We’re all addicted to using the free wifi at places like cafes, coworking spaces, and airports. But most people don’t even give a second thought to the security of these networks, and what can happen if your device is unprotected when you use them. In this blog I’m taking a look at the 7 best VPNs for digital nomads, travelers, and remote workers – and why it’s absolutely critical that you use one.
Note: some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products and brands I personally use that I think you would love too!
Technology is pretty awesome. The internet allows us to check our email, doom-scroll Facebook, and do work (sigh) on our devices from pretty much everywhere in the world. But it also has the potential to be a bit scary. And I don’t mean just getting trolled on social media.
When you’re deeply engrossed in important internet things, like taking 50 pictures of your avocado on toast, snapping selfies with yet another sultry sunset, or watching cat fails on YouTube – you’re vulnerable to anybody with the will and know-how that wants to hack into your computer and start having a good rummage around in your files. Passwords for your entire life, bank details, embarrassing photographs, email contacts, and sensitive personal data are all easily accessible to people that want them.
Hackers are getting smarter by the day. Credit card fraud, getting your bank account drained of money, and identity theft are growing problems that digital nomads and travelers face. The easiest way to avoid this is by using a VPN on any device that you connect to the internet with.
I’m always surprised that many people I talk to in my travels have no idea what a VPN is, or what can happen if they don’t use one. Digital nomads need to be more aware of the risks involved with public wifi. So this is my crash course on VPNs – together with my recommendations for the 7 best VPNs for digital nomads right now.
For many people looking for a VPN, it all comes down to how good a service is at unblocking banned websites/services and getting around TV streaming hurdles.
What is a VPN?
A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a software tool that masks your IP (internet protocol) address and stops anyone trying to gain access to your data when you’re using an unsecured wifi network.
A VPN service works by establishing a secure connection between your device and any wifi network you log into. This enables you to use the internet via encrypted “tunnels” which keep you and your information safe.
Why you need a VPN as a digital nomad, traveler, or remote worker
The primary use of VPNs is for security and personal data protection, and to prevent fraud. But there are also lots of other reasons for smart digital nomads to use them.
If you travel to some countries, you’ll notice that you might get errors when you visit certain websites. This can be due to governments frowning upon people trying to stream certain (ahem) subject matter, or putting blocks on sport channels and other popular sites.
Governments in countries like India, Indonesia, Turkey, China, British Virgin Islands, and Russia may censor many common websites and services such as Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, WhatsApp, and Google. A VPN helps you get around this, because you can choose servers from anywhere in the world to log in with.
For example, say you’re in Cuba and can’t access Skype because it’s blocked in that country – you can simply set your VPN to log in from the USA. This means it looks like your computer is in the USA, so you’ll be able to use Skype with no problems. If you manage to find decent internet in Cuba, that is.
Benefits of using a VPN
- Makes public wifi networks safe to use!
- Book cheaper flights and find cheaper accommodation by logging in from IP addresses in countries that offer the best deals
- Unblock websites that aren’t available in the country you’re in
- Peace of mind that your connection and browsing is always secure and private
- Log into your home or work network from anywhere in the world
- Gain access to content streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube that might have geoblocking on them
- Gives you an extra layer of security when you log into your bank account or make online payments on an unsecure network (e.g. ordering Uber Eats from your phone, or casually buying a new Mavic drone while you’re sipping your double-shot soy latte at a cafe)
- Reach any geo-blocked website from the country you’re in
- Simultaneous connections to multiple devices
- Safely download torrents
- Get faster internet speeds by logging into another server via your VPN
- Most VPNs can prevent DDoS attacks on you when you’re gaming online
- Change your IP address at any time
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How to choose the right VPN
While VPN providers have mostly the same core features for online privacy and security, they’re not all created equal. If you’re a digital nomad or work remotely, you’ll be looking for features that suit your travel-specific needs.
Mostly commonly, you’ll want to check for VPNs that have:
- Worldwide servers
- High data limits – or unlimited data usage
- Ability to log in from multiple devices
- Reasonable pricing plans
The best VPNs for digital nomads
NordVPN is my personal choice of VPN – and I’ve been using it for years. It has all the features I need as a digital nomad, unblocks the streaming services I use when I can’t access them, and it has extra features like “Double VPN” security and a strict, no-log data policy. The pricing is reasonable every month, and gets even cheaper if you sign up for an annual plan.
If you’re looking for DNS leak protection, automatic kill switch, and proxy extensions for browsers like Chrome – NordVPN has you covered. You can also pay with Bitcoin (if you haven’t sold it all by now).
If you need some solid social proof, some of the top YouTubers and influencers also swear by NordVPN. Access your epicness today!
As one of the world-leading VPN providers, NordVPN’s features and services are constantly upgraded, ensuring your connection speeds are always fast and reliable – no matter where you are in the world. It’s hands-down one of the best VPNs for digital nomads and travelers.
Nord VPN features:
- Works on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Linux
- Unblocks BBC iPlayer, Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu
- 30-day trial
- Fast internet speeds
- Uninterrupted streaming
- No-log data policy
- 5,200 servers in 60 countries around the world
- Supports logging in from 6 devices
- One-click encryption for mobile
- Blocks ads and malware
- 24/7 support
- Priced from only $3.67 per month
ExpressVPN is another prime contender to Nord, and comes with a ton of features that are useful to digital nomads and remote workers. It accepts Bitcoin payments, has an automatic kill switch, DNS leak protection, P2P support, flawless performance, and a no-log policy to ensure absolute privacy.
It’s really worth knowing about this VPN provider’s excellent levels of customer support. Its support website is stuffed with detailed guides and tutorials to get you up and running. And if you do have any trouble, 24/7 live chat support is on hand to answer your questions. It really works, too – we got a helpful response from a knowledgeable support agent within a couple of minutes of posting our question.
- Supports Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, and Mac devices
- Unblocks Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu
- Fast servers
- Free cloud backup
- Enterprise level encryption
- 3,000 servers in 94 countries
- Responsive live support 24/7
- Offers a 30 day trial
- Supports up to 5 device log ins
Possibly the best name ever for security software. Because when it comes down to it – that’s all we want from a trusty VPN! If somebody could make some HMA jeans, that would be cool too.
The HMA VPN was created in 2005 as a way for the company founder to get round his school firewalls. As you do. It’s a subsidiary of antivirus software giant Avast, so you know you’re in secure hands.
The brand mascot is a cute donkey (cue more ass jokes) who gets used on all their promotional materials.
HMA VPN features:
- Works on Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
- Unblocks YouTube and Netflix
- 1,080 servers in 210 countries
- 30 day trial period
- Supports up to 5 devices
- No-log policy
- Live support
This VPN boasts over 10,000,000 happy users. If you want to use a VPN primarily on your Windows laptop – CyberGhost should be your first choice. The desktop app has a ton of features, and a clean user-friendly dashboard. If want to stream or use torrents with your VPN, this one can also connect you to the best server from wherever you are.
Notable features of CyberGhost are its unlimited bandwidth and traffic, highest possible VPN speeds, plus the expected no-log policy, kill switch, and DNS leak protection.
If you’re paying per month, plans are a little steep, starting at $12.99. It’s a lot cheaper if you sign up for their one year plan, as the cost per month drops significantly to $3.99 for each month.
Cyberghost also has their own cute mascot called Ghostie!
- Supports iOS, Windows, Mac, Android, and Linux
- Unblocks YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer, and Amazon
- 7,000 servers in 91 countries
- 24/7 support
- 45 day trial
- Supports torrents
- Supports up to 7 devices
If you’re looking for a bargain VPN, start with Surfshark. Plans start at only $2.50 a month (a bargain if you’re looking for a budget nomad VPN), and you get a ton of features for that price, including unlimited device connections. If you travel with all your favourite devices, and can’t possibly survive without your Macbook Pro, a Windows laptop for backup, a Microsoft Surface tablet as an extra backup, your phone, and your Amazon Fire TV Stick…using the Surfshark VPN has you covered. You’ll be able to use all of your devices simultaneously and stay protected.
If you’re new to the world of VPNs, Surfshark is super easy to set up and use. If you’re put off by the thought of complicated security tools, this one is perfect.
BUT DOES IT HAVE A CUTE MASCOT? I hear you scream. Nope, but the site artwork is pretty cool!
- Works with Android, Mac, Windows, Linus, and iOS
- Unblocks Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Netflix and iPlayer
- 24/7 support
- 30 day trial
- 3,200 servers in 65 countries
- Supports unlimited devices
The creators of this VPN seem like they were having a bit of an “off” day when it came to naming their software. But don’t be put off by the fact it doesn’t dazzle with its branding. The features of this VPN more than make up for it.
Private Internet Access (or PIA for short) is used by Forbes, Wired, Lifehacker, and CBS News – to name just a few of their 15 million customers. With over 35,000 servers worldwide, this VPN is way ahead of the competition in server numbers alone. It also has a solid base of security features including WireGuard.
PIA offers users a handy Chrome extension too, which lets you block third-party cookies and location access.
Private Internet Access features:
- Supports Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux
- Unblocks YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu
- WireGuard protocol
- VPN router
- Split tunneling
- Dedicated IP address
- No log policy
- 35,000 servers in 78 countries
- Plans start from $2.19 a month
- 24/7 support
- 30 day trial
- Supports 10 devices
- Unlimited bandwidth
Windscribe is a VPN and ad blocker in one, with all the features you’d expect from a good VPN. It also has a free plan – so you could get up and running right now as you’re reading this article. The free plan gives you a pretty generous 10GB of data allowance too.
Downsides are that this VPN doesn’t offer 24/7 support, which means if you have problems they may not be solved as fast as you need them to be. Despite this, it’s still a worthy addition to this list of best VPNs for digital nomads.
- Supports Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, and Linux
- Unblocks Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube and iPlayer
- WireGuard protocol support
- 400 servers in 63 countries
- Unlimited device connection
- Ad blocking and tracking prevention with the ROBERT feature
- AES-256 cipher encryption
- Free version available
- Up to 10GB of data available with the free plan
Proudly waving the flag for “World’s Fastest VPN”, Hotspot Shield doesn’t disappoint with their Catapult Hydra protocol that ensures streams are 2.2x faster and more consistet than competing VPNs. If your priority is speed, this is your best choice.
Hotspot Shield only gives you access to around 1,800 servers around the world, but it’s in the same ballpark as the leading VPNs in terms of security features.
Hotspot Shield VPN features:
- Supports Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux
- Unblocks Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and iPlayer
- 1,800 servers in 80 countries
- Military-grade encryption
- Supports up to 5 device connections
- 24/7 support
- 45 day trial
- Free plan available
ay by Bitcoin, if you like, and enjoy solid P2P support for torrenting and a range of streaming services unlocked.
- Supports Mac, Windows, Android, Linux, and iOS
- Unlocks Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, iPlayer, and YouTube
- 1,200 servers in 55 countries
- Connect up to 5 devices
Last but not least is TunnelBear. This was the first VPN I ever used, and it was perfect for what I needed at the time. I was initially sold by the adorable bear theme, and the frequent use of bear humour. I particularly liked the real-time cartoon bear tunneling to your chosen country and server when you click connect. Aww!
Aside from the un-bear-able cuteness, TunnelBear is a solid VPN and you can get started on their free plan to try it out.
The fact that it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that other premium VPNs do can be advantageous. It focuses privacy and security – and it does them well. TunnelBear even uses independent cybersecurity experts to audit all of its systems and code and ensure everything is constantly watertight, and it’s the only VPN that does this.
TunnelBear VPN features:
- Supports Mac, Windows, iOS and Android
- Unblocks YouTube and Hulu
- No log privacy
- 1,000 servers in 26 countries
- Connect up to 5 devices
Conclusion: The best VPNs for digital nomads
When you’re looking at the best VPNs for digital nomads, they’re ultimately the ones that you’ll switch on as you travel. Although I love Nord, it might not be the best choice for you personally.
If you end up with a VPN that’s too complicated, or has a ton of features you don’t need, then you’re unlikely to use it. Make a quick list of your must-haves and nice-to-haves before signing up for a VPN. And remember they all have variations of free trials and money-back guarantees, so you can try a few (or all) of these and see which one works for you.
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.
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- TRAVEL TIPS AND RESOURCES
- Find cheap flights
I use Kayak, Skyscanner, and Expedia to find the best deals on flights. This often means flying late night or early morning – so if you’re working remotely, make sure you plan around this.
- Book accommodation
I always use Booking.com for my first stop in any city. These tend to be hotels, so it’s easy for your taxi or Uber drive to find them, which is a huge relief if you arrive in a strange city at 3am after a 19-hour flight and just want to sleeeeeep. For longer stays, I use Airbnb (always, always filter these listings by superhosts and make sure to read the reviews before you book), Hostel World to book budget stays, and VRBO (the new challenger to Airbnb – way less fees and great accommodation options),
If you’re a pet lover, you can stay FREE in a local house anywhere in the world with Trusted Housesitters. I’ve used this a couple of times and it was awesome. If you travel long term and miss the companionship of fluffy friends – borrowing other people’s pets (and saving $$$$ on accommodation at the same time) is a huge win.
If you need a rental car, I recommend RentalCars.com or Kayak to find the cheapest options and compare companies.
- Travel Insurance
Yes. You need it. I recommend both SafetyWing and World Nomads to keep you and your gear protected. These companies have monthly policies specifically for digital nomads and long-term travellers. I’m currently using SafetyWing, as it’s one of the only companies that covers travellers for COVID-related issues right now.
- Book a tour
I’m not big on guided tours, but I check out Get Your Guide and Viator to find must-see places in every new city I go to. If you love tours, these are the two top sites to search for and book tours around the world.
- Luggage storage
Stuck in that awkward zone between two accommodation points – or waiting all day for a flight? Stasher has 1,000 locations in 250 countries that you can store your luggage in while you go out and do fun stuff. Because carrying everything you own with you all day is not fun.