I won’t rehash all the reasons you need a VPN (virtual private network) — you can see them here.
Just think of it as a must-have service if you’re to access all the websites you’re used to, and to continue doing business online with your bank back home. (It helps keep others from spying on you when you’re using public WiFi as well.)
For occasional, limited use, you can use a free VPN service like HotSpot Shield.
Unfortunately, the free version serves ads and runs pretty slowly, so if you want to amp up your browsing speeds and ditch the ads, be prepared to pay for VPN service.
Here are some that come well recommended.
Claiming to be the world’s fastest VPN, VyprVPN (aff) will give you a secure virtual network connection on your computer (Windows, Mac or Linux) as well as your iPhone or Android phone. No limits on uploads or downloads, and available in a Basic version, starting as low as $6.67/month, Pro ($8.33/month) and Premier ($10/month). They offer a 3-day free trial.
Choose from servers in 38 countries, including the US, Australia, Netherlands, France, UK, Germany, Singapore and Thailand.
PureVPN (aff) offers a trial account for $2.50. There are three different plans, with varying access to services. Prices range from $4.16/month to $9.95/month. (When I visited their website, they were also offering a timed special which brought the prices of their 12 months plan even lower, but only if you grab it right away.) They offer a money-back guarantee, but only for three days.
New Feature:PureVPN now allows simultaneous logins from five devices — perfect for family members to use even if they’re on different devices or in different locations.
Servers are located in 26 countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, Romania, Singapore, Switzerland, Russia, Malaysia, Ireland and Panama.
Strong (aff) has several different plans, with prices starting at $55/year. Their service looks a bit more complicated than some of the others, but they get rave reviews for their 24/7 live customer support.
Right now they’re offering three months for $21 if you want to try them out. They also have a 7-day money-back guarantee.
They seem to do an especially good job getting around the firewalls in China, and they can also protect your iPhone or Android phone.
Hide My Ass
Yes, I kid you not, that’s its name. They pretty much refer to themselves as “HMA.” Anyway, HMA (aff) offers a 30-day guarantee. They offer service at a monthly fee of $11.52, or you can purchase a six- or 12-month package at considerable savings, $50.66 or $78.66 respectively. They point out that they don’t have any bandwidth limitations and you’re not restricted to a single server.
They have 241 servers in 42 countries.
This is the one I’ve been using. I chose Hotspot Shield because they were recommended by PC Magazine, and their cost is reasonable — $44.99 annually, or $4.99 monthly. You can even get a plan where you pay $0.50 per day — good if you only need it a few days at a time throughout the year.
Hide My Net
With low rates of $4/month, Hide My Net was one of the less expensive options. It’s a US-based company, and they’ve been around since 1998 — an eternity in the fast-moving internet world.
If Privacy is Your Biggest Concern
While each of these VPN’s secures your connection, they don’t guarantee your privacy. Online privacy is a big can of worms, but if that’s your chief concern, check out this list of higher-privacy VPN services.
Have you used a VPN that’s not on this list? What did you like/dislike about it? Use the Comments to help your fellow expats out.