TunnelBear VPN Review

September 2019 TunnelBear VPN Review & Deals

This VPN service was born and bred in Toronto, Canada in 2011. It presents a more relatable VPN rather than the numerous hooded hacker-looking security products. Its charming design with bright colors and those adorable bears are enough to win anyone over.

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Compatible With

  • Google
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Skype
  • WhatsApp
  • Gmail
  • Tinder
  • Wikipedia

Recommended For

  • Privacy
  • Easy to use
  • Connection speeds
Free Visit Site
$0.00 /mo
  • 500 MB of data
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Best Plan
1 Month Visit Site
$9.99 /mo
  • Unlimited data
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Priority customer service
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
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12 Months Visit Site
$4.99 /mo
  • Unlimited data
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Priority customer service
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
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Things We Like

Great Privacy Policy

Friendly design

Independently-Audited Security

Free Plan Available

Things We Didn't Like

Less Than Reliable Customer Service

9.0
Usability

Getting started with TunnelBear will have you handing over your email address on their website in order to set up an account. Then you have the option of using the free version or handing over your credit card for one of the paid plans. As soon as that is sorted you will be offered a choice of extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera as well as apps that work with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for something a little more advanced that’s where it all ends. There are no options for gaming consoles, smart televisions or routers. Oddly, there also seems to be missing help in terms of installation guides or any troubleshooting advice.

If you are working with Windows, the app will open up to a grey world map which will focus on your current location. All possible VPN locations are highlighted with tunnels so they are very easy to spot.

You can connect to them with the click of your mouse, but also by selecting a location from the drop-down list available. Strangely the list is not in alphabetical order, but the list of locations is so short you won’t have any trouble finding the particular one you’re after.

As soon as you have chosen your location, click “on” and you will successfully connect, with the client drawing a line across the map joining your current location to your new one. You will also be able to enjoy notifications letting you know when you’re connected or disconnected allowing you to know when your connection is secure even though you have the window minimized.

Although there aren’t too many settings with the Windows client, the ones you are afforded are pretty useful. There is the option to automatically load TunnelBear as soon as Windows starts as well as activating the VPN when you access Wi-Fi that isn’t part of a customized Trusted Network List.

8.5
Speed

Speed is not an issue for this VPN service with connections easily and quickly established every time. The connection drops are very far and few in between and your connection will be fast enough to allow you to view HD videos without any lag or glitches.

When comparing speeds to some of the best VPNs in the world, TunnelBear offered a little bit of everything, providing speeds that competed with the best of the best, but also lagged a little when it came to downloading speeds. Connecting to the UK showed speeds of up to 100Mbps, but this dropped dramatically when connecting to the US with 30-35Mbps.

Countries around Europe average around 55/65Mbps with Ireland having one of the slowest connections. The farther you go, the slower the connection, with Australian and New Zealand servers averaging a very poor 5Mbps.

So what about Netflix? That is always the question on everyone’s lips. Although there have been reports that TunnelBear hasn’t been that successful in getting around the geoblocking barriers that Netflix enforces, we only have good news. All you need to do is select the US server available and you’re good to go.

On the other hand, getting your connection to work with the iPlayer might be more of a challenge, as we did not have any luck with that.

9.5
Privacy

Although having jurisdiction in Canada may not be ideal, the TunnelBear privacy policy is probably one of the most thorough we have seen up to this point from any VPN provider. We found exactly what TunnelBear won’t record or collect about their users. These details, as stated in their privacy policy include:

“TunnelBear explicitly does NOT collect, store or log the following data: 

  • IP addresses visiting our website
  • IP addresses upon service connection
  • DNS Queries while connected
  • Any information about the applications, services or websites our users use while connected to our Service 

TunnelBear does NOT store users’ originating IP addresses when connected to our service and thus cannot identify users when provided IP addresses of our servers. Additionally, we cannot disclose information about the applications, services, or websites our users consume while connected to our Services; as TunnelBear does NOT store this information.”

What TunnelBear will record is what it refers to as “operational data” which includes the OS version of your device, if you have been active this month and the amount of bandwidth you have used. Although this may not be zero logging, it is much less information than even some of the biggest VPN companies log. There is also nothing which could tie you to any online movements.

It is well known that many VPN service providers promise the world and more, so it is quite tricky to know whether or not you can trust what is being said to you. The great thing about TunnelBear is that it is quite different in that since 2017, the company has hired various independent specialists who run public security audits on a regular basis. These audits are run on their servers, system as well as code, with the results being published for the world to see.

Within their report, you can see the reasoning behind these audits.

“The TunnelBear team is committed to annual security audits for all our products. We do them not just because they make our service more secure, but because VPN services need to be built on a strong foundation of transparency and independent verification – not marketing claims.

Security audits are not a magic bullet. They don’t address some of the underlying privacy and data retention issues that continue to plague the VPN industry. 

What a security audit does is provide a basis for any VPN service to make substantive claims regarding the protection their service offers. We think audits should be the minimum bar in the industry and we’re calling on all VPN service providers to back up their security claims and do independent security audits of their own. If you’re a customer of another VPN provider, we think it’s time to ask them what they’ve done to actually demonstrate they are secure.” 

8.9
Features

While competing VPNs offer many extras, TunnelBear admittedly offers basic features in comparison, but all of them will be more than enough for a basic VPN service.

The VigilantBear is a kill switch which acts in blocking any internet traffic if your VPN connection ever drops to avoid any identity leaks. There is also GhostBear which will make your online activity look like regular internet traffic. That means it can help you connect to the net in countries like China which regularly attempt to detect and block VPN activity.

Using the OpenVPN protocol for a more secure and open source is also an option for Windows, Mac and Android users.

In the past TunnelBear forbade use of services like P2P file sharing as well as BitTorrenting, but that is no longer the case.

You can use up to five different devices simultaneously with the one TunnelBear subscription which should be more than enough to keep all your devices protected.

The Android app gives you most of the benefits that you get with the desktop version including auto-connect, the VigilantBear kill switch as well as GhostBear. You also get the bonus of split tunneling which TunnelBear has aptly named SplitBear. This will allow you to choose which apps will run regularly and which will get routed with TunnelBear.

Unfortunately, the iOS app doesn’t have as many of the options as the Android app allows with no split tunneling, kill switch or the GhostBear feature. On a more positive note, you do have the ability to automatically connect to trusted networks in addition to being able to turn bear sounds on or off.

There are enough features to keep this simple VPN reliable and easy to use, however, if you’re used to more advanced settings you might like to look into a different VPN.

9.0
Pricing

Currently, there are three packages available with TunnelBear including Little Free, Giant as well as Grizzly.

There are few reliable free options available when it comes to VPNs. Little Free is a package where you can enjoy a secure connection where you can download as much as 500MB per month. You may be restricted for bandwidth, but you can always get an extra 1GB if you tweet about how great TunnelBear’s services are.

The Giant package is for those who want unlimited bandwidth but still wish to check out TunnelBear’s service.

If you are happy with this VPN provider you will probably want to opt for the Grizzly plan which allows you unlimited data at a discounted rate because you are billed on a yearly basis. You will save as much as 50% with this option than you would normally pay for the Giant package, so it works out to be a really great deal.

In terms of payment, TunnelBear accepts all the standard credit cards like Visa, MasterCard as well as American Express. If you don’t like the aspect of your banking data being collected then you can always pay with Bitcoin. It is important to note that although there is a money-back guarantee, if you do end up paying with Bitcoin this option is not available.

It says on their website that you can pay with jars of honey, but we’re thinking that’s just part of the TunnelBear theme. If you’re successful with this form of payment please let us know.

6.7
Support

There is room for improvement when it comes to TunnelBear’s support system. Many of the best VPN service providers offer 24-hour live chat services with precise information available to its users throughout the year. This is unfortunately not an option with TunnelBear although they may make it available in the future as their service evolves.

You can find support on the TunnelBear website in the help section. Luckily, everything is presented in a very simple and easy-to-understand way with large icons guiding you to key areas including:

  • Announcements
  • Getting Started
  • Billing & Payments
  • Troubleshooting
  • TunnelBear for Teams
  • Contact Us

There are also featured articles based on some of the most common questions you may have such as “does TunnelBear keep logs, why should I trust TunnelBear and where can I tunnel to and from?”

TunnelBear obviously has gone with a beginner-style approach, but also offer many advanced options with all the information is laid out and presented simply.

If you have further trouble and are unable to find the answers to your problems, you can always send a message to the support agents which, as the site suggests, they will aim to get back to you within 48 hours.

It is undeniably difficult to wait a few days to get a reply to your VPN question especially if you find yourself in a different country and wish your internet connection to remain private at all times, especially considering VPN companies like ExpressVPN get back to you almost instantly with their live chat support.

Comment Section

2 comments
Bruce says:

I bought this service based on their support of one of my favorite podcasts. I blew through their free trial in one evening, so I signed up for their premium service. I basically use iOS and Mac OS X devices, and it seems to work very well with all of them. Speed is good and I have not had the need to contact customer support as everything just seems to work.

I will probably renew when my service expires, even though I have seen MUCH cheaper lifetime VPNs for half what I pay (I guess I am a sucker for using and sticking with what works).

FYI

Gobi says:

I’ve had TunnelBear for a year now. I wholeheartedly agree with the article. Customer service is very sketchy. If and when they do reply it most definitely is not a speedy one. With that said I am renewing for another year as whatever issues I did have were minor and overall I’ve been very happy with the service.