What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and in a nutshell, it creates a secure tunnel between you and the internet.
A VPN will hide your IP address, hide your location and encrypt your data. Allowing you to browse the internet anonymously.
Why is that important?
Keep your personal details secure
By using a VPN, you can be assured that the data you are sending and receiving over the internet is encrypted and secured.
Think of all the information that you input into your computer on a regular basis and send off into cyberspace – names, addresses, date of births, bank details, credit card numbers, emails and passwords, to name just a few. You wouldn’t want that information getting into the wrong hands.
This might not be as much of a risk when you are using your own secure network at home, but with the increasing use of smartphones, we are all regularly logging into public Wi-Fi hotspots at cafes, airports, train stations and hotels. If some of your data is unencrypted, then anyone on the same network can potentially grab it.
Handy to access censored sites
In some countries, popular websites such as Facebook, Netflix or the BBC are blocked by the government. But by using a VPN you can get around this restriction as the VPN will place your IP address in a different location, therefore allowing you to access the sites.
At the moment, it is very unlikely that you would get in trouble for using a VPN. In most countries, you have a legal right to privacy. However, please be aware that the U.A.E have started to regulate the use of VPNs. So, just remember to do your research first.
How can it save me money?
By using a VPN you can trick an airline’s website into thinking that you are based in a different location. This can often lead to you picking up cheaper plane tickets.
There have been many reports of people being able to ‘hack’ the system and get hundreds of dollars off their flights, just by changing the location on their VPN.
This little trick not only works on airfare. It can also be used to save you money on hotels and other websites that calculate their costs by geolocating your IP address.
How do I use it?
It’s actually really simple.
First, you need to find and sign-up to a VPN provider. The costs are around $5-$10 per month, with considerable discounts for yearly plans.
Secondly, just download and install it on your laptop and/or desktop computer. And don’t forget to get the app installed on your smartphone and/or tablet.
Thirdly, just start it up, choose which server you would like to use (or set it to random) and off you go to browse the internet as normal.
Are there any downsides to a VPN?
One thing that I will note, is that you may get re-directed on some websites. For example, if my VPN’s location is set to Germany, when I go to the PayPal website it fetches the German version. This just takes a few extra seconds for me to select the UK and for the language to revert back to English.
It may also affect the advertisements that you see. Because it think’s that you are in a different location, you may be shown ads for a product not in your country or in a different language – I’ve lost count of how many YouTube ads I’ve watched in French.
Where can I get one?
How do you find anything these days? You Google it. Simply Google ‘VPN Provider’ and a whole bunch of them will pop up for you to choose from. You can check out ratings, reviews and prices to help find the best one for you.
The one that I currently use is Private Internet Access (or PIA for short). In all honesty, I had a bit of trouble when I first joined PIA as my internet speed dropped off a cliff and it made browsing painful. I contacted their support desk and they quickly got back to me and advised me to change a few settings and my site speed was restored. They gave me great customer service and I have been with them ever since.
I also know that a few other bloggers and traveller use ExpressVPN, so feel free to check that one out also.
VPNs are non-negotiable
To me, a VPN is not an option. It is a necessity. I work and live online – everything from creating an income, to shopping and to managing my bank accounts. I do everything electronically and I want to make sure that my personal information is super secure. The cost of a VPN is more than worth it and, in my option, an absolute must for anyone with a digital footprint.