TunnelBear VPN review: TunnelBear offers a reliable, beginner-friendly VPN service operating in 23 locations, including Singapore, North America, Europe, Brazil, Australia, and others. It’s not the most advanced VPN on the market, but it does a great job of simplifying people with limited technical knowledge. Generally, we like TunnelBear – the user interface is intuitive and supported by a neat no-logging policy and an independent auditor’s annual security audits. Still, the lack of options can be limiting for those who want to delve deeper into their VPN.
In this TunnelBear review, we analyze everything you need to know about this VPN to help you decide if it is right for you.
Although TunnelBear is far from being the most advanced VPN on the market, it still comes with many great features. First of all, with the VigilantBear setting, you can set an internet kill switch, which will disconnect your connection if the VPN connection fails. This is an excellent addition because, without it, you might end up thinking that your connection is protected; however, in reality, your VPN has dropped. You are using your ordinary unprotected network.
Another exciting feature is the GhostBear setting, which is designed to hide the fact that you are using a VPN. This can significantly help users who need a China VPN to avoid the country’s Internet restrictions. You can also decide between OpenVPN TCP and UDP connections, although there is no option to change your connection protocol.
Torrenting is a sensitive topic for VPNs, mostly because sharing P2P is often used to download illegal or illegal content. Although it is usually not used as a selling point on VPN providers’ websites, torrenting can be supported – and TunnelBear comes with the goods. We spoke directly with the TunnelBear team, and they confirmed that torrenting is supported in all locations.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear is not an excellent choice to access geo-blocked content – not even on a full plan. We tested it with Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer – none of them worked.
However, TunnelBear is clear about its security and log policy and details the information it collects and what exactly happens to it. Besides, TunnelBear is audited annually by Cure53, an independent security company. The results of these audits are made public, resulting in a high level of transparency. We appreciate this commitment to security and believe that independent audits are something every VPN should do.
TunnelBear VPN review: Privacy and logging
The logging policy is clearly described, with TunnelBear explaining that it does not collect “IP addresses that visit our website,” “IP addresses during service connection,” “DNS queries during connection,” or “any information about the applications, services or websites used by our users during connection to our service.” As a result, the Company says, it cannot link any of its users to an action performed by a specific IP address. Sounds good to us.
The service does record what it calls ‘operational data’ and updates it when you connect to the network. This includes the OS version of your device, the TunnelBear app version, whether you have been active this month, and the bandwidth you have used. Not completely zero logging, but it is much less than we have seen elsewhere, and there is nothing here that someone could use to link you to a specific online action.
While that looks great, there is usually no way to tell if you should rely on what a VPN provider tells you. But TunnelBear is a bit different. The company has now commissioned independent specialists Cure53 to conduct an annual public security audit covering many other service areas.
The audit results were not perfect (we would have been suspicious if we had), and the report described several vulnerabilities, two of which were critical. However, this is no surprise when a service puts itself below this level of control, and all the problems have now been resolved.
Overall, we should applaud TunnelBear for its level of transparency, which tramples on most of the competition. Most VPNs have never had any security audit. The providers who have made any movement in this direction usually have one-off audits with a much more limited scope. That’s not good enough, and it’s great to see TunnelBear leading the way.
TunnelBear VPN review: Performance
To check TunnelBear’s performance, we first logged in to each server, recorded the connection time, performed a ping test to look for latency issues, and performed a geolocation check to verify that the server was indeed in the advertised country.
We performed this test twice, 12 hours apart, and managed to connect to each server without any problems, no retries needed. Connection times were mid-range at 4-6 seconds. The ping times were variable, but not enough to show a significant problem. We then used benchmarking websites TestMy.net and Ookla’s SpeedTest to monitor TunnelBear download speeds from a UK data center and an American location with a 600Mbps line.
UK downloads were variable but above average at 140-230Mbps. This is better than the most recent results from Surfshark (70-150Mbps) and comparable to IPVanish (150-210Mbps) but does not match the consistency of Hotspot Shield (190-210Mbps) or the pace of NordVPN (310-390Mbps).
American speeds averaged 160Mbps, slightly less than the 200Mbps we saw in the last review, but still a reliable result that competes well with many big names.
TunnelBear VPN review: Streaming support
One of the most crucial selling points of a VPN is that it can make it look like you are visiting a website from another country, which may give you access to content that you would otherwise not be able to view. But this doesn’t always work, so we are testing all VPNs with Netflix and more to see if they can give us access to different streaming sites. We logged into TunnelBear’s UK location and tried to access BBC iPlayer, but the site noticed our VPN-based tricks and warned, ‘this content is not available at your location.’
There was more success with US-only YouTube channels, where we streamed videos without any problems. That’s a plus, but not a big plus, because just about any VPN with an American location can do the same.
US Netflix is generally much more of an unblocking challenge, which seemed too much for TunnelBear. Whatever we tried (including connecting to the UK and France), Netflix showed its default ‘you seem to be using a deblocker or proxy’ error message and refused to stream content. There was also no luck with Amazon Prime Video. Forget about access to American content; we couldn’t even stream UK movies using our UK account.
However, our unblocking tests ended on a high note as TunnelBear gave us access to US Disney+. That’s excellent news (and an improvement over the last review), but it can’t make up for the previous unblocking performance. If you’re hoping to access obstructed content, check out your target audience with the free TunnelBear plan before saying goodbye with money.
TunnelBear VPN review: Pricing and plans
There are three versions of TunnelBear available. You can get a free primary option, an Unlimited plan starting at $3.33 per month, and a Team subscription starting at $5.75 per month.
The free plan is very limited. It includes all the features found in the full version but is capped at 500 MB of data per month. To put that into perspective, that’s only enough to test the program, as it comes down to about six hours of browsing or about half an hour of standard definition video streaming. In its free form, it is certainly not a great torrenting VPN.
Fortunately, with a three-year subscription, you can upgrade to an Unlimited plan for just $3.33 a month. An annual plan increases the price to $4.99 per month, while if you choose to pay monthly, it will be $9.99 per month. As the name suggests, this plan includes unlimited data along with priority support. If you sign up for a three-year plan, you also get access to the RememBear password manager (usually $2.50 per month), which is a nice extra if you need it.
If you are looking for a VPN for your small business, the Teams plan costs $5.57 per user per month (with a minimum of two users). It comes with a range of VPN management tools, including an integrated management dashboard and centralized billing.
It’s worth noting that there is no money-back guarantee, so we recommend testing TunnelBear’s free plan before committing to a paid plan. However, TunnelBear’s FAQ has a refund note, which states that these can be offered on a case-by-case basis. We think if you ask nicely, did it sooner rather than later, and had a good reason, the ‘friendly buttresses’ might feel sorry for you and offer you a refund – but TunnelBear nor we make any promises.
Finally, for those who want to pay anonymously, Bitcoin payments are available with annual subscriptions.
TunnelBear VPN review: Customer support
TunnelBear users have access to email support and a knowledge base for self-help for beginners. For starters, you can reach the support team via the Contact page on the provider’s website. Generally, the team responds within hours and gives simple, accurate answers, but we’d like to see live chat – the very best VPNs all offer excellent 24/7 support, and we’d like TunnelBear to follow suit.
If you have a more general problem or need help setting up your TunnelBear account, there’s plenty of information in the knowledge base. Resources include articles with answers to frequently asked questions such as ‘keeps TunnelBear logs,’ quick start guides, and links to the company’s Twitter account, where information about maintenance and system downtime is posted.
TunnelBear is certainly not the most powerful VPN in the world, but it’s an excellent option for beginners and people with limited technical knowledge. It is known for its transparent, independent security audits and is supported by a good range of advanced features. However, it has been abandoned by its inability to access geo-blocked streaming services, and its support is shiny compared to the very best.
All in all, the TunnelBear, which does not cause any interference, is a viable option for users looking for a simple, user-friendly, and secure VPN.
TunnelBear does not have the largest network, nor most apps, nor the longest feature lists. But it does a good job of simplifying VPNs for novice users, there are excellent privacy and no-logging policy, and we should applaud any VPN provider that allows independent monitoring of its software and systems. TunnelBear is not for experts, but it's worth a try for casual or less demanding users.
- Annual and detailed independent security audits
- Decent speeds
- Unblocks Disney+
- 23 locations only
- Short on features
- Doesn't unblock Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video