VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. How is this relevant for expats, and why should they use it? Two major reasons: Security and Access.
VPN is Virtual Private Network, a group of connected computers and networks that allow access only to authenticated users. Basically you download a VPN client, log into it, and then access the public Internet through the VPN’s network. Doing so encrypts your connection from your computer to the Internet, preventing others from eavesdropping.
This is especially important when you are accessing your bank accounts or investments from a cafe with a WiFi connection. You don’t want to be doing that without a VPN, as some miscreant could sniff your password as you log into your accounts on an public WiFi connection. Connecting through a VPN secures (encrypts) your connection and keeps it safe from prying eyes.
Accessing Certain Websites From Abroad
Some websites aren’t accessible from other countries, and if you want to continue using them, you’ll need a VPN. A VPN will enable you to select an IP address from anywhere in the world, so whatever you are connecting to will think you are connecting from that IP address.
For example, let’s say a site only accepts US-based IP addresses. If you’re in Russia, you normally won’t be able to access that site. With a VPN, however, you can select an US-based IP address from the menu, and connect to the internet through that address. Now you will be able to access that site.
What Are Some Good VPN Options?
Personally I use VPN4ALL, which is not the cheapest option, but very reliable. I tried privateinternetaccess, but I found it to be unreliable, with it disconnecting frequently and with difficulties reconnecting. However, there are so many options out there today and their price ranges are between $5 and $15 per month (USD). It is not difficult to find a decent VPN provider, and if you don’t like them, you can easily switch to a different one.
Here are some VPN service providers to choose from:
New VPN services are always popping up out of nowhere. As of June 2016, here’s an updated list of top VPN service providers.
If you use a good VPN service not mentioned in this post, feel free to mention it in the comments below.
Side note: As of early-mid 2016, I have heard rumbles about Netflix blocking certain VPNs. This apparently is a recent development. If you still are able to access Netflix from overseas and don’t want to post the name of your provider publicly, I would not hold it against you. Otherwise, there’s always Tor.