VPNs are great expat tools – they’re extremely versatile. Not only do they secure your traffic by encrypting it end-to-end (so only the VPN app and server can decrypt it), but they also help you bypass geo-blocks to unblock your favorite content from back home.
But if you’re an expat, you will want different things from a VPN compared to regular Internet users.So how do you know which expat VPN to choose? There are literally hundreds of VPNs out there, so it’s not like you can go through each one until you find one you’re happy with.
Well, you could technically do that, but who has the time, money, and patience?
The good news is we have the next best thing – a list of ways to tell if an expat VPN is really good or not. Let’s start with #1!
1. The VPN Has a Large Server Network
Ideally, the VPN should have lots of servers, all evenly spread around the world. Here’s why that’s important:
- A large server network means you don’t have to deal with overcrowded servers (when too many active users are connected to them). If you use an overcrowded server, your speeds will be slower.
- VPNs with servers around the world make it easier to find a server close to your location. That way, you get faster speeds because the data takes less time to travel between your device and the VPN server.
If the VPN has at least 1,000 servers, that’s a good sign. But it’s not good if it only has servers in 10-20 countries. Instead, you should look for a VPN with servers in 40-50+ countries. Even better, check their server page to see if there are servers near (or in) your current location.
2. The VPN Has a Money-Back Guarantee
Most top VPNs offer money-back guarantees – the industry standard is a 30-day money-back guarantee. That’s a must in our opinion because it gives you enough time to test the service risk-free.
After all, paying for a VPN to unblock Netflix only to start seeing the annoying Netflix proxy error after one week of use is not pleasant.
With a refund policy in place, you know your money is safe. Just make sure it’s a no-questions-asked kind of deal. It’s better if there are no limits that invalidate the refund – like going over a certain amount of data.
3. The VPN Has a (Verified) No-Logs Policy
A no-logs policy is a must if you care about your privacy. That ensures the VPN provider doesn’t monitor what sites you visit and what files you download, and also doesn’t record your IP address.
Also, it’s best if the VPN’s no-logs policy has been audited. That way, you can be sure it’s true. If it wasn’t audited, check if there are any legal documents that say it’s true (PIA’s no-logs policy has been proven true in court many times, for example).
4. The VPN Has Secure & Fast Protocols
A VPN protocol is a set of rules that dictate how a VPN connection is established. There are multiple protocols out there, but only a few are really good.
Most top VPNs use OpenVPN by default, which offers excellent security and is open-source (anyone can inspect the code). But it’s good to have some other options – like WireGuard and IKEv2/IPSec. They’re also secure, but much faster than OpenVPN. While IKEv2/IPSec isn’t open-source, WireGuard is.
You should stay away from VPNs that only use PPTP, however. It’s one of the fastest protocols out there, but it’s very dangerous to use it. Its encryption is extremely weak, so it can’t protect your data.
5. The VPN Has Essential + Extra Security Features
Bank-grade encryption and secure protocols are a nice start. But to be really good, a VPN should go the extra mile. It should also provide mandatory features like a kill switch and leak protection. Here’s why they’re important:
- Kill switch – This feature disables your Internet access if the VPN disconnects or you manually disconnect from it. It sounds extreme, but it’s very useful because it protects you from traffic leaks (your data being accidentally revealed while you’re disconnected from the VPN).
- Leak protection –VPNs can suffer DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks which puts your data in danger. Good VPNs have built-in DNS and IPv6 leak protection. Some even include WebRTC leak protection (either built-in or through browser extensions).
Besides that, it’s also a plus if the VPN has bonus features like split-tunneling or ad blockers.
Split-tunneling is very useful because it lets you pick which apps use the VPN and which don’t. It’s a good way to increase your VPN speeds while streaming or torrenting, for instance.
Ad blockers, like the name implies, block ads. That’s good because it improves browser performance. But that’s not all – VPN ad blockers also block malicious sites. So they keep you safe from phishing attacks and MITM attacks.
6. The VPN Has Easy-to-Use Apps
The VPN provider should have apps for the most popular platforms, and they should be easy to use. That means they should have an intuitive interface so that you know how to find all settings. All options having explanations also makes the experience better. And quick-connect features make connecting to the fastest server very simple.
On top of that, VPNs should have their own apps. You shouldn’t be forced to use third-party clients – like OpenVPN, for example. They’re not user-friendly and only make using a VPN a hassle.
What Are Your Favorite Expat VPNs?
We’d love to hear which VPN service you use an expat. Please tell us why you like it so much, and what you think it could improve. Also, if you know other good security tools expats should use, please tell us about them.