Why is it important to use VPN while traveling?
Imagine you’re on an idyllic holiday when you realize your email has been hacked. Or, worse, you realize a hacker has gotten access to your bank account. All of a sudden, your picture-perfect paradise is shattered – and the rest of your trip is spent trying to patch up the holes so more damage isn’t done.
Most people will go to great lengths to make sure their luggage is secured or the money and credit cards are kept close. But, it’s just as important to be as vigilant with your digital security as you are with your physical security when traveling.
One of the best ways to ensure you have a secure connection is using a VPN for traveling abroad. Of course, that’s not the only reason you might want to have a VPN while traveling. Don’t worry, you’ll read about a few more of those reasons. As well as, what you should look out for when setting up your first VPN.
Why do I need a VPN for traveling?
There are a ton of great reasons you might want to use a VPN while traveling. Aside from giving your devices an extra layer of security, you’ll read about a few more various reasons you’d want a travel VPN.
But, to truly understand the why behind using a VPN, you’ll need to understand what a VPN actually does.
What is a VPN and what does it mean?
VPN is an acronym that means “virtual private network.”
You’re probably thinking, “Great! But, what does that mean?” Well, for starters it’s a private network, which means it’s not public. This means that it’s not a publicly accessible network like what you might have at home, your office, or a local coffee shop.
The second thing about it is that it’s virtual – meaning you’re only using an app or other software to make the connection. It’s not something you’re physically plugging in to or connecting your computer to.
Then, once you’ve been able to establish that connection it gives your computer a completely different identity online. So, while you might be in Brisbane, using a VPN can make your computer look and act like it’s in Boston or Barcelona even.
A VPN connection will encrypt your data connection and mask your location and IP address. You can even use a VPN to hide your browsing history from your service provider. All of this makes the connection incredibly difficult to hack and track.
What are the benefits of a VPN?
The primary purpose of a VPN is for security reasons. Having an encrypted connection obviously makes it harder for hackers to try and get your data. But, it’s also a way for many companies to ensure that their files are being handled correctly and securely.
However, security isn’t the only benefit of a VPN. In fact, it’s probably more useful when you are traveling. And no, I don’t just mean traveling from the office to your home.
Reasons for using a VPN while traveling abroad
Obviously security is always first priority, but probably the biggest reason to use a VPN for travel is to bypass geo restrictions. Once you try to use the internet when you’re outside of your home country, you’ll quickly see how censored and filtered it can be in other places around the globe.
While that might sound scary and Orwellian, but it could be as innocent as not being able to stream your favorite Netflix series when you’re away. Or, catching up on the news or sports from your local journalists. Accessing all of those things can prove to be a bigger challenge when you’re abroad.
Another very solid reason is because many travel and accommodation websites will vary prices based on the location or country the connection is coming from. So, you might want to use a VPN to see if you can find a cheaper rate for this portion of your holiday. Be careful when doing this though.
From personal experience, I had booked an accommodation using a connection from another country. Then, when I went to check-in they said I had to present a credit card from a bank within that country. So, while in theory a VPN can help you save money, just keep in mind there may be additional requirements for claiming that discounted rate.
Requirements for using a VPN while traveling
Like any good piece of software or app, you’ll need to figure out what specifically is your reason for needing a VPN for traveling. This is in no way a complete list of requirements, but a list of suggestions you should keep in mind.
- Make sure that it gives you an encrypted connection.
- Trust the server that you’re connecting to.
- It should remotely connect to a workstation or network.
- International connections are a must for traveling.
What are the disadvantages of a VPN?
You might be thinking that using a VPN sounds great and wondering why you wouldn’t just stay connected to a VPN all the time. Well, that’s because it does have some downsides.
The biggest reason you wouldn’t want to do it is because it’s slower. Rather than just connecting to a website directly, when your computer is connected to a VPN it has to connect a server – typically somewhere else in the world. This is definitely the case if you’re using it to bypass geo restrictions.
In addition to being slower than a regular connection, VPN’s aren’t the end all be all for digital security. It can’t protect you from phishing attacks or malware.
Phishing is when a scammer pretends to be a person or company you know. Then, they’ll ask you for your password. Even though you might be using a secure VPN, it’s important to never share your password in plain text.
The other thing you’ll still need to be concerned about is malware. A VPN won’t prevent you from downloading an infected file or malicious software. That’s why you should still use an antivirus app with your VPN.
Using a VPN or at least a travel VPN is a great way to protect yourself while casually browsing. It’s never a good idea to check your sensitive accounts – like your bank account – while connected to public wifi networks. Places like the airport, a cafe, or even a train station, even though they offer free internet, don’t take extra steps to protect it. Scammers and hackers know that and it makes devices on these networks an easier target.
Even if you’re not concerned about security, VPNs can help you bypass content restrictions on a network. Whether the internet is being censored by the government, or you want to access content that’s just not available in the region.
Hopefully, after reading this article you have a better understanding of what a VPN is and how you can benefit from using – especially when you travel.