For a few years, I didn’t try to know or even want to know what a VPN network was. I always thought it was some sort of portal that would help business travelers connect to their company network safely. It wasn’t until I went to Shanghai a couple months ago that a VPN subscription came in handy for me. For those that don’t know, a VPN is a private line of the internet that connects you to a certain network. At least that is the best way I can describe it. By using a VPN, you can essentially circumvent a government, school or business network that often puts restrictions on what you can and cannot browse. For example, Facebook is blocked in China but if you connect to a VPN, it masks your location and makes it look like you are in a country or city that doesn’t block Facebook. This is extremely important as there can also be some other benefits to using a VPN. The following are just a few of the many reasons why you should use a VPN service.
Safely Transmit Data
As if putting in your credit card numbers online was worrisome, the last thing you want to do is have to think about whether your internet connection is private and safe. A VPN helps to eliminate that worry as it connects like a one way road to another network thus making it almost impossible to let anyone else compromise that data. This is extremely important as many areas of the world are ripe to computer hacking and data theft. This doesn’t just have to be for credit cards either because VPN’s help to protect any passwords you type into social media and banking accounts as well. It’s a good feeling to know that no matter where you are, at least you have a safe and private internet connection.
Connect to Social Media & Other Blocked Sites
For many including me, social media is an addiction. I’m constantly on it and even though I haven’t posted anything to Instagram in 4 months, i’d like to know I can whenever I want. However, a lot of countries ban different types of social media. China blocks Facebook and Instagram throughout the country and it’s a bit difficult for many westerners or others to be removed from posting on social media while there. A VPN is a great workaround as it lets you bypass these restrictions and log into sites that would otherwise be blocked. In addition to social media, many countries and hotels also block pornographic websites from being viewed. In the UAE, blocked sites often show a menacing warning from the actual government about how the site you’re trying to access is illegal. However, by activating a VPN client, you can bypass this and browse whatever you’d like safely and privately.
Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube & Hulu Access
If you have ever tried to access any of these three sites outside of the USA, you probably noticed that viewing isn’t allowed until back in the country. Netflix and Hulu have network restrictions and contracts in place where they can’t show certain shows or any depending on the country. In Asia, you will generally be locked out of Netflix and told that the video selection is restricted. Like Netflix, Youtube and Hulu also block access to certain videos outside of the USA. The best way to get around these is by using a VPN that lets you connect to a network in the USA. Most VPN networks offer a selection of countries to connect to like England, The Netherlands, Germany, etc. Keep in mind though that Netflix just got a lot more strict when it comes to logging in through a VPN. They will now start banning users from using Netflix at all if caught!
How to Get a VPN Subscription
Generally, the best way to gauge the best VPN subscription is to do some research. Do you care about internet speed? Do you have a set price? These questions are what make the difference between which service provider to choose. I personally use a company called ExpressVPN and have had no issues with them when connecting to a VPN. They do offer a 30 day trial and then the cost is about $12.95/month after that. I think it is pretty reasonable and they offer a hassle-free way to cancel the subscription just in case you don’t see yourself flying every month. Their service also works on your laptop, tablet and phone so you’re not just restricted to one device.
Some VPN Tips
- The biggest tip I can give is to download the VPN software BEFORE you get to your destination. I made this mistake and tried to download the software in China where the site was already blocked. That is partly the reason I got ExpressVPN because it was one of the only providers that weren’t blocked in China.
- Do your research. I picked my software mainly because I was desperate and because everything else was blocked. If that wasn’t the case, I probably would have found cheaper options.
- Make sure to look at the speed and data allowance. Many VPN networks limit the amount of internet traffic and the speed. You might be getting a super fast internet connection from your hotel but the VPN network might limit that to a crawl. The same goes for streaming movies and music. You may have unlimited Netflix access but the VPN can limit the data to a certain size. For what it’s worth, ExpressVPN doesn’t seem to do that.