TunnelBear review 2022

Contents

As mentioned, TunnelBear is most famous for its free service. With this option, you get access to TunnelBear’s full server list. This is pretty cool for a free VPN. The main drawback of the free service is that you only get 500MB to play with per month, which limits what you can do while surfing securely.

TunnelBear Review 2023: Is It Secure and Easy to Use?

TunnelBear has excellent security features, extremely easy-to-use apps (with cute bears everywhere), and very fast speeds for smooth browsing and uninterrupted streaming and gaming. TunnelBear also allows you to connect as many devices as you want.

It’s consistently able to access popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, and it works in countries that restrict access to the internet, like China and Iran.

It has industry-standard VPN security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a strict no-logs policy, and a kill switch, as well as:

  • Split-tunneling. Lets you choose which apps use the VPN tunnel and which apps and websites use your regular network.
  • Full leak protection. Protects against DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leaks.
  • Obfuscation. Makes your VPN traffic look more regular, so it can bypass censorship in restrictive countries like China and Russia.
  • And more…

I really like TunnelBear, but it has some drawbacks — it doesn’t work with Disney+, it doesn’t have 24/7 live chat, and it doesn’t provide a money-back guarantee.

TunnelBear has an affordable 1-month, 1-year, and 3-year payment plan, a plan for businesses, and a decent free plan that’s good for testing out the product.

�� Overall Rank #9 out of 98 VPNs
�� Servers 5,000+
�� Number of Devices Unlimited
�� Starting Price €3.13 / month
�� Free Plan Yes
�� Money-Back Guarantee No

TunnelBear Full Review

TunnelBear Full Review

I spent a couple of weeks researching and testing TunnelBear to see whether or not it has good security, fast speeds, and intuitive apps. I also compared TunnelBear to other top VPNs on the market to see whether or not it’s a good value.

TunnelBear’s apps and website are filled with cute animated bears and bear puns. But don’t mistake TunnelBear’s light-hearted approach to design for a lack of seriousness when it comes to security, privacy, or performance.

TunnelBear is one of the most transparent VPN providers in terms of privacy, it comes with top-notch security features, and it conducts a full-scale independent audit every year. You don’t get a lot of extra features, but TunnelBear is very intuitive, easy to use, and fun, making it perfect for people who are new to VPNs.

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TunnelBear Features

TunnelBear has the following standard VPN security features:

  • 256-bit AES encryption. Used by militaries and government agencies worldwide, this type of encryption is one of the best encryption methods available (TunnelBear refers to 256-bit AES as Grizzly-grade encryption).
  • No-logs policy. TunnelBear doesn’t store any of your personal data (the websites you visit, the files you download, or your IP addresses). TunnelBear provides an easy-to-understand and transparent privacy policy.
  • Kill switch. This feature (called VigilantBear) shuts down your internet access if your VPN connection accidentally drops, and it automatically reconnects to a server once TunnelBear finds an internet connection (preventing any possible traffic and data leaks).

I also really like that TunnelBear has its own encrypted DNS servers to prevent DNS leaks, as well as built-in WebRTC and IPv6 leak protection. Unlike VyprVPN, which doesn’t have WebRTC protection and requires you to manually disable IPv6 traffic on your device, TunnelBear handles everything in the background, so you don’t have to take any action to protect your devices against leaks.

TunnelBear Features

TunnelBear includes 3 internet protocols, WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. This is great as all those protocols are really secure and fast.

  • WireGuard. WireGuard is one of the best open-source VPN protocols. It’s the fastest on the market, and it’s very secure. What I really like about WireGuard is that it’s easy to audit due to its minimalistic codebase. WireGuard is available on every device that TunnelBear supports.
  • OpenVPN. OpenVPN is a popular open-source VPN protocol that uses strong encryption and provides a good balance of speed and security, but it’s slightly slower than WireGuard. It’s available on all TunnelBear apps.
  • IKEv2. IKEv2 is a fast and reliable VPN protocol that supports strong encryption, but it’s slower than the other protocols TunnelBear offers. It’s also not open-source. But if you need a super secure connection, you can use it on all TunnelBear apps, except for Android.
Android iOS Windows macOS
WireGuard
OpenVPN
IKEv2

TunnelBear also has a TCP Override setting on macOS and Windows that forces the VPN to use the TCP tunneling protocol, which offers better performance on unreliable connections.

TunnelBear also has a handful of extra features, including:

Split-Tunneling (SplitBear)

SplitBear is TunnelBear’s split-tunneling tool, which lets you choose which apps or sites use the VPN connection and which ones use your local network — depending on which device you’re using.

SplitBear is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. The Windows version lets you split-tunnel both apps and sites, the Android version only allows you to split-tunnel apps, while the iOS and macOS apps let you exclude websites (example: tunnelbear.com) and subdomains (ex: tunnelbear.com/pricing) from the VPN tunnel, which isn’t something a lot of VPNs offer.

I tested SplitBear and it worked really well. I connected to a US server to download a large file, and I routed Disney+ through my ISP. SplitBear allowed me to simultaneously maintain fast speeds for torrenting and watch my favorite TV shows and movies on Disney+ without interruptions.

Private Internet Access provides similar split-tunneling, but I think it’s better — that’s because it lets you split-tunnel apps and sites on Windows and other platforms, including macOS and Linux.

TunnelBear Features

Overall, I’m happy with TunnelBear’s split-tunneling tool — it works really well and it’s available on all of its apps (even on iOS).

Obfuscation (GhostBear)

TunnelBear Features

GhostBear is TunnelBear’s obfuscation tool that masks your VPN connection from prying eyes, like your ISP, making it seem as if you’re browsing the internet without being connected to a TunnelBear server.

GhostBear is great for bypassing internet firewalls in restrictive countries, like China and Iran.

But make note that using GhostBear will slow down your internet speed a little bit because it adds extra encryption. In my tests, websites took an extra 5 seconds to load and Netflix content had a bit of lag. While TunnelBear’s obfuscation tool is able to maintain decent speeds, I prefer ExpressVPN’s obfuscation feature, as it’s significantly faster.

Overall, I really like TunnelBear’s GhostBear feature. It is reliable for overcoming VPN blocks, it’s very simple to use, and it has pretty fast speeds.

Encrypted SNI & ECH

TunnelBear Features

TunnelBear supports 2 very secure TLS extensions on its Android apps: the Encrypted Server Name Indicator (ESNI) and the Encrypted Client Hello (ECH).

TunnelBear’s ESNI encrypts the Server Name Indication (SNI) field in your device’s internet requests. The SNI field, which reveals which server your device is trying to connect to, is usually unencrypted and can be used to block access to TunnelBear in restricted countries like China. By encrypting the SNI, TunnelBear’s ESNI makes it harder for censors to block your online connections. But, for this SNI to be encrypted, your web browser needs to support ESNI (if it doesn’t, it’ll just use the traditional unencrypted SNI instead). For now, you can enable ESNI on the Firefox browser.

TunnelBear’s ECH goes a step further. It encrypts the “Client Hello” message your device sends to the server it tries to connect to, which reveals what site you’re trying to visit. Since ECH encrypts this information, it makes it impossible for your ISP or a bad actor to see the websites you go to. Like SNI encryption, for ECH to work, it needs to be enabled, which you can do on Firefox, Edge, and Chrome.

The best part is both of these features are already built into TunnelBear’s Android app, so there are no settings to tweak and no switches to flip — they protect you right out of the box.

Onion Support

TunnelBear Features

TunnelBear supports The Onion Router (Tor) on most of its servers — all you need to do is connect to a TunnelBear server and then begin using the Tor network.

When connected to TunnelBear servers, your ISP won’t be able to see that you’re surfing the dark web, which is great, especially if you’re in a country that restricts internet access.

TunnelBear also keeps your IP address hidden from other Tor users (including the entry node) every time you browse the dark web via the Tor browser and if your IP address is leaked, Tor users will only be able to see the VPN’s IP address, not your real one.

TunnelBear’s Tor support is pretty good, but I slightly prefer NordVPN, as it allows you to browse the Tor network within regular browsers like Chrome and Opera.

TunnelBear Blocker

TunnelBear Features

TunnelBear Blocker protects you against plenty of online threats and nuisances, including ads, ad trackers, and malware. The best part about it is that it’s free and anyone can use it, though it only works on the Chrome browser.

It’s really great at blocking ads. It checks the domain names of loading items against crowdsourced domain block lists and stops regular and potentially harmful ads, as well as malicious scripts from loading. It also prevents the Flash plugin from loading, which is often the reason behind annoying pop-up ads. In my tests, this feature blocked all ads on ad-heavy sites, which significantly sped up my page load times.

I love that it stops email tracking and ultrasonic tracking, too. It blocks email trackers by running them across its list of email tracking sources, which means that if the sender is using any of those, they won’t know you opened their email, even if you did. TunnelBear also prevents ultrasonic tracking by keeping your device’s microphone disabled by default.

TunnelBear Blocker also prevents browser fingerprinting, which is a method of identifying and tracking users based on their web browser configuration. It does this by overriding default Javascript methods used for fingerprinting with more generic ones, making it harder for advertisers or trackers to identify you.

Finally, TunnelBear stops social media buttons from loading as well. These buttons, even if not interacted with, can track your browsing habits and relay this information to their respective social media platforms, which helps them target you with ads. TunnelBear Blocker uses crowdsourced block lists of known tracking domains to identify and stop these buttons from loading.

Overall, I think TunnelBear Blocker is great, but I prefer Private Internet Access and NordVPN’s ad blockers since they protect all of your traffic across all browsers and apps.

TunnelBear Privacy & Security

TunnelBear has one of the most transparent and straightforward no-logs policies out there. I love how TunnelBear explains its Privacy Policy in easy-to-understand terms instead of with complex and vague language like most other VPNs — TunnelBear has charts that show what data it collects and provides an explanation as to why it collects the data. TunnelBear claims that it strives to collect the minimum amount of information required to operate its service — it only stores your email address (to communicate with you) and payment information (to process refunds and in fraud prevention).

TunnelBear has also conducted an independent audit every year since 2017 for holes in its codewear, infrastructure, website, and apps, and it published the findings of each audit on its website.

TunnelBear Privacy & Security

To back up its no-logs policy, TunnelBear also issues an annual transparency report (like CyberGhost VPN) that shows how many times government or law enforcement agencies requested user data and how many times TunnelBear complied with the requests (none).

TunnelBear is based in the US, which is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances (an intelligence-sharing agreement between various countries). But if the US government requested user data, TunnelBear wouldn’t have any to turn over because the VPN doesn’t store user data.

Overall, TunnelBear has a transparent and strict no-logs policy that’s been audited multiple times and an easy-to-understand Privacy Policy. TunnelBear also backs up its no-logs policy with a transparency report that is released each year.

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

I ran speed tests in all 45+ countries where TunnelBear has a server to determine its average internet VPN speed. The average decrease in download speed from my baseline speed was about 42%, which is pretty good — I maintained good speeds for browsing, streaming, making Voice over IP (VoIP) calls, and torrenting on most servers.

I started my tests by establishing my baseline speed while connecting to my local network:

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Next, I used TunnelBear’s Fast Connect tool to connect to the fastest server, and TunnelBear connected me to a server in New York. My download speed decreased by 10%, which is pretty good for a local VPN server. My internet activities were barely affected — I browsed the internet, streamed content on Netflix, and had a 2-hour Zoom call without any glitches.

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Then I tested a server in Germany and my download speed was actually faster in Europe than in the US! My speed drop was only a meager 5%, and I surfed the web, played video games, and downloaded files almost as if I wasn’t connected to a VPN.

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Finally, I connected to a server in Australia (one of the furthest servers from my location). TunnelBear reduced my speed by 80%, which significantly affected my online experience. Websites took 5-7 seconds to load and TV shows and movies took 10 seconds to start, but I didn’t have any interruptions or buffering once the videos began.

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Overall, TunnelBear had really fast speeds on most servers, including local servers (the US) and servers located in Central and South America and Europe. I only experienced significantly slower speeds connected to very distant servers in Australia and New Zealand.

TunnelBear Servers & IP Addresses

TunnelBear has servers in 45+ countries. The number of countries is smaller than a lot of the top VPNs like ExpressVPN (90+ countries), CyberGhost VPN, (90+), and Private Internet Access (80+), but TunnelBear does a good job of spreading out its server locations all over the world, so most users can either connect to a server in their own country or one that is relatively close (to get better speeds).

But it’s a shame that TunnelBear doesn’t provide helpful server metrics, like the server load percentage (how many active users are connected to a server) or latency, which shows how long it takes for the internet signal to travel from your device to the VPN server.

That said, I really like that TunnelBear supports torrenting on all of its servers — this allows you to connect to a local server to get the fastest speeds. There are VPNs (like Proton VPN and CactusVPN) that have a limited number of dedicated P2P servers, which could make it hard to find a nearby server.

Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t offer dedicated IPs. If you’re looking for a VPN that has dedicated IPs, Private Internet Access and CyberGhost VPN offer them for a small additional cost, while PrivateVPN provides dedicated IPs for free.

While TunnelBear is only located in 45+ countries, the servers are spread out pretty well all over the world.

TunnelBear Streaming Support

TunnelBear Streaming Support

TunnelBear is good for streaming — it supports streaming across all of its 5,000+ servers in 45+ countries.

TunnelBear works with popular sites, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer — as well as less-popular streaming sites like Pluto TV, CBC (in Canada), and ABC. That said, I was disappointed to find that it doesn’t work with Disney+ and ESPN+.

But I think it’s great that it works well with different Netflix libraries. I tested it here in the US and had no problem watching my favorite shows from my local library. My colleagues in the US, the UK, and Canada confirmed that they could always access local content on Netflix with TunnelBear.

TunnelBear Streaming Support

All in all, TunnelBear has really good streaming support. I was able to access content on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, and my colleague in the UK was able to access BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t work with Disney+ and ESPN+.

TunnelBear Torrenting Support

TunnelBear Torrenting Support

TunnelBear is great for torrenting — it allows P2P traffic in all locations, but it recommends connecting to a server in Canada, the US, UK, Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, or Sweden if you encounter problems downloading files in other countries.

In my tests, I didn’t have any trouble downloading P2P files from any location, and TunnelBear worked with all of the top torrenting clients like qBittorent, BitTorrent, Deluge, and others (qBittorent provided the fastest download speeds for me).

qBittorrent
Vuze
Deluge
uTorrent
BitTorrent
Transmission

I also ran leak tests while connected to 10+ TunnelBear servers, and fortunately, all of them came back with 0 leaks. My only complaint is that TunnelBear doesn’t include port forwarding (which provides faster speeds).

Overall, TunnelBear supports torrenting on all of its servers and has great security features for safely sharing P2P traffic.

TunnelBear Gaming Support

TunnelBear Gaming Support

TunnelBear is a decent option for gaming. I played a couple of rounds of DOTA 2 to test it, and I was overall happy with my speeds.

TunnelBear maintained a stable ping on local servers, my speeds were fast, there wasn’t any significant lag, and an update of 1 GB took about 2–3 minutes to complete.

When I connected to more distant servers, I experienced a higher ping. That same update took 6–7 minutes to finish, and I had some lag in my games, but it was minor and didn’t get in the way of my game.

TunnelBear protects you from Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, which cut your connection to the internet. It offers anti-DDoS protection on all of its servers, which means that if someone tries to DDoS your connection to TunnelBear, they’ll fail.

But I think there are better VPNs for gaming, like ExpressVPN, which is the best gaming VPN on the current market — it maintains lower ping on both nearby and distant servers, has a dedicated router app so you can play on your gaming consoles while connected to the VPN, and comes with cloud gaming support.

TunnelBear Bypassing Censorship

TunnelBear uses the GhostBear tool to overcome censorship on the internet. It claims that it works in restrictive countries like China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

TunnelBear Bypassing Censorship

TunnelBear Plans & Pricing

TunnelBear offers 3 plans:

  • Free.
  • Unlimited (includes 3 subscription options).
  • Teams (for businesses).

The free plan comes with all of the features of the premium plan, but you only get 2 GB per month — in my tests, this was enough for about a few hours of basic browsing to test out TunnelBear’s product. If you’re looking for a good free plan, I recommend hide.me, which has the best free plan out there (you get 10 GB per month, access to 5+ servers, fast speeds, and torrenting support).

Starting at €3.13 / month, the Unlimited plan has several subscription options that include unlimited data and unlimited device connections.

The Teams plan comes with a dedicated account manager, unlimited data, unlimited connections, and centralized team billing and management.

TunnelBear accepts credit cards and Bitcoin (and of course, there’s also an option to pay with jars of honey!), but I was a little disappointed that TunnelBear doesn’t accept PayPal.

Also, TunnelBear is one of the few VPNs on the market that doesn’t include a money-back guarantee, but it will consider offering a refund on a case-by-case basis. Other top VPNs like ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and CyberGhost VPN all back every purchase with a money-back guarantee.

Overall, TunnelBear’s payment plans are competitive with many other top VPNs. TunnelBear accepts credit cards and Bitcoin, but I wish it took PayPal payments. There’s no money-back guarantee, but you can test out TunnelBear with the free plan.

TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

TunnelBear includes apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS, and it also has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

I had no issues installing TunnelBear’s apps. It only took me 1–2 minutes to do it on my Android and iOS smartphones, and 3–4 minutes on my Windows 10 PC and MacBook.

How to Install TunnelBear (In 3 Simple Steps):

  • Step 1: Sign up for TunnelBear. Pick your favorite plan and create an account.
  • Step 2: Download and install its apps. Follow the on-screen instructions. This shouldn’t take more than 1–2 minutes.
  • Step 3: Open the VPN app. Connect to a server with 1 click and start browsing securely.

Android

TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

TunnelBear’s Android app is my favorite TunnelBear app — it’s feature-rich, really well-designed, and easy to use (it took me about 1 minute to get used to).

I love how simple it is to use TunnelBear’s Android app. You can connect to a server with one tap by using the Fastest server option. To manually select a server, just tap on the small arrow at the bottom of the screen, which then displays all of TunnelBear’s server locations, or tap on a designated country that is indicated by a small jar of honey on the world map. The best part is that when you connect to a server, a bear digs a tunnel from your current location and pops up out of a jar of honey in the country that you connect to (the bear also lets out an adorable roar)!

I also really like that the Settings tab has a clear layout, which makes it very simple to navigate. Once you click on the cogwheel in the top right corner, TunnelBear lists all extra features you get with the Android app, including VigilantBear (kill switch), GhostBear (obfuscation), SplitBeat (split-tunneling), and the option to manually select your preferred protocol. You can also turn on notifications from TunnelBear and enable Bear Sounds (because why not?).

Unlike the desktop apps, TunnelBear’s Android app doesn’t have convenient connection options like automatically launching when your device starts or adding trusted networks that TunnelBear will automatically connect to.

Otherwise, it’s a lot of fun to use TunnelBear’s Android app. It includes a lot of features, it’s easy to navigate, allows for quick connections, and an animated bear roars each time when you secure your connection.

iOS

TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

TunnelBear’s iOS app is the weakest out of all of the VPN’s platforms. The iOS app is missing GhostBear, but I like that it comes with VigilantBear as not a lot of VPNs offer a kill switch on their iOS apps.

I also like that TunnelBear’s iOS app includes the SplitBear (split-tunneling) feature, but you can only choose which websites and subdomains to exclude from your VPN connection — you can’t exclude apps. This is beyond TunnelBear’s control, however, as iOS doesn’t support app-based split-tunneling.

The iOS app’s design is basically an exact replica of the Android app, and because there are fewer features, it’s even easier to navigate than the Android app. Also, the iOS app includes the bear roar when you connect to a server, and there’s a cute option that allows you to change the app’s icon on your device.

There are better iOS apps out there that have more features, but TunnelBear’s iOS app is user-friendly and it does have those cute bears!

Windows/Mac (Desktop)

TunnelBear’s desktop apps are nearly identical to the mobile apps, and not surprisingly, I also really like both the Windows and Mac apps. They have an intuitive interface and you can connect to the fastest server with 1 click.

Like with the mobile apps, it’s easy to manually find a server — just click on the drop-down arrow next to the on/off slider to get a list of countries or simply click on a jar of honey in a country on the map. Sadly, the bear doesn’t roar once you’re connected on the Windows or Mac apps, but your connection is confirmed with a bear wearing a hat that resembles that country.

TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

Unlike the mobile apps, the Windows and Mac let you enable TunnelBear to launch on startup, enable notifications if you connect or disconnect from the VPN server, and receive an alert if an unsecured network is detected. Like the iOS app, the desktop apps allow you to automatically disable TunnelBear on trusted Wi-Fi networks.

And both apps have split-tunneling, though I like it better on Windows because it lets you split-tunnel both apps and sites — on macOS, you can only split-tunnel websites.

Overall, TunnelBear has good desktop apps — they’re user-friendly, have a fun interface, and come with a good set of features.

Browser Extensions (Chrome & Firefox)

TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

TunnelBear’s browser extensions are fun and simple to use, just like its apps. Adding them to your browser, Chrome or Firefox, doesn’t take more than 1–2 minutes, and it only takes a couple of clicks to connect to a server location. I was happy to see that they feature the TunnelBear map, but it was a little disappointing that you can’t click on it.

TunnelBear’s browser extensions give you access to all servers in 45+ countries. I was surprised to see this since there are many top VPNs whose extensions only give you access to a couple of locations.

The only downside is that you don’t get to choose specific server locations in the US and UK, which is an option in TunnelBear’s apps. Instead, TunnelBear connects you to the server from that location that’s best for you.

The extensions are very simplistic, which is great for VPN beginners. There aren’t any extra features you can configure, which is convenient if you simply want to protect your web traffic and let the VPN work in the background. If you want more advanced settings, I recommend ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access’s browser extensions, which come with more security features.

TunnelBear’s Apps: Is TunnelBear Easy to Use?

TunnelBear no doubt has some of the most intuitive apps on the market.

They are all well-designed and have a simple interface that takes about a minute or two to get used to. The Android app is the best one because it has the most features, but the iOS, Windows, and Mac apps are also very good.

Android iOS Windows macOS
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Kill Switch (VigilantBear)
Split-Tunneling (SplitBear)
(apps)

(websites and subdomains)

(apps and websites)

(websites and subdomains)
Obfuscation (GhostBear)
Encrypted SNI & ECH

TunnelBear Customer Support

TunnelBear Customer Support

TunnelBear’s Help section is well-stocked with guides and frequently asked questions (FAQs), important updates, an email portal, and a search function (featuring a cute bear typing as you input your question). However, they lack a 24/7 live chat service.

I really like the support guides, which are neatly organized into 3 categories: Getting to know your Bear, Accounts, and Troubleshooting. Inside each category are sub-categories — for example, Getting to know your Bear has individual sections for FAQs, Privacy and Security, and Features. The guides are pretty thorough and I found most of the answers to my questions either inside the guides or through the search option.

TunnelBear’s email support is good. I received replies to my emails within 1-2 hours during TunnelBear’s office hours in the US, but when I emailed support during off hours, I didn’t receive a reply until the next morning. Each response was personal, friendly, and provided me with a solution to my issue or question.

But I really wish TunnelBear had 24/7 live chat (like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost VPN, and PrivateVPN). While the email response is usually fast, it doesn’t beat the help you get in real time with knowledgeable live chat reps. I hope TunnelBear launches a 24/7 live chat option in the future.

Overall, TunnelBear’s support isn’t great, but it’s still pretty good. I really miss the live chat, but the email response time is good as long as you contact support during working hours.

Is TunnelBear One of the Best VPNs in 2023?

TunnelBear is secure, pretty fast, has a fun interface, and is really easy to use. Plus, TunnelBear works with a lot of streaming websites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, is P2P-friendly, and bypasses internet firewalls in countries that restrict access to the internet, like China and Iran.

In my speed tests, TunnelBear wasn’t the fastest VPN, but I was still impressed with the fast speeds TunnelBear provided on local servers (in the US) and even in Europe and Central and South America. I had an average decrease in download speed of 42%, which is above average. Thanks to TunnelBear’s good speeds, I was able to watch content in HD and without any buffering, make VoIP calls that didn’t freeze, download large files fast, and browse the internet with mostly only minor delays.

TunnelBear has excellent security and privacy features. It protects your data with 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy (that has been independently audited). TunnelBear also publishes an annual transparency report that proves it didn’t provide any user data to the government or law enforcement.

While I’m a big fan of TunnelBear, it has some drawbacks. TunnelBear doesn’t work with Disney+, lacks 24/7 live chat, and there’s no money-back guarantee.

Otherwise, TunnelBear is one of the best and most user-friendly VPNs on the market. TunnelBear allows unlimited connections with one account and offers 3 affordable payment plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is TunnelBear free?

TunnelBear has a free plan, but it’s not very good. You only get 2 GB per month, which is only enough to browse the internet for a few hours. But TunnelBear’s free plan is decent if you just want to test out the VPN — it gives you access to all of the features of the premium plans. TunnelBear’s free plan lets you connect unlimited devices and allows you to connect to a server in all of TunnelBear’s 45+ countries.

I usually don’t recommend that you use a free VPN because many of them aren’t safe, may keep logs of your online traffic and files you download, set a limit on your data, and have slow speeds. But if you’re looking for the best free VPN, I recommend Proton VPN, which allows unlimited data and bandwidth and maintains good speeds.

Does TunnelBear work in China?

Yes, TunnelBear is able to bypass the Great Firewall and overcome heavy internet censorship in other restrictive countries like Iran. TunnelBear’s obfuscation tool (GhostBear) is very good at masking your VPN connection, making it seem as if you’re browsing the internet without a VPN.

What is GhostBear in TunnelBear?

GhostBear is TunnelBear’s name for its obfuscation feature. Obfuscation is a tool that makes your traffic look more regular and helps you get around internet censorship in restrictive countries like China and Russia.

Plus, GhostBear doesn’t slow down your speeds too much, and it’s really simple to use — all you have to do is toggle the switch in the settings menu.

What is VigilantBear in TunnelBear’s app?

VigilantBear is TunnelBear’s kill switch feature. This feature disconnects you from the internet when your connection to the VPN server drops to prevent any accidental leaks that might reveal your IP address.

Does TunnelBear support torrenting?

Yes, TunnelBear supports torrenting across all of its servers in 45+ countries. The VPN works with all popular torrent clients, like Vuze, Deluge, Bittorrent, and qBittorrent, and it comes with excellent security features for P2P file sharing, including full leak protection and a kill switch that prevents any accidental IP leaks.

How many devices does TunnelBear allow?

TunnelBear allows unlimited simultaneous connections, including on its free plan, so you can install it and use it on as many devices as you want. This makes TunnelBear a great pick if you live in a large household or if you often travel with a lot of family members. When I tested it, I had my entire family connect to 11 devices in total, and TunnelBear maintained stable connections on all devices at once.

Is TunnelBear good for streaming?

Yes, TunnelBear has decent streaming support. It has good speeds for streaming, and it works with streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. The only popular sites it can’t access are Disney+ and ESPN+. The good news is it also works with less popular apps and websites like Pluto TV.

TunnelBear review 2022

Canada-based TunnelBear is an increasingly well-known service, mainly due to its free VPN offering. But aside from that, its premium service lets users surf the web securely and privately, without worrying about data caps.
But how does it compare to other premium providers in the space? We’ve been testing out the TunnelBear service to see how it stacks up compared to the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

This TunnelBear review answers the following questions:

  • How fast is TunnelBear?
  • Does TunnelBear work with streaming services, like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video?
  • How secure is TunnelBear and what are its privacy practices like?
  • Does TunnelBear work in China?
  • How much does its service cost?

All of the above questions and more are answered in this review. If you have the time, I recommend reading the full review to get all the details. If you don’t have time for that right now, you can go ahead and read a summary of my thoughts below.

If you’re curious, you can read more on the criteria I used to test TunnelBear and our wider VPN testing methodology.

TunnelBear summary

In general, I think TunnelBear is a good VPN provider. It provides fast speeds, adheres to a strict no-logging policy, and has a very comprehensive and transparent privacy policy. It supports secure VPN protocols and offers native apps for all its supported platforms. TunnelBear also works in China – which is no small feat these days. It also provides its users with little extras, like an adblocker and browser extensions.

The downsides are its spotty streaming support and slow customer service, with no live chat option. TunnelBear may not be perfect, but you could easily do much, much worse.

TunnelBear key data

* Average speed over multiple global locations based across multiple speed tests per day.

How does TunnelBear compare to other popular VPNs?

TunnelBear pros and cons

  • Good speeds
  • Works in China
  • Allows torrenting
  • Robust-logging policy and very comprehensive privacy policy
  • Adblocker
  • Doesn’t play nice with most streaming sites
  • No kill switch in mobile apps
  • Relatively small network
  • Fairly slow support
  • No live chat

Speed: How fast is TunnelBear?

TunnelBear - Speed Test

I found that TunnelBear performed quite well in my speed tests. As is typically the case, the servers closest to my actual location were the fastest ones. But TunnelBear provided good speeds across all of the regions I tested. This is a step up from the last time we reviewed the service, so it’s nice to see that TunnelBear is improving.

Here are the averages speeds for North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • North America (where I’m located): 434 Mbps
  • Asia: 266 Mbps
  • Europe: 406 Mbps

Global average: 368 Mbps

The tests were conducted using the WireGuard protocol. TunnelBear supports WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2 and IPsec. All of these protocols are considered secure but I’d stick with the first three just to be on the safe side. The speed results I got with WireGuard were excellent and you shouldn’t feel a speed hit, even with a very fast connection.

I also tested TunnelBear’s performance with online gaming. TunnelBear doesn’t support routers at this time, so I had to share the VPN connection from my computer with my gaming console. The results were very good. I connected to a nearby server to insure fast ping times and everything went smoothly – no lags, no disconnects. Good stuff.

Apps & devices

TunnelBear - Platforms

TunnelBear provides native client apps for the following platforms:

Browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox, although these only protect your browser traffic and don’t cover your entire device. Plans also include an ad blocker that works with the Chrome browser.

Setup and interface

When it comes to apps, TunnelBear keeps things simple. They’re easy to set up and straightforward to use. For this review, we’ve been testing out the Windows desktop client and the iOS mobile app. To start, download the correct app for your operating system, install it where appropriate, and launch the app.

One thing worth noting before we get to the apps: no matter what operating system you use, you should be prepared for many, many bear puns. They’re seemingly everywhere, scattered within the website information, feature names, and install notifications; this provider just can’t seem to get enough. It might seem cute to some, but could be annoying to others. Moving on, let’s take a look at the apps.

Desktop

The desktop client is the same whether you’re using the free or paid version of TunnelBear. The only difference in the free version is you’ll see how much data you’ve used and an upgrade button at the bottom of the app. Note that we’re using the premium version for our testing.

Once you’re logged in to the app, you’ll see a series of welcome windows giving tips on how to use the client. Then you’ll arrive at the Server page. At the top is a toggle to connect or disconnect to the VPN. By default, in the Auto mode, you’ll be connected with the server that will give you the best performance.

TunnelBear - App - Disconnected

If you’d rather choose a location, you can do so by clicking one of the “honeypot” icons in the country of your choice. Just hold and drag to get to your desired location, click the icon, and select Yes to connect. Alternatively, you can use the dropdown list to select your country.

Typically, with other providers, we see options to organize server lists, such as by city or favorites. However, given the small number of server locations, this is a non-issue with TunnelBear.

TunnelBear - App - Main Window

Looking at the menu on the left, below the Server tab, you have Settings, which is broken up into General, Connection, and Account.

In General, you can adjust settings for startup, notifications, and behavior. The latter option allows you to decide whether or not the TunnelBear app keeps running in the background when you close it.

TunnelBear - App - Settings - General

Connection options include toggles for VigilantBear and GhostBear, both of which we’ll explain further down in the Security section. Both of these are disabled by default.

The Connection menu also enables you to force TCP on OpenVPN connections and to select your VPN protocol.

TunnelBear - App - Settings - Connection

The Account tab simply lists your email address and provides a link to manage your account on TunnelBear’s website.

TunnelBear - App - Settings - Account

Some advanced users might miss additional features, including a broader server selection, but all-in-all, this is a well-designed and robust app.

Mobile

TunnelBear’s mobile app is very similar to the desktop, albeit with fewer settings options. Once you launch the app, you’ll be prompted to allow TunnelBear to install VPN settings on your device. Then you’ll have a quick tour of the simple interface.

TunnelBear - App - Mobile - 1

Like in the desktop client, the main screen shows you a map of server locations. You can either find your desired location on the map or use the dropdown to select your country. Choosing Auto will connect you with the server that will give you the best performance.

TunnelBear - App - Mobile - 2

From the main screen, click the menu icon to get to your settings.

TunnelBear - App - Mobile - Protocols

The most useful settings are TunnelBear’s version of split tunneling (more on that later) and the ability to select your VPN protocol. Sadly, TunnelBear’s mobile apps don’t include a kill switch.

Overall, this app is attractive and very simple to use. However, as with the desktop client, advanced users might be looking for additional functionality, such as the ability to tailor security features and to select servers based on function.

Routers

TunnelBear does not support routers at this time.

Setting up a VPN connection on your router allows you to connect to your VPN provider without needing a dedicated app. Simply connecting a device to the VPN router does the trick. That also allows you to bypass your provider’s limit on simultaneous connections – five with TunnelBear. The router only counts as one connection regardless of how many client devices connect to the VPN server through it.

If you’d like more information on setting up a VPN connection on a router, check out our guide on VPN routers.

Netflix and streaming

TunnelBear does not work with Netflix at this time. We tried many US servers with Netflix and none of them worked. TunnelBear’s FAQ page provides some limited advice on getting this to work, such as repeatedly disconnecting and reconnecting the VPN in the hopes of obtaining a Netflix-compatible IP address. That advice did not work.

We also tried Netflix while connected to servers in other countries, including the UK, Canada, and France. These didn’t work either.

In attempts to access other streaming services, we had mixed results. While a Canadian server worked with Amazon Prime Video, a US and UK one didn’t. Hulu didn’t work either. And the UK server was unable to access BBC iPlayer, although it could access All 4 and ITV Hub.

So, all-in-all, with TunnelBear gave mixed results. It’s not the best service for streaming.

Does TunnelBear allow torrenting?

TunnelBear used to prohibit torrenting, but P2P has been supported for a while now.

In my testing, torrenting worked well over TunnelBear. Downloads were fast and I didn’t experience any slowdowns (though P2P downloads can stall for all sorts of reasons outside of the VPN).

With its good speeds and a kill switch, TunnelBear is a good option for torrenters on desktop. But you still may want to check out our guide to recommended VPNs for torrenting.

Does TunnelBear support split tunneling?

Yes, it does. But only on mobile.

TunnelBear provides a feature called SplitBear that allows you to create a list of websites that will not use the VPN connection. Typically, split tunneling allows you to determine which traffic goes through the VPN or not on an app-by-app basis. So TunnelBear’s implementation of the feature is somewhat simpler and less granular.

Mobile Split Tunneling

Still, it’s nice to have and perhaps it will expand this feature in the future.

Have a look at this article on the best VPNs for split tunneling.

Security, privacy, and logging

TunnelBear is based in Canada, which is known for having some less-than-desirable laws relating to data retention and net neutrality. Bill 51, which gives Canadian intelligence the power to collect a plethora of private information, is particularly troubling for the privacy-conscious. However, none of this is really of concern when a VPN keeps minimal logs.

Logging

Thankfully, TunnelBear adheres to a strict no-logs policy.

TunnelBear - Privacy Policy 1

And I was pleasantly surprised by how comprehensive its privacy policy is. It lists the various data points it collects and explains why they’re collected.

TunnelBear - Privacy Policy 2

It collects a small amount of data, including which operating system you’re using, whether or not you’ve been active in the last month, and the total amount of data you’ve used in the month. This is all fairly standard for many providers and does not breach your privacy. In fact, TunnelBear should be commended for its transparency.

Encryption

When it comes to security, TunnelBear uses 256-bit AES encryption, which is considered pretty much as good as it gets. This is in conjunction with a SHA2 hash and 2,048-bit RSA keys for authentication, along with perfect forward secrecy. Perfect forward secrecy ensures that keys change every session, preventing an attacker from decrypting data from more than one VPN session even if a key is compromised.

WireGuard uses different ciphers: ChaCha20 for symmetric encryption and Curve25519 for ECDH.

Protocol options include WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEV2, and IPSec.

Leak protection

Protection against IP address, WebRTC and DNS leaks is built in and always on. This provider uses its own private DNS servers, which is a plus for privacy. In my testing, I experienced no leaks when using TunnelBear.

IP Test – No VPN

TunnelBear - IP Test - No VPN

IP Test – With VPN

TunnelBear - IP Test - With VPN

DNS Test – No VPN

TunnelBear - DNS Test - No VPN

DNS Test – With VPN

TunnelBear - DNS Test - With VPN

We mentioned VigilantBear earlier; this is TunnelBear’s kill switch. In the case that the VPN connection is lost, VigilantBear will block any unsecured traffic until the VPN reconnects again. This feature is available on the desktop clients but not in the mobile apps.

Servers and performance

TunnelBear - Servers

As mentioned, TunnelBear doesn’t have a huge server selection. Unlike most providers who heavily promote their total server numbers, TunnelBear couldn’t tell us how many it has, just that the number fluctuates. We do know that the network now covers 48 countries – which isn’t bad. But when you consider that a provider like NordVPN has almost 5,000 servers, and ExpressVPN covers 94 countries, you start to see how relatively small the TunnelBear network is.

This provider also differs from most VPNs in that its servers are all virtual and managed remotely. These are cloud servers, provided by third-party companies — in TunnelBear’s case, these include Digital Ocean and Vultr. While TunnelBear notes that these are “reputable providers,” virtual servers are still considered less secure because they introduce a third party into the server management. Plus, they can affect performance because multiple companies share resources on the same hardware.

Does TunnelBear work in China?

TunnelBear - China

Yes, TunnelBear does work in China. While it doesn’t appear to be putting a lot of resources into enabling access to streaming services, it does have a method for users to bypass China’s Great Firewall. We mentioned GhostBear earlier, and it can be toggled on in the Connection tab of the Settings menu.

This feature — available for Windows, MacOS, and Android — obfuscates encrypted traffic to make it look like regular internet traffic. China’s firewall uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to block certain forms of traffic, but your GhostBear-obfuscated traffic can fly under the radar.

One thing to note is that the obfuscation process will make things a bit slower, but this is a small price to pay for access to the free web.

TunnelBear pricing

As mentioned, TunnelBear is most famous for its free service. With this option, you get access to TunnelBear’s full server list. This is pretty cool for a free VPN. The main drawback of the free service is that you only get 500MB to play with per month, which limits what you can do while surfing securely.

TunnelBear - Pricing 1

TunnelBear Yearly Pricing Plans

If you’d rather have unlimited data, you can go for a paid plan and pay on a monthly, annual, biannual, or triannual. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Monthly: $9.99
  • Yearly: $59.88 – works out to $4.99 per month
  • Biannual: $99.99 – works out to $4.17 per month
  • Triannual: $120 – works out to $3.33 per month

These prices are around about the industry average for top-rated providers. Although, some offer steeper discounts for longer terms, going as low as under $3 per month.

Plans come with a 7-day money-back guarantee, which isn’t all that generous considering many services offer 30-day trial periods. Every plan lets you connect up to five devices simultaneously. Payment options include credit cards and bitcoin, the latter being attractive for more privacy-conscious users.

Support

If you need help while getting set up or using TunnelBear, you have a few options. Website help pages include sections on Getting Started and Troubleshooting. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, you can use the Contact Us form. Unfortunately, there is no live chat option, although there is an automated chatbot that can look things up for you.

When we submitted a contact form, we got a popup telling us to expect a response within 72 hours. This is a long time to wait considering that many providers will fix your issue in a matter of minutes over live chat.

TunnelBear - Support

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait three days, and we got a response in about 8 hours. And while the answer I received was comprehensive and polite, 8 hours is still quite a lengthy wait period, especially if you have a pressing issue. Hopefully TunnelBear will provide a live chat option in the near future.

TunnelBear review verdict

Overall, TunnelBear is a middle-of-the-road VPN provider. It’s fast, allows P2P, and provides unlimited data, so could be a good option for torrenters. Some users looking to stream over TunnelBear might have luck. However, if you’re looking to reliably access some stricter sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, you will have to look elsewhere.

TunnelBear does have a solid privacy policy and strong security, so if your primary goal is security and private browsing, then it could be a good fit. Just be prepared to wait for customer support; there’s no live chat feature and the email support is fairly slow.

Methodology used for testing

Below you’ll find the criteria used to assess the VPNs we review. It’s essential to be consistent across the board so that our reviews are reasonably objective and that we’re not comparing apples to oranges. For that reason, we want to disclose our criteria.

  • Speed—Speed is one of the most critical factors of any VPN. Aside from being frustrating, slow speeds can prevent you from streaming or even browsing the web. To make sure we address this issue, all of our recommended VPNs scored very high in our most recent speed tests.
  • Apps and ease of use—More people than ever are using VPNs today. So app design and how easy it is to understand and use is critical. We look at the client apps’ UI, the features they provide, the supported operating systems, and their complexity.
  • Streaming services—Accessing streaming sites over VPN is becoming rather tricky. But many VPN providers claim to work with streaming sites—with varying degrees of success. We test VPNs against a range of popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and more, before recommending a VPN provider for streaming.
  • Torrenting—P2P file-sharing has been around for a long time, and it’s still going strong. But not all VPN providers allow torrenting over their network, while others go as far as providing dedicated P2P servers. We look at each VPN’s policy around torrenting and run tests on those that do to see how well they handle file-sharing.
  • Security and privacy—This is pretty much a VPN’s raison d’être. What is the provider’s privacy policy like? What is its logging policy? What encryption protocols does the VPN support? Does it use robust ciphers? Does it support Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS)? Is it vulnerable to IP or DNS leaks? These are all crucial questions, and we provide answers to all of them when assessing VPNs’ privacy and security practices.

The above represents a high-level view of our methodology. If you’d like more details, have a look at our full VPN testing methodology. This data-driven approach helps us better understand the services to recommend the right VPN to the right users.