TunnelBear is hugely popular among the free VPN community. But is the paid version any better or worth paying the hefty $4.99/mo price? Find out about the pros and cons of TunnelBear in this review.
|Based in||Canada [UNSAFE]|
|Servers||Servers (22 Countries)|
TunnelBear is a fairly renowned VPN service provider, yet it’s not because of its paid version that people use this VPN service. In fact, if you’re looking to purchase this VPN service, I highly suggest you stick with the free version.
Even though TunnelBear offers servers in 23 countries, is compatible with iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and browsers, offers 256-bit encryption and 30-days refund policy, it’s still not as good as some other VPN services like PureVPN.
Not only is TunnelBear incapable of unblocking Netflix, but it’s also headquartered in an unsafe jurisdiction of Canada, is quite expensive, has a sketchy no-logs policy and works quite slow while torrenting. Overall, after compiling this TunnelBear review, I have given this VPN service 3.4/5.0 stars.
My Rating Criteria
To test out TunnelBear, I used my 9 step rating criteria mentioned below:
- Jurisdiction – Where is TunnelBear located?
- Security – Is TunnelBear secure?
- Leaks – Does TunnelBear leak IP, DNS & WebRTC?
- Servers – Where are TunnelBear servers located?
- Speed – How fast is TunnelBear?
- Streaming – Does TunnelBear work on Netflix?
- Compatibility – Which devices can I use TunnelBear with?
- Pricing – How much does TunnelBear cost?
- Trustworthiness – Customer Support, Trustpilot Ratings & Reddit Reviews
Jurisdiction – Where is TunnelBear located?
TunnelBear is unfortunately located in the unsafe jurisdiction of Toronto Canada, which just so happens to be the member of the much-hated Five Eyes alliance. If you don’t know, Five Eyes is an alliance that conducts and shares surveillance information on everyday folks like you and me. To know about the consequences of choosing a VPN located in five eyes, nine eyes, and 14 eyes territories, read our exclusive guide.
Security – Is TunnelBear secure?
Yes, TunnelBear is secure to use. In fact, on the security front, TunnelBear offers a decent array of features. To start off, TunnelBear offers 256-military grade encryption. TunnelBear also offers a comprehensive list of tunneling protocols like OpenVPN, IPsec, and IKEv2, which is seriously impressive. Personally, I recommend TunnelBear’s OpenVPN protocol as it the most secure option you can use.
Additional Security Features
Aside from encryption and protocols, TunnelBear also offers a few extra features as well. Let’s start with the Kill Switch, or as TunnelBear likes to call it – VigilantBear:
VigilantBear – (Kill Switch)
This feature works as a Kill Switch and kills your connection to protect your sensitive information. TunnelBear calls this feature VigilantBear. Aside from killing your connection in case of a leak, the VigilantBear feature is also designed to detect both IPv6 and DNS leaks. This feature is available on Windows, macOS, and Android.
Now you might be wondering, what is Ghost Bear in TunnelBear? Well, this feature might sound gimmicky, however, it’s actually quite useful. It basically obfuscates your encrypted VPN connection making it undetectable to governments and ISPs. These features can be particularly helpful in countries like China or the Middle East where there is strict online censorship. GhostBear is available for Windows, macOS, and Android, but not for iOS.
Auto Tunnel feature is designed to help users automatically connect to a server location with the lowest pings. This ensures that your data travels through a short distance which in turn offers you fast connection speeds.
SplitBear is a new feature that currently on works on Android devices and is essentially a split tunneling feature. This feature lets users control which apps are allowed to pass through TunnelBear’s secure and encrypted tunnel.
In addition to the VPN extension, the brand also offers a blocker for Google Chrome. This tool is not a simple adblocker. In fact, it halts many forms of tracking including Email tracking, Ultrasonic tracking and fingerprinting. It also allows you to manage your flash player with more efficiency.
Leaks – Does TunnelBear leak IP, DNS & WebRTC?
TunnelBear is actually a leak-proof VPN service. IP leaks can be detrimental to your online security. VPN leaks can give away your location, making your VPN virtually useless.
IP Leak Test
In my test for IP leaks, TunnelBear passed without any issues. Here’s a screenshot showing a Romanian IP address instead of my true IP address.
DNS Leak Test
As for the DNS leak test, I connected to a US server this time. From the screenshot below, you can see that my original IP address is nowhere to be seen:
WebRTC Leak Test
Lastly, I also checked for WebRTC leaks using the US server and TunnelBear passed without leaking. Check out the screenshot:
Bonus: App File Check
Although TunnelBear passed all my leaks tests without any issues, I wanted to see whether the TunnelBear apps contained any hidden malware. Luckily, the results of the test came up clean.
For more information about IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, read our VPN leak test guide.
Servers – Where are TunnelBear servers located?
TunnelBear servers are located across 23 countries around the world. Some of the locations include the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Japan, Australia, France, Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Hong Kong and many more.
Is TunnelBear good for Torrenting?
Although TunnelBear supports torrenting, it works quite sluggishly. I tried downloading a bunch of small to medium size torrent files and I was not impressed by the overall performance. Speeds were slow and I also encounter multiple connection drops. All in all, since TunnelBear previously did not support torrenting and P2P, it’s at least nice to see that they now support this feature.
Does TunnelBear work in China?
Yes, at the moment TunnelBear works in China. Not only does TunnelBear offer a server in Hong Kong that can be used to access Chinese content, but it also supports the GhostBear obfuscation feature to bypass the Great Firewall (GFW). That being said, there’s no telling whether the service will continue to work in the future or not as The People’s Republic of China has some the harshest censorship regulations.
Speed – How fast is TunnelBear?
TunnelBear delivers below-average connection speeds.
To test what TunnelBear could deliver, I used my 30 Mbps internet connection. This was my speed before I connected to TunnelBear.
Due to some fluctuations, I managed to get 27.60 Mbps download speeds.
TunnelBear U.S server
After I connected to TunnelBear’s U.S server, my internet speeds dropped significantly. On my base 30 Mbps internet connection, I only managed to get about 5.56 Mbps download speeds at max. Not only that, but my pings also spiked from just 5 ms to 149 ms.
TunnelBear U.K server
The U.K server of TunnelBear performed slightly better, however, it was still seriously slow. This time I managed to get 6.67 download speeds and an even increased ping of around 230 ms.
Overall, not impressed by TunnelBear’s speeds.
Streaming – Does TunnelBear work on Netflix?
Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t work with U.S Netflix. Despite connecting to different U.S servers, Netflix didn’t work for me.
Does TunnelBear work with Hulu & Other Streaming Services?
As for BBC iPlayer and other geo-restricted streaming services like Hulu, and Disney plus, TunnelBear did manage to unblock these service, however, the performance was quite laggy and below average.
Compatibility – Supports Different Platforms & Devices
In terms of compatibility, TunnelBear supports only a handful of devices. From TunnelBear’s official website, you can only use TunnelBear on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and browsers (Chrome, Firefox & Opera). TunnelBear currently doesn’t support Kindle/eReaders, Windows mobile phones, Apple TV, Android TV, gaming consoles and even modems/routers.
Hands-on Experience – Windows
The TunnelBear Windows 10 client is attractive and can be navigated without any difficulty. It is uncomplicated and gets the job done within without any complex menus or configurations.
The client allows you to connect with different server locations through its map. You can access servers from 23 different countries by simply clicking on their respective tunnels.
The client allows you to toggle between GhostBear, VigilantBear and other security features. It does not confuse you with a plethora of options but does allow you to configure the software as per your liking.
Hands-on Experience – Android
As I have explained above, this VPN has a sleek app for Android OS. I used the app myself and my experience was extremely pleasant.
Similar to the Windows app, the Android app of TunnelBear allows you to easily select different servers by navigating through a simple and intuitive map.
Pricing – How much does TunnelBear cost?
TunnelBear charges $4.99/mo for the 1-year plan which is rather expensive. In comparison, Surfshark’s 24-month plan only costs $1.99/mo.
At present, TunnelBear offers two paid plan and one absolutely free plan:
Although quite expensive, both paid subscription plans allow you to secure five devices simultaneously which is still somewhat good.
TunnelBear Payment Methods
TunnelBear accepts all major payment methods except for PayPal. You can purchase TunnelBear through either VISA, Master Card, American Express and Bitcoin.
Is TunnelBear really free?
Yes, TunnelBear is actually free. You don’t need to provide any credit card details and still use the service for free. Nevertheless, TunnelBear free plan has some limitations. You only get 500 MB data per month, which is enough for casual browsing but will run out quickly if you stream movies or download torrents.
TunnelBear Refund Policy
TunnelBear does not offer any refunds. Unlike PureVPN or even Surfshark as of that matter that offers 30-days refunds, TunnelBear offers no designated money-back guarantee. That being said, TunnelBear may offer refunds on a certain basis, however, it’s not clear what these basics are. If you’re just looking to try out TunnelBear, I highly suggest trying the free version rather than purchasing the premium subscription.
Trustworthiness – Logging Policy, GDPR Compliance, Audit Report, Support & Trustpilot Reviews
Let’s start with this question – Does TunnelBear keep logs? The short answer is “yes”. TunnelBear actually stores connection logs despite claiming to be a no logs VPN service.
Here’s some of the information that TunnelBear keeps logs of:
- Operating system version
- TunnelBear app version
- Active this month
- Total data used this month
To know more about different types of logging and VPN services’ logging policies, read this dedicated guide.
Complies with GDPR
Unlike many other VPNs, TunnelBear is extremely forthcoming about its business. This is the reason why the VPN organizes an independent audit of its service by a third party.
One must commend the providers for taking this extra step to bring its userbase into confidence. You can read the 2018 audit report right here.
When I reviewed TunnelBear, I found its customer support system to be weak. There’s no live chat support option at all which is a major disappointment. At present, TunnelBear is handing all user queries through their “Help” section.
The help page consists of various subcategories which I found to be quite extensive.
- Getting Started
- Billing & Payments
- TunnelBear for Teams
- Contact Us
TunnelBear Trustpilot Reviews
On Trustpilot, TunnelBear has an average 3-star rating. Out of 38 user reviews, 26% of users have rated the service as excellent and 50% of users have rated TunnelBear as bad. From Trustpilot reviews, it’s clear that people generally don’t like this VPN service.
TunnelBear Review Reddit
Although the paid version of TunnelBear is not for me, I still wanted to see what Reddit has to say about TunnelBear. Here are a couple of comments praising TunnelBear VPN:
Comparison between PureVPN and TunnelBear
So far in this TunnelBear review, I’m not satisfied with the service. If you’re like me and want something else, here’s a brief comparison between PureVPN and Tunnelbear:
|Servers||2000+ in 140 Countries||Servers in 22 Countries|
|Compatibility||All Devices||Windows, Android & iOS|
|Logging Policy||Zero Log||Does not keep logs|
|Customer Support||Live & Email Support & Contact Us||Forum & Email Ticketing|
|Trust Pilot Score||9.5||4.0|
Do I Recommend TunnelBear?
After concluding this TunnelBear, It’s clear that the service is good, but not flawless. Even though TunnelBear works with Hulu and Torrenting, offers decent security features and doesn’t leak, I would still suggest opting for PureVPN rather than TunnelBear.
Well, for one, TunnelBear is quite expensive. Not only that, but Tunnelbear is also headquartered in an unsafe jurisdiction, delivers slow speeds, stores logs, offers no refunds and live chat, supports a handful of devices and has an average Trustpilot rating. Overall, I have given TunnelBear 3.4/5.0 stars rating in this review.
If you want to know about VPNs other than TunnelBear, check out our unbiased VPN reviews.