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TunnelBear Review

Rebecca Duff
By Rebecca DuffUpdated
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TunnelBear screenshot

TunnelBear: Ranked #41 out of 99 VPNs that we tested

  1. Fast download speeds: 67Mbps (peak local)
  2. Simple set-up on four most popular platforms
  3. Choose between 22 VPN server locations
  4. GhostBear feature works in high-censorship countries
  5. Free plan is a great way to test out the software
  1. Very small server network
  2. Doesn't work with streaming sites consistently
  3. Based in privacy-unfriendly Canada
  4. No live chat feature

Works with

Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android

Price from

Speed & Reliability

Fairly quick local speeds, mediocre international performance

Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a London test server.

Before using TunnelBear:

  1. DownloadMbps

    92.91

  2. UploadMbps

    84.34

  3. Pingms

    3

When connected to TunnelBear:

  1. DownloadMbps

    66.67

  2. UploadMbps

    60.14

  3. Pingms

    9

Download speed without TunnelBear: 93Mbps

Download speed with TunnelBear: 67Mbps

Our download speed loss when TunnelBear is running: 28%

TunnelBear won’t give you blisteringly fast speeds, but local connections are good enough for buffer-free streaming and hassle-free torrenting.

Connecting from the UK to the US East Coast with TunnelBear produces download speeds of around 22Mbps, which is reasonable and still fast enough for HD streaming.

Longer-distance connections will only be adequate for general browsing, though.

Server Locations

Very small server network with just 22 countries

Globe with a blue flag22Countries
Image of a city landscape22Cities
Image of a pink marker?IP Addresses

TunnelBear offers a very small server network comprising of just 22 countries.

Screenshot of TunnelBear Server List in App

TunnelBear covers the most obvious locations such as the US, Australia, and Western Europe are all covered, but should you need more coverage outside of these areas you’re better off going with another provider – HideMyAss! has 190 countries, for instance.

Unfortunately, there’s no city-level selection choice with TunnelBear – people wanting to connect to the US might find not being able to choose a specific state frustrating.

Streaming & Torrenting

Not good for streaming Netflix, but torrenting is supported

During our latest tests we couldn’t access either Netflix or BBC iPlayer via TunnelBear, which is hugely disappointing.

Access to these sites has been very inconsistent, working one day and not the next. TunnelBear’s lack of server choice is a major hindrance here, so there are no backup options when one server fails.

We couldn’t recommend TunnelBear for big streaming fans – if that’s you then we’d suggest SaferVPN.

Torrenting

TunnelBear is a good choice for torrenting, especially because P2P activity is now permitted on all of its worldwide server locations. Thanks to decent local uploads and a minimal logging policy, TunnelBear does a good job of torrenting.

Bypassing Censorship

Frequent disconnections make it unreliable for China

While TunnelBear certainly has the necessary features to bypass the Great Firewall of China it often doesn’t work, with disconnects far too frequent for it to be considered useful.

Despite this, there are some TunnelBear users that still swear by this service, having never had any issues, and speeds are fairly quick if you connect to the nearby Singapore server.

Due to its proprietary GhostBear protocol, TunnelBear is still a good choice for connecting out from other high-censorship countries such as Iran or Turkey.

A small server network means that performance probably won’t be brilliant, but in most cases you should still be able to access government-blocked content.

Platforms & Devices

Compatibility limited to five main platforms

TunnelBear provides custom apps for four of the most popular platforms: Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS, iOS, and Android.

It is possible to use TunnelBear with Linux, but this does require some manual configuration and there is only a limited amount of support available.

It’s not possible to install TunnelBear at router-level, so protection is limited to the supported devices above.

If you’re looking for simple plug-and-play solutions for your Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, Apple TV, and more our top recommendation is ExpressVPN.

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid
Linux LogoLinux

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox

Encryption & Security

Solid security features but lacking in configurability

Protocol

IKEv2/IPSec

L2TP/IPSec

OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)

Encryption

AES-256

Security

DNS Leak Blocking

First-party DNS

VPN Kill Switch

Advanced features

Double VPN

Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.

TunnelBear gets a lot right with privacy – its level of encryption and solid security features will keep you safe online.

TunnelBear uses OpenVPN for all desktop and Android connections, and IKEv2 for iOS. Both of these VPN protocols are secure and perform well, but we would have liked to see the option to choose between more protocols within the apps.

Screenshot of TunnelBear Settings Menu in App

TunnelBear offers encryption via AES-256, a top cipher that’s considered ‘unhackable’.

We love TunnelBear’s VPN kill switch, referred to in-app as ‘Vigilant mode’, that blocks all web traffic if the VPN connection gets disrupted for any reason, preventing your true IP address from being exposed.

TunnelBear operates its own zero-log DNS servers and it passed all of our independent leak tests with flying colors. The DNS leak protection ensures that your ISP isn’t able to monitor your browsing activity at any point.

Another useful feature is TunnelBear’s proprietary ‘GhostBear’ protocol, which scrambles your VPN communications and makes it harder for governments, businesses, and ISPs to detect your connection. It also provides you with a secondary layer of encryption.

Logging Policy

Very minimal logging, but located in Five Eyes jurisdiction

TunnelBear is very close to being zero logs, and its privacy policy is one of the most transparent and clearest that we’ve seen.

The following basic connection metadata is used for TunnelBear customer support and troubleshooting purposes:

  • Total bandwidth used
  • Total lifetime connections
  • Whether or not you’ve connected in the last month.

Reassuringly, none of these can be used to personally identify you.

TunnelBear was recently featured in a report conducted by the CDT (Center for Democracy & Technology) on “Signals of Trustworthy VPNs”. In this, it discloses that each server is hardened with full disk encryption, malware and intrusion scans, and intrusion protection techniques. These protect users personal information as much as possible.

Jurisdiction

TunnelBear is incorporated in Canada, a nation that shares intelligence data with the US and UK.

While TunnelBear is required to comply with Canadian law enforcement agencies if supplied with subpoenas, warrants or other legal documents, it doesn’t collect any information that could be traced back to you as an individual.

Ease of Use

Fun and simple apps with easy setup

How to Install & Set Up TunnelBear

TunnelBear’s range of custom apps is either cute or gimmicky, depending on either your point of view or how much you like software laden with bears.

The TunnelBear desktop client is incredibly simple to use: all you have to do is click on a server location on the world map and wait for the bear to tunnel under the earth and pop out in the US, Australia, or wherever. We would have liked a little more connection info on the main screen though, such as our new IP address or chosen protocol.

TunnelBear’s small number of advanced features are easy enough to find, well-organized and simple to toggle on and off, and the mobile apps are very similarly laid out.

TunnelBear opts for an original approach that’s best suited to beginners, so experienced users wanting lots of settings to play with might be better off with a different provider.

Browser Extensions

Screenshot of TunnelBear Chrome Extension

TunnelBear’s browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all really quick to set up. Follow the link to the relevant add-on store on TunnelBear’s website and download the extension. Log in, connect, and you’re all set to browse the web from one of 22 server locations.

Customer Support

Decent online resources with no live chat support

Email
Online Resources

TunnelBear’s customer support is largely good enough, but it can’t quite compete with top-tier providers like CyberGhost.

We were disappointed by TunnelBear’s lack of live chat feature, and with email responses sometimes taking more than five hours it can get pretty frustrating if you just have a small query. We also don’t like the fact that you have to create an account and sign in to ask a question.

Thankfully the resources on TunnelBear’s site are very well-written and make huge efforts to make VPNs accessible to beginners and non-technical people, which is great.

Pricing & Deals

Middling prices - there are better VPNs for less

TunnelBear Coupon

TunnelBear Pricing Plan

TunnelBear offers both a free plan and two different paid plans. Click the link to see our full review of TunnelBear Free.

TunnelBear’s two paid options, in keeping with the theme, are named ‘Giant’ and ‘Grizzly’. The Giant plan is monthly, costing a fairly reasonable $9.99 per month, whereas signing up to the annual Grizzly plan will only cost you $4.99 per month, a saving of 50%.

  1. Monthly

    US$9.99/mo

    Billed $9.99 every month
  2. 12 months

    US$4.99/mo

    Billed $59.88 every 12 months
    Save 50%

Payment Options

Credit Card
Bitcoin

TunnelBear doesn’t offer an official free trial, but you can sign up to the ‘Little’ (free) plan to give you an idea of what it’s like to use the software.

You should definitely do this before signing up to a TunnelBear paid subscription, as all payments are non-refundable (although certain refund requests may be granted at TunnelBear’s discretion).

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