5 Best VPNs for Digital Nomads & Travelers That Work in 2020
If you love to work on the move and take pride in finding the perfect co-working center, coffee shop, or other free wi-fi network, a good VPN (virtual private network) that protects your connection is an absolute must.
One of the first things world travelers discover is that although it’s called the worldwide web, the internet is very different depending on where you are. Simply catching up with the news or making a bank deposit is not easy when you’re constantly changing locations.
And of course, risks of hacking, spying, and malware increase dramatically when you use shared networks. Even some of the world’s most tech savvy digital nomads have had their devices hijacked when they used public wi-fi.
The right VPN will secure your data from prying eyes, let you sail past geoblocks and other internet filters to access any content worldwide, and ensure your download speeds are never compromised.
If you’re looking for a VPN that will give you the best protection on open networks, along with easy access to critical services and your favorite content back home, read on.
Best VPNs for Digital Nomads & Travelers – Quick List
NordVPN consistently earns our highest rating for its combination of speed, security credentials, and server network size. It’s one of the world’s best geoblock and firewall breakers, and you can use it on up to six devices at once.
A CyberGhost subscription protects up to seven devices simultaneously, making it perfect for nomads who juggle a lot of gadgets. Security is topnotch, apps are visual and intuitive, and speeds are very good.
If you’re shopping for your first premium VPN, PrivateVPN is a great choice because it comes with remote installation and setup assistance for new users, and has handy, preconfigured settings. It also offers strong encryption and impressive speeds.
HMA has a unique Freedom Mode that’s a huge help to nomads who travel to countries where access to information is limited. The mode automatically connects you to the best available server in a nearby country with free speech protection.
Why Do Digital Nomads And Travelers Need a VPN?
We are big fans of the trend toward working remotely. In fact, a lot of researchers and writers here at vpnMentor are digital nomads themselves. But moving from wi-fi network to wi-fi network raises serious security issues and makes it very tough to access the content you need.
Here are just a few of the many reasons why no digital nomad should ever be without a trustworthy VPN.
Online Privacy + Data and Device Security
Data protection is important for everyone, but if you use your devices to send and receive confidential files, contract details, or any other sensitive information over shared networks, you need to be especially concerned about privacy.
Open wi-fi exposes your personal information and devices to hackers, botnets, malware, and plenty of other cyber threats. Even “secured” shared networks at co-working facilities carry significant risks, because you can’t be certain who is co-working with you.
Digital nomads are actually vulnerable from two directions. Your data can be stolen when you send it, or malicious code might ride piggyback on your incoming traffic, allowing hackers to hijack or damage your devices.
In 2017, the CEO of an American digital start-up discovered that his laptop had been hijacked to mine cryptocurrency when he visited a Starbucks in Buenos Aires. The incident highlighted just how easy it is to let your guard down – and how risky.
By masking your true location and thoroughly encrypting all data, a VPN keeps you and your gadgets safe, no matter where you connect.
Paying Bills and Accessing Bank Services
Banks and bill-paying services flag transactions initiated from a foreign IP address, and will even block your account access if you’re not in your home country. Overall, this is an important safety measure, but for digital nomads, it’s a huge inconvenience.
When you use a VPN, websites like your bank see only the IP address of the server you’re connected to, not your actual location. As long as the network includes a server in the country where you opened your accounts, you’ll get full access to send and receive money from anywhere.
Bypassing Geo-restrictions on News and Streaming Content
Being constantly on the move can also mean getting blocked out of your favorite websites and streaming services – even if you have a paid subscription.
Online news services offer different content in different parts of the world. Without a VPN, you might find it very difficult to keep up with events back home. By assigning you a new IP address that changes your apparent location, a VPN helps you stay connected to any corner of the world.
And when it’s time to relax, it’s maddening when your favorite shows and movies are unavailable in your current location. By switching server locations, you can use your VPN to access video content from the US, UK, Japan, France, or anywhere in the world.
Bear in mind, however, that the most popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and the BBC iPlayer reinforce their geoblocks with VPN-screening software. Only the most highly rated VPNs can get past these two-layer blocks.
A VPN’s location spoofing also gives you a big advantage over your competitors when you’re chasing that next big deal, because you can connect to a server in your potential client’s country. Imagine how impressed they’ll be that you’re up to date on all the region’s latest events.
Protection from Censorship & Government Surveillance
Missing out on a news update or the latest episode of a TV series might be frustrating, but attempting to access sites blocked due to government censorship can have far more serious consequences.
Many countries ban a wide variety of websites, ranging from news sites that criticize the government to violent games to LGBT and other content said to violate “traditional values.” Penalties for posting or accessing banned content range from mild hassles to heavy fines and even imprisonment.
The more places you travel, the harder it is to keep track of local censorship laws. By connecting you through a secure tunnel to a server in a country with free and unfiltered internet access, a VPN ensures that censorship firewalls will never get in your way.
More importantly, by encrypting all your traffic, your VPN makes your data unreadable to government surveillance agencies. Make sure the VPN you choose keeps no record of your browsing, so your activity can never be tracked back to you.
VoIP Use & Other Easily Tracked Activities
Speaking of tracking, any activity that exposes not only your location but also the locations of everyone you communicate with poses particularly serious risks for digital nomads. Many governments monitor where messaging and VoIP traffic is going, and some even spy on conversations.
Furthermore, because people tend to be less conscious of security risks when they’re casually communicating with friends and family, wi-fi hackers frequently use message and VoIP transmissions to gain access to users’ data and devices.
So if you’re a digital nomad who uses VoIP services and/or messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Tox.chat, a VPN with high-level security features is an absolute must-have.
What to Look For in a VPN
A strong VPN solves all of the above problems, and many more you might encounter in your wanderings. Digital nomads need a VPN with a vast network of servers to ensure global content access, as well as solid security credentials including leak protection and strong encryption.
It’s even better if your provider protects all your devices with one subscription. You’ll also want a VPN with fast connection speeds. Many public wi-fi networks are frustratingly slow; the last thing you need is a sluggish VPN server slowing you down even further.
The Best VPNs for Digital Nomads And Travelers In Detail
NordVPN continually impresses both users and tech experts with its combination of premium security credentials, a gigantic server network, constant service enhancements, and fast speeds. A single subscription gets you 6 simultaneous device connections.
The security protocols offered by NordVPN are topnotch and include both OpenVPN and IKEv2. The provider uses military-grade encryption, includes a built-in kill switch in all apps, and adheres to a strict no-logging policy.
The apps are easy to set up, and NordVPN will recommend the best server for your location and purpose as soon as you launch. Servers support Double VPN, TorVPN, and Onion over VPN for maximum security, and this VPN gets around geoblocks with ease.
NordVPN’s unique CyberSec suite is like a guardian angel for digital nomads, offering automatic ad blocking and protection from nasty websites that spread malware and spyware.
The provider offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for new users, so you can test out the service to see if it suits you before you put any money on the line.
NordVPN can unblock:
- Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Sling TV.
- Yes, P2P specialty servers available.
NordVPN works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox. It’s also compatible with routers.
ExpressVPN is a trusted choice for digital nomads, combining industry-leading speed, security, and network reliability with user-friendly apps for all major platforms. You can secure up to 5 devices at once with one subscription.
Impressive security features include military-grade encryption and support for a range of tunneling protocols, with the secure OpenVPN protocol as the default across all apps. Extra protection for public wi-fi comes standard.
ExpressVPN has transparent privacy policies and does not collect user logs at all. It’s based in the British Virgin Islands, outside the jurisdiction of the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance, and is a global advocate for internet freedom and privacy protection.
Users love it, and we’re pretty confident you will, too. But just in case, you can subscribe with peace of mind. ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with no questions asked. You can also try it free for 7 days on your mobile devices.
ExpressVPN can unblock:
- Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, Sling TV, DAZN, and BBC iPlayer.
- Yes, all servers support P2P activity.
ExpressVPN works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox. It also offers an app for use with certain routers.
CyberGhost has recently expanded its network and now offers more than 5,700 servers worldwide. No matter where you happen to be, you can connect quickly and easily. CyberGhost also protects up to 7 devices simultaneously with one subscription.
Users highlight this VPN’s reliable connection speeds and user-friendly apps. CyberGhost easily bypasses geo-restrictions, even famously tricky blocks like the ones guarding US Netflix. An impressive 45-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of time to try out the service.
When it comes to security, CyberGhost protects users with military grade AES-256 encryption and the OpenVPN protocol. The provider doesn’t keep user logs, and backs up this commitment with no-memory servers.
CyberGhost can unblock:
- Dedicated streaming profile with servers optimized for: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, Hulu, Comedy Central, Eurosport, ESPN, and others.
- Yes; dedicated profile shows countries and number of users.
CyberGhost works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV, Linux, and Chrome.
PrivateVPN is an impressive service, especially in light of its budget-friendly price. It offers military-grade, 2048-bit encryption with AES-256 and doesn’t keep user logs, so it’s a safe bet for secure browsing.
You can protect 6 devices simultaneously with the one subscription, and the connection speed is impressive.
One of the features we really love about PrivateVPN is the free remote help via TeamViewer. This unique service could really come in handy if you have just begun your nomadic lifestyle and need some help getting your cyber security tools set up.
PrivateVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for added peace of mind. To learn more about what this small but powerful VPN can do for you, check out our reviews archive and see what real users have to say about it.
PrivateVPN can unblock:
- Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer.
- Yes, all servers support P2P activity; list of P2P-optimized servers available through the app.
PrivateVPN works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
If you’re a digital nomad from a small country that doesn’t get much love from VPN server arrays, HMA could be your salvation. You’ll have no trouble reaching sites and services back home thanks to a network that spans over 190 countries!
HMA offers military-grade encryption with AES-256, a range of security protocols, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch. Users especially love the preset connection modes built into the cross-platform applications.
Instant Mode will connect you automatically to the fastest server available; Location Mode lets you choose a specific server location, so it’s ideal for bypassing geoblocks; and Freedom Mode connects you to the nearest server in a country with free speech.
Freedom Mode is particularly useful in countries where internet activity is restricted and closely monitored by the government, such as Russia and Turkey. HMA offers a 7-day free trial of its service and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
HMA can unblock:
- Hulu, BBC iPlayer.
- Torrenting discouraged.
HMA works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Routers.
Whether you are a veteran digital nomad or just starting the transition from nine-to-five to the freelance lifestyle, data and device security should be foremost in your mind. The good news is that by choosing the right VPN, you can quickly put those worries to bed.
Top-quality VPNs will do far more than that, too, making it easy to access geo-restricted or censored content, and safe and convenient to pay your bills and manage your financial accounts.
To learn more about how public wi-fi exposes you to online threats, and what steps you can take to protect yourself, see our guide to wi-fi security.
And if you’re in the process of choosing your next destination, check out this great guide to the most freelancer-friendly cities. Happy nomading! We’ll see you at the café or on the beach.