Selfie at Into the Woods Cafe

Do You Really Need a VPN When Traveling the World?

I recently signed up with Surfshark VPNs. I’ve never used a VPN when traveling, but the plans were really cheap and I figured it couldn’t hurt. I’m also taking a short break from traveling at the moment due to current world events, so this article will look at the benefits of having a VPN whether you’re traveling or not.

What is a VPN

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. An oversimplification would be to say that a VPN is like using another computer to go on the internet. Essentially, you are browsing the internet through a server in another location which is then sending you encrypted data. If you leave your house, anyone can watch where you go, what you do, etc. Using a VPN essentially sends someone else to do your errands. It’s mostly about security of information, as not all of us like all our actions tracked by others, especially in relation to passwords, bank account details, personal information, etc.

Choosing Surfshark VPNs

I’d been debating on getting a VPN for years. I checked several different platforms and tried the free trial for a couple. One that I tried was a hassle to use and kinda put me off using another.

Then I found Surfshark. This is one of those rare instances where cheaper is better. Surfshark is consistently ranked as one of the best VPN providers, and is also cheaper than any of its high-level competitors (and the crappy ones, for that matter). I found one website by an Aussie where he compared over 100 VPNs, and Surfshark was one of only 3 providers that had no serious concerns with any part of its services or business model.

Another great advantage to Surfshark is that one account can be used on every one of your devices. I have mine running on my laptop, phone and tablet nearly all the time. Not only do I see hardly any drop in download or upload speed, there are actually many times when my internet is faster by using a server in a location with less traffic.

Of course, the best part about using a VPN is the privacy. I’m not going to lie and say I understand all the information out there about net neutrality. What I do know is that WiFi can be hacked and used to steal your information, and using a VPN just generally makes your internet browsing safer and more secure, even when you’re on your own network at home.

Benefits of Using a VPN When Traveling

As I just mentioned, using WiFi networks isn’t safe, and I’ve been doing that constantly since I started traveling in 2014. There have been plenty of times when the only WiFi network I could find was a city-wide hotspot, which is both wonderfully handy and wildly unsafe. I was very careful not to check any personal information, bank details or anything else that might be hacked on the network.

In recent years, I’ve started purchasing SIM cards in most of the countries I visit, opting to get a large data plan to accommodate all the photos and videos I take in my travels. While this is safer than using WiFi, adding a VPN gives you an extra layer of security, almost making it impossible for your information to be stolen.

I know that in the US (which I haven’t been back to in years), ISPs are allowed to sell your browsing history. While I’m not visiting websites that I would want to keep secret, I’m also not keen on having some Big Brother somewhere tracking all my information and putting together their own evaluation of my life.

There’s another huge benefit I’ve recently found to using a VPN when traveling. When I’m in another country, the cookies of the website will default all the information to that country. This means I will get ads or even the whole website in their language and currency, deals targeted to their citizens, etc. If I use a VPN server in the US or UK, then I’ll get English, dollars or pounds, etc. I must say it is a little humorous to get ads for concerts in Los Angeles and Seattle when I’m listening to Spotify.

While I don’t have Netflix, Surfshark would allow me to access 15 of the 20 Netflix servers around the world. Just to give a comparison, the UK only gets 442 TV shows and 1,586 movies, compared to 1,157 TV shows and 4,593 movies in the US.

Disadvantages of Using a VPN

Using a VPN doesn’t make your internet experience perfect. There are a couple disadvantages.

First, using the servers of a VPN can be lower than using the internet directly. It really depends on where you are in the world, where the servers you’re using are located, etc. I think using a VPN is always supposed to slow down your speed a bit (or a lot), which is a small sacrifice to pay for increased security.

Another problem I sometimes run into is websites not loading correctly or at all. I sometimes have difficulty with Pinterest (which might be from Surfshark’s built-in ad blocker). Off the top of my head, I couldn’t mention the other websites I’ve had trouble with as it’s not often, but it does happen now and then.

Why You Wouldn’t Need a VPN

Now that I’m using a VPN, I can honestly say I don’t know why you wouldn’t use one. Anytime you use a password, whether it’s to get into your emails, log into Youtube, access your Netflix account, etc, it’s good to do it behind the extra layer of security that a VPN provides.

Some VPNs limit how many devices you can use or how much data you can pass through their servers. Not Surfshark. Last month, I managed to pass over 40GB of data through their servers, and I didn’t see any throttling. In fact, the more I use Surfshark and get the hang of the different servers, the faster I can get my download and upload speeds.

Countries Where You Can’t Use a VPN

One big restriction to VPNs is using them in a country that has partially or fully banned their use. Currently, the list includes Belarus, China, Iraq, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Uganda and Venezuela. Some of these countries have relaxed restrictions or loopholes, although China is the most strict.

A disadvantage to these bans is that VPNs can’t be used because the governments want to have access to your information, which is all the more reason to use one. If you find yourself in one of the above countries, take care with what you do online.

Privacy Beyond VPN

Surfshark has two additional beta features you can pay a little extra for. The first is called Hacklock. It will scan the internet for any email address you submit to see if your email has been hacked on any website. Data breaches happen all the time, so this is a really good way to see if your information has been jeopardized and if you need to change your passwords. I even found two hacks on one of my email accounts that I was able to resolve.

The second feature is called Blindsearch and is a true incognito internet search without any ads, cookies, biased search results, etc. I personally really like this feature when optimizing my SEO, as I can see search results without my Google account featuring my posts first.

Sign Up for Your Surfshark VPN Today

Surfshark’s best deal is their 24-month plan at only $1.99 a month ($47.76 for the full two years). This gets you all the security benefits of a VPN, access to over 1040 servers in 61 countries, and a clean web surfing experience with no ads, trackers, malware or phishing attempts. If you want to add the Privacy Beyond VPN package to your subscription, it’s an additional $0.99 per month.

As mentioned, your one Surfshark account will be accessible across all your devices with unlimited data usage. Surfshark has a strict no-logs policy. I just hope my friends don’t take advantage of that by visiting unsavory websites.

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Further Reading

The safety of my fellow travelers is always a concern of mine. Here are some more articles about how to stay safe when you’re traveling in different parts of the world.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Affiliate Disclosure
This post may contain affiliate links. These links help give me the wherewithal to continue traveling at no additional cost to you. For more information, click here.

About Skye Class

Hi, I'm Skye. Writer, photographer, adventurer, foodie, teacher, masseur, friend, dreamer, etc. I think "normal sucks." Let's aim for extraordinary. SkyeTravels seeks to find the good around the world, focusing on adventures, food and wellness. Be inspired. Be yourself.
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