When traveling abroad for school or pleasure, you still need to adhere to obligations back home regarding your digital presence. Whether it’s communications with your colleagues or secure connections to university databases,
The following article takes a deep dive into VPN solutions and how best to use them when traveling. There are several options to consider when evaluating a VPN provider. Think of this article as your one-stop-shop for everything you’ll need to conquer your travels and remain connected to your responsibilities back home.
We will first cover the basics of what a VPN is and how to use them. Then, we’ll review valuable features to look for and provide a list of summaries of our favorite VPNs to use when traveling.
Lastly, we will dive in, step by step, to help give you an overview of how to set up a VPN solution for remote use then answer many common questions at the end.
What Is a VPN and How Do They Work?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a service focused on providing users with a secure pipeline across the internet to whichever destination they are trying to reach.
When using a VPN, you mask your originating IP (internet protocol) address by routing through anonymous servers hosted by the VPN service provider.
The following are some high-level benefits to using a VPN solution.
VPNs enhance the network pipeline by utilizing end-to-end encryption to mask the communications between the user and their desired destination. Using a VPN provides the inherent masking capabilities to obfuscate a user’s online activity from potential onlookers.
Increased security is beneficial to professionals and everyday citizens conducting any online activity involving sensitive information. We strongly recommend using a VPN to ensure a secure connection back to campus whenever studying abroad.
Since VPN services are located all over the globe, it is beneficial to use a VPN to change your online geographical presence.
For example, suppose you are a student at University A in Chicago but are studying abroad in Europe. In that case, you may need to use a VPN with a routable server located within the US to access the university resources.
Think of it as tricking the internet into thinking that you are virtually located in one location while your physical location is elsewhere.
Examples of how this is helpful include:
- The ability to access websites restricted by geo-region
- Additional content restricted by Geography (Netflix, streaming, etc.)
- Local legislation
- Business connectivity
Having a VPN solution that allows access via different Geo-locations is crucial if you’re studying abroad. A great example would be connecting to your university websites to submit assignments or reference student databases to complete course work.
With the ability to geo-locate, you now have the freedom to access resources, otherwise restricted.
The ability to remotely access resources anywhere in the world is a game-changer and an obvious benefit when studying abroad. Remote access is especially beneficial to corporations with a primarily remote workforce needing to access on-premise data.
But for those studying abroad, it is essential to have access to resources at the university. When studying abroad, there may be times where you have to access the internet from an untrusted location like a coffee shop or hotel. Ensuring that the VPN solution you choose supports remote access into a computer, database, or server is vital. Using remote access on a VPN also ensures the transmissions over the internet are secure.
Now that we have a solid idea of what a VPN is and the benefits of using one, let’s take a closer look into the different nuances when choosing the best VPN for studying abroad.
Afterward, we’ll help you choose a VPN solution, how to set up your new VPN solution, and also answer some commonly asked questions along the way.
Choosing a VPN for Studying Abroad
Choosing a VPN can seem overwhelming as there are so many to choose from. By simply focusing on the following features, you can ensure you will be getting the best bang for your buck, at least at a bare minimum as it pertains to a bare-bones VPN service.
Price and Support
Getting a reasonable price for your service is a no-brainer. It may also be worth looking into the different levels of support you will receive for that price. Look for support that helps with troubleshooting issues on the installation and when the VPN is not working correctly.
Ensuring that the location you are traveling to is covered under your VPN’s server inventory is vital. It helps if you have a VPN solution with available servers in your current location and wherever you are connecting.
It is also beneficial if you have the option to switch server locations in case of outages or unforeseen events. Also, the distance between locations is key to performance when connecting via a VPN.
Choosing a server near your residence or desired connecting point only helps improve overall speed and uptime on the VPN.
Number of Devices
Another consideration is how many devices are allowed to connect and use your VPN service at one time. You may choose a cheap VPN but find that it only allows one device connection at a time. Single connections can become a burden if you are trying to multitask or connect your computer and phone.
Logging and Activity Monitoring
It is essential to look into a VPN’s logging and monitoring policy. Most VPN services will not log or monitor your activity. But remember, the point of a VPN is to remain anonymous.
Some VPN solutions will log and monitor activities to satisfy business compliance needs and give you peace of mind. We recommend considering those that do.
The Best VPNs for Studying Abroad
Next, let’s look at some of our top picks for VPN providers that are best suited for traveling abroad. The following are short reviews of the solutions to provide an honest and quick perspective into each to help you narrow in on the best solution for your needs.
- Six devices per account
- Highest level of Encryption
- Ultra-fast speeds
- Slow start-up time when first establishing a connection
- Some servers have low bandwidth
- NordVPN has server support in over 59 countries; you can check here for more details.
User Reviews Summary
- Fast, Stable, and Consistent are words used consistently in public reviews of NordVPN.
- Advanced security on both the mobile app and on their servers
- Zero logs policy
- 24/7 live customer support
- A bit more on the pricey side
- Occasional reports of drops connections
- Some servers are not properly labeled
- ExpressVPN has over 3000 servers in over 94 countries; review them here.
User Reviews Summary
- A majority of the reviews are from long-time customers (5 plus years) who seem very happy with the overall security of the solution when traveling.
- Affordable and flexible pricing(money-back guarantee)
- Integrated with their anti-virus solution
- Ad-tracker blocking built-in
- No additional privacy capabilities
- Few server locations
- Slow end-user client
- Around 500 servers are located in only 29 countries; check here.
User Reviews Summary
- The overall feel of the reviews is about a 3 out of 5. Most people are content but not thrilled with the tool. It says it does the job but lacks support, countries, servers and prohibits streaming and torrents.
- Killswitch available if needed
- Allows seven devices on one account
- Easy to implement alongside popular browsers
- Server speed on consistent; some are slow
- Buffering problems on high activity servers
- Almost 7000 servers in just under 70 countries; check them out here.
User Reviews Summary
- Most users are happy with CyberGhost, stating that it is easy to use and support is very helpful.
- Availability to top-notch
- Security is tough
- Top of the line streaming (8K possible)
- Lack of fully optimized servers
- The client application is poor
- One thousand three hundred servers in over 55 countries; review here.
User Reviews Summary
- A lot of the reviews mention how fast and reliable the service is through VPN Vanish.
There are many more VPN solutions available, and as you can see from our quick review of some of the top brands, they all differ drastically. Therefore, you must identify what is most important to you when traveling.
See our entire list of The Best VPN Services here.
How To Set Up and Use a VPN While Traveling
Configuring a VPN service on a home router is a simple process that helps ensure your connection is secure (without remembering to turn on the VPN every time).
You must understand the technical requirements for your VPN service and your home router. Please take a minute to review both to learn how they operate and determine if they are compatible.
The following is a general step-by-step walkthrough on how to configure your router to use your VPN solution.
- First, log in to your router’s internet interface. You can accomplish this by navigating to the router IP address in a browser’s search bar or using the admin interface if equipped.
- Next, locate where the VPN set section is within the UI. You’ll find these under Settings or Advanced Settings.
- Next, you will be prompted to select your VPN service of choice.
- Enter any requested information about your service, including protocols used, service number, and access credentials.
- Click enable VPN service.
- Optionally, you may come across one step to define which network adapter settings you would like to use. Although this is uncommon, you should always use your default local area connection.
The above steps show how simple it is to enable a VPN on your home router. These steps may vary in detail or their order, depending on the VPN service you have selected and the type of router you have (the above steps are based on a free VPN service called OPENVPN and a router by Netgear).
Frequently Asked Questions About Using a VPN While Traveling
Please review the following section for frequently asked questions commonly asked when using a VPN service while traveling.
Can You Use a VPN for Streaming Services While Traveling Abroad?
You may find that it is a case-by-case situation where some providers allow streaming services, and some do not. In addition, some countries do not allow streaming outright.
The two main contributing factors here are VPN providers and the country’s laws on streaming over VPN.
Can You Use a VPN With Whatsapp?
The best VPN solutions for use with WhatsApp would be NordVPN and IPVanish. The main features you are looking for include server support/availability and unlimited bandwidth usage.
Since WhatsApp is an application that constantly sends and receives data, you want to ensure your VPN solution can keep up.
Do Websites Block VPNs?
While a VPN masks your identity, these websites use the identity information cached in your browser to help determine if you are trying to circumvent restrictions they have in place for using a VPN.
Do not worry; an easy way around this is to clear your cache whenever you are being blocked or use a different browser client.
Are VPNs Legal While Studying Abroad?
Also, if you have an individual account within that university’s domain, logging in from a different geo-location may generate alerts to the school’s security team, and they could lock your account.
Will Your School Know?
Which Countries Restrict VPNs?
The following is a quick breakdown of the top countries that restrict, limit, and outright ban the use of VPNs:
- North Korea