VPNs work by tunnelling your internet connection through another server. Only then does your traffic connect to the internet. While the technical detail might seem a little intimidating this creates two great benefits for users:
- Your internet traffic will not be visible to your internet service provider (ISP). In plain language, that means the company that is providing your internet connection.
- Your internet will firstly route through another server before connecting elsewhere. If you’re trying to access geo restricted content, then this may enable you to be able to access it.
Why You Might Need A VPN When Abroad
Why might you need a VPN service when you’re abroad specifically? Whether you’re on vacation or on business, being away from your home might mean that you need to use potentially unsafe internet connections. Accessing these without a VPN could put you at risk for data theft and privacy fraud.
These are any internet connections that you do not trust such as those at an internet café. Using a VPN will mean that your connection will be encrypted. So that even if there were people trying to access your data, they would not be able to.
Not sure when and how to use a VPN on your next trip overseas. Work through this guide to stay safe online no matter where you are connecting from.
1. Do Research On Your Travel Destination To Know When You’ll Need It
Work sending you to China? Stopping by Malaysia on the way back from your honeymoon?
Wherever you’re going it’s a good idea to do a bit of research about what kind of regime is in power and what their approach to mass surveillance is. If it’s somewhere that has a spotty record when it comes to human rights and freedom of speech then you might wish to equip yourself with a VPN with always-on functionality.
2. Spy On Your Destination
Did you know that many countries are party to international signals intelligence (SIGINT) sharing arrangements? Let us translate that to English: they’re sharing information about what you do online. With other countries!
If you don’t want to be spied on by the spooks, then it’s time to do some espionage of your own. Before you step foot on foreign soil, figure out whether your destination is a member of the 14 Eyes — or any other intelligence sharing arrangement.
3. Figure Your Your Data Situation (Before You Leave)
With a bit of luck, you may not be needing WiFi at all during your foreign sojourn. Do you have roaming data that you’re going to be able to access while overseas? If you do, and you trust the telecoms provider, then you may not need a VPN at all. Just know that if you have to connect via WiFi, you may find yourself open to espionage by other users on the network you’re connecting to.
4. Make Sure Your VPN Will Work
Before you get too high and mighty about your VPN connecting abilities it’s probably worth making sure you’re actually going to be legal with using a VPN for the territory. But let’s be clear: VPNs are legal for use in the vast majority of countries in the world. Nevertheless, there are a few nations — including North Korea and China — that place either restrictions or bans on using VPNs. If you’re flying to one of these countries then make sure that your VPN will not only work but be legal. Double check while you’re there before connecting.
5. Know The Server Locations
If you’re going to need to use the VPN to connect to websites while appearing as if you’re on home soil, then you’re going to have to make sure that the VPN provider you choose to use has a server in your country. Fortunately most VPN companies post detailed server lists on their websites showing exactly where they have connection points. Check that list to be sure.
6. Supports The Computers You’re Going To Have Access To
If you’re going to need to use the internet from the hotel business center but know that it only has Mac computers then you’re going to be flat out of luck if you show up with a VPN that only has a Windows terminal. Don’t be that guy (or girl)! The savvy traveller will check what the connectivity options are at the destination before getting anywhere near an airplane.
7. Does It Have Servers Outside Of The Country You’re Travelling To?
Back to scoping out your preferred VPN’s connection locations. If you want to keep your overseas expedition a tightly guarded secret (if so, nobody is judging!) then you will want to find a VPN that has servers outside of the country you’re travelling to. Again, consult the list to be sure that what you’ve signed up for is a good fit.
8. Conduct Online Banking From Your VPN
Once you’re in situ and on foreign soil you should make sure to conduct your online banking from behind a VPN. Why? Because if you don’t then your bank might flag your activity as suspicious and you could find yourself getting locked out of your account. Sounds like a recipe for … not a lot of fun.
9. Use A Travel Friendly VPN
Some VPNs do a lousy job at accessing georestricted content services while others are veritable superstars in this department. If you’re going to be a digital nomad for a while and moving between countries, then pick a VPN provider that you know supports access to the services you’re interested in from a wide variety of countries. Or at least the ones you’re going to be travelling to.
10. Use a VPN With Multiple Connections
For those looking to keep their personal tech budgets lean and mean, the good news is that some VPN companies are actually totally okay with you sharing your connection with a significant other or household member. Just remember that if you’re going to be on the road for a period, that’s going to be one extra device in use. Look for a VPN company that supports multiple connections and you should have plain sailing.
Do Your VPN Homework Before You Go
VPNs are a great travel accessory but to really make maximum value out of them while abroad you need to do your homework before the trip. Once you’re at your destination, the research needn’t end. Do your online banking from a VPN and make sure that the program you’re using isn’t going to get you in a spot of bother.