There are many reasons why to consider a VPN. If you travel its almost essential to have one. Why? To protect your data and personal information. While you are on the go, you are more than likely to connect to a public WiFi either in a hotel, airport, restaurant or coffee shop. Almost all of these connections are unencrypted and means that hackers who are logged on to the same network can steal your information very easy and without any big effort. So what can you do? Use a VPN to encrypt your connection.
Besides that, VPNs can be used for more than just protecting your private data. They are very helpful to circumvent geo-blocked services. For example, China blocks access to social media sites like Facebook. A VPN can help you to unlock these sites.
Speaking of geo-blocked services, with a VPN you can also access your Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon Prime library while traveling abroad or you can watch content from foreign sites here in the US. For example, some news outlets limit their online media library to only their country, even tho it is available for free there. For example the BBC iPlayer.
I put a well-known and one of the biggest VPN providers – ExpressVPN – under an extensive month-long test including international travel.
ExpressVPN is no free service and you have to pay to use it. You can decide what kind of bundle you want to buy. Check the ExpressVPN website for their latest prices and bundles. They have currently three subscription plans: Monthly ($12.95), Semi-Annually ($9.99) and Annually ($8.32).
How to add 30 days for free to your subscription
If you decide to buy an ExpressVPN subscription, consider signing up through my referral link. If you click on this link you get an additional 30 days, no matter what description you choose to buy. To be transparent, I will receive 30 days as well and I really appreciate your support.
Once you have created your account you have to set up the software on your device. ExpressVPN offers software for pretty much any device and operating system including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and for the tech nerds even software for certain network router models.
Getting the software for your device is super easy. On your smartphone just search for ExpressVPN or select it below. There is also a .apk-file for Android if you don’t have access to the Google Play Store. The direct installation file can be found in your account dashboard.
For your desktop or laptops just go to the ExpressVPN website and select your operating system to download the software package for your device.
Once you have the software installed, you just need to sign in with your account credentials and you are set to go. The only difference here is the Windows client. Here you have to enter an activation code which you can find in your account settings online.
First of all a few basics. ExpressVPN allows three simultaneous connections and it doesn’t matter from which device they come from. If you want to get multiple devices online in your home, consider getting a compatible network router and you can have every device in your home network connected through VPN. Does it make sense? For the regular user most likely not. Here a list for all devices and operating systems.
Pro Tip: Share your account with friends and share the cost. As you can have three connections simultaneously. The only downside, you have to give away your credentials to your friends so they can log in as well. The only exception is the earlier mentioned Windows client. This one just requires an activation code.
So I set up ExpressVPN on a few of my devices just before leaving on a trip to Germany. Once I settled in and was sitting in the bed the first night, I wanted to watch a show on Amazon Prime. I knew I had to use the VPN service to get my Amazon Prime to work in Germany. So I fired up ExpressVPN on my iPad and it already had the smart location set to New Jersey – 3. As New Jersey is located in the United States, I was pretty positive that I can now launch the Amazon Prime app and watch movies and shows. Nope! It didn’t work. I got an error message that the movie can’t be played. So what now? This was one of the main reasons for getting a VPN service.
Immediately I contacted the ExpressVPN support on their website via chat and the guy was able to help me almost instantly. He told me to change my location to Los Angeles – 3 and try it again. Voila! It worked. This small little change fixed the issue and from there on I had no more problems watching movies or TV shows with Amazon Prime. The only other streaming service I tried was Vudu and it worked as well. Vudu is so crazy, if you are outside the US and try to open their website you see just a blank page and not even an error message. That almost let me believe my whole connection is bad until I turned on the VPN. As I don’t have any other streaming services, I wasn’t able to test them. I know a lot of you guys are probably curious about Netflix. I am sure it will work as well.
First of all the speed of the VPN does not only depend on ExpressVPN it also depends on the regular connection you are connected to. I used ExpressVPN a bunch of times in Germany and even in the US and speed-wise there was no difference if you are just browsing the web or try to stream Youtube or other services. The initial load might be a little bit slow but once it takes off you are good to go.
If you try to play games over your VPN connection, you will run into issues. Your Ping will definitely go up and depending on the game and game server it could make games unplayable. Personal experience while trying to play CS:GO.
I did some speed tests. I was physically located with my PC in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and tried different servers all around the world. To have a comparison, I ran the test multiple times with every server selected but the results were pretty identical which each test. For this test, I used the website www.speedtest.net.
Below you can see a screenshot of what my speed was at my hotel room in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Speed test with ExpressVPN on and different servers all around the world.
Speed Test Conclusion
This was a test done with real-life conditions in a hotel room where you have to rely on whatever speed the hotel provides initially. Your internet connection at home might be way faster but this was to demonstrate how the use of ExpressVPN would impact your experience while on the road.
As you can see, the download-rate was pretty much the same as without the usage of the VPN-service. On the other side, I saw big fluctuations in the upload-rate. Some were close to the speed without using a VPN, some others were only a third of the original speed. There are so many factors to consider. It also depends on the time of the day. While it was for me a Sunday evening while testing, it was already Monday morning in some parts of the world I tested. This should just give you a general idea. The most important speed indicator, your download speed, was pretty stable throughout all of them.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.