TunnelBear is a popular VPN provider owned by US cybersecurity giant McAfee. In this TunnelBear review, we’ve put the service through our comprehensive testing process to find out whether you can really trust this VPN with your data.
TunnelBear offers both a free and paid VPN service. Both versions come with secure AES-256 encryption, support for torrenting, a privacy-friendly logging policy and a range of well-designed applications for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
The free version of TunnelBear comes with a data cap of 500MB per month. This is enough for new users to test out the software, but far too restrictive for anyone looking to browse more than one or two web pages.
Both versions of the service use OpenVPN and IKEv2, the best VPN protocols available. Essential security features like a VPN kill switch and obfuscation tools are also included, along with fast speeds and the reassurance of three independent security audits.
However, there are only 23 VPN server locations to choose from and the VPN doesn’t work with Netflix or BBC iPlayer. TunnelBear has some problems with compatibility, too – you can’t install the VPN on a router, there are a lack of configurable options and the mobile apps are lacking in certain essential features.
Overall, TunnelBear isn’t the cheapest VPN available, but it’s good value for money if you need a simple, secure service for hiding your IP address and securing your connection on public WiFi networks.
TunnelBear Pros & Cons
TunnelBear Key Summary
|Data Cap||Speed||Logging Policy||Data Leaks||Jurisdiction||Servers||IP Addresses||Countries||US Netflix||Torrenting||Works in China||Support||Cheapest Price||Official Website|
|Anonymous Server Usage Data||Anonymous Server Usage Data|
|Canada (Five-Eyes Member)||Canada (Five-Eyes Member)|
|Not disclosed||Not disclosed|
|Not disclosed||Not disclosed|
|Email & Online Resources Only||Email & Online Resources Only|
|$4.17/mo over 2 years||N/A|
Does TunnelBear Protect Your Privacy?
Logging & Jurisdiction
TunnelBear does not log any information that could trace your online activity back to you. Its logging policy is simple, privacy-friendly, and transparent, listing all of the data the company collects alongside its reason for doing so.
- Bandwidth usage
- OS version (e.g. iOS 7)
- App version (e.g. Windows version 2.1.1)
- Whether or not you have used the VPN in a given month
Most importantly, it does not keep records of your browsing history, DNS requests, originating IP address, or connection timestamps. This means TunnelBear is very close to being a completely no-logs VPN.
Here’s a full breakdown of the account data TunnelBear collects:
And here’s a table outlining all the operational data TunnelBear collects:
The only personally identifiable information that TunnelBear logs is your email address, which can be used to prove that you have an account. There are no logs that could reveal which websites you’ve visited or even when you’ve used the VPN software. This makes TunnelBear a very private VPN.
The company also issues an annual transparency report that details any government requests for user data. The 2019 report states that from April 2018 to September 2019 TunnelBear received 14 requests from authorities, but it supplied no usage data on any of these occasions.
There have been no known incidents of server breaches or logging scandals associated with TunnelBear, either.
While it is not completely zero-logs, TunnelBear is a very private VPN service that you can trust with your sensitive data.
TunnelBear is Based in Canada
TunnelBear is based in Canada. It was founded in 2011 by Daniel Kaldor and Ryan Dochuk, and was subsequently acquired by anti-virus software giant McAfee in early 2018. This decision caused some controversy with the VPN;’s loyal fan base, who felt the company had “sold out”.
TunnelBear still operates a separate team within McAfee, which means that the same employees continue to work on the VPN even after its acquisition.
“Use your information according to Canada’s laws, regardless of which country you are located in.”
While TunnelBear’s headquarters are in Toronto, its new ownership means that it’s also subject to US data laws. Both the US and Canada form an integral part of the Five-Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, an organization designed to collect and share surveillance data among the world’s most powerful nations.
US government agencies have the power to force companies to collect and share user data, while the Canadian Security Intelligence Service also collects huge amounts of data to track and identify people of interest. Under the Copyright Modernization Act, Canadian ISPs must also log user data for six months.
Both jurisdictions are known to prosecute for minor copyright violations, which is important information if you’re considering using a VPN for torrenting.
While TunnelBear is required to comply with Canadian and US authorities if faced with a subpoena, its robust logging policy and regular transparency reports prove that it’s still a trustworthy and private VPN.
The company has also addressed concerns surrounding its new ownership, admitting that the acquisition “comes with increased privacy pressure and expectations”. Dochuk, TunnelBear’s co-founder, released the following statement on the subject in May 2018:
It’s important to know who owns and controls a VPN company in order to determine how trustworthy it is. Thankfully, TunnelBear is one of the most transparent VPN services we’ve reviewed.
TunnelBear’s About page clearly lists every member of its team, while its inclusion in the CDT’s Signals of a Trustworthy VPN report openly discusses the company’s ties to McAfee. The team have championed digital privacy since 2011 and we have no reason to believe this has changed under new ownership.
TunnelBear’s Security Audits
To prove its commitment to transparency and user safety, TunnelBear has undergone several independent security audits.
In January 2017, Byte 255 looked into TunnelBear’s code and published the results on Hacker Noon. The article concluded that TunnelBear had no issues with privacy and didn’t collect any unnecessary telemetry data.
TunnelBear also commissioned cybersecurity company Cure53 to carry out three yearly independent security audits since 2017. These audits looked into TunnelBear’s apps, code, and infrastructure – the most recent results were published in January 2020.
Cure53 discovered 12 vulnerabilities of varying severity, and went on to assist TunnelBear in addressing and fixing them. The auditing team then “engaged in a thorough and comprehensive fix verification, confirming that mitigation strategies deployed by the TunnelBear are sound and aligned with various modern and up-to-date recommendations.”
The audit concluded that TunnelBear is “a clear frontrunner among its VPN competitors when it comes to security.”
TunnelBear has led the way for transparency in the VPN industry as similar audits are becoming increasingly popular among competing providers. There’s no doubt that you can trust this VPN when it comes to securing your data.
How Fast is TunnelBear?
Speed & Reliability
TunnelBear has been slow in the past, but our most recent speed test results were quite impressive.
We recorded an average download speed of 89Mbps on local connections, which means our speeds slowed just 7% when compared to using no VPN at all.
We measured download speeds of 67Mbps when connecting internationally to the US, which is a percentage speed loss of 30%. While its long-distance performance is less impressive, this means TunnelBear is an extremely well-performing service that is more than fast enough for HD streaming and smooth torrenting.
The free version was almost as fast as the premium, with very little slowdown. However, the 500MB per month data cap will prevent you from doing much more than occasional browsing – we could barely even finish our speed tests before we reached the data limit.
It’s clear that TunnelBear’s performance has been improving over time, with fast speeds on both local and international connections. However, TunnelBear hasn’t always been a reliable VPN. We’ve experienced slow speeds in the past, saw some connection drops during testing, and found that it generally takes a few seconds for the app to connect.
Local Speed Tests
Before using TunnelBear:
When connected to TunnelBear:
We tested our internet speed before we connected to TunnelBear and then again when connected to a nearby server in the UK. This gives us an idea of TunnelBear’s local connection speeds.
Connecting to a nearby server will allow you to experience the fastest possible VPN speeds, but it won’t help you to unlock foreign content.
We measured a download speed loss of just 7% when connected to the nearest VPN server. This difference is tiny and puts TunnelBear among the fastest VPNs we’ve tested.
- Download speed without TunnelBear: 96Mbps
- Download speed with TunnelBear: 89Mbps
- Our download speed loss when TunnelBear is running: 7%
These are the results you can expect when connecting to a server near your physical location – from the US to a US server, for example. In short, you shouldn’t notice any slowdown from your usual internet speeds; you’ll be able to stream in HD and torrent with no problems at all.
TunnelBear’s ping times are relatively high, though, which means that you may experience some lag while playing online games. Using a VPN for gaming is important if you’re looking to unblock geo-restricted content or prevent ISP throttling. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can read this article to find the best VPNs for gaming.
Long Distance Speed Tests
TunnelBear’s international speeds are also impressive. We recorded a speed loss of just 30% when connecting from the UK to the US, down from 96Mbps to 67Mbps. This is around what you should expect from the fastest VPNs.
TunnelBear’s speeds when connecting to Europe were also very fast. This means you can unlock foreign content without experiencing a significant drop in performance.
Here are the average download and upload speeds we experienced connecting from the UK to TunnelBear VPN servers in Germany, Singapore, Australia, and the US:
- USA: 67Mbps (download) & 16Mbps (upload) – 30% download speed loss
- Germany: 81Mbps (download) & 91Mbps (upload) – 15% download speed loss
- Singapore: 54Mbps (download) & 20Mbps (upload) – 43% download speed loss
- Australia: 56Mbps (download) & 10Mbps (upload) – 42% download speed loss
Connecting to Australia was slower – a 43% drop – but this is to be expected over such a long distance and is actually a very good result. Just 15% speed loss connecting to Germany from our location in the UK is also a very strong performance.
While TunnelBear’s speeds aren’t the best international speeds we’ve tested – Hotspot Shield’s are even quicker – they’re still more than fast enough for effortless browsing and streaming.
Overall, TunnelBear is a fast VPN that continues to improve. It excels when it comes to local connections and offers fast long-distance speeds too.
For more information on how we test VPN speeds you can find our full methodology in our guide to How We Review VPNs.
How Fast is TunnelBear Compared to Other VPNs?
We’ve tested TunnelBear’s speed manually, but we also run automatic speed tests through our custom speed testing tool.
The graph below shows us the results, revealing how well TunnelBear is performing in speed against competing VPNs based on average download speed loss. The lower the percentage the better.
These results are objective and are as up-to-date as it gets, providing solid numbers based on tests that run four times a day, every day from the New York server we own. We cap speeds at 100Mbps to recreate a typical home internet connection.
To work out whether the provider is consistent as well as fast, the graph shows us how well TunnelBear performs over an extended eight-week period. Our speed tool avoids issues caused by anomalies or outliers and provides an accurate representation of a VPN provider’s long-term performance.
As you can see, TunnelBear isn’t challenging the top VPNs either in speed loss or consistency. Its speed dips and rises, which could affect your online activity, and sometimes speed loss drops as much as 27-28%. The ideal VPN is consistently fast, like NordVPN, which currently sits comfortably at the top with only 5% speed loss.
TunnelBear’s ping score over this period isn’t good, either, dropping as low as 71.48ms. At the very same time, NordVPN recorded 3.03ms – which is quite a difference.
But for speed loss TunnelBear is often overlapping with ExpressVPN – our top VPN recommendation – so it’s not entirely disappointing. Examining the graph you can see that it’s even beating ExpressVPN in the first half of the eight-week period. Improvements can be made, but we also used the speed test tool to discover that TunnelBear is outperforming providers like Windscribe and ProtonVPN.
TunnelBear does not unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer or Disney+
Streaming & Torrenting
TunnelBear is not a good VPN for streaming. It does not unblock region-restricted content on Netflix, Disney+, or BBC iPlayer, which is hugely disappointing.
When we tried to unblock content during our tests we got an error code, which means that Netflix – or any other platform – has detected that you are using a VPN or proxy. This means it is unlikely that TunnelBear will work with other streaming services like Hulu, HBO Go, or Amazon Prime Video, either.
We did have some small success unblocking region-restricted YouTube videos, but most VPNs are capable of this.
TunnelBear has no dedicated servers for streaming and no custom apps for Amazon Firestick or Android TV. You cannot install it on your router either, which means that TunnelBear won’t help you unblock streaming content on your TV.
If you do find a TunnelBear server that works to unblock Netflix, the lack of city-level server locations means that there are no backup options if that server stops working.
TunnelBear clearly hasn’t invested any resources into unblocking streaming services. If you’re looking to unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, or other region-restricted content then we recommend choosing a different VPN.
Is TunnelBear Good for Torrenting?
TunnelBear used to forbid torrenting and P2P traffic on all of its servers, but that changed last year. Now, torrenting is completely unrestricted, which means you can use TunnelBear to protect your P2P file-sharing while connected to any of its 23 worldwide server locations.
The terms of service do note that using TunnelBear for illegal activity (such as breaching copyright law) is forbidden. If the company believes you have violated this agreement, it retains the right to terminate your account without notice.
While there is very little on the TunnelBear website about torrenting, the support team has clarified that users should be able to share files on the network. They recommend using servers in Canada, US, UK, Romania, Netherlands, Germany, or Sweden as the preferred tunnels for torrenting.
It’s worth being aware of Canada’s aggressive copyright laws, which can include fines of up to $5000 for copyright infringement. We haven’t seen any examples of TunnelBear users receiving DMCA notices for torrenting activity, but you should be aware that Canada – where TunnelBear is based – is a country that takes these issues seriously.
On a more positive note, TunnelBear’s upload and download speeds have significantly improved recently, so the VPN should be more than quick enough for P2P users as long as you connect to a nearby server.
There’s also a VPN kill switch called “VigilantBear” for Windows, MacOS, and Android. This will keep your data safe when your internet connection drops. The logging policy is minimal enough to keep your torrenting activity private, too.
While torrenting is also permitted on TunnelBear’s free VPN, the 500MB/month data cap will prevent you from downloading many files.
In summary, TunnelBear’s sensible logging policy, fast speeds and VPN kill switch make it a good VPN for occasional torrenting. If using BitTorrent or other torrenting clients freely and frequently is a major priority for you, we recommend choosing a different VPN with technology specifically tailored to torrenters.
Solid security features but lacking in configurability
Encryption & Security
DNS Leak Blocking
VPN Kill Switch
Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.
Despite its playful design, TunnelBear is an extremely secure VPN. Both the free and paid versions offer strong encryption using the OpenVPN protocol and AES-256 cipher for Windows, MacOS, and Android. The IKEv2 protocol is also available on iOS and Windows.
Both IKEv2 and OpenVPN are secure and reliable VPN protocols, though OpenVPN is the current industry-standard.
We didn’t experience any leaks while using TunnelBear’s VPN apps, which means your IP address will remain hidden during your browsing and torrenting. The Firefox browser extension did leak our WebRTC address at first, but TunnelBear was very quick to fix this issue.
A report by the Center for Democracy & Technology also reveals that each TunnelBear server is protected by full disk encryption, malware scans, and intrusion protection software.
In short, TunnelBear uses secure, industry-standard encryption to keep your data safe. Here’s a breakdown of the different protocols and ciphers TunnelBear uses for each of its apps:
OpenVPN is our preferred protocol as it balances security and speed perfectly. It’s also open-source, which means it is continually tested for bugs and vulnerabilities. IKEv2 is also safe to use and tends to be better for mobile connections as it handles network changes well.
TunnelBear also uses private DNS servers, perfect forward secrecy and a secure Diffie-Hellman key exchange that makes sure you’re connecting to a verified TunnelBear server every time you use the VPN.
You can also toggle between OpenVPN TCP and UDP on Windows and MacOS. UDP is faster, but you may need to switch to TCP if your connection becomes unstable. For more information on all of these terms you can read our complete guide to VPN encryption.
Though secure, TunnelBear doesn’t offer lots of advanced and configurable features, which could be disappointing for more advanced users. The small selection of extra security features include a VPN kill switch, obfuscation, leak protection, and split-tunnelling, although this last option is available on Android only.
TunnelBear’s Advanced Security Features
TunnelBear offers a small selection of advanced security features that help improve your browsing experience while you’re using the VPN.
TunnelBear uses a lot of unique terms to refer to widely-known security features, so we’ve translated them for you in this table:
TunnelBear’s VPN kill switch is called ‘VigilantBear’. This feature blocks all web traffic if the VPN connection gets disrupted for any reason, preventing your true IP address from being exposed. This is an essential feature for any top-tier VPN.
VigilantBear is available on Windows, Mac, and Android devices, but it is not included in the iOS app. This is very common due to Apple’s strict guidelines for what can be approved on the App Store. That said, competitors such as Private Internet Access offer a kill switch on all platforms and we’d like to see providers like TunnelBear follow suit.
Another useful feature is TunnelBear’s proprietary ‘GhostBear’ protocol, which is another name for obfuscation. This technology is designed to disguise your VPN traffic which makes it harder for governments, businesses, and ISPs to detect and block your connection.
This is ideal for high-censorship countries, but will slow your traffic significantly.
You can use TunnelBear with the Tor browser but it doesn’t have any special features or servers for accessing the Onion network, so it’s likely to slow down your connection significantly.
The Android app has a split tunneling feature called SplitBear, too. This allows you to choose which apps you route through the VPN tunnel, which is useful for services that need access to your real IP address. Unfortunately, this tool isn’t available on any other apps.
Aside from these features, TunnelBear isn’t very configurable and it doesn’t come with a lot of advanced security settings. There is no port forwarding or double VPN, and you can’t control your encryption settings with much detail. While TunnelBear is extremely secure, we wouldn’t recommend it to experts or advanced users for this reason.
IP, DNS and WebRTC Leaks
Data leaks can expose personal information like your IP address, physical location, and browsing activity. We test every VPN for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks to make sure you can trust it with your personal data.
TunnelBear passed all of our VPN leak tests. The kill switch also worked to protect our data on Windows, MacOS, and Android.
TunnelBear operates its own zero-log DNS servers, which means that it doesn’t record any of the websites you visit. It also ensures that your ISP isn’t able to monitor your browsing activity.
Recently, Mozilla released version 73.0 of Firefox web browser, which caused many VPN browser extensions to leak WebRTC requests. TunnelBear wasn’t exempt from this vulnerability, but we’re happy to report that the TunnelBear team fixed the issue almost immediately. Now all of TunnelBear’s browser extensions are leak-free.
Trackers, Malware and Permissions
This result is ideal for privacy and isn’t as common as you’d think. Some of the best VPNs contain marketing and bug trackers – even NordVPN has seven. While TunnelBear might need to wait for users to report crashes instead of actively tracking them, this method is preferable for those seeking the highest levels of privacy.
The app also uses eight permissions, none of which are of concern. Finally, we put TunnelBear through a virus and malware scan to test for any malicious software it may contain, and we found none.
TunnelBear came out clean in all of our tests. It offers secure encryption, protection from data leaks, and does not contain any viruses, malware, or trackers. This makes it one of the safest VPNs available.
Small VPN server network of just 23 countries
TunnelBear has a very small VPN server network that includes just 23 countries. The most popular server locations are covered including the US, UK, and Australia, as well as countries in Western Europe like France, Germany, and the Netherlands. You can find the full list of locations on the TunnelBear website.
TunnelBear isn’t transparent about the exact number of servers or IP addresses it maintains, which means there is no way of knowing how well distributed traffic will be in any given location. There are also no dedicated servers for streaming or torrenting, which means most users will have to cycle through locations until they find a server that works for them.
There aren’t any city-level servers, either, which is particularly frustrating for US users looking to find a server close to home, or users in other large countries such as Australia.
Servers in India, Japan, and Singapore are available for those in Asia-Pacific, while there are limited options in Mexico and Brazil for those in South and Central America. However, TunnelBear has no VPN servers at all in Africa.
In July 2020, TunnelBear removed its Hong Kong servers to protect its network following a new authoritarian security law introduced in Hong Kong by China, giving the CCP access to Hong Kong ISPs and the power to make arrests based on online activity. TunnelBear said that it has ‘scaled up’ its Singapore and Japanese servers and encouraged Hong Kongese to use them instead.
Performance can also be affected by the number of servers available as well as their location – more servers means less congestion and faster speeds at peak times. Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t perform well in either of these categories.
A member of the TunnelBear team informed us that all of their servers are physical (bare-metal) rather than virtual. This means that the servers are physically located where you expect them to be, and helps to explain why the number of locations on offer is so low.
TunnelBear also owns its server network, which means there are no additional third parties involved in the management of user data. TunnelBear is in full control of its infrastructure, which goes a long way in helping to prevent vulnerabilities. The NordVPN hack proved that using third-party data centers can pose a significant risk.
If you’re looking for a large number of server locations then we would not recommend choosing TunnelBear. Many competing VPN services have at least 60 locations on offer if not more. HideMyAss!, for example, has 190 – the highest number of server locations we’ve seen.
Overall, TunnelBear has a very small server network with a limited number of locations on offer. We’d like to see more transparency regarding exactly how many servers are in operation, along with the addition of city-level servers and dedicated options for streaming and torrenting.
Does TunnelBear work in China?
If you need a reliable VPN for bypassing Chinese censorship, read our list of the best VPNs for China.
Thanks to its obfuscation feature called GhostBear, TunnelBear is still a good choice for connecting out from other high-censorship countries such as Iran, UAE, or Turkey.
TunnelBear’s GhostBear protocol disguises (obfuscates) your VPN traffic so that it can bypass deep packet inspection (DPI) and VPN blocks. This is often necessary in highly-censored countries where using a VPN is illegal or restricted. GhostBear is built into the app and included on Windows, MacOS, and Android.
To enable the GhostBear feature, access the settings menu and navigate to “security”. Here, check the box marked “GhostBear”.
If you’re connecting from Asia or Africa, TunnelBear’s small server network means that your VPN speeds are likely to be quite slow. That said, in most cases you should still be able to access government-blocked content.
Compatibility limited to five main platforms
Platforms & Devices
TunnelBear provides an average selection of custom VPN apps for Microsoft Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. It can be manually installed on Linux devices, too. There are browser extensions for Chrome and Opera and a tracker-blocking extension that comes separately.
Both the free and paid versions of TunnelBear allow you to use up to five simultaneous devices using just one subscription, which is the standard limit for VPN services.
It’s not possible to install TunnelBear on a router and there are no apps for Amazon Firestick or Android TV. This is a disappointing lack of compatibility from TunnelBear that conflicts with its user-friendly image. You won’t be able to use the software on games consoles, televisions, or any other device that’s even slightly less popular than the main platforms.
If you’re looking for simple plug-and-play VPN solutions for your PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV and more, then read about ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer feature. Otherwise, there are plenty of competing VPN services that are great for gaming and streaming devices like Firestick.
TunnelBear offers browser plug-ins for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera web browsers. These are all very easy to download and add to your browser with no manual configuration necessary. TunnelBear doesn’t currently provide a VPN extension for the Safari browser.
These browser extensions only encrypt the traffic from your browser window, while the full VPN apps encrypt all of the traffic sent to and from your device. For this reason, TunnelBear’s browser plugins are not a substitute for the full VPN.
To download the extensions you’ll need an existing TunnelBear account. Follow the link to the relevant add-on store on TunnelBear’s website, log in, connect, and you’re all set to browse the web from one of 23 server locations.
Unlike those provided by other top VPNs, TunnelBear’s browser extensions don’t include any extra features like an ad-blocker. However, the company has launched a standalone ad-blocking extension simply called Blocker, which is available to download separately.
TunnelBear has also launched a password manager called RememBear, which is available for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. It’s free to use on one device but costs $36 per year to use across multiple.
TunnelBear’s VPN Apps Are Fun, Simple, and Easy to Install
Ease of Use
How to Install & Set Up TunnelBear
TunnelBear’s apps are extremely simple and easy to use. The small number of advanced features on offer may not satisfy experienced users, but if you’re just getting started with using a VPN it makes the process much easier.
Setup is also very easy for the custom apps – just download the software from the TunnelBear website and sign in. It’s a little more complicated for Linux, but there are simple step-by-step instructions for Linux installation on the TunnelBear website.
All the TunnelBear apps use the same design, so you’ll have a familiar experience no matter which device you’re using. That said, there is some variability in the features available on each platform. The iOS app has no VPN kill switch or obfuscation technology, and there is no option to switch between protocols on any device.
We’d like to see a search function included to help users easily find their closest location. A list of servers with basic information such as load and ping time would also be an excellent addition for usability.
Overall, TunnelBear opts for a unique approach that’s best suited to beginners. The mobile and desktop applications are practical and fine for simple use, but there are lots of better and more feature-rich VPNs available. Experienced users looking for lots of advanced settings might be happier with a different provider.
Like all of its applications, TunnelBear’s Windows client is very simple. By default, it only shows you what’s absolutely necessary: your location, the tunnel you’re using, and the location you’re connected to.
The main screen consists of a large black and white map with orange tunnel icons where each of TunnelBear’s servers are located. You can click on the tunnels to connect to a particular server, or use the drop-down list at the top of the app. There’s also the option to connect to the ‘Fastest’ server, which is usually the one closest to your physical location.
When the VPN is connected the slider at the top will turn orange and say ‘On’, and the map will change to full color. To disconnect, just click the slider.
By clicking on the cog symbol on the left-hand side of the app you can access TunnelBear’s settings menu.
The client doesn’t have many settings, but the few you get are useful. There’s obfuscation and a VPN kill switch, along with the option to load the VPN automatically when Windows starts. You can also set the client to automatically connect whenever you use a WiFi network that you haven’t marked as “trusted”.
All the settings can be toggled on and off easily, and there are tool tips to help further explain certain features to beginners.
There is no option to change protocol, though you can switch between TCP and UDP connections. Otherwise, the app selects automatically between OpenVPN and IKEv2.
Overall, TunnelBear’s Windows client isn’t bad. If your needs are simple you might find it’s the perfect way to encrypt your connection without any hassle. However, there’s lots of scope for improvement and the client’s interface and basic feature list could disappoint more experienced users.
TunnelBear’s MacOS client is a menu bar app, which isn’t as easily accessible as the other free-standing apps on offer.
It’s much like the Windows app with a colorful map and bear animations, making it much easier on the eye compared to other VPN apps.
You’ll find the the same features in the settings menu too, which include:
- Trusted Networks
- TCP override
The Android app is almost exactly the same as TunnelBear’s desktop apps, but with even fewer settings. There’s obfuscation and a VPN kill switch, but no Trusted Networks or TCP Override.
The ability to use split tunneling is unique to the Android app, though. This feature allows you to select apps or services to route outside of the VPN tunnel, which can be useful for websites that need access to your real location.
There are also a couple of features that add to TunnelBear’s cutesy approach to online security. There are Bear Sounds and Cloud settings, which enables cloud graphics to float over the map.
As is usually the case with VPN iOS apps, TunnelBear’s iOS client is the most stripped-back of all its native applications.
The only settings on offer are Trusted Networks and Bear Sounds. There’s no VPN kill switch or obfuscation technology. The iOS app also automatically selects the VPN protocol – either OpenVPN or IKEv2.
TunnelBear doesn’t offer live chat support
TunnelBear does not offer live chat support. Instead, there is an online ticketing system along with a chatbot that isn’t capable of answering many straightforward questions.
For a VPN that aims to provide a simple experience for beginners, it is disappointing that TunnelBear lacks the ability to provide immediate technical support. Many premium VPN services like ExpressVPN now offer 24/7 live chat to help troubleshoot any user queries.
If TunnelBear’s chatbot is unable to answer your question, you can click ‘Get in touch’ to send an email to TunnelBear using a ticketing system.
This system first asks you to define the type of problem you’re having, which includes information about which locations are affected, your operating system, and more. This is a smart way to make sure that beginners provide all the necessary information needed for a good response. However, replies can take up to 48 hours to arrive.
We received full answers to our questions in a fast, polite, and friendly manner most of the time. That said, it’s certainly not as convenient as the instant support offered by live chat.
There is also an extensive online help section that you can use to find information about troubleshooting, FAQs, and billing. These online resources are very well-written and generally focus on the fundamentals for beginners and non-technical people.
There’s not much information regarding protocols, encryption, or technical implementation. If you’re an experienced user that wants to understand the fine details of the service, for example, it’s likely you’ll be disappointed.
Overall, TunnelBear’s online support doesn’t have a lot of content, but what you get is well presented. It’s a shame there is no live chat available for urgent issues, but given the simplicity of the apps most users should have no problem with the email support on offer.
How much does TunnelBear cost?
Pricing & Plans
TunnelBear Pricing Plan
TunnelBear offers a free version and three paid subscription plans, which are well-priced for a basic, beginner-friendly VPN. There’s no free trial or money-back guarantee, and there are a limited number of payment options.
The free version restricts you to just 500MB of data per month, but you can raise your limit to 1GB by tweeting about the company. This is an extremely restrictive data cap compared to other free VPNs on the market – HotSpot Shield limits you to 500MB per day, while ProtonVPN’s free subscription has no data limit at all.
TunnelBear’s monthly plan is the most expensive, giving you unlimited data for $9.99 per month. The yearly plan costs $4.99 per month (billed as $59.88 every 12 months), while the three-year plan costs just $3.33 per month – a saving of 67%.
There’s also a plan for businesses called TunnelBear for Teams that starts at $5.75 per month. It’s not a corporate VPN as such, but an easier way to provide protection for multiple users under one invoice.
Overall, these prices are towards the low end of the typical price range. They’re reasonably good value for a secure VPN with unlimited data, but slightly high given TunnelBear’s limited selection of features.
Payment & Refund Options
TunnelBear accepts a limited number of payment methods, including credit and debit cards, Bitcoin, and BitCash.
While the option to pay via anonymous cryptocurrency is good, you can’t pay using PayPal, which is very uncommon for a VPN provider. There isn’t an option to use other international methods like AliPay or UnionPay either.
If you do opt for a paid subscription, there are no refunds and there is no money-back guarantee, either. Instead, users are directed to use the free version to test out the software before they buy it.
There’s no official free trial, but the free 500MB per month plan acts like one. Unlike most free trials offered by competitors, you also don’t run the risk of an accidental upgrade to a premium subscription.
Overall, TunnelBear is reasonably priced for a simple VPN. It’s a little expensive compared to competitors given the lack of features on offer, and the payment system could use improvement.
TunnelBear’s free VPN service is exactly the same as its premium VPN except for one important feature: you can only use 500MB of VPN data per month.
That’s a huge drawback, and it’ll make doing anything more than visiting the occasional website impossible. It’s barely enough to stream a 30 minute TV show – not that TunnelBear free unblocks Netflix.
Everything else is the same, though. There’s 23 VPN server locations, AES-256 encryption, a kill switch, and the same friendly custom apps for desktop and mobile. You’ll receive the same level of customer support as a paying customer, and the same level of privacy.
TunnelBear supports its free service through revenue generated by premium subscriptions, so you don’t have to worry about advertising or TunnelBear selling your data for profit.
Here’s what TunnelBear has to say about the business model of its free apps:
“Our free service gives people a way to try TunnelBear without having to provide any personal information and serves as a marketing tool, rather than a revenue generator… Not profiting from our free users includes not selling your bandwidth, usage habits, or turning you into a botnet.”
In short, you can trust TunnelBear Free to protect your privacy and keep your data safe but it’s not intended as a long-term security solution. Due to its restrictive data cap, we can’t recommend using it for anything more than testing out the software before you commit to a paid subscription.
Do We Recommend TunnelBear?
The Bottom Line
TunnelBear is a well-designed and trustworthy VPN that makes a great choice for beginners looking to secure their traffic and hide their IP address at home or on public WiFi.
It’s a good choice for privacy with top-notch encryption, multiple security audits and a water-tight logging policy. That said, its Canadian jurisdiction might put some more serious users off.
Though secure, TunnelBear is not a VPN aimed at experts. There’s a limited number of server locations, a lack of advanced security features and it doesn’t work in highly-censored countries like China. Similarly, it cannot unblock Netflix or BBC iPlayer and it isn’t compatible with routers or other streaming devices.
We’d like to see improvements to TunnelBear’s iOS app, lacklustre live support, and overall platform compatibility. If you’re an advanced user looking to stream content from overseas or play with lots of configurable settings, we’d recommend looking elsewhere. If you’re a beginner and you simply want to securely hide your IP address for a decent price, TunnelBear might be the VPN for you.
Alternatives to TunnelBear
Unlike TunnelBear, CyberGhost is great for streaming, with dedicated servers that unlock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and more. It has more configurable options but is still very easy to use. You can install CyberGhost on routers, too. Read CyberGhost review