Why you should always use a VPN, traveling or not

A rundown on what a VPN is, and why you should always use a VPN when browsing the internet, traveling or not.

If you travel, you’ve probably heard of VPNs. Especially if you’re planning a holiday to China, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, or Cuba, the concept of a VPN has probably popped up at one point or another.

But few of you use a VPN on a regular basis, and that could put you in serious danger. I’m here to tell you why you should always use a VPN, even if you’re not traveling.

What is a VPN?

A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. As far as you are concerned, it’s a program you run on your computer, tablet, or mobile to provide security and privacy while browsing the web.

Most people use VPNs to trick their internet into thinking they’re in different country. For example, while flicking through Facebook in Tehran, your internet service provider might think you’re visiting the web from a city in Kyrgyzstan. Or you might use it to access American Netflix while backpacking in Georgia (because let’s be real, everyone knows the American version has the best options).

People assume that’s all VPNs are for: evading censorship or accessing their local shows. But VPNs are useful for more than just using Facebook in China or watching porn in Iran (we know what the internet is really for). In fact, you should always use a VPN while online.

Misty anonymity at Qaleh Rudkhan in Iran - Why you should always use a VPN, even when not traveling - Lost With Purpose

Anonymity is always reason #1 to use a VPN.

Why you should always use a VPN, even if you’re not traveling

Reason 1: to block prying eyes

Why? Well, for starters, VPNs protect your privacy. Websites are always trying to collect information about you. Sometimes it’s just for business, sometimes it’s for more sinister reasons.  A VPN blocks them from doing so by encrypting your data and making you anonymous.

You might think this is only useful for people like Edward Snowden, but think again. Any kind of wireless network can be a target for malicious software, be it your local coffee shop’s wifi or the airport internet hotspot. You never know who’s creeping around on your network, but a VPN can prevent people from creeping around on YOUR internet.

Beer and browsing in Kyrgyzstan - Why you should always use a VPN - Lost With Purpose

Cold beer and safe browsing. What more do you need?

Reason 2: to save money

Most online data collection is done to make money.  For instance, once air ticket websites know you’re planning a holiday to Kazakhstan, they’ll increase the prices for plane tickets to Kazakhstan exclusively for you. Sound like a rotten deal, right?

A VPN counters this. Because the air ticket website can’t tell who you are, and doesn’t know your browsing history, they don’t know to up the price on your ticket. Hellooo money saved!

Reason 3: to stay safe online (the most important reason of all)

You’ve probably had to deal with spam, malicious websites or annoying viruses at one point or another. A good VPN protects you from all of the above.

We learned the importance of this the hard way. While in Goris, Armenia, we logged on to our hotel’s wifi. Innocent enough, right?

However, someone had tampered with the router, and once I opened up a browser window, I was routed to a malicious website which downloaded malware on my laptop.

Worrying about viruses in Goris - Why you should always use a VPN - Lost With Purpose

It wasn’t okay to have web worries distract me from views like these.

Every time I visited a website, popups appeared and my browsing attempts were redirected to other strange websites. And that’s just what I could see—there might’ve been more going on under the hood that I didn’t realize, like my banking details being stolen, or our passwords being logged.

I ended up having to factory reset the computer, and lost all my files and programs.  Our tablet, on the other hand, wasn’t affected because our VPN blocked the malicious website from opening. +1 for VPNs!

You might think this won’t happen to you, but this can happen anywhere—again, your local library or coffee shop is just as likely of a target for malware and other forms of hacking, if not more so.

TL;DR VPNs da best

To summarize, a VPN:

  • Lets you circumnavigate internet censorship in countries like China, Turkey, and Iran
  • Protects you from prying eyes by encrypting your data and making you anonymous
  • Protects your personal data, countering the possibility of identity theft
  • Saves you money by preventing websites from tracking your behavior and inflating prices accordingly
  • Blocks ads, malicious websites, and viruses

Because of this, we highly recommend you always use a VPN, not just when traveling.

Using a VPN in Kashan, Iran - Why you should always use a VPN - Lost With Purpose

Freely exploring the internet in Iran thanks to our handy dandy VPNs.

Which VPN service should I use?

That’s a good question. We’ve tried—and still use—several VPNs. The following are our favorites:

CyberGhost

My personal favorite. CyberGhost offers military grade protection, blocks malicious sites, ads and online tracking, and doesn’t keep any logs. It does have connectivity problems in Iran and China, though, and not many Latin American server options.

  • Good for: Spies and whistle blowers. People who like their privacy, and those who like to browse the internet while knowing they are as secure as possible.
  • Bad for: People who solely use VPNs when traveling to countries with restricted internet. (Way to pay attention to my advice.)

Interested? Get Cyberghost now.

PureVPN

PureVPN is well designed, has the biggest number of countries and servers to choose from, and has multiple easy-to-use settings. It can also be used on 5 devices at once.

The downside? It offers less privacy than CyberGhost and doesn’t block ads. We also had some connectivity problems with PureVPN in China.

  • Good for: People on a budget, have many devices, or want an easy-to-use option.
  • Bad for: People who despise ads.

Sounds good? Get PureVPN now.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the best known on this list… but it’s also the most expensive. It is the easiest, fastest, and most reliable of the options, and it’s what we used while traveling in Xinjiang, China. If you want to make sure this VPN is money well spent, also check out this ExpressVPN review.

  • Good for: People who use VPNs primarily for travel, prefer speed over anything else, or are traveling to China.
  • Bad for: People on a budget. ExpressVPN is certainly reliable, but it’s not cheap!

Sold? Get ExpressVPN now.

What about free VPNs?

Please, please be careful with free VPN services. People often build malicious software into these services that scrape your data while you use it–the price you pay for using their “free” app. We really don’t recommend using free services, due to the security risks.

Some reputable VPNs have free versions (CyberGhost included), but they don’t offer the same protection and user experience that the paid versions do. Given that yearly contracts aren’t very expensive given value of VPN protection, we only recommend paid options.

Blogging in Tashkent, Uzbekistan - Why you should always use a VPN, traveling or not - Lost With Purpose

Safely blogging with Cyberghost in a hostel in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

What VPNs do we use?

We use PureVPN and CyberGhost, and happily pay for both. We stopped using ExpressVPN after China, because three’s a crowd. (We do miss it, though.)

 

VPNs are essential when traveling, especially if you're traveling to countries that censor internet such as China, Iran, Cuba, or North Korea. But did you know that you should also be using a VPN while at home? Read on for an explanation of what a VPN is, how it can protect you and save you money, and why you need to use one both at home and abroad.

 

Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you buy a VPN subscription through those links we’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Never fear, we honestly use or have used all of these VPNs, and would never recommend something we wouldn’t use ourselves.

 

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I’m lazy, I say I’m masterfully inactive.

More about Sebastiaan

21 thoughts on “Why you should always use a VPN, traveling or not

    Carol Perehudoff says:

    I’m going to book something through your site. I’ll check them all out. Someone accessed my site while I was in the Czech Republic, and while I think they came in and out, it was scary!

    That’s one of the things we’re afraid of too. Falling victim to a cyber crime is so easy nowadays. And security is especially important if you run an online businesses.

    Elen says:

    I used ExpressVPN in Tibet. My first experience using one at all, I really didn’t know much about them. Couldn’t believe how easy it was, I was like, ‘Surely China is smarter than this, no?’ Lol. Worked really well 🙂

    ExpressVPN is definitely the best option for traveling to places with censored Internet. There’s basically a constant battle going on between VPNs and the censors. ExpressVPN wins most of the time!

    Thanks Sebastiaan for the great tips. Perfect timing as we are looking into getting a VPN when we’re on the move again. Will bookmark this page, you just saved us a lot of research 🙂

    Glad it’s useful! Cheers.

    Stuart says:

    Thanks for this article. I have been procrastinating with buying a VPN and I trust you guys for some reason…! I bought the 12 month of Express VPN and now have it setup and running on my Mac and iPhone. All within 10 minutes. Cheers!

    Cheers. Glad it all went smoothly. ExpressVPN is a solid choice and definitely one of the most reliable VPN’s out there.

    Jay Witchikle says:

    I have been traveling recently to the Middle East and been using Astrill. So far so good and Express seems to be not working in the Middle East though.

    That’s good to know. Especially about express. We’ll have to look into that. Cheers.

    Every time I come to your site I learn something important and new. I used a VPN while I was travelling in Iran years ago, but I haven’t been doing it regularly for years. There’s certainly no price (or effort) too much for privacy and security.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Haha glad to hear it’s informative!

    West says:

    Great article. I can’t imagine how I would have survived college w/o VPN. I had Astrill for 3 years now. Still using it, they’re fast than others i’ve tried.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Yeah, VPNs are super useful for securing your connection while doing work in a coffeeshop (or using uni WiFi to torrent stuff). We heard about Astrill, but haven’t used it ourselves.

    Andy says:

    Good article. Recently got ExpressVPN and can recommend it. I didn’t care about privacy until I saw a documentary how easy it is to grab peoples data on public wifi networks.

    Sebastiaan says:

    We know what you mean. Never gave it much thought until my laptop was infected a while back. Since then I don’t go without a VPN, ever.

    Kristina says:

    That’s true VPN is a good thing to protect privacy no matter where you are. I would recommend using Privatoria VPN. I am using it for 3 months and really satisfied with it.

    Sebastiaan says:

    That’s good to know.

    mark says:

    Nice article

    mark says:

    Nice article,
    Recently I read a similar article on ReviewsDir.

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