We’ve tried out a lot of different VPNs during our time in Thailand and we’ve found that NordVPN is the best overall in speed, security, reliability, ease of use, and price.
When you’re in Thailand, you’re going to be on the lookout for possible scams and dangers. You’ll hold your bag safely inside the tuk-tuk, and be aware of pickpockets in the markets, but the one area most people let their guard down is probably the one they most need to keep it up – online. Your online security including your accounts, passwords, and financial information is at risk in Thailand, especially when you use public WiFi networks. Using a VPN is the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to safeguard yourself.
Below we’ve detailed exactly why you need a VPN, which one we use, the top features, and one small drawback. We also have a recommendation for the best free VPN for Thailand if you’re on a tight budget.
Why use a VPN in Thailand?
There are four main reasons to use a VPN in Thailand.
- 1. Security – Keep your passwords, financial information and other transmitted data away from hackers.
- 2. Anonymity – Become anonymous and unidentifiable from anyone snooping on the connection you are using.
- 3. Access – Many geo-restricted websites just don’t work in Thailand, including most ummmmm…. “adult” websites.
- 4. Savings – You can often book flights cheaper by “being” in a different country.
Security and anonymity is not usually a problem if you have your own private network at home secured with a strong password. I don’t usually use a VPN at home unless I need to be browsing from another country to get around geo-restricted websites and content, but I always always always have my VPN active on any public WiFi. Someone else on a public WiFi network can pretty easily hack in and see exactly who is on the network, what they are looking at, how long for, and in some cases, they can steal revealing personal identifying information.
You’re probably going to be spending a fair amount of time on public WiFi networks while you’re in Thailand, in hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, coworking spaces etc. You’ll also be sending sensitive information while booking hotels, making reservations, doing online banking, etc., and a VPN is going to make that much safer.
There’s also a strict new cyber-security law that recently took effect in Thailand. Technically, anyone providing public WiFi (coffee shops for example) is required to store your data for at least 90 days. I’d rather not have all of the things I do kept and monitored, especially by a government that is as technically inept as the one here. It’s just easier to put an invisibility cloak on when you’re in public. A VPN is that invisibility cloak.
How it works
VPN stands for virtual private network. The way it works is that it encrypts your data and sends it to a remote server. You can think of this as a private tunnel that your data can pass through and that no prying eyes can see. A good VPN has servers in dozens of different countries; those servers are your gateway to the internet and any website you visit will see your location as the country/server you are currently connected to.
In a single click, you can change your location to Singapore, to Canada, to Sweden to pretty much anywhere… Honestly, I secretly feel a little bit like a badass secret agent hacker every time I do this. As long as you have the connection active, all of your data that is sent and received will be encrypted. It’s fairly complex so if you’re confused by all of this, the video below explains it pretty well:
NordVPN in Thailand
We have tried a lot of different VPNs in Thailand including NordVPN, TunnelBear, CyberGhost, IPVanish, PureVPN, TOR Guard, and Hide My Ass. Most of them work pretty well, none of them are perfect, but one is a bit better than the rest. All of them will do the basic job of keeping your data safe. Beyond that though, NordVPN just stands out above the crowd.
Nord is simple to set up on your laptop and phone. It’s also the most reliable VPN for Netflix in Thailand, and for accessing other streaming services like Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, and more. It’s also priced very competitively and depending on the sales that are going on, it’s either the cheapest of the good options or very close to it.
Nord typically costs $6.99 USD per month, but you can usually get it for under $3 if you sign up for three years, which you should probably do anyway. Again, VPNs are actually useful and important to use not only in Thailand and around Southeast Asia, but in your home country as well. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.
If you’re sold on using a VPN but don’t want to shell out the cash just yet, scroll down to see our pick for the best free VPN for Thailand.
Best for streaming in Thailand
As we mentioned, we have found that NordVPN is the most reliable VPN for streaming in Thailand and it can get you access not only to Netflix, but to HBO Go, Pandora, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime. These sites do not like VPNs and do their best to block them. It’s a bit of a cat and mouse game but Nord seems to play it better than most of the competition. You will occasionally find Netflix blocked when using Nord, but you can solve this quickly by just switching servers. I’ve never had to change more than once to find one that works. One of the best parts about this is that you can get access to different movies and shows in different countries. I love watching the BBC Planet Earth and Blue Planet series but they’re not available on Netflix in Thailand. When I VPN over to Singapore though, boom, I’m in nature documentary nerd heaven.
Other NordVPN features
- Works on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and Blackberry. Also has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox
- P2P-friendly… that means you can download torrents over your encrypted connection
- Ability to purchase with Bitcoin if you want total anonymity
- Military-grade AES-256-CBC encryption
- The company is Panama-based and so is not subject to any laws requiring it to keep logs of your browsing
- Over 5,000 servers in 62 countries
- Great customer support
- You can often book flights cheaper by changing your location to other countries. I once saved 60 Euros on a Norwegian Air flight by VPN-ing into Oslo
- Most recommended VPN on the market. Literally everyone recommends NordVPN as either their top pick, or one of the best
All VPNs will work at least somewhat slower than your unsecured connection. If you have a good connection to begin with and you’re using a good VPN, you shouldn’t notice the difference. On an already slow connection though, you can definitely see some lag. Different servers will have different speeds so sometimes changing to another one can fix this. Generally, the closer you are to the server, the faster your connection will be. This means that when you’re in Thailand, you should probably connect to a server in Thailand, although we sometimes find that Singapore is faster.
There are also some websites that really try hard to block traffic from VPNs. The streaming sites we mentioned earlier are big on this, as is Amazon. (We don’t recommend shopping on Amazon in Thailand due to pricey shipping and import tax.) A few other random sites also present issues; I get problems with the Bank of America website, but I can always find a different server that works for it. On the other hand, certain sites won’t work at all without the VPN. My personal information has been compromised in a few different hacks (common in the US) so I use the site Credit Karma to make sure nobody is opening credit cards in my name. I can’t access that site without a VPN connection to the US.
The best free VPN to use in Thailand
Our top pick NordVPN does not have a free plan, but many other companies do offer one. Using a free VPN has limitations: the servers are slower meaning your internet will be slower. There are far fewer countries to choose from (our pick has five on the free plan). And there are monthly caps on data meaning you won’t be able to keep the connection secure all of the time. Still, if you get one and only activate it when you need a VPN connection to another country or you’re submitting personal data on a public WiFi connection, you’re already 10x better off. Doing it this way for free is much better than going without a VPN at all.
We like hide.me as our free pick. Their free plan gets you up to 2GB of data each month, access to servers in five different countries, and decent enough speeds that you can use it periodically without wanting to rip your hair out. You definitely won’t be able to stream video using this. Also, 2GB is enough to do a lot of browsing, but we’ve found that when using a free plan the speeds are slow enough that you eventually just switch it off out of frustration. Again, it’s fine to use periodically but it will drive you crazy in the longterm.
Get a VPN, even if you don’t want to pay for one
Bottom line, if you aren’t ready to pay for a VPN yet, that’s fine. You should still get one to protect yourself for when you’re on booking sites or anywhere else you need to enter your credit card details. You should also use one anytime you’re doing any online banking. Having an always-on VPN is ideal, but getting a free one to use in these situations is still probably all you’ll need, and so much better than going without.
You can get our top choice NordVPN here.
You can find our free pick hide.me here.