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TunnelBear VPN review


TunnelBear is a pretty average VPN option on the market currently. Oversaturated with very cute bear imagery, this VPN fails to raise a good challenge to other top VPN providers on our list.

While TunnelBear does offer reliable security for your data online, it struggles with unblocking Netflix, their history with torrenting is confusing, and the speed results will leave you asking for better and more reliable performance.

A bright spot is the free TunnelBear plan, which does work as a trial version, since it won’t offer you enough data to use for longer than a day.

There are several better VPN options for a similar price as TunnelBear for you to consider as well. Our top suggestion is NordVPN.

NordVPN best alternative to TunnelBear VPN
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market with blazing-fast speeds, unbreakable encryption, and an independently audited no-logs policy.
cybernews® score
4.9 /5

In this TunnelBear review, we’re going to dig deeper to see what exactly is happening with this VPN provider. We’ll check out the security points, speed results, what streaming sites are available, quality of features, support, and torrenting issues.

⭐ Rating:
3.3
🥇 Overall rank:#30 out of #34
📖 No logs policy:No logs
💵 Price:from $3.33/month
🖥️ Servers:3000+ servers in 48 countries
🍿 Streaming services:Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
🔥 Coupons:TunnelBear coupon 67% OFF
Best TunnelBear alternatives:

TunnelBear pros & cons

Visit TunnelBear to learn more about the features

Is TunnelBear secure?

TunnelBear is a safe VPN service that uses standard encryption methods to keep your connection secure. The only real problem with their service is their business location, which is not the most privacy-friendly country.

Encryption protocols

In terms of encryption, the TunnelBear setup doesn't stand out among competitors. They use standard AES-256 encryption with an SHA-256 hash for authentication. Even the US government has greenlighted the use of this algorithm for classified information. What this means to you as a user is that your connection will be safe, and no one will be able to check up on your online activities easily.

There are several different tunneling protocols for you to choose from, however, their availability depends on your device OS.

ProtocolOS Support
WireGuardWindows, iOS
IKEv2Windows, iOS
OpenVPNAndroid, macOS
IPseciOS

As they say in their blog, when you pick a country, the protocols "race each to see who'll connect first." The less tech-savvy users may appreciate this automation, but it's strange to remove the option to pick between them manually.

VigilantBear

VigilantBear feature screen

TunnelBear has called their kill switch feature VigilantBear. Its main function is to protect your privacy during those brief moments when the connection between your device and the VPN server gets disrupted.

VigilantBear then puts your internet connection on hold while it waits for the VPN server to respond. If it does, data is allowed to pass, enabling you to do whatever you were doing before the interruption. This feature protects you from an unwanted IP address or location exposure.

Currently, the support for this feature is included only on Windows, macOS, and Android apps with no information if it’s ever coming to iOS devices.

However, keep in mind that disconnection and disruption notification alerts are toggled off by default. So, in cases when VigilantBear is triggered, you won't get any notifications. If it gets activated while the connection is trying to resolve itself, you may start troubleshooting other network components that may be working perfectly fine.

Logging

TunnelBear doesn't monitor or log your activity. In simple terms, it means they don't collect information on what you're doing online while using the service.

TunnelBear no logging policy

However, the VPN provider does collect some personal data via their website and some non-personal data via the app. As they claim in their privacy policy. For example, TunnelBear VPN knows:

  • Your email address
  • Twitter ID (if you opted-in for their special promo)
  • OS version
  • Total data used this month
  • Cardholder's last name

Also, they can access the data stored by their third-party payment companies: Stripe and PayPal. This may include your card billing address.

All in all, this isn’t the most privacy-friendly VPN on the market. Not only is there some information logging, but TunnelBear doesn’t accept crypto payments for better anonymity, and there’s the issue of being based in a 5-Eyes Alliance country.

Security audits

TunnelBear submits the apps for independent security audits yearly. They chose a trusted German security agency Cure53 to look for critical code, server, or client app flaws that could be exploited.

This VPN provider also has a good track record of quickly responding to any of the issues found during the audits and immediately patching them up. So, it’s safe to say that TunnelBear takes the user security seriously.

Is TunnelBear good for streaming?

Platform Does it work?
Netflix✅Yes (is unreliable with the US and UK, doesn’t work with Japanese, Australian, Singapore, or Canadian locations)
BBC iPlayer✅Yes
HBO Max✅Yes
Amazon Prime Video✅Yes
YouTube TV✅Yes

TunnelBear certainly wouldn’t make our best VPNs for streaming list. While it can unblock a variety of streaming platforms, you won’t experience good video quality or no lags. You should also need to be prepared that your chosen server location might randomly stop connecting.

With TunnelBear you can unblock some of the Netflix libraries, but generally, this isn’t the best VPN for Netflix. However, this VPN had no issues accessing BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, or YouTube TV. On the other hand, unblocking Disney+ was more difficult.

Additionally, there’s no way to set up TunnelBear on your router. Also, this VPN has no apps for Amazon Firestick or Android TV, and there’s no Smart DNS tool. So you won’t be able to stream anything on your smart TVs.

Unblocking Netflix with TunnelBear

We put TunnelBear’s abilities to access global Netflix content libraries to the test, and the results were pretty underwhelming. With this VPN you’re going to have to play around to unblock the US or UK libraries.

Tunnelbear-Netlifx-UK

While we managed to access the UK location, it took us a while to find a server that would work. So, just know, that your experience trying to unblock Netflix US or UK might differ, you might not even be able to unblock these locations.

Also, trying to access Japanese, Australian, Singapore, or Canadian Netflix was a complete bust. The one location that successfully worked out was Netflix US.

Overall, TunnelBear isn’t the top pick for the best VPNs for Netflix. The continuous failure with Netflix and less than stellar performance with other streaming sites is why we don’t recommend this VPN.

Unblocking other streaming services with TunnelBear

Well, there’s nothing to shout from the rooftops about other streaming services either. TunnelBear did manage to access the BBC iPlayer, but the quality wasn’t too impressive and the connection wasn’t reliable throughout.

HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video were nice surprises. TunnelBear managed to access their servers, but the video quality wasn’t HD or without lagging. Surprisingly, there were no issues with YouTube TV either, but most of the VPNs are capable of unblocking the global content of this streaming site.

All in all, unblocking capabilities should be next on the line that TunnelBear could improve to attract more attention from all of us.

Is TunnelBear good for torrenting?

Torrenting can be quite a risky endeavor. There’s always a threat of your data leaking or being hacked. Also, your ISP might slow down your connection or ban P2P sharing if they find you torrenting. This is where using VPN tunnels provides a solution to security concerns and unreliable bandwidths.

Unfortunately, torrenting doesn’t work with TunnelBear. We tried connecting to several different server locations, like the UK, Germany, Latvia, Finland, and Spain. However, we still couldn’t successfully torrent anything. The download process began only when we disconnected from a VPN service.

If you need a secure and reliable VPN for torrenting, we suggest heading to our best VPNs for torrenting article. There you’ll find all of the providers we’ve tested and deemed as secure options for torrenting, like NordVPN.

Torrent safely with NordVPN
NordVPN is the ultimate VPN for torrenting. It offers fast speeds, specialized P2P servers, and unbreakable encryption, which will help you torrent safely.
cybernews® score
4.9 /5

Plans and pricing

TunnelBear is one of the budget-friendly VPN options. Apart from having a limited free version, the premium subscriptions aren’t too pricey.

VersionPrice
Free Plan$0.00
1-year plan$4.99/month
2-year plan$4.17/month
3-year plan$3.33/month

The cheapest option is naturally the free plan, however, as already mentioned, it is the most basic one with the most restrictions. To experience the full spectrum of TunnelBear features, you’ll have to invest in premium subscriptions.

The best deal comes with the longest-term plan. With a 3-year subscription, your monthly price will be only $3.33/month and you’ll get 5 devices simultaneous connection.

Shorter-term subscription prices aren’t too steep either, the year-long plan costs $4.99 a month and the 2-year plan is just a little cheaper at $4.17/month.

However, a big drawback is that TunnelBear doesn’t have an official money-back guarantee. The VPN provider claims that each request to return the money is analyzed independently. So, the outcome of your request may depend on the generosity of the customer support agent that gets assigned your request.

Another negative point is that the only valid payment method accepted is via credit card. So it completely removes the possibility of anonymous payments, which a lot of premium VPN providers offer.

Can you get TunnelBear for free?

Yes, you can get TunnelBear for free with the free app version. However, there are several significant restrictions placed on this plan.

With TunnelBear free version you will be able to connect to any server from the 48 countries, but your data will be capped at 500MB monthly. Even if you don't plan to watch HD videos, this will hardly be enough.

During our test, we reached the data limit within the first hour of browsing online, so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have any better experience.

Overall, the free TunnelBear version works as a trial feature for the premium subscription price. So, you can use this app version for a risk-free trial period.

TunnelBear servers and locations

TunnelBear offers over 3000 servers in 48 countries, which offers a pretty decent global coverage.

RegionsNumber of countries
Europe28 countries
Americas8 countries
Asia and Oceanic region 9 countries
Africa3 countries

Server number-wise, this VPN provider can’t compete with our best options like NordVPN which has over 5500 servers in 60 countries, or Surfshark with 3200+ servers in 100 countries. However, you should be able to find the needed server location.

Tunnelbear locations map

On the other hand, TunnelBear does need to work on their total number of countries, especially since the most restrictive countries that are most in need of VPNs are generally further from their offered locations.

Speed performance: how fast is TunnelBear?

TunnelBear offers several different tunneling protocols – WireGuard, IKEv2, OpenVPN UDP, and OpenVPN TCP.

  • Baseline: 470Mbps download/ 498Mbps upload
WireGuard
The UK459Mbps download/ 132Mbps upload
The US371Mbps download/ 67Mbps upload
Canada414Mbps download/ 56Mbps upload
Germany439Mbps download/ 148Mbps upload
Japan220Mbps download/ 30Mbps upload

Ignoring the negatives of other TunnelBear features or abilities, there’s no denying that TunnelBear speed results are pretty good and this is a pretty fast VPN. Especially with the WireGuard protocol, you’ll get quite impressive download speeds. At least we did while testing this provider.

The upload speeds aren’t as great, however, you just might need to pick a closer server to your original location for better results.

Yet, we don’t rush to place TunnelBear in our fastest VPNs list. While the download speeds were good, the major dips to the upload speed were disappointing.

TunnelBear performance with other protocols

Apart from WireGuard, there are several other tunneling protocols that TunnelBear offers. Here are their speed test results from the same locations as with WireGuard.

  • Baseline: 470Mbps download/ 498Mbps upload
IKEv2OpenVPN UDPOpenVPN TCP
The UK100Mbps download/ 13Mbps upload98Mbps download/ 26Mbps upload73Mbps download/ 12Mbps upload
The US297Mbps download/ 5Mbps upload42Mbps download/ 22Mbps upload19Mbps download/ 3Mbps upload
Canada251Mbps download/ 4Mbps upload53Mbps download/ 9Mbps upload17Mbps download/ 2Mbps upload
Germany185Mbps download/ 23Mbps upload194Mbps download/ 38Mbps upload91Mbps download/ 14Mbps upload
Japan270Mbps download/ 3Mbps upload23Mbps download/ 5Mbps upload11Mbps download/ 3Mbps upload

Here it becomes clear that any other TunnelBear protocol will provide you with abysmal speed results. IKEv2 provides the best speeds out of the three, but it’s still nothing to brag about.

OpenVPN UDP and TCP are both providing pretty sad results. So connecting through either of these protocols will prove to slow your connection down immensely.

The one fully consistent result through all of the tunneling protocols was the upload speed. It’s terrible with any option, so if you’re intending to be uploading data or files, then prepare to test your patience.

ProviderAverage download speed
NordVPN79% 🏆
IPVanish52%
TunnelBear71%

Interface and ease of use

PlatformExperience
WindowsHeavy on your computer system due to extensive animations
macOSThe animations look fun, but there’s nothing groundbreaking
Mobile appsCluttered with graphics but otherwise very basic

When developing the app TunnelBear seem to have spent plenty of time integrating as many bear animations and graphics as they possibly could. Cute – yes, but does it bring any actual use to the apps? Well, that would be a hard no.

Apart from desktop and mobile apps, Tunnelbear offers Chrome and Firefox extensions.

Desktop apps

TunnelBear only offers Windows and macOS apps, while Linux doesn’t have a client and is offered very limited support. You'll only get configuration files that you'll have to add to your manual configuration. So, if you're planning to use it on Linux, you should probably look elsewhere.

The Windows client download seemed huge for a VPN – 131 MB. Perhaps all the animations are the culprit. If you have a weaker machine, you should keep this in mind. It might not seem like much, but it can quickly add up to a heavy load. Even on idle, TunnelBear consumed 2-5% of our CPU resources.

Server selection screen TunnelBear

On macOS, there aren't any significant differences from the Windows version. The app feels a bit slicker, but it's annoying that it can only be accessed from the tray. Depending on your preference, it takes system-wide dark or light themes.

Generally speaking, the most prominent quality of TunnelBear desktop apps is their design. It isn't the most convenient, but betting on all the cute illustrations and bear jokes does distinguish the service from competitors. Whether it's a selling point that redeems the lack of specialized servers, or the fact that you can't manually select tunneling protocols is another question.

TunnelBear mobile apps

When it comes to mobile, the iOS version is just objectively much worse than the Android version. First of all, it doesn't have a kill switch. So, in cases when your connection to a VPN server cuts off, you might unknowingly transition into direct browsing, leaving traces of your location and IP address.

iOS quick use icon (TunnelBear)

The second edge that the Android version has over the rest of the apps is the Encrypted Server Name Indicator. This built-in feature uses encryption to bypass DNS-level VPN blocking.

Otherwise, both versions feel and work similarly. The app itself looks quite cluttered yet basic, with elements and menus being all over the place. They could use a revamp to use the screen more efficiently.

Half downloaded android version map (TunnelBear)

There are just as many animations as the desktop version has, so sometimes you have to stare at the half-downloaded map before you can connect anywhere. It's also pretty annoying that they have Bear sounds toggled on. So, on your first click to a VPN server, if you're not careful, you will hear a loud bear roar announcing to everyone around you that you're using a bear-themed VPN.

TunnelBear features

TunnelBear offers a moderate amount of features to enhance your security. In this part, we’ll look deeper into which of them work well and how much additional safety they provide.

SplitBear

SplitBear is TunnelBear’s version of the split tunneling feature. You get to pick and choose which apps or websites require a VPN connection and which can be excluded. So even if you have the VPN connection on, if the app has been excluded, you’ll open it with your real IP address.

Currently, this feature is only available on Android and iOS devices. During our tests, this feature worked well, all the exclusions we’ve made for different apps worked out, and we didn’t have complaints about it.

Encrypted Server Name Indicator

TunnelBear Android apps have an exclusive feature that helps users living in heavily censored countries. There are a few ways governments can go about blocking VPN services. One of the approaches is DNS-level blocking.

DNS blocking essentially involves setting a DNS server to blacklist VPN brand names. For example, a TunnelBear server may have the address us1.tunnelbear.com. By blacklisting the term "tunnelbear" at the DNS level, the government would prevent you from connecting to this server.

For this reason, TunnelBear Android apps have a built-in feature to connect to server names in encrypted form. That way, restrictive governments cannot interfere with your ability to use a VPN client as easily.

TunnelBear Blocker

TunnelBear Blocker is, essentially, an ad blocker. This tool doesn’t require you to have a TunnelBear account, you can just add it to your browser – currently, the only browser supported is Chrome.

Once you add this to your Chrome browser, Blocker will display how many online trackers it has stopped.

TunnelBear blocker

This feature blocks ads, Flash scripts, pixel tracking, microphone access, social media buttons, and WebRTC. You can also include additional blocklists that include known Malware websites.

This is a handy addition if you're browsing with a VPN and are worried about being exposed to WebRTC leaks (leaking your IP address via the browser's WebRTC function).

GhostBear

As mentioned previously, some countries are always on the lookout to curb VPN usage. In some cases, they can identify you're using a VPN from your traffic patterns.

TunnelBear-GhostBear-feature

For this reason, Tunnelbear VPN has obfuscated GhostBear servers that use special algorithms to make your traffic look as if it were regular non-VPN traffic. It helps you bypass blocks and get unrestricted internet access.

You can enable the feature by turning on the GhostBear toggle in Settings. Sadly, it's unavailable for iOS users.

Customer support

Surfshark
24/7 live chat
Email
Phone line
Guides or articles
FAQs/Forums

Even though Tunnelbear VPN customer support is in Canada, we managed to get a response in under 3 hours. This is pretty impressive, considering that TunnelBear has no live chat support. The only options are support tickets (you get a reply via email address) or their knowledge base.

If you search for older threads in the forums, you'll find that users were quite disappointed with the waiting times in the past. So, it's nice to see that they turned this around, and despite having pretty limited contact options, they keep the waiting times low.

Is TunnelBear any good and worth getting?

TunnelBear is a good VPN service. It offers solid security features, unblocks most streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Youtube, and has a fun theme. The sad part is only their longest duration subscriptions are more affordable, while their free version isn’t worth your time. At least, not with the current 500 MB cap.

NordVPN best alternative to TunnelBear VPN
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market with blazing-fast speeds, unbreakable encryption, and an independently audited no-logs policy.
cybernews® score
4.9 /5

The VPN’s developers still have plenty of where to improve – starting with their apps, working on bettering the speed results so they could be more reliable.

It’s unclear whether there are any chances that the streaming or torrenting experience will be better in the future because TunnelBear has quite a strict policy against both. So, if you’re looking for a VPN for these purposes, then this is certainly not the one for you.

TunnelBear does show an effort to try to compete with market leaders by increasing their server fleet or cutting down customer support waiting times. Yet, they still have a long way to go to be considered a top-tier VPN.

4.9 /5
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More on VPN providers from CyberNews:

NordVPN review: one of the best VPN providers in 2023

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VyprVPN review: why we recommend this provider


FAQ

Comments

Anton
Anton
prefix 10 months ago
Great VPN service. I'm from Ukraine and they gave me 111GB for free. Of course i won't be able to use it all, since Internet service in my city was severely damaged by bombing. But I'm using mobile internet right now, and I really needed VPN. So thank you TunnelBear! I really appreciate the free GBs you gave me!
Nolan
Nolan
prefix 1 year ago
Hi! Wonderful review! I have a question too. Is Tunnelbear Teams meant for business? Or is it like family account? You’re so helpful!
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 1 year ago
Yes, it’s more catered towards business users. Families should be good with their Unlimited plan and share a single account as it has five simultaneous connections.
Good
Good
prefix 1 year ago
can I use tunnelbear blocker for free? would you recommend it or maybe some other options (free) would be better? Sorry this is not about vpn but I hope you’ll have some insights.thank you
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 1 year ago
Yes, the TunnelBear blocker is available for free. You can use it without an active subscription. If you need an ad blocker, there are many options. Other popular picks are uBlockOrigin, and Adblock Plus.
New
New
prefix 1 year ago
I use Tunnelbear vpn for chrome (extension), and I recently realized pne thing. I might sound clueless, but oh well: if I’m using the browser extension, isn’t it that chrome can see what I’m doing. The logic behind my question is that if I turn on the vpn extension after I already opened the browser, the browser already ‘saw’ me and can probably track me. Doubt if my question makes sense but thanks in advance
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 1 year ago
That’s heavy speculation that relies on the idea that your browser is already tracking you with your device ID or fingerprint metrics.
However, in such a case, there’s no difference when you’re turning your extension on.
Li
Li
prefix 1 year ago
not sure if I should swap vpn providers. thinking about Tunnelbear vs Expressvpn, which one would you say is better (or you would use yourself)?
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 1 year ago
Well, it would depend on what I want to do with a VPN. Am I looking VPN to increase my anonymity? I’d go with ExpressVPN, I’d also choose it for entertainment as it unblocks most streaming websites.
That said, if I’m just looking for a cheaper VPN, I’d go with Tunnelbear, though it does have fewer features.
guess
guess
prefix 1 year ago
Tunnelbear is def legit in my opinion, one of the few vpn providers that I could truly say I trust. Yeah, they do have have some details about you, so what? at least their honest about it. And they get company audits from time to time. No need to pretend they have zero flaws.No one is perfect.
rectangle
rectangle
prefix 1 year ago
i was wondering how secure tunnelbear is because not once heard they keep logs. but tbh, im just regular person, not into anything lets say..bad so not sure if i should care. if it does the job of hiding my ip, then its all good i guess..?
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 1 year ago
Well, in their privacy policy, they state that they don’t keep any logs. They often publish their audit reports, but they’re more focused on security than privacy policy compliance.
Torry j
Torry j
prefix 1 year ago
What an insightful analysis! However, I couldn’t find information whether tunnelbear within china borders is any good. Thanks in advance for the answer!
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 1 year ago
Most VPNs that work in China work in cycles. That is because the government sometimes kicks in stricter censorship measures, for example, before an election or to thwart protests. So, the best way to know whether a VPN works at any given time is to ask their customer support agents directly.
William
William
prefix 1 year ago
Tunnelbear VPN working with netflix really surprised me, so far so good! What about tunnelbear on firestick?
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 1 year ago
TunnelBear doesn’t have an official Firestick app that you could download from the Amazon App store. You maybe could sideload the .apk file with the downloader, but I have no guarantees that it will work.
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