Share on Pinterest Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Copy link to article
expat life

Best VPN providers for expats in 2020

As an expat living abroad, my VPN can be a lifesaver. If you’ve never used a VPN before, a VPN can help you access services in your home country (such as banking or investment accounts), bypass restrictions on content (such as GDPR pop-ups), or and simply improve your privacy when using the internet.

I personally use a VPN all the time, and the fact that the monthly costs can be so low makes it a no-brainer for expats living abroad.

Here’s exactly what a VPN is, when you should use a VPN, and my personal recommendations for the best VPNs for expats with the features you need as a someone who lives abroad and travels regularly!

What is a VPN?

If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you already know what a VPN is . If not, let me explain!

VPN is short for “Virtual Private Network”. It allows your computer to connect securely over the internet by encrypting the transferred data in the process. Using a VPN is pretty straightforward: you have to choose a VPN provider, install their software, and choose which server you want to connect to.

Most of the time, you’ll choose the server because you want your computer to appear like it’s in a specific country (such as the US or Germany).

As an expat, you probably has a global footprint and subscriptions to services and accounts in different countries. A VPN makes it seamless to access those accounts without geo-restrictions.

However, sometimes you’ll want to use a VPN simply to encrypt your traffic and the location of the server doens’t really matter.

Here are the most important situations where you should be using a VPN as an expat, digital nomad, or when traveling abroad.

Computer with VPN
Some links in this post are to affiliate sites. If you purchase something through them, I may earn a small comission at no cost to you.
I am very grateful when you use my links to make a purchase!

When should you use a VPN?

  • To access financial accounts overseas. Logging into bank accounts or brokerage accounts from overseas can cause an alarm to trip and get your account locked up. Using a VPN ensures that you don’t accidentally get your account shut down.
  • To safely connect to public WiFi. Most public WiFi networks (such as those in cafes, airports, and libraries) are not secure, meaning that whatever usernames and passwords you type into your browser are transmitted openly over the network using weird tools like a WiFi pineapple . A VPN ensure they are encrypted first.
  • To access global content. Whether you just want to watch American Netflix, or you’d like to access news content blocked by full-screen GDPR banners, a VPN can help with that.
  • To bypass censorship. In particular, if you’re traveling in countries like China that have restrictions on the Internet, a VPN could be the only way to access certain sites while traveling there, such as Facebook.
  • To improve your browsing privacy. Overall, VPNs make it more difficult for your online activity to be tracked by whomever would be interested in tracking it.

Features to look for in a VPN

Most of the time, the important features of a VPN for expats is simply that it should be fast, secure, and work with the services you need it to work for. Here are a couple of concrete requirements I had when choosing a VPN:

  • Connection speed. Speed is one of the most important things, especially if you want to download large files or stream videos.
  • Has a mobile app. If you decide to connect your phone to public WiFi, it’s just as insecure as doing it on your computer. All of the VPNs in this guide have mobile apps!
  • Works with Netflix (or other streaming services). If you are someone who watches shows on services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. you’ll want to check that the VPN you choose supports them.
  • Has a kill-switch. A kill-switch means that the VPN will ensure that if your connection to their server drops, the application you put a kill-switch on will stop connecting to the internet too.

Let’s look at the best VPNs for expats and how they measure up.

Best (and affordable) VPN providers for expats

Here are my top 3 picks, depending on your needs:

NordVPN
NordVPN Best overall
This is the VPN that I use! It's super easy to set up and has all the essential features an expat needs (namely a fast connection, desktop and mobile app, a kill-switch, and it works with Netflix!). You can also save a HUGE amount if you opt for a multi-year plan, which is what I did.
NordVPN
CyberGhost Best for streaming
CyberGhost is a great option if your main use case is streaming. CyberGhost keeps an up-to-date list of servers inside the app that says which streaming platforms it works with, such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go. Of course, it's also fast and secure and works for the other use cases besides streaming. Massive discounts for 1 year+ subscriptions as well.
NordVPN
Tunnelbear Best for beginners
Tunnelbear is a great option for people who are most interested in secure browsing and being able to use servers in different countries. Some of the easiest to install and use, especially if you don't consider yourself to be very techy. Just note that it won't work with Netflix, but otherwise a great choice.

1. NordVPN Best overall

The VPN that I personally use and recommend is NordVPN . It supports just about every platform (you can event install it on your Smart TV!), and the easy-to-use interface makes it quick to set up even if you’re not super techy. NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that works with Netflix, which for me is just an added bonus.

It also has the most important security features: besides encrypting your traffic, it doesn’t log or leak data and it supports a kill-switch so you can ensure certain programs shut down if your connection is interrupted.

The best part is probably that NordVPN constantly has massive discounts if you buy a couple years at a time, making the price cheaper than many other VPN providers.

  • Works with: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, Sling TV
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iPhone, Android, Android TV, Linux
  • Logging: No logging
  • Countries supported: 59 countries, 5,200+ servers
  • Features: Killswitch, supports torrenting
  • Speed rating: ✔ Very fast

Click here to check prices of NordVPN’s latest plans and offers.

NordVPN

Don’t use if: You want to pay with PayPal.

2. CyberGhost Best for streaming

A great option for streaming is CyberGhost .

CyberGhost keeps an up-to-date list of servers inside the app that says which streaming platforms it works with, such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go. As you can see inside the desktop app, you can pick a server in a different country and it’ll tell you which streaming service will work on that server:

CyberGhost

it’s also fast and secure and works for the other use cases besides streaming. Massive discounts for 1 year+ subscriptions as well.

  • Works with: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Crunchyroll, Sky, YouTube, ZDF, and many many more
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iPhone, Android, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire
  • Features: Killswitch, supports torrenting
  • Countries supported: 59 countries, 4,900+ servers
  • Logging: No logging
  • Speed rating: ✔ Fast

Don’t use if: You need to use your VPN in China.

Click here to check prices for CyberGhost’s latest plans and offers.

3. Tunnelbear Best for beginners

Tunnelbear started with the mission of being the most consumer-friendly VPN service out there.

If you don’t consider yourself to be very “techy” and don’t want a lot of advanced settings, Tunnelbear was made specifically for you. You have a choice from 29 different countries you can connect to. Tunnelbear is the best choice if you want something simple that works well.

  • Works with: (Does not maintain compatibility with streaming platforms, but may still work)
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iPhone, Android
  • Features: Killswitch, supports torrenting
  • Countries supported: 29 countries
  • Logging: No logging
  • Speed rating: ✔ Fast

Don’t use if: Speed is your number one priority, or you’re interested in streaming. NordVPN is faster and CyberGhost is better for streaming. Use Tunnelbear is your main priority is finding something simple that works!

Click here to check prices for Tunnelbear’s latest plans and offers.

Alternatives to buying a VPN service

If you are really tech-savvy (and probably a software developer like me), it is possible to run your own VPN server . At the end of the day, though, the cost of running your own VPN server is not cheaper than simply going with one of the providers above.

Enjoying this post?
Sign up for my newsletter for a once-a-week email with new posts on the blog, travel tips and deals, as well as exclusive content. No spam, unsubscribe anytime.
    Want to see more content like this?

    Sign up for my newsletter for a once-a-week email with new posts on the blog, tips and deals, as well as exclusive content.

      We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Author

      About the author

      Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for over six years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

      Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, Bloglovin, & Facebook.