Updated: October 2019
Before I started traveling full time, I had no idea what a VPN was, what it did, or how to use it. But now, I use a VPN when traveling all the time—while on the road and even at home. To explain very simply, a VPN creates a virtual tunnel between you and the web.
To explain, I’ve created an ultimate guide to using a VPN while traveling!
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is basically a private connection between your computer and any website or application. By setting up a VPN, you can change your IP location, encrypt your data, and access apps that are otherwise unavailable.
It protects all of your internet traffic, including emails, voice calls, videos, and music.
When Do You Use It?
There are many reasons to use a VPN—both overseas and at home. A VPN adds an extra layer of security on your computer.
While you’re traveling, you often connect to public or semi-public Wi-Fi networks in places like airports, cafés, hotels, and train stations. Anyone on this same network can potentially grab your unencrypted data—goodbye usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers.
A VPN is essentially a private network that only you can access, so there’s no risk of theft or a data breach.
A VPN also gets around service restrictions and censorship. Many governments block popular sites like Netflix, Facebook, or BBC to restrict access to services that are considered contrary to national interest. For example, if you want to update your status in China but discover Facebook is banned, your private network can bypass many of the government restrictions.
How Do You Use It?
It’s so simple—download and install a VPN app on your phone, laptop, or tablet. Connect to the internet, then start up your VPN. Choose the server you’d like to use and voilà!
Your data is encrypted and your location a mystery. When choosing a VPN provider, make sure it has platform compatibility, no hidden fees, acceptable speeds, a good choice of servers, and availability in as many countries as possible.
I’ve used ExpressVPN for a while now and found it completely reliable during my trip through China last fall!
Can I Get in Trouble for Using a VPN?
Well maybe, but not likely. The U.A.E. is one of the first governments in the world to actually regulate the use of a VPN, so just think twice before using one in Dubai.
***Limited Time: 3 months free when you buy a 12-month plan with ExpressVPN!***
Using a VPN to Book Cheaper Flights
VPNs offer anonymous IP addresses from other countries, and this can actually help you buy cheaper plane tickets. Domestic tickets bought in-country are often cheaper than if they were bought abroad.
For example, say you want to buy a ticket to, from, or within Vietnam on Vietnam Airlines, but you live in San Francisco. By using your VPN to access a server in Vietnam, you are tricking the airline’s website into thinking you actually are located in Vietnam.
This can give you access to lower fares that are otherwise unavailable!