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5 Best VPNs for Expats That Work in 2017 – Keep Up to Date With TV From Home When Abroad

Stephen Cooper

Stephen Cooper

September 14, 2017

When you move abroad, no matter where or why you go, you’ll miss the familiarity of home. With great demand for specialist engineers and technologists all over the world, many workers find themselves moving long-term, or even permanently, to places like China, Mexico, and Germany. Such work-related migration can mean that your family goes along as well.

Quick Links to our Five Best VPNs for Expats

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. VPNArea
  3. HideMyAss
  4. PureVPN
  5. Windscribe

Taking your family to an unfamiliar culture can be difficult. Being able to keep up with the TV back home will help you settle down. When you arrive in your new country, you may find that social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter are blocked. You might also find that messaging systems, such as WhatsApp or Skype, have their voice chat and video call functions disabled. These blocks can really hurt. Talking face to face with the folks back home can soften the isolation of living abroad.

Any restrictions you encounter on internet access in your new country can be resolved with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Your security requirements will vary greatly depending on where you intend to live. However, in order to recommend suitable services, we have assumed you will need a VPN to:

  1. Get around regional restrictions on streaming services;
  2. Get through government VPN detection systems;
  3. Provide a private Domain Name System (DNS) server to avoid internet address blocking;
  4. Deliver strong encryption to block deep packet inspection;
  5. Provide the ability to circumvent government website bans;

You can read later on in this report how VPNs can help ease your life abroad. However, first let’s take a look at the five best VPNs for expats.

Best VPNs for Expats: Summary

BestVPN Editor's Choice Award
ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
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  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Stealth technology
  • Gets into Netflix
  • No logs
  • Private DNS servers
CONS:
  • Quite expensive

ExpressVPN has a network with servers in 94 countries. This extensive network is important because you need to make sure that your chosen VPN has servers in the country that you want to get into streaming services for. ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs in the world that can get into Netflix. If you like using torrents to get entertainment to play offline, then this VPN is a good choice. The company is based in the British Virgin Islands, which has a slow judicial system and is hard for US copyright lawyers to reach. The company keeps no logs, so your torrenting activities cannot be traced.

Our ExpressVPN review found the service uses cloaking technology that fools the technicians of the Great Firewall of China. The company increased the security of its session establishment and key exchange encryption recently, after reports that the Chinese authorities were working on cracking the public key systems used for these functions of VPNs. Other security measures include a private Domain Name System (DNS) server, which bypasses methods used by many governments to block websites. The app also includes a kill switch, which prevents your computer from connecting to the internet should the VPN connection drop.

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VPNArea Homepage
PROS:
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Allowance of six simultaneous connections
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) allowed
  • Gets into Netflix and Sky Go
  • Strong security
CONS:
  • Not so fast

VPNArea matches ExpressVPN in its ability to get through the Great Firewall of China. The technicians of the company added on Secure Shell (SSH) tunnel capabilities in 2017. This will cover you if China detects and blocks the service's regular OpenVPN methodology. VPNArea also increased the length of key that it uses for session establishment and encryption key distribution.

VPNArea can get into Netflix, Sky Go, HBO NOW, and BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world. As well as being one of the best VPNs for streaming, this service is also a good choice for torrenting. The company has its headquarters in Switzerland, where downloading copyrighted material for personal viewing is not a crime. To keep you safe, this VPN keeps no activity logs, so your activities on the 'net can't be traced.

HideMyAss Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in more than 210 countries
  • No activity logs
  • Gets through the Great Firewall of China
  • Strong security
CONS:
  • Only allows two simultaneous connections

HideMyAss has the largest server network in the industry, with locations in 210 countries. This is another service that evades detection in China. It can also get you into Netflix. This service has good privacy procedures and its encryption is strong enough to block all snooping attempts. The company is based in the UK, which may present a problem for those who want to download copyrighted material. However, HideMyAss declares that it doesn't store activity records beyond the termination of each connection, so there's no data to pass on to lawyers or the authorities, should legal pressure be applied.

4. Best VPN for Expats: PureVPN

PureVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Three-day trial option
  • Servers in 141 countries
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
  • No activity logs
CONS:
  • Some server locations slow connections

Hong Kong-based PureVPN was created primarily to serve people in China who wanted to circumnavigate internet restrictions. Its technicians have consistently kept ahead of the rapid evolution of the technology that China uses to restrict access to the web. This technical competence makes PureVPN a very secure service that will work well anywhere in the world. It can also get you into Netflix.

Our PureVPN review shows the network includes servers in 141 countries. Not all of the servers have great performance, so it's a good idea to try out the performance of several servers before you settle on a favorite. Your privacy is protected by a no logs policy and security features include a kill switch, a private DNS server and automatic WiFi protection.

5. Best VPN for Expats: Windscribe

Windscribe Homepage
PROS:
  • Free version with 10 GB data per month
  • App for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and Linux
  • Browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera
  • Ad and tracker blocker
  • Servers in 46 countries
CONS:
  • Account sharing not allowed
  • Refund period only three days
  • Can’t get into Netflix

Windscribe has a lot of nifty extra security features that can protect you from malware, adware, and tracking codes, as well as dodge internet controls. You can install the app onto the Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and Linux operating systems. You can also run it on routers. Windscribe has a lighter VPN version, which is implemented as an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers. The app and the browser extension can be used to create double-hop encryption on demand.

You can try out Windscribe with a free version, which has a data throughput limit of 10 GB per month. The free app gives you access to servers in only eight countries, whereas the paid service enables you to use servers in 46 countries. You can have as many simultaneous connections as you like with this VPN, but you're not allowed to share an account. Windscribe has good speeds and it is great for P2P downloading. The company is based in Canada and it keeps no logs. Unfortunately, Windscribe won't get you into Netflix.

Best Expat VPNs: Considerations

Government Internet Controls

Many countries restrict internet access. Freedom House keeps track of government website bans. WhatsApp is one of the services to attract the most bans. This free chat system annoys many governments. It includes encryption, which makes it impossible for security agencies to tap WhatsApp conversations. It also reduces revenues for state-owned telecoms companies. WhatsApp bans are particularly common in the Middle East, where many telephone and internet services are still government assets.

Middle Eastern governments block many sites that have adult content, or explore LGBT themes. Meanwhile, absolute monarchies, embattled governments, and military dictatorships aren’t very tolerant of sites that express political opposition, or provide alternative sources of information. They often block the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Daily Mail, and BBC.

Surprisingly, being in a democracy doesn’t always protect citizens from internet restrictions. The Indian constitution doesn’t have any clauses that protect the right to privacy. The national government, local authorities, and circuit court judges block access to large sections of the internet.

By far the greatest perpetrator of internet controls is China. Its government has poured millions of dollars into blocking and monitoring internet traffic. These technologically advanced restrictions are known as the Great Firewall of China. The authorities can even detect and block VPN traffic. Few VPNs work in China. ExpressVPN and VPNArea particularly deserve praise in this respect, because they have the most persistent VPN services in China. However, all of the VPNs in our list offer freedom to internet users in the People’s Republic.

Wherever you go to live, you can be sure that any VPN that works in China will work in your new country.

Regional Restrictions

Streaming services don’t like people accessing their videos from abroad. This is because they have obligations built into their contracts with copyright holders that tie their broadcasts to specific locations. Different laws about moral codes and censorship standards also make it impossible for streaming services to deliver the same entertainment all over the world.

Netflix is unique because it aims to provide a service in every country on Earth. It has almost achieved that goal. Only Syria and North Korea have no Netflix branch. If you take out a subscription to Netflix in the country where you live, you can still access the service when you travel abroad. However, the video library to which you will have access will be the library designated for the country that you are in, rather than the country where you signed up for the service.

The fact that Netflix gives you access all over the world creates a great opportunity for expats. With a VPN, you can make it seem that you’re back in your home country. That should get you into the Netflix library back home. However, Netflix, like all streaming services, scans requests for the telltale signs of VPNs and blocks them.

Expat VPNs

Not all VPNs work in China and not all can get you into Netflix. These two challenges have become touchstones for the industry. Netflix has invested heavily in its VPN detection systems and has become very adept at blocking them. As such, if a VPN can get into Netflix, you’re in very good hands.

A lot of countries implement website bans by altering the cross-reference tables that tell browsers which internet address to use in order to request pages. This lookup service is called the “Domain Name System” The VPNs in our list all ignore designated DNS services because these servers are where Internet Service Providers implement government-ordered website blocks. Instead, each of our recommended VPNs for expats directs DNS requests to its own servers. They encrypt all communications to these lookup tables, thus obscuring the destination of each request.

Our recommended VPNs have strong encryption, which prevents “deep packet inspection” systems looking at the contents of your communications.

Best VPNs for Expats: Conclusion

The threats and challenges of getting unrestricted internet access in your new home greatly depend on which country you’re moving to. Wherever you go to live abroad, you can make your life a lot easier by using one of the five best VPNs for expats.

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