TunnelBear Review

TunnelBear isn’t one of the big names in internet safety or security, but it’s one of those free VPNs you come across in desperation, take a chance on and…well, the rest is up for debate. This review of TunnelBear Australia, will let you know whether or not you can trust this VPN and detail how well it works.

What’s TunnelBear All About?

TunnelBear is a free (and paid) VPN that works on multiple devices and delivers the bare minimum as far as VPN features go. There’s nothing fancy or advanced, making it an excellent beginner-friendly VPN for casual internet users who want that little bit of extra privacy when browsing the internet.

It’s great for having on your phone or laptop and only switching on while outside. The free plan has a hard data cap of 500 megabytes so you won’t be able to stream, torrent or do any downloading. Hence, TunnelBear is better for privacy and protection on the go if you don’t want to commit to a paid plan.

There are paid plans available for TunnelBear if you have bigger dreams, though, so we’re going to explore those options, TunnelBear’s validity and more. Hopefully, this review will help you determine if TunnelBear is worth committing to.

What’s TunnelBear’s Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction is incredibly important in a VPN. Some countries have leaders who like to poke their noses in more than others—but in Canada, you’re pretty safe. As far as we know, it’s not common for people to go investigating your business without good reason.

Having a Canadian-based VPN is also great for our readers who’d prefer their VPN be based further from home. That way, if your VPN company sees you’re torrenting or doing otherwise morally questionable activities, it’s much harder for them to come after you for it.

Canada’s copyright laws are also semi-lenient, making this VPN a great choice for torrenters, or people who occasionally acquire their weekly TV-show catch ups from a less than official source. We’ll talk about this more in-depth later.

However, there are other Canadian laws that may make you wish to turn away from this VPN—if it doesn’t save itself with its promises and transparency first. 

Third-Party Audits: Privacy and History

As a jurisdiction for a VPN, Canada is awful when you get down to the details.

In some countries, the law states companies can’t keep logs on you. Hooray! Except this doesn’t apply in Canada. Canadian companies can keep whatever logs they want and sell them to whomever they please—and it’s the law to hand over some of the info they collect.

So what does that mean? Well, if a third-party audits the company, then your logs are theirs for the viewing. This includes your IP address, location, details about your hardware, possibly your name, address and payment information…

But wait—that’s only if TunnelBear keeps your data. Does it? Absolutely not, not a scrap!

TunnelBear’s Logging Promises

TunnelBear promises there’s no logging when you use their service. Specifically, TunnelBear won’t log:

  • The websites and apps you use while you’re connected to TunnelBear VPN.
  • Your IP address while you visit various websites.
  • DNS data during connection.
  • Your IP address before or after your initial connection to the service.

These are elements that most VPN companies—even those with a “no logging” policy—do keep track of. You can read more about TunnelBear’s claims here.

What TunnelBear Tracks and Keeps

In the website linked above, you’ll see that TunnelBear does log what versions of Windows you’re running, as well as what version of TunnelBear. 

They need this to keep your service running, and it gives away nothing about you. At most, they’ll laugh at you for still using Windows Vista when most people are rocking away on Windows 10. That’s not exactly a privacy concern.

TunnelBear will also store your email address and your data usage, but that’s to ensure you can log in and you’re not going over your data limit.

Lastly, TunnelBear has access to your payment information and potentially your full legal name, address and other info provided with payment. The company doesn’t store any of this, though, and won’t have access to it if you pay for the service with Bitcoin.

TunnelBear’s Privacy Proof

TunnelBear is a beauty with transparency. The company undergoes an annual third-party audit on the Windows app, browser extension and mobile app VPN clients, along with some other vital elements of the VPN service.

Now don’t get us wrong—these audits didn’t come up squeaky clean, but you should be happy about that. A VPN that’s too perfect may easily be faking its results. For example, the 2019 audit uncovered some vulnerabilities—but with these being public knowledge there was no way TunnelBear could let them go on, and fixed them. 

At the time of writing, the 2019 audit is the most recently published one. You can keep an eye on TunnelBear’s blog for updates, more recent audits, and other interesting content. 

So, there you have it—while there were a few technical issues with TunnelBear’s service, none had to do with logging, so your information is certified safe, regardless of the Canadian jurisdiction.

TunnelBear’s Best Features

Compared to other VPNs on the market, TunnelBear doesn’t have that many features. There are three basics that most VPN users want, though, and one additional feature that’s helpful. Although, TunnelBear’s version of that feature—the kill switch—has a fault.

Secrecy and Security

TunnelBear is nothing special when it comes to privacy and security. Some VPNs let you alter the security protocols to an extreme level, but TunnelBear just has the basics. There’s OpenVPN connection alongside AES-256, which are both standard in the VPN industry.

The US government allegedly uses the protocols above to encrypt information, so if that’s true you know it’s fantastic.

On mobile, you get IPSec and IKEv2 encryption, which isn’t quite as good but still gets the job done. These protocols also show up on desktop from time to time, depending on what’s available. You don’t get to choose which security protocols you’re using at any time.

Speeds

TunnelBear’s speeds are terrible—if you use the free version. At 500 megabytes a month you can’t expect much. In fact, you can hardly power a speed test to see how speedy your connection is.

So, let’s go premium and look at an Australian user’s speed test.

AU to AU

When connecting to a local server, the user experienced:

  • Ping: Slowed by 23 ms.
  • Download speed: Slowed by 0.47 Mbps.
  • Upload speed: Slowed by 0.16 Mbps.

These are impressive speeds, especially given how VPNs need to reroute your entire location and connection before downloading, uploading or loading a web page. 

AU to US

Now let’s venture across the world, connecting to a US server while situated in Australia. There’s one thing you should know first: the user’s speeds were awful to start with, under 20 Mbps. Australia’s average speeds are around 41.78 Mbps as of early 2021.

However, even at the sharp decrease the user experienced, they could still stream in HD. Now, let’s get to the numbers.

  • Ping: 246 ms speed decrease.
  • Download: 7.35 Mbps speed decrease.
  • Upload: 0.08 Mbps speed decrease.

These aren’t terrible speed decreases at all and TunnelBear VPN slowed the user’s connection much less than some other VPN services we’ve reviewed. This is incredibly impressive.

Though, you should keep in mind that these fantastic speeds may not stay for users with better internet connections; we haven’t found test results from anyone else, though. There’s always the possibility that VPN speeds are static—one dropping a 20 Mbps speed to 15 Mbps may also drop 70 Mbps to 15 Mbps.

Kill Switch

A kill switch is a handy tool to have in a VPN. Basically, if your VPN connection drops it kills your internet connection, thus ensuring no data leaks.

TunnelBear comes with a service called VigilantBear, which is the service’s killswitch. However, users found that it could use improvement.

Okay, yeah, the kill switch works when using TunnelBear’s OpenVPN connection. It kills the internet, tells you about it, and reconnects as soon as it can. 

Unfortunately, when connecting via the IKEv2 encryption, VigilantBear doesn’t work. Users found their connection stayed on and functional, but lacked TunnelBear’s protection until the VPN could reload. So, word of advice, stick to the OpenVPN connection if you’re in public and afraid of hackers.

Is There a TunnelBear Browser Extension?

There’s a TunnelBear browser extension on every browser except Microsoft Edge, which is to be expected—it may have changed its name, but we all know Internet Explorer has always been behind the times.

Alongside this browser extension, there’s an ad block extension. It’s free, even when you subscribe to TunnelBear.

Unfortunately, the ad block extension isn’t available on mobile and it isn’t available to download for your desktop either. So, if you thought you’d be sneaky and block Spotify ads or ads in games, you’re mistaken we’re afraid.

How Many Servers Does TunnelBear Have?

TunnelBear has a decent number of servers, at 1,800, although some competitors have 5,000 and beyond. These servers are situated in 20+ countries, which isn’t great considering many competitors grant you access to 60+ countries.

We can say one positive thing about this, though, that one of the 20+ countries is China, a country with very strict privacy laws, that’s difficult to access. You can easily get into Chinese-only websites and read all the latest news to your heart’s content.

It’s also incredibly easy to choose your server location with the detailed map revealing everywhere you can connect to. Switching servers is easy, too, according to users.

Most users found it took about 2–10 seconds to connect and to switch between servers. The farther away the server was, the longer it took to connect, which is natural with VPNs.

TunnelBear’s Streaming Compatibility

TunnelBear doesn’t have the best streaming compatibility. It doesn’t work with most of the major streaming platforms but works with two you may find some use with. HBO Max and Disney+ are yours for the watching.

If you’re wondering how this compares to more well-known VPN services, it’s not great. Most of them can unblock Netflix, or at the very least Hulu and BBC iPlayer. Some can even tackle Amazon Prime’s strong defenses against VPNs.

As for services similar to TunnelBear, let’s take Windscribe as an example. Windscribe starts off with a free plan and lets you pay for premium, and even that can unblock Netflix with its free servers. As Windscribe and TunnelBear are priced similarly, it doesn’t look good on TunnelBear’s part as it falls short.

TunnelBear’s Stance on Torrenting

Torrenting, in most countries, is illegal if the content is copyrighted—but TunnelBear doesn’t care. TunnelBear allows P2P connecting and torrenting, but we’d like to warn you to be careful with torrenting.

Australian laws disallow torrenting, so you should be abiding by them. We understand that many of you reading this will completely ignore that, though, so we have some good news.

Canadian copyright laws are a legal grey area, so if one day TunnelBear was to start logging your information, there wouldn’t be many repercussions so long as you know the law and can remind them of it. You’d probably also have to prove your usage of the content, though, which isn’t easy.

The Canadian Copyright Act has some leeway for downloading, torrenting and otherwise sourcing copyrighted material. You’re technically allowed to gather this material so long as you don’t show or send it to others, or use it to make money. So, with that in mind, torrent away but make sure you’re careful.

Can You Have Simultaneous Connections With TunnelBear?

Yes, you can have simultaneous connections with TunnelBear, whether you have a free or paid version of the service. Though keep in mind, the 500 monthly megabytes will barely keep one device running when you have the free plan.

Paid you’ll have a better time thanks to the unlimited data, so connect five of your devices and stay safe. 

Is There a TunnelBear Free Trial?

Given that there’s a free version of the service, there’s no free trial. This is highly unfortunate—you’d think a VPN that’s terrible when used for free would offer a free trial of the premium speeds and unlimited data.

Surely this can be saved by, say, a 30-day money-back guarantee like many other VPNs, right?

Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t offer refunds, regardless of the circumstance. If you pay for TunnelBear you’ll have to suck it up and either use it, or take it as money well-wasted.

Luckily there’s a monthly subscription option so you can sign up for $9.99 and see how you like it, before diving in for an annual or three-year plan. Still, it’s not great compared to other VPNs. Even some free services offer a three day or week-long free trial, along with 30 or 45-day money-back guarantees.

How Much Does TunnelBear Cost?

TunnelBear’s pricing is pretty fair. There are cheaper VPNs with more cost-effective discounted plans, but this definitely isn’t a service that’ll rip you off. Though, given that it barely unlocks anything and has a limited selection of servers, we feel the monthly fee is higher than the service is worth.

Please note, all pricing in this article is in US dollars as that’s the most common pricing used by such services. At times, VPN sites even show their pricing in USD while the user is in another country.

Monthly Plan

The average price of a VPN is around $10–13 a month, so TunnelBear is rightfully on the low end of this.

Unfortunately, there are other VPNs on the low end that offer more servers and more features than TunnelBear, so that’s unfortunate.

The $9.99 option for TunnelBear is paid monthly, as with many subscription-based services, and it’s a solid option for someone who can’t afford to pay a lump-sum upfront.

Yearly Plan

If you take on the yearly plan you only pay $4.99 a month, but you pay it in a single sum of $59.88. That’s not bad for a year of VPN, but it’s also not fantastic. There are better services that will give you two years for less.

Value-wise, we feel $4.99 would be a good monthly price without the discount.

Three Year Plan

The plan that packs in the most value is the three-year, but only if you use RememBear. RememBear is a password manager that usually costs $2.50 at the lowest, on a two-year plan. However, it’s free with TunnelBear’s three-year plan.

Getting TunnelBear and RememBear for three years will cost you $3.33 a month, paid in one sum of $119.88.

However, if you don’t use RememBear, it’s not a great deal. Think about it this way, Surfshark costs $2.49 a month or around $59 for two years, which is the same as TunnelBear’s annual plan. Meanwhile, Ivacy lets you choose a five-year subscription paid upfront at $69.99 which boils down to $1.16 a month.

So, regardless of the plan, TunnelBear doesn’t pack in a ton of value. It loses further value when we point out that Myki exists; that’s a free password management system that eliminates the need to ever pay for RememBear, making its inclusion in this three-year plan pretty redundant.

TunnelBear: Summary

TunnelBear is a decent VPN for privacy and unblocking geo-blocked news sites, YouTube and Disney+ content. Unfortunately, it’s not great for much else and we feel it’s slightly overpriced for what it can offer, and where.

If TunnelBear was one of your only options or you had your heart set on it, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this VPN. Apart from that, it wouldn’t be our first choice, but it’s far from our last.

TunnelBear would definitely be one of our top picks for new VPN users or people who struggle with technology. Its simple interface is perfect for beginners as it lacks complex settings and fancy features. Just connect, and you’re ready to get browsing.

We’d also recommend it to the super, super privacy-concerned. Given its yearly, detailed and public third-party audits, TunnelBear is one of the most trustworthy VPN services out there. Other companies have been audited, but the results are usually out of date by two or three years.

Best TunnelBear Alternatives

If TunnelBear wasn’t for you, why not consider one of the other three VPNs we mentioned in this review? All three are marginally better than TunnelBear be it price-wise or feature-wise. Here’s a bit more about them:

NordVPN

Nord VPN is pricey, but its popularity, fantastic customer service, and its features make up for that. It has some of the highest number of servers and locations of any VPN, impressive speeds and is highly popular so you know you’d hear about any scandals as soon as they occurred. 

Pricing

  • Monthly: $11.95.
  • Annually: $59.
  • Two-yearly: $89.

Surfshark

Surfshark is rising in popularity and it’s still incredibly cost-effective. You can get two years of Surfshark for less than a single year of TunnelBear. Plus, it has more servers across more locations, better features and you can connect unlimited devices to a single account or plan.

Pricing

  • Monthly: $12.95.
  • 6-monthly: $38.94.
  • Two-yearly: $59.76.

Ivacy

Ivacy isn’t that popular, but if you want to take a chance on a lesser-known VPN then it’s certainly a VPN to look at. Five years cost less than one year of TunnelBear, and the speeds, privacy and kill switch are fantastic. Although, Ivacy has never been publicly audited.

Pricing

  • Monthly: $9.95.
  • Annually: $42.
  • Two-yearly: $69.99.

TunnelBear: Conclusion

TunnelBear has fantastic speeds and a decently valuable three-year subscription plan, but it falls flat everywhere else. It’s fine if Disney+ or privacy is your only concern, but there are better VPNs out there.

Its speeds are one of its strong points, though, so if you want a speedy VPN for streaming on the unlocked platforms, this is one it’s hard to beat. Just make sure you pay first, as its free speeds are abysmal and the data caps are ridiculously easy to go over.