Best VPNs for traveling in 2021
Whether you’re traveling abroad for work or leisure, you might want to access your favorite sites and services. However, each country has its laws and content restrictions, making it unavailable in certain parts of the world.
To bypass geo-blocking, you will have to get a solid international VPN, which allows you to log into your favorite websites and streaming services from anywhere in the world.
In this guide, we’ll talk you through the best VPNs for roaming, as well as how to use a VPN while you’re abroad. So read on for everything you need to know.
Top 5 best VPNs for travel
- NordVPN - Best VPN for ApBest VPN for traveling
- Surfshark - Best VPN for family vacations
- ExpressVPN - Best VPN for business trips
- VyprVPN - Best lightweight VPN
- Private Internet Access - Best VPN with the largest network
Why do I need a VPN for traveling abroad?
If you’re traveling abroad, there are loads of reasons why getting a VPN is as important as packing your sunglasses or swimming costume. By using a VPN, you will be able to:
- Access content from back home: Whether you need to access work systems or you want to catch up on your favorite TV shows while away, a VPN will let you keep connected to all your sites and services from anywhere. By using a VPN to connect to a server in your home country, you can avoid being locked out of your accounts due to your location change.
- Secure yourself on public Wi-Fi networks: Often while traveling, you may need to connect to public Wi-Fi in airports, cafes, or hotels. But public Wi-Fi networks can be a real security risk, so using a VPN will help protect your data.
- Encrypt your data: One of the most important reasons for using a VPN is security. And it can be especially helpful when you’re in a foreign country. By encrypting your internet traffic, a VPN will keep your online activity hidden from hackers, government bodies, and other third parties.
- Bypass online censorship: If you’re traveling to a country that has strict censorship laws, you can use a VPN to help you bypass these restrictions. All you need to do is use one to connect to a server in a country that doesn’t restrict your content, and you’ll be able to access whatever you want.
- Find cheaper flights: This may sound too good to be true, but a VPN can actually help you save money on your travel. After all, some websites that sell flights and hotel accommodation change their pricing depending on how wealthy the location you’re in is perceived to be. But with a VPN, you can connect to a server in a different region to unlock lower prices.
Best VPNs for traveling – our detailed list
We tested out loads of international VPNs and compiled a list of our favorite ones. Let's take a look at them one by one - this will help you pick the VPN that's best for you.
- Baseline testing speed: 300 Mbps download/300 Mbps upload
1. NordVPN - Best VPN for traveling
|Servers/countries:||5,500+ servers in 59 countries|
|Current deal:||Get NordVPN, now 72% OFF + 3 Months FREE!|
If you’re traveling abroad, NordVPN is the best VPN you can choose. It offers excellent unblocking features, as well as fast and stable performance.
NordVPN is perfect for unblocking geo-restricted content on every streaming service we’ve tested it on, including Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer. So you can use it to keep up with all your favorite TV shows from wherever you are.
NordVPN is very fast, too, thanks to its new NordLynx protocol, which is a modified version of the cutting-edge WireGuard. On our connection, it delivered an average speed of 249mbps – you should get a smooth, buffer-free experience from anywhere in the world.
You’ll also get access to a wide range of security features to keep your information safe from cybercriminals, governments, and other third parties. It supports IKEv2, as well as SmartDNS, split tunneling, and obfuscated servers. And it comes with live chat customer support in case you run into any issues.
In total, NordVPN has over 5,400 servers in 59 countries, so you should be able to connect to a server back home.
Despite this, NordVPN is very affordable, with prices starting at just $3.30 a month, with a 30-day money-back guarantee thrown in.
To find out more, read our full NordVPN review.
- Great at unblocking international content
- Incredibly secure
- NordLynx delivers fast speeds
- Lots of features for a low monthly cost
- Works in China
- Customizable kill switch
- Impressive fleet of servers
- No router app
- Not the cheapest on our list
2. Surfshark - Best VPN for family vacations
|Based in:||British Virgin Islands|
|Servers/countries:||3,200+ servers in 65 countries|
|Current deal:||Get Surfshark, now 81% OFF!|
If you’re looking for a VPN service that will work for the whole family, Surfshark is an ideal option because it comes with unlimited simultaneous connections. This efficient travel VPN can easily unblock geo-restrictions on international streaming services, including Hulu, Disney Plus, and Netflix. So, some people in your household can use it to watch their favorite shows – while others can use it to access work portals.
If that’s not enough, Surfshark is also the fastest VPN on our list, delivering average speeds of up to 263mbps, thanks to its WireGuard protocol. You shouldn’t have to deal with buffering or slow download speeds.
Elsewhere, Surfshark gives you access to more than 3,200 servers in over 60 countries, so you should be able to access the content you want from wherever you are.
Even more importantly, it comes with many impressive security features, including sophisticated encryption, IKEv2, and obfuscated servers. This should give you real peace of mind: no matter where you travel to, your online activity will remain private.
Best of all, Surfshark’s plans start at just $2.49 a month, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For everything you need to know, check out our in-depth Surshark VPN review.
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Fantastic value for money
- Can unblock any content you want to watch
- Fastest VPN we tested
- Good range of security features
- GPS spoofing
- Good customer support
- Not independently audited
3. ExpressVPN - Best VPN for business trips
|Based in:||British Virgin Islands|
|Servers/countries:||3,000 servers in 94 countries|
|Current deal:||Get ExpressVPN, now 35% OFF!|
Although ExpressVPN is more expensive than the other options on our list, its reliable performance and excellent app make it one of the best travel VPNs out there. It had no issues bypassing regional restrictions and delivering high-definition content from any streaming service we tested, including ESPN, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video.
Besides this, ExpressVPN delivers decent speeds, averaging 226mbps, thanks to its Lightway protocol. While they’re not as high as some other VPNs here, the performance was stable, and the overall connection was very reliable all the way through.
It also comes with more than 3,000 servers in 90 countries, the most on our list, making ExpressVPN an excellent travel companion. On top of that, this VPN even works in China, which is more than a lot of VPNs can manage.
Perhaps most importantly, ExpressVPN will keep your data safe with its impressive range of security features. It uses military-grade encryption, and it can prevent DNS and IP leaks. It also comes with IKEv2 support, along with SmartDNS and obfuscated servers.
For all this, however, ExpressVPN is still very expensive, even on the longer-term plans. Prices start from $8.32 a month, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For more information, take a look at our in-depth ExpressVPN review.
- Great security features
- Lightway protocol delivers lightning-quick speeds
- Can bypass geo-restrictions on any content you want
- Fast customer service responses
- Support for split tunneling
- Works in China
- A lot more expensive than the other options on our list
- No extra features included
4. VyprVPN - Best lightweight VPN
|Servers/countries:||700 servers in 70 countries|
|Current deal:||Get up to 12 months FREE!|
If you’re on a tight budget but you don’t want to compromise on security or usability, VyprVPN could be the perfect solution – offering all key travel VPN features at a meager price.
VyprVPN can bypass geo-blocks on any streaming services you want, including HBO Now, BBC iPlayer, and foreign catalogs for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Despite its budget pricing, VyprVPN still delivers impressive speeds using WireGuard. In our testing, we found it delivered an average of 242mbps. It also doesn’t fall short in security either, with military-grade AES-256 encryption, IKEv2, and obfuscated servers. You can get up to five simultaneous connections, along with access to live chat customer support.
However, one of the areas that VyprVPN does fall short is its server fleet. It has just over 700 servers in total, which is far fewer than its competitors. But it’s important to note that they are spread across over 70 countries. And the servers that it does have work well, thereby proving that VyprVPN has gone for quality rather than quantity.
As we mentioned, VyprVPN is fantastic value for money, with plans starting at just $1.67 a month and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Want to know more? Check out our in-depth VyprVPN review.
- Astonishingly cheap for what you get
- Can unblock all the major streaming services
- WireGuard provides fast speeds
- Chameleon 2.0 protocol included
- Works well for torrenting
- Not as many servers to choose from
- No SmartDNS support
- It’s not audited
5. Private Internet Access - Best VPN with the largest network
|Locations:||35,550+ servers in 70+ countries|
|Current deal:||Get PIA, now 83% OFF + 2 Month FREE!|
Of all the VPNs out there, PIA (Private Internet Access) has the largest VPN network in the world. With 35,400 servers in 78 countries, you will have no end of choices while you’re traveling.
On the downside, though, it doesn’t come with any solutions for bypassing network restrictions. But it does support IKEv2, which should improve your browsing experience when internet connectivity is a problem.
It’s also worth noting that PIA can be a bit inconsistent at unblocking region restrictions on streaming services. However, when we tested it out, we found it worked well with the main ones, including Disney Plus, YouTube, and Netflix.
It’s also the slowest VPN on our list, with an average speed of 201mbps. Still, this should be sufficient for streaming content, browsing the internet, and chatting to friends back home. And it comes with up to 10 simultaneous connections, so it’s ideal for family holidays.
Elsewhere, PIA has many security features, but it’s based in the US, a member of 5 Eyes. So if you want to keep your data completely hidden, this might not be the best choice for you.
PIA’s pricing plans start at $2.85 a month with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For everything you need to know about PIA, read our in-depth PIA VPN review.
- Largest VPN network on the planet
- Good security features
- Very user-friendly
- Great torrenting speeds
- Different servers for specific sites
- Based in the US
- No independent auditing
- Speeds aren’t brilliant
How we selected and tested these VPNs
When testing the best VPNs for traveling, we looked at the following criteria:
- Security and privacy: A VPN is a vital tool for improving your online security. But this is especially important if you’re traveling, as you’re more likely to have to connect to public Wi-Fi and other unsecured networks. Each of the VPNs on our list has many excellent security features to protect your data, no matter what network you’re using.
- What tunneling protocols it has: Having different tunneling protocols is a useful feature of a VPN, especially if you’re traveling. We made sure that the VPNs on our list came with obfuscated servers that will hide the fact you’re using a VPN, so that you can bypass geo-restrictions and government censorship.
- Speed: Whatever you’re doing online, having fast internet speeds is always helpful, but particularly if you’re traveling. All the VPNs on our list offer speeds that should support lag-free streaming.
- If it’s good for streaming: When you’re away, you might want to catch up on your favorite shows and movies from back home. Therefore, we chose VPNs that can unblock content on all the major streaming services.
- Additional features: With so many VPNs to choose from, we looked out for ones that offer extra features to make them better value for money.
- Customer support: If anything goes wrong, we made sure each of our favorite VPNs offers some form of customer support, so you can reach out to ask for help.
- Price: Whatever you’re buying, price is always an important factor. That’s why we made sure we recommended VPNs for a range of different budgets.
How to choose the best VPN for travel
There are loads of factors to consider when choosing a VPN for traveling, such as:
- Solid security features – when traveling, you need to be safe about your private data
- Fast and reliable performance – for high-quality streaming and no buffer screens
- Alternative tunneling options – to help you bypass the strict geo-restrictions
- Working all across the world – for making sure that the VPN works as it should
We recommend choosing a VPN that offers strong security features to keep your sensitive online information safe, even if you have to connect to public Wi-Fi. It’s also very important to make sure your VPN is based in a privacy-friendly location and that it operates a strict zero-logs policy. Ideally, it’s better to go for one that’s independently audited. Like most of the VPNs on the Top-10 VPN list.
It should also deliver fast and reliable download speeds so that you can watch content, make video calls, and play online games without having to deal with buffering. On top of that, you’ll also want a VPN with alternative tunneling options, such as obfuscated protocols, so you can disguise the fact you’re using a VPN while you’re traveling.
You should also check that the VPN you want to use works in the location(s) you’re visiting. After all, plenty of VPNs don’t work well in countries that block VPN use, such as China.
How to set up a VPN for traveling abroad
Here, we’ll talk you through different ways you can set up a VPN on your device. In most cases, these step-by-step instructions should be enough to get your VPN up and running on your device without any additional setup. However, it’s a good idea to check whether or not the country you’re visiting has good internet connectivity. If you’re going somewhere with strict laws, you may need to change your VPN application’s settings accordingly.
Installing a VPN on your device from an app marketplace
Installing a VPN directly onto your device from your app marketplace is an ideal way to set up a VPN on your smartphone or tablet.
To install a VPN from an app marketplace, follow these steps:
- Choose a VPN that works best – we recommend an option like NordVPN.
- Go to your device’s app store and download the VPN app.
- Open the app, and either sign in or create an account.
- Connect to your preferred server, and start surfing!
- If you can’t access geo-blocked content straight away, clear your cache and cookies and log back in.
Installing a VPN manually
Manually installing a VPN is a great option – particularly if you’re using a PC or Mac.
Here’s how to install a VPN manually:
- Sign up for a VPN service with the best performance and server options – NordVPN is our choice.
- Download the setup files from the website. This will be .dmg for macOS or .exe for Windows.
- Install the VPN app, and either log in or register for an account.
- Connect to the server of your choice, and start accessing the geo-locked content you want.
- If this doesn’t work, clear your cache and cookies and try again.
Using a VPN via a browser extension
Using a VPN’s browser extension can work well if you’re using a PC or Mac because it’s normally a much more lightweight option.
Follow these steps to download a VPN via browser extension:
- Choose a VPN with a range of servers. For the best browser extension, we recommend NordVPN.
- Go to your VPN provider’s website, and download the browser extension files.
- Install the extension.
- Hit the extension icon and log in or create an account.
- Connect to your preferred proxy server
Can I get cheap airfares and hotels with a VPN?
Yes, believe it or not, you can actually access cheaper flights and hotels using a VPN. Prices can vary depending on where you are in the world and how wealthy that location is considered to be. For example, prices shown to users with a US IP address are likely to be a lot higher than those you’d see if you used an IP address in India. Therefore, using a VPN can help you access lower prices for international purchases, such as hotels, flights, and hostels, by disguising your real location.
It can also hide your IP address and other personal information that may cause price increases.
If you want to save money on your next trip abroad, we recommend connecting to servers in a few different regions and running a price comparison on the flights and hotels you want. Just don’t forget to clear your cookies and cache each time you re-enter the site so that it can’t tell you’ve visited the site before.
In which countries are VPNs illegal?
VPNs are currently illegal in:
- United Arab Emirates
In addition, there are a number of other countries that have strict internet censorship laws. Although they don’t ban VPNs outright, anyone who is caught using one could be at risk of hostility from the government. These countries include:
- North Korea
Despite the fact that VPNs are illegal or discouraged in certain regions, you can still connect to servers there if you use the right VPN. Equally, you can connect to a VPN with obfuscated servers in countries that ban VPNs without being detected. Just be sure you check that your chosen VPN works in the country you’re visiting before you set off.
Can I use a free VPN for travel abroad?
Although some free VPNs may work in the country you’re visiting, we wouldn’t recommend using a free VPN for traveling. They tend to have very poor usability, and they’re quite slow and unreliable. What’s worse, free VPNs aren’t very secure, and they usually make money by collecting data from users and selling it to third parties.
Even if these are compromises you’re willing to make, you probably won’t be able to enjoy your favorite shows. Most free VPNs are blocked by major streaming services, and they struggle to bypass geo-restrictions.
A slightly better option would be to use a freemium service, which is a free version of a reputable, paid-for VPN. It’s worth noting that freemiums are usually pretty limited, and they’re not great at unblocking content from other countries. Many of them come with a monthly data cap, too, so they’re not great for heavy use. But they’re certainly much more secure than a free VPN provider.
If you want to give one a go, we’d recommend Windscribe’s freemium service for international travel. It imposes a monthly data cap of 10GB. Or, if you want a free VPN with unlimited data, there’s ProtonVPN or Atlas.
See our article on the best free and freemium VPNs today for more information.
Getting a reliable VPN is an essential step for traveling abroad. It will keep your data secure while you’re away, even if you have to connect to public Wi-Fi in your hotel or at the airport. You’ll also find a VPN a vital tool if you want to access anything from back home, such as streaming services, work portals, or region-restricted online systems.
Similarly, it can help you bypass government censorship if you’re traveling to countries that restrict internet usage. Some can even get past the Great Firewall of China so that you can continue using the internet without any issues.
However, there are many VPNs on the market, and not all of them will be helpful when you’re traveling abroad. We recommend choosing one from our list that will keep your online activity private while also letting you access content from anywhere in the world.
Should I use a VPN when traveling?
Yes, it’s a good idea to use a VPN while you’re traveling because it will keep your browsing traffic safe from potential hackers, government bodies, and other third parties. A VPN will also help you access content from anywhere in the world, which can be particularly useful if you’re trying to log into your accounts from outside the country. And it’ll help you bypass government restrictions in countries that have strict censorship laws.
Do VPNs work without Wi-Fi?
Yes, you can use a VPN with your mobile data, so you don’t need to be connected to Wi-Fi to get it to work. All you need is an internet connection. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that mobile data can be very expensive while you’re roaming abroad, so we’d recommend using Wi-Fi wherever possible.
Can I use a VPN to avoid roaming charges?
Unfortunately, you will still have to pay for the same amount of data whether you use a VPN or not. There’s no way a VPN can hide your roaming charges from your ISP.
Can I use VPN internationally?
Yes, most good VPNs can work pretty much anywhere in the world. However, not all of them can bypass government censorship in countries where VPNs are blocked, such as China. If you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t allow VPNs, be sure to check if your VPN will work there before you set off.