What is a VPN and why you should use it


Do you use Internet while travelling? Have you ever connected to an open public network, for example at airports, cafes or hotspots in public areas? If you answered yes at least once, you should consider getting a VPN. Do not impose your data to risk. Learn what is a VPN and take control over your browsing.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for virtual private network. It is private, because it is encrypted. Nowadays, not only large firms are using a VPN. In fact, it is getting popular among households and individuals. I would recommend using a VPN especially if you are a frequent traveler.

The way it works is that your IP address will be changed and you we will be assigned a new IP address. For example, I am browsing the Internet in a Starbucks in Manila. However, with a VPN it will look like I am in New York or Slovakia or wherever.

A VPN makes your connection anonymous and secure. Pages you visit will only get information about the server of the provider, but no details about your connection, nor your location. Your online activity will be completely encrypted. Simply speaking, nobody will see what you are doing on the Internet.

Why use a VPN?

There are many reasons. With a VPN you:

  • access geo-restricted content

Geo-restrictions are common among video streaming sites. With a VPN watching sport, news or YouTube videos online will not be a problem any more.

  • bypass blocked and filtered sites

Some countries are known for denying access to certain websites mostly social networks or specific applications and services. With a VPN you will not be surprised that you can not access you mail box or your favorite social network, for example. You will simply bypass censorship. Read more about problematic countries below. 

  • browse the Internet securely

A VPN connection ensures that your data such as logins, passwords, credit card information etc. will be safe and protected, especially if you use open public or semi-public networks (airport, bus, coffee shops, stations, hotels).

what is a VPN

Connecting to open public networks is risky

Be extra careful with open public Wi-Fi

This is very important, so let´s stay here for a while. While connecting to an open public network you put yourself at risk more than you might think. Anybody connected to the same network can easily steal your data and contents. If you consider the character of this network, it can be thousands of potential thieves.

However, the problem goes even further. Even without actively connecting to an open public network, your own smartphone can be the traitor.

How is it possible?

This PhD student explained it perfectly in his TEDx speech. The thing is that your smartphone is constantly looking for networks that it was connected to in the past. This information is sent out with an encrypt. Now, the problem comes. Let´s say once upon a time you were connected to McDonalds´ Wi-Fi. Anybody can pretend that his laptop is the McDonalds network. It is simple. He only needs to change his network´s name to McDonalds. Your smartphone connects even without you knowing about it. If this person is a criminal, an online hacker or a wardriver, he can see all your data.

What to do about it?

  • Remove networks that you do not use any more from your phone or laptop.
  • Do not connect to open public networks.
  • If you do connect to an open public network, use VPN and then remove the network afterwards.

Problematic countries

Some countries are filtering or blocking certain websites, apps, services, usually based on political reasons and interests. Mostly it affects social networks such as Facebook or Instagram and Google services. However, it is not always the country who blocks a site. Sometimes, it is Google itself who disrupts its services in a particular country.

Disruptions are often for example in:


YouTube, Facebook, Gmail, Google are blocked at the moment. In China they use their own search engine instead of Google Search.


Last time I visited Iran (September 2017) Facebook, YouTube were blocked, as well as websites providing a VPN. Gmail worked. However, after the protests in January 2018 Instagram and Telegram (a popular app similar to WhatsApp) was blocked until the protests stop. Some Google services are blocked too.


I asked many people who have been to Cuba about their experience and I got a ton of different answers. Some say Facebook and WhatsApp work well, but it is impossible to make calls through them. In fact, for calling they prefer using an app called IMO. For someone everything worked well, someone says Viber and Skype do not work. Gmail should work without any restrictions. Allegedly, these differences depend on the network you connect to. All in all, this is a good reason to use a VPN.

These disruptions tend to change often. Therefore, always search for updates before you leave for your trip. You can find some information in Google´s Google transparency report – transparencyreport.google.com or join country-specific Facebook groups, preferably those with a lot of members and ask them. I would recommend joining these Facebook groups, for example: See You in Iran, All about Cuba, China Travel.

what is a VPN

I use ExpressVPN. Photo: Ivana Grešlíková

How to choose a VPN?

There is a wide variety of paid and free VPN services. What makes the difference is speed, data limitation and reliability. I personally use a paid VPN and I would be careful with free VPNs because I heard some of them have been spying on people and have stolen their identities.

It is recommended to use a VPN with automatic connection, so that you will be protected from the beginning of your connection or as fast as possible.

Paid VPN

I am a satisfied user of ExpressVPN. It works well for 3 different devices at the same time (e.g. your smartphone, laptop and another device). Their superfast and helpful online support is another big advantage. Also, they provide a 30-day money-back guarantee without any questions asked.

“ExpressVPN uses Advanced Encryption Standard with 256-bit keys. It is the same encryption standard adopted by the U.S. government and used by security experts worldwide to protect classified information. That said, even your Internet Service Provider will not be able to detect your browsing history and internet traffic.” ExpressVPN confirmed.
It is not the cheapest VPN you can get, but one of the best and most popular. No matter which VPN you choose, I recommend signing up for a longer period (1-2 years) and you will get a discount.

Cheaper alternatives are another popular VPNs, for example: Buffered VPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, AirVPN, IPVanish.

Free VPN

You might want to try a free VPN first and see what it is like. No problem. These are some of the free VPN providers: TunnelBear, Hotspot Shield, Psiphon, Lantern, Ultrasurf VPN.

Many of them offer a paid version as well, so that you just upgrade to premium and you will get additional advantages such as higher speed, unlimited data etc.

VPN is a great thing unless it is abused for example to spread illegal content. All these things are just a tiny bit of what could be said about safe internet browsing and protecting your online data. But it might kickstart you to be more careful in this digital world.

Sources: cybersec.sk; ExpressVPN; Bram Bonné: Your smartphone is leaking your information (TEDxGhent)


Do you like useful and stylish travel gadgets? Download my FREE e-book and get inspired by a list of 22 cool travel accessories that will make your travels easier, pleasurable and more fun.






Do you have experience with VPN? Any tips how to browse securely or any important updates regarding this topic? Please share it with us in the comments below.

16 Responses
  • Gary Miller
    January 30, 2018

    Marta, you are on point in saying that using a VPN while travelling is really necessary. In fact, I use to neglect that bit, but recently came to know about it importance when I visited Beijing 6 months back and wasn’t able to access a lot of the sports of my country from there. And surprisingly, I also used ExpressVPN after reading about its many benefits. So, your article really resonated with me.

    • Marta Rajková
      January 31, 2018

      I am glad to hear that and thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Eve Hunt
    November 23, 2018

    I use PIA on my media server at home, the only complaint I have is that when it’s connected, Plex is unable to automatically connect to my myPlex account. This prevents me and other people I share my Plex server with from being able to discover it. So basically I have to turn PIA off to be able to access my media server with any remote Plex app.

    • Marta Rajková
      November 23, 2018

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Eve.

    • Moses Brodin
      January 16, 2019

      I tried to use it last Saturday. It was a horrible, horrible experience.
      Download speed was slow and often dropped to zero. Some websites not
      loading until I reconnected. I tried various servers. Some of which
      disconnected me after being connected for a while and then told me my
      credentials were no longer valid. I used both the application as well
      as the OVPN file. I am now using another vpn service and things are much
      better. Based on my personal experience I don’t understand the positive
      comments at all.

      • Marta Rajková
        January 16, 2019

        Do you mean PIA, Moses? You reacted to Eve´s comment, so I assume we are talking about PIA. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. A bad experience is always helpful as well. May I ask what VPN service are you using now?

  • Alisha Ross
    January 16, 2019

    Thanks for the great review! I also live in China and have been having a lot of trouble lately (since the congress meetings) with Witopia. I am thinking of switching to a new provider. Have you been having any issues with Astrill in the past month or so?

    • Marta Rajková
      January 16, 2019

      I am so glad it was helpful, Alisha. I have never used Astrill, since ExpressVPN works for me perfectly, I did not think about trying a new provider. You are very welcome to add your experience later, if you´d like.

  • Harold Burton
    May 29, 2021

    Signed up this week, US$36 per year, cheap! speed is cheap as well, on an open wifi my download speed is about 1mb per sec {country Qld calls this good} while my download was still running I used Nordvpn to connect to some close servers, speed dropped to about 34kbs, a different server was 56kbs, a UK server was 87kbs, back to open wifi speed back up to 894kbs, support just said “try and find a good server” ! in other words support is crap, money back guarantee is ONLY if it can be proved if the problem is their fault, good luck with that chore, today all the standard vpn servers are off line, what are we paying for, stay away from this mob.

  • Ashley Jones
    June 16, 2021

    Thanks for sharing this such a great review i am also using 12vpn for 6 months.I found 12vpn service the most encrypted and anonymous.I am enjoying web surfing with full freedom and bypassing censorship’s. My decision of having personal vpn is proved to be worth considering.i had been finding a perfect vpn service for many months finaly i got Best Personal VPN providers list and i select 12vpn.

  • Joseph Donahue
    July 3, 2021

    I’d rather just set one up on my home computer. Although I guess I’m kind of lucky because my college has a VPN server (I think mainly so students can access on-campus resources from off campus, like network shares and such) so I don’t have to pay for one if I need to use one.

  • Kelly Hubbard
    September 6, 2021

    I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view , if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web w ill be much more useful than ever before.

    • Marta Rajková
      September 8, 2021

      wow, thank You!

  • Ashley Jones
    September 15, 2021

    I need a VPN focused almost entirely on speed for a UK IP. Not bothered about anonymity etc, just want something cheap and speedy. Any suggestions?

  • Holly Hooper
    November 12, 2021

    Nice work. But the problem with most of the free public proxy servers is that many sites have now become smarter. They have created a database of these public proxies. So, the moment they notice that you’re trying to login or visit (even for the purpose of commenting, on some sites) using a well-known proxy, they’ll not allow you to login. Yes, of course, if you just want to browse the web using a proxy, it may be alright. But, the moment you want to do something more than that, like signing in to some site or web service, you may not be allowed through well-known free proxies.

  • Paul Brown
    December 21, 2022

    Very very unreliable, trying out the world of VPN after reading many good reviews. Terrible stability, very high price for what you get. NORDvpn was recommended by number of review sites, they were all VERY WRONG. The one good point I suppose, is that NORD do not track usage, which you would think is one of the main reasons for using a VPN. The world of VPN will have to improve a lot.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *