like VyprVPN's apps because they are some of the most user-friendly available. Plus they're available for major devices, including Android, Apple iOS, Windows and Mac.
The service recently became a fully no-log service, so what you do while connected remains private. VyprVPN's claims have also been audited so you can be safe in the knowledge their claims are sound.
Like many other services, they offer a full money back guarantee that lasts for 30 days.
- Good range of apps
- Servers in over 60 countries
- Audited no log policy
- Reliable connections
- Apps for most devices
- Not the fastest
- Doesn't accept Paypal
NordVPN has firmly set itself as one of the best Virtual Private Networks and for travellers, they've got some neat features that make them stand out.
VPN servers are available in 61 countries but what stands out is there are over 5,100 individual VPN servers.
This is a considerable number and more than most others, even among the best VPN services. With so many servers, you'll have no trouble connecting in any country. Like most services, they are a little thin on African coverage but everywhere else is well catered for.
The apps are well designed and easy to use. You can connect using either a world map or if you're not great with geography they have a country list or ‘best server' option to connect you quickly, so you're secure with minimal interaction. Also, NordVPN allows you to establish up to six simultaneous connections.
Plus, this one also works with the likes of Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and it is great for streaming HD video as it falls under the fastest VPN category.
Prices of the service are very favourable. For example, a 2-year plan costs from as little as a few dollars a month which will allow you to stay protected for the foreseeable future and if you travel a lot, it will help with your online security without breaking the bank.
There's a 30-day money back guarantee available too, which will give you plenty of time to test it in numerous locations on different types of internet connection.
- Very good download speeds
- Strong encryption
- Apps for most devices
- Run by security experts
- Fewer server locations
- Keeps 24 hour connection logs
VPN.ac is one of the best all-round VPN providers, so it makes sense that they're great for use for travelling too.
If you're an international traveller though, you will need to check out VPN.ac's location list first. Although they cover over 20 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, they don't have servers in every region. It pays to check before you sign up.
If they are suitable for the kinds of countries you travel to, then you'll be rewarded with a super fast, highly-secure VPN service. In fact, in China where they have restrictive internet, they're one of the best – and fastest!
If you value encryption, then the high-levels of encryption plus rare and experimental modes will be right up your street. It's one for the techies but even if you're a beginner, their range of apps which work with Android, Apple iOS, Windows, Mac and the Amazon Fire TV devices are easy enough to use.
There's a small 7-day money back guarantee but if you value your privacy and you're after something a little different, then this is the service for you.
- Good range of apps
- Over 50 countries supported
- Accepts Paypal
- Time proven service
- Unlimited connections
- Unaudited no log policy
- Registered in the US
IPVanish is another long-standing cheap VPN service that has established itself as a leader in the market.
For travelling they make a great choice because they have somewhere in the region of 50 countries covered. This includes most locations around the world, again Africa is under-resourced and that's a common theme across most VPNs, even when it comes to reliable VPN.
They've got apps for all the most major devices so you can secure yourself on both your mobile devices or your bigger portable ones such as laptops or even desktops.
Choosing virtual servers to connect to is quick and painless either via map view, a list or even by filtering to your preference.
We like their 256-bit level of encryption and you can use the service on an unlimited number of devices keeping all your devices secure while you're on the move.
Sadly, they don't work well with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, or many other popular streaming services, so if TV content is what you're after you're better sticking with one of the earlier providers.
- Large range of apps
- Great for streaming services
- 65+ countries covered
- Easy to set up and use
- Unlimited connections
- Unaudited no log policy
- Registered in the EU
Surfshark is a relative newcomer to the VPN market but for travellers, it already boasts many of the qualities you are looking for.
There is already a sizeable VPN server network with more than 3,200 servers located across 65 countries and a massive IP address selection. This includes plenty of servers in all the most popular locations.
Security and encryption with Surfshark is top draw and there is a no user logs guarantee, although Surfshark does collect a little more connection data than we would like to see and this log policy hasn't been audited.
But if you want to use a VPN to unblock streaming services, Surfshark is a great bet and it is also good at bypassing state censorship and unblocking content. It works OK in China which is rare in a new VPN provider, although it's certainly not the best in this area.
It also offers a great range of user-friendly apps for most popular mobile devices and it provides unlimited simultaneous connections. That means that you can establish as many simultaneous connections as you want, which makes this one of the best VPNs for protecting those with a lot of devices or even the devices of your entire family.
Note that unlimited device connections are not unique to Surfshark but are still extremely rare, even among the best international VPNs. It also offers split tunneling, so you can choose which apps to protect and apply security features on and which can go unprotected.
With competitive prices and a 30-day money back guarantee too, Surfshark is another good bet for travellers.
7. CyberGhost VPN
- Good app range
- Works great for streaming
- 91 countries supported
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Unaudited no log policy
- Owns VPN ‘review' websites
- Apps are a little bulky visually
If you are new to VPNs and a little nervous about getting the hang of the technology, CyberGhost VPN might be the provider for you. It has a great range of apps with a semi user-friendly design.
This doesn't come at the expense of other features either. CyberGhost VPN has strong security features and a no users logs guarantee you can trust.
There is an extensive server network available too, consisting of more than 7,000 servers in 91 different countries. CyberGhost VPN is pretty effective at unblocking content that might be censored too, although it doesn't work in China.
Connection speeds are decent with CyberGhost VPN and it is very effective at unblocking streaming services around the world too.
Again prices are favourable and there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. An excellent option for travellers who are turning to a VPN for the first time
How to choose a VPN for Travel
The first thing to understand is there is no single ‘Best' VPN for travelling, much like there's no single ‘Best' VPN for almost any other purpose.
There are however a group of VPN services that are better than others. Ranking VPN software individually is incredibly hard and often what is best will depend on your type of usage.
There are a few critical features you should be looking out for that will definitely help you get the best service and they are:
- High levels of encryption – Even if you're not 100% sure about what ‘encryption' is, make sure the VPN service you sign up for advertises at least 256-bit encryption. It's an industry standard. You should also be looking for services offering OpenVPN, SSTP or Wireguard. If you don't see these phrases, find another provider.
- No logs – When you use a VPN, all of your connection flows through them. Make sure the VPN service you're using retains no-logs of what you do while connected. Or at the very most, stores only minimal logs for the shortest time. Don't be afraid to quiz the VPN provider on their logging practices regarding internet traffic logs and ask for proof before handing over your cash.
- VPN server locations – Check that the VPN service you sign up to has multiple servers either in the country you're travelling to or in nearby areas. If you're going to India, for example, but the nearest server location is the United States you'll likely have a very slow and unreliable internet connection.
- Apps for your device type – Most VPN companies offer apps for major devices like laptops, tablets and phones. Make sure they have one for the device you want to use it on. As a traveller you're unlikely to have time to be setting a VPN manually. An app does all the hard work for you and lets you get connected quickly with little effort.
Which VPN should I choose?
Above are our seven top recommendations for VPNs for travel that offer the best VPN deals. You can either pick our favourite, ExpressVPN or any of the other six listed – they're all suitable, so no need to fret.
There are, however some reasons why you might want to choose one over another. So we've broken it down into usage types.
If you're still struggling, take a look at the types of usage scenarios below that will help you narrow it down.
If you're a world traveller, digital nomad or globe trotter, get ExpressVPN. Without question with 94 countries supported, they'll allow you to stay secure no matter what country you end up in.
If you visit countries with restrictive internet, get ExpressVPN or VPN.ac. If you travel to China, Turkmenistan or other countries with less open internet, these two are your best bets to unblock the net.
If you want ease of use and reliability, choose VyprVPN. Their apps are some of the best we've seen, well designed and quick to connect.
If you travel with more gadgets than you've got space for, take IPVanish. With an unlimited concurrently-connected device limit, you'll be able to secure more gadgets than you can carry.
How to get a VPN for travelling?
Once you have chosen a VPN provider, getting things set up to use while you are travelling is quite simple.
Here is a brief step-by-step guide for you to follow using our top recommendation, ExpressVPN as an example.
- Sign up to ExpressVPN by clicking on a link in this article.
- Follow the onscreen steps to sign up to your preferred subscription package.
- Download and install the ExpressVPN app onto any devices you are taking travelling with you.
- Open the app and log in to your ExpressVPN account using the details given to you in step 2.
- Once you have reached your location, click quick connect to hook up to the fastest available server. Alternatively, choose a server location from the list and then click connect.
- Once ExpressVPN has connected, use the internet as usual.
If you do have any problems, just try a different server or contact customer support for assistance.
Why you need a VPN for travel
VPNs are generally considered essential for any internet user to keep safe and secure online no matter where they are. But there are a number of specific reasons why travellers should always be using a VPN.
Travellers are even more likely than others to use public Wi-Fi networks while they are on the road.
These might be in hotels, airports, on public transport, in shops and cafes, or a hundred and one other places.
But public Wi-Fi networks are notoriously insecure. If they do have a password, these are generally widely advertised and because they are designed to let as many people access them as possible, security provisions are usually to a minimum.
This makes them an easy target for hackers to try and intercept user data or even access devices that are connected to networks. Some hackers may even set up a spoof network mirroring existing ones to encourage unsuspecting users to connect up.
Travellers are far more likely to be doing sensitive activities like online banking, online shopping, or even things like visa applications online, so they need to be even more careful about their security and privacy.
While many services these days use the HTTPS secure protocol, activities like using email clients can still be sent in plain readable text.
A VPN ensures that everything you do on a public Wi-Fi network is encrypted and secure. It also helps to hide your identity to help protect your online privacy when using a public Wi-Fi network.
Travellers can use a VPN-enabled device to connect to WiFi hotspots for anything with confidence. Most VPNs will offer unlimited data and since VPN encrypts your traffic from your device, and not your network, you can use it safely.
One of the downsides of travelling can be missing your favourite TV shows or sporting events.
Streaming services that you use in the UK or other countries will often not work overseas because the companies only have the rights to show content in its intended country. Sometimes sites are even blocked within certain countries, such as China, Russia, and Iran.
But, using a VPN can help access services like these from anywhere, even abroad. By connecting to a VPN server based in the UK, it is possible to unblock and watch UK-based services no matter where in the world you are.
If you are a Man Utd fan and don't want to miss the big game against Liverpool despite being overseas, a VPN can help ensure you can watch every minute.
Not every VPN can do this and not every provider works with every streaming service, as many of them apply VPN blocks.
So take your time to check that your chosen VPN is capable of unblocking the services you want to watch. You don't want to get away and then find the service you want to watch doesn't work.
Streaming services are not the only sites that can stop working when you leave your home country.
Some regular websites and news sites may well not work or otherwise throw up very different content if you have another nation's IP address.
Also, services like online banking often come with built-in geo-restrictions in place too, so some IP addresses are blocked by default. This can be hugely frustrating if you want to manage your money abroad but have to use a premium phone number to do so.
Using a VPN can help to unblock services like these too, by using the same process of exchanging IP addresses with the ones tied to its server. Just connected to a UK based server and you will get a UK-based IP address. Then, log into your online accounts as usual.
You might find that you get asked one or two additional security questions since banks may spot that you are connected to an IP address with multiple users. But crucially, you will be able to access the account and manage your money and other things as normal.
Online censorship is sadly a fact of life these days. If you are travelling to countries like China, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, or anywhere else with a somewhat dubious authoritarian regime, you will find that a lot of western internet sites are censored and unavailable.
But it is an increasingly common problem in a lot of democratic countries as well. Government's tend to opt for censorship as a quick-fix solution to various problems without thinking through how ineffective it is and also its broader consequences.
India is a significant example of this but European and North American countries are far from immune from this too. Even some Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia will block some content such as LGBTQ+ content or porn sites that are freely accessible in your home country.
But a VPN can unblock all of this content. By selecting a server located in a country where content is not blocked, you will be able to bypass state censorship and access whatever you wherever you want.
How to use a VPN safely
Travelling means you'll inherently be connecting and disconnecting to different networks rather than staying continually connected like your home network.
There are a few tips to stay safe online while on the move:
- Don't forget to use your VPN – Signing up is only half the battle but if you don't use your VPN, you leave yourself at risk. If you're a little forgetful, enable the ‘auto-connect' modes that most VPN apps provide and which lets you automatically connect to the most efficient server. That way, it'll take care of itself.
- Use the Kill Switch – Using the internet while travelling will see you connect to all sorts of unreliable internet connections. If your VPN service offers a ‘Kill Switch' – use it. You'll find it in the settings area. It's a safety feature that will cut your internet if the VPN connection drops.
- Try different ports or protocols – Some public Wi-Fi (especially Airports) don't work well with your preferred VPN. Head into the settings area of your VPN app and change VPN ports or protocols. Some beneficial ports that usually work include port 80, 443 or 8080. Start with the OpenVPN protocol but also try SSTP, L2TP and WireGuard. Steer clear of using PPTP in all but the most extreme circumstances.
- Sign up before you leave – In countries like China even accessing a VPN service's website is blocked. That means you'll struggle to sign-up. Make sure you sign-up AND download any VPN apps before you leave home.
They're just a few of our top tips on how to use your VPN safely when travelling but if you've got some favourites let us know in the comments section below.
Is there a free VPN for travelling?
We generally don't advise using a free VPN app at any time, as it is not safe for your internet traffic. But there are particular issues when it comes to using a VPN that doesn't charge for its services when travelling.
Firstly, many free VPN providers come with service limitations. These might be connection speed caps, data limits, throttling on certain data-intensive sites like streaming sites, and more.
These have a considerable impact on what a VPN can be used for and for travellers, are likely to make the service almost unusable at times.
Then there are the security risks of free VPN services. Many come with built-in malware or adware that can put your devices and your data at risk. A lot of free VPNs are run from China and are likely to be sending your user data back to the Chinese Communist Party.
And there is also the issue of not doing what they promise. Some free VPNs don't actually bother to encrypt your data. Others say they have a no user logs guarantee but harvest your data and sell it off to the highest bidders anyway.
The premium VPNs we have recommended in this guide cost no more than a couple of dollars a month but have none of the main disadvantages of even the best free VPNs. There is no risk of:
- Unencrypted Data
- Data harvesting
- Data Caps
- Connection Speed Caps
Our strong advice to all readers is to avoid even the best free VPN providers at all costs, especially while travelling and stick to premium providers that you can trust, such as the ones recommended in our guide above.
Consider a catch-all VPN travel router
Software and app-based VPNs are excellent tools but if you travel far and for a long time, it's worth investing in a portable VPN travel router.
One of the best is InvizBox Go.
It's a small handheld-sized device that handles the VPN side of things for you. You connect your device to the InvizBox Go and the InvizBox Go to the public Wi-Fi network.
Any device on the same network connecting to the InvizBox Go is then secure, and its IP address is hidden and replaced.
One of the significant benefits is there is no information leaking when connecting. With software and app-based VPN services, you can leak data in the time between turning on your device and getting connected.
As many apps automatically start to send data as soon as you connect, this can be more data than you would think.
Check out our VPN travel router review of the InvizBox Go if you're interested to know more.
In Summary: Best VPN for International Travel
Whether you're travelling for business or pleasure, keeping your internet connection secure is just one more headache.
A VPN is one of the best ways of taking the hassle out of this. We recommend using ExpressVPN because their combination of a wide range of locations and IP address diversity, a good selection of apps and excellent connection speed results mean they're the most hassle-free service when travelling.
The other six options all make good choices in their own rights, so there's no right or wrong decision.
Whichever VPN you end up choosing, make sure you remember to switch it on and always connect when using public Wi-Fi networks.
Have you had experience of using a VPN when travelling? We would love to hear your thoughts, so why not pop a comment in the comments section below.