What is a VPN and why do I need one when I travel to certain countries around the world?

What is a VPN and why do I need one when I travel to certain countries around the world?


 

The letters in the acronym VPN stand for Virtual Private Network and is an incredible tool that can help you access blocked websites, hide your location, encrypt your data, and much more. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a server that you connect with to reroute your internet activities. The server can completely mask your IP or make it appear as if you are in a different location. Using VPN software on your laptop or tablet can be particularly useful when visiting certain countries where access to the Internet or certain websites on the Internet is limited. Examples of such countries includes China, Egypt, Russia, Myanmar, Iran, Ethiopia, Belarus, Sudan, The Gambia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Syria, Bahrain, Vietnam, The UAE, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

A VPN connection benefits the user in two ways;

  1. It encrypts all the data that you send or receive so that it cannot be intercepted by a third party.
  2. It hides the identity of your location by routing your connection to the Internet either through a randomly selected server in another country or through a location that you manually select from a list of options provided to you by the VPN provider.

There are plenty of VPN providers to choose from and many of them are free but as with all things in life, you ultimately get what you pay for. Annual costs can run anywhere from a few Euros per annum to around €10 per month, depending on the level of encryption that you require; the range of server locations around the world that you would like to be able to access or the overall quality of the service and backup, should things go wrong. A quick trawl through search results on Google, Bing or Safari usually throws up the names of popular VPN services such as Hide My Ass, NordVPN, ExpressVPN and a host of others. Once you set up an account with a provider, you can load it onto multiple devices but check first before you commit.

Having VPN software already pre-installed on your device is highly recommended if you intend on visiting somewhere like China which is becoming increasingly popular with tourists as accessing basis services such as Google are impossible without one. Using a paid service with a provider such as NordVPN costs around €100 per annum but you can install it across multiple devices including your smartphone.

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