Brad Smith
Brad Smith
Last updated: · 28 user reviews

In this review series, I’ll do a quick background check on TunnelBear’s VPN company, carefully read their logging policy, try their application and do a some speed tests. I’ll also dig a little in their company background to see which jurisdiction do they belong to.

TunnelBear is a perennial favourite among VPN users. Its ease of use, dedication to security, and cute bear mascot make it a popular choice for everyday users of VPNs.

But…

Is it a good choice when compared to the other VPNs out there?

How does it stack up when it comes to pricing, speed, torrenting, streaming, and other factors? We’ve taken a look at all the data to bring you a solid overview of TunnelBear.

At the end, you’ll find our recommendation and can decide for yourself whether it’s a good choice for you.

What is TunnelBear?

TunnelBear is a provider of both free and paid VPNs. It’s been around since 2011, when it was founded by Ryan Dochuk (Corporate Bear) and Daniel Kaldor (Quantum Bear).

Between the two of them, they have  experience working at Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, RIM, and a mobile security startup. So they’ve certainly done their time in the tech world.

The company is based in Toronto, though they have servers spread throughout 19 other countries around the world, including servers in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. There are a lot of European servers, though Africa is completely unrepresented.

“Canadian VPN provider” might ring some alarm bells because of the Five Eyes agreement, but as we’ll see in a later section, TunnelBear doesn’t keep any logs. And when they’re asked for information by law enforcement, they politely tell them that they don’t have any of the data they’re looking for.

Tunnelbear is all about making VPN use as easy and accessible as possible. They provide streamlined apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. There’s also a browser extension for both Chrome and Opera, and a tracker-blocking extension that compliments all of their services (or can be used on its own).

And we’d be remiss not to mention that all of their materials are full of fantastic bear puns. Every employee has an alternate bear identity. And their website is absolutely full of bear illustrations. It doesn’t make the VPN any more secure or easy to use, but hey, it differentiates them from other similar options!

Pricing & Plans (They have FREE plan, too)

Tunnelbear’s pricing and plans are as simple as their app:

TunnelBear Pricing and Plans 2018

It’s always good to see a free option, as you can use that to test out the app and the service. It’s only 500 MB per month, but that’s enough to give you an idea of the speeds you  might see and the service’s ease of use.

The first paid plan, Giant, will run you $9.99 per month for unlimited data.

The biggest plan, Grizzly (which, as far as we’re aware, doesn’t include laser eyes) is an annual plan, so you’ll pay $49.88 up front for 12 months of unlimited VPN service.

On each plan, you can use up to five devices protected. So if you’re looking for a VPN that will cover your whole family, TunnelBear is a good bet.

As far as VPNs go, this is a cheap one. It’s tough to beat 50 bucks for a year of unlimited data.

Is TunnelBear Safe?

Of course, no matter how cheap the VPN, you need to know that it’s safe. Tunnelbear uses industry-standard OpenVPN encryption on Windows, Mac, and Android devices. Recent iOS versions get IPSec/IKEv2, and older versions get IPSec.

Is TunnelBear safe

All in all, it’s the encryption you’d expect. These are strong encryption protocols; OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2 provide 256-bit AES protection, while the IPSec protocol offers still-respectable 128-bit AES encryption. The US government uses 256-bit AES encryption for secure data, so you can trust that this is a solid protocol.

The service also provides strong data authentication and secure Diffie-Hellman key exchange to ensure that you’re connecting to a TunnelBear server and not a nefarious man-in-the-middle miscreant.

One of the cool services that TunnelBear provides is called VigilantBear—this feature protects you while you’re connecting and disconnecting. If your wifi drops, or you move between access points, there’s the possibility that some of your data will go out over an unsecured connection. VigilantBear prevents that from happening. (This is an optional setting, and we recommend you turn it on right away).

In January 2017, Hackernoon took a deep dive into the TunnelBear code to see what they could find. You can read the entire breakdown if you like, but it gets quite technical. In short, they didn’t find any notable vulnerabilities or surprises. They were even impressed that TunnelBear includes functionality to detect both DNS and IPv6 leaks, which is great for protecting your privacy.

TunnelBear hasn’t had any big leaks or evidence of their encryption being cracked. All signs point to the fact that TunnelBear is extremely safe to use.

One thing to note is that the Diffie-Hellman key exchange method may have some flaws. While the desktop, Android, and iOS 9+ VPNs use 2,048-bit DH groups, which are considered safe, older versions of iOS use a 1,024-bit DH group. And it’s possible that some powerful nation-level attackers could be able to compromise that key exchange.

 

+ Pros of Using TunnelBear

1. No Logging

TunnelBear has a strict no-logging policy. Their privacy policy is very clear about this:

TunnelBear explicitly does NOT collect, store or log the following data:

  • IP addresses visiting our website
  • IP addresses upon service connection
  • DNS Queries while connected
  • Any information about the applications, services or websites our users use while connected to our Service

That’s great news for privacy-conscious users. It means that they aren’t selling any of your data, and that when law enforcement comes knocking, they don’t have anything interesting to give them.

They will hand over the personal information they’ve collected, as is required by Canadian law, which TunnelBear is subject to. The privacy policy outlines this information, and it’s nothing to worry about too much. It includes things like your name, email address, OS version, amount of data used, and last four digits of your credit card number. They don’t store your full credit card number, though they can access it through their PCI-compliant payment partners.

2. GhostBear feature

Some websites are blocking traffic that appears to be coming from a VPN. It’s annoying, and a constant battle between VPN providers and those websites to gain the advantage.

TunnelBear’s GhostBear feature does its best to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. This will fool some businesses and governments, but not all.

Before you use GhostBear, it’s a good idea to see if you can connect to the site you want via the standard TunnelBear connection. If you can’t, it’s worth trying GhostBear.

Hiding the fact that you’re using a VPN will slow down your connection a bit, so we don’t recommend leaving it on all the time.

3. Easy to Use

TunnelBear’s mission is to make VPN usage easy for everyone. And they’ve certainly done that. The app is extremely simple and easy to use. It may not provide all the advanced settings you want from a high-end VPN, but if you’re just getting started with encrypted browsing, it makes the process much easier.

TunnelBear Application

By default, it only shows you what you need to see: where you are, the tunnel you’re using, and where you appear to be browsing from.

There are additional settings you can find, but if you don’t want to dig into them, you can just enjoy the simple, clean interface.

The browser extensions are the same; just turn them on and leave them alone. It doesn’t get much easier than this.

4. Independently Audited for Security

There’s been a lot of bad press for some VPNs over the past few years. Bandwidth selling, logging data, overstated security . . . it all erodes confidence in VPNs. That’s why TunnelBear has an independent organization audit their VPN for security.

This is a rather rare thing in the industry, and it takes a lot of humility for TunnelBear to give it a shot. They published the results of the audit, and you can read them online.

TunnelBear says that they’re content with the results, and you can bet that they’re using the to improve their service. This isn’t the fastest VPN out there, but it’s doing its best to become one of the most secure. And that’s worth a lot.

5. Free Plan

(capped at 500mb, though)

We always like seeing a free plan for VPN services. It lets you try everything out without committing any of your money—and that’s really useful.

Even though TunnelBear’s free plan is very small, it lets you check out the app and do a few speed tests on your own. We think that’s definitely a count in favor of the provider.

 

Cons of Using TunnelBear

1. Speed

This is likely to be a primary consideration for many users. Unfortunately, we’ve had poor results with TunnelBear when it comes to speed testing. Some users have reported good download speeds, but in our test, my 100 Mbps connection dropped down to 52.26 Mbps when I was using the EU servers.

That’s a huge drop.

Here are some of the results that we got:

Tunnelbear download speed
TunnelBear Download Speed (EU to EU servers)
US Server (New York)
  • Ping: 120ms
  • Download: 33.38 Mbps
  • Upload: 15.04 Mbps
EU Server (Amsterdam)
  • Ping: 39ms
  • Download: 52.26 Mbps
  • Upload: 27.20 Mbps

Asia Server (Hong Kong)

  • Ping: 345ms
  • Download: 7.54 Mbps
  • Upload: 2.63 Mbps
UK Server (London)
  • Ping: 44ms
  • Download: 50.10 Mbps
  • Upload: 48.36 Mbps

As you can see, the best download speeds were only half of what I was expecting for my non-VPN connection. And while you should always expect to lose some speed, that’s a significant drop that will likely affect your browsing experience.

These speeds are probably fast enough for streaming—at least on the non-Hong-Kong servers. But you will likely get increased load times and might have to wait longer for buffering to complete.

While these certainly aren’t the worst speeds, we’re listing them in cons here, because there are cheaper services that will get you better speeds. Is it a big, deal-breaking con? We’ll talk about that more in a minute.

2. No Netflix

Unfortunately, Netflix is getting better all the time at blocking VPNs. They’ve successfully blocked many larger VPN providers with more servers in more places around the world, so frankly, TunnelBear didn’t really stand a chance.

It’s possible that GhostBear could unblock Netflix, but in the constant bear-and-mouse game, Netflix is likely to win. They just have too much money to throw at the problem.

3. No Torrenting

Lots of people use VPNs for torrenting, both for added security and for keeping their ISPs from snooping on what they’re doing.

But TunnelBear doesn’t support torrents. They just flat out say no.

That doesn’t mean this couldn’t change in the future, but as of now, you won’t be torrenting with TunnelBear.

4. No Router Installation

TunnelBear doesn’t support installing its VPN software directly on your router. If you weren’t planning on doing this anyway, it’s no big deal. But if you’re considering using a VPN this way for the increased protection and ease of use, you’ll need to find another provider.

It’s possible that there are ways to get around TunnelBear’s prohibition. But it’s easier when the provider just supports what you’re trying to do.

5. Support

TunnelBear’s support team isn’t bad . . . they’re just not as easy to get a hold of as we’d like. For example, there’s no live chat option to get in touch with the Support Bears. There’s no phone number you can call, either. You have to email the support team. Which means you could be waiting a while for an answer on a busy day.

And their Twitter team doesn’t provide support, either; they just redirect you to the standard support team.

None of these things are especially bad, but it would be nice to have faster access to support.

Note: TunnelBear for Teams, the business side of TunnelBear, does offer priority support. So if you’re looking at TunnelBear to secure the connections for your team or company, this will be less of an issue.

 

Do I Recommend TunnelBear? Unfortunately, no..

So is TunnelBear worth using?

It depends on what you need a VPN for.

If you just want something to protect your privacy while you browse without getting in your way with complicated options and interfaces, it’s a great choice. You might suffer a bit on the speed side, but there’s no disputing that it’s very easy to use and does offer solid security.

But if you need more than that, you’ll probably want to choose another VPN. If you want options and customization beyond what’s offered here, for example. Or if you want to stream or torrent. These are pretty common things that people use VPNs for, but TunnelBear doesn’t support them.

The price is great, and we always love to see a free tier (even if it’s restrictive). But the lack of torrenting/streaming support and the lackluster speed mean we can’t recommend this as a go-to for everyone.

If you only need—and want to pay for—the basics, TunnelBear is for you. If not, you should check out one of the other top VPNs.

Add your own TunnelBear review:

Have you used TunnelBear? Or maybe using it? Don’t hesitate to leave us a honest, unbiased review. Do it below :).

28 user reviews for TunnelBear

John 9/10 January 7, 2018

My opinion..

I initially joined the free version of tunnel bear, which provides a generous 500mb (plus an additional 1GB if you tweet them) of traffic and was genuinely impressed with both the speed of the VPN, the simplicity of the software, the choice of locations and the support provided by Tunnelbear.

The free version included 20 worldwide locations (the 21st, Australia, is only available to paid members) and the speeds I got from pretty much all the locations I tested, around 8, was very good. I have since upgraded to a paid membership for just under $50/year (works out to something like $4.20/month) and I am very happy with my choice. I am allowed 5 devices (so computers, phone, tablet all have secure vpn) and unlimited data. And the speeds are excellent. As is the support, on one device I had a small issue and the response from support was prompt, and resolved my issue immediately. And the app is intuitive and simple to use.

Would highly recommend to anyone wanting, a simple, speedy VPN.

Andrey 5/10 January 2, 2018

Free version is OK for limited use

TunnelBear is the best free VPN out there. It offers plenty of data every month and plenty of servers for users that can’t pay for a VPN. You can even get more megabytes for free by doing some simple tasks such as tweeting about TunnelBear.

However, if you wish for some quick transitions while turning your VPN on and off multiple times a day, you better look somewhere else.

It can take minutes to connect to a server, and the speed isn’t even that good. All trouble aside, TunnelBear is the best selection for free VPN users and the easiest to use so far.

Chris 8/10 January 2, 2018

good, but not for torrenting

If you are someone who only uses  a VPN in small doses or for specific low-data purposes you can’t go wrong with the free “Little Bear” option offered by Tunnelbear.

If you happen to run out of data Tunnelbear offers a free GB of data if you tweet at their official twitter account. You can do this each month to top off your free plan. The Tunnelbear desktop and browser apps allow you to easily choose a specific VPN location or let Tunnelbear choose one at random. Speed has been acceptable for general browsing and media streaming. Unfortunately Tunnelbear does not allow torrent traffic so if that is something you need you will have to look elsewhere.

Matt 8/10 January 1, 2018

Tunnelbear roars!

I have used Tunnelbear on a number of iOS devices, and it’s been flawless in its operation. It was easy to use, fast to connect and supported US Netflix and UK BBC iPlayer without constant buffering.

Would have liked if they had multiple IP addresses/cities to pick from so you could force it to change your IP – but you get what you pay, right?

Nils 9/10 December 30, 2017

Works well, even on the free plan

I was looking for a VPN to watch videos that were region locked in Sweden when I found Tunnelbear through YouTube ads. I have been using the free version mainly, with a short period when I owned premium.

Regardless if I payed or not it has worked flawlessly. I haven’t experienced any crashes or major bugs. I sometimes found it was needed to restart the app on my Moto Z to get it to work, but it’s a relatively common problem in apps like these. It has worked very well on my PC aswell. You have the option of using a addon for Chrome, so that only your browser goes through tunnelbear, or a program downloadable from their site which forces all traffic through the Tunnelbear network. The download/upload speeds when connecting through tunnelbear haven’t been ridicilously slow either. I have been able to watch and stream videos without any major slowdowns, so I can’t complain there either.

In conclusion I have found Tunnelbear to work well for my usecase. I believe it should work well for most, especially those that prefer simplicity over features. The only complaint from my side is the relatively high price and low cap on the free plan.

Jakub 8/10 December 29, 2017

Works well, quite handy

I use it quite rarely, so I don’t exceed the 500mb a month, but for what I need it is on point. The app itself is built well and looks really nice, so practically anyone can use it without prior extensive knowledge of VPNs. So far it never crashed or errored. There’s a handful of location that you can “tunnel” to in a certain region. All in all its pretty good for what it does.

juanita 1/10 December 22, 2017

cannot stream amazon prime video

I got this to stream Amazon video, but it will not allow it. Still says I am outside the USA and cannot stream. Bummer.

Alister 1/10 December 4, 2017

Beware the bear

I prepaid a one year subscription as the trial version is not available in my country, what a mistake. Tunnelbear never connects, tried everything, disable virus checkers etc still nothing, it simply fails to connect. First three support calls ignored until I posted probs on Facebook. I then sent email to support who obviously did not read my description of the issue and simply sent a form response. Even asked the irrelevant question has anything changed sine I used tunnelbear last time, UGHHHH. They have refused a refund even though this is covered by Ontario consumer law.

This is one bear that Canadian hunters should feel free to shoot. Shame I could not give a score of zero.

Lucas Hogendoorn 9/10 November 28, 2017

Tunnelbear - Awesome!

I like Tunnelbear. Tunnelbear is easy to control, fast and not too overpriced. When going on a vacation, my family wanted to watch certain series that were only available in the Netherlands.

This is why we needed a VPN to pretend we were still there.

After doing a bit of research, I found Tunnelbear. After signing up, it was almost instantly usable, easy to get a good grasp on how to use and almost a bit fun. The branding on the company made me a bit happy as well. I like the fact that they have servers all over the world, making all series on Netflix available to you that exist on there, with just the tap of a button.

Rodrigo 7/10 November 21, 2017

Slowish but steady

TunnelBear might the easiest VPN i’ve ever used. Easy to install, easy to set up and very user friendly, even if you’re not super tech-savy. For most popular servers – USA, UK, the connection might take a long time and the service might be a little slow, but it never crashes and it is always steady. For not so popular servers, the connection might even make you forget you’re using a VPN. The interface is always good on one’s eyes, too.

You always get promotions and their support is excellent. I’ve never considered looking for another VPN.

Jack 8/10 November 11, 2017

Great VPN..

I started using TunnelBear a while ago after searching for a reliable free VPN and TunnelBear definitely delivers, many different connections you can choose from, no data selling (as far as I can tell), and a very helpful iOS app, I have only had to talk to customer support once and they were very helpful and solved my problem quickly and efficiently.

You only get 500mb per month with a free license which I do understand as the developers do need to make money. However I do feel as a free user I was experiencing some slow connections at times.

Overall a very safe, very nice, very easy to use and beautifully presented VPN that will serve almost everyone’s needs. ?

LD Workman 8/10 November 1, 2017

Best Free VPN..

I have been using a vpn for the past 6 years to keep not only my personal devices, but also our work devices safe.

Tunnelbear VPN has offered beyond what my expectations were and exceeded them!

I have not seen a difference in terms of speed while using this VPN unlike some other company’s.

Tunnelbear takes the cake when it comes to safe browsing without giving up internet speed.

Temping 8/10 October 30, 2017

Good Experience

Tunnelbear VPN is incredibly fast and super secure. It is the most popular VPN for Kodi due to the high HD streaming performance and support on all devices. It offers 24/7 live support and servers in almost any country. You can use it simultaneously with a few devices, and it gives a strong fight to tunnelbear VPN, while others lag behind.

Pheonix Taylor 3/10 October 29, 2017

Slow connection in Australia

Firstly – TunnelBear does not include Australian servers in their free trial meaning you have to contact a support personal and ask for a week/end trial. That wasn’t to bad of an issue but when I tried it out, I got completely awful ping, my ping went for 40 to over 100 on Australian servers meaning to play online with people I would have to turn it off not to lag, defeating the purpose of a VPN.

Lorenzo Fortaleza 8/10 October 27, 2017

TunnelBear Reliability

I’ve been running the TunnelBear VPN app on my iPhone for a while now, and I must say, it works beautifully.

As long as you have a TunnelBear account ( free for 500MB per month—1 GB more if you tweet about TunnelBear—and it goes up to $5/mo for unlimited data on all your devices) you can use the app to connect to any of TunnelBear’s servers around the globe, including the US and Singapore, Japan, and more. Just fiddle around the map to find the tunnel you want to connect to, or tap the country name at the bottom of the screen to bring up a list of options.

Also, be sure to Toggle the “Always On” option to make sure your connection is secure all the time even as your phone goes to sleep and wakes up from it, or when you lock/unlock it.

Overall, I’d give TunnelBear a solid 8/10 stars.

Joseph Newman 7/10 October 18, 2017

Great for low-usage users

Tunnelbear has always been mixed for me, I’ve had issues in the past with login’s bugging, but now after updates, in my opinion, it’s one of the best free VPNs.

The 500MB monthly allowance is a good number, and if you happen to have higher than normal usage, you can do some of the things it advertises such as “Tweet for 1GB”, which is relatively straight forward, and allows you to get more data to use. Perfect for me, and works well on iOS11, quite a surprise really considering how many apps and other VPNs don’t seem to function properly on the new iOS.

I’d recommend it, if you’re looking for a good free VPN.

Ondřej S. 9/10 October 8, 2017

better than others

I’ve been using Tunnelbear for a year now. When I can’t access some website, because it is blocked in my country, Tunnelbear always has my back. Great free service and even better paid VPN. It’s fast, easy to set up and has nice user interface. Tunnelbear is better than all other VPNs I’ve tried.

Jim 1/10 August 23, 2017

Never again, avoid

I use TunnelBear on two desktop’s and one mobile cell phone. While it may be true that ‘TB’ can be easy to use, it’s also true, questions go unanswered. This has occurred each time I sent in a ticket, sorry too many to count. A quick example! Send them a ticket, you next recieve a remote reply stating your ticket will be addressed in 24-48 hrs. You may then, if at all, get another message, they need more info, please resend ticket with more info. So around and around this can go until most people, like myself, just give up. The one and only time I was able to converse with them (no phone calls) the tech had not even bothered to look at any of my messages they had repeatedly asked me to send. This tech then gave me some ‘a very good idea’. He informed me most of my answers could be found online!?! At the end of our typing session he stated my ticket would be sent on up to a ‘TIER TWO TUNNELBEAR TECH’. Again , yet ANOTHER MESSAGE, which I ignored, ASKING ME FOR MORE INFO, AHHHHH

Never again…

Warren van Niekerk 1/10 August 15, 2017

Its crap - don't bother

Very slow connecting. Frequent disconnects and their proxy server is already on a number of blacklists on sites you would want to visit.

Goldilocks 9/10 June 18, 2017

Paid TB=Great

I’ve been using the paid version of TB for about 6 mos. The great UI was the main attraction, but the reliable connections are what keep me with this service.

Aditya 10/10 June 15, 2017

VPN for Novices

I tried using Tunnelbear after seeing the sponsorship of LTT videos as I was after a simple VPN for my parents to use.

Was delighted to see the simple to use interface, and a wide range of server locations, even for the free accounts.

Didn’t notice a huge drop in speeds accessing website whilst using the VPN, but it takes a few minutes to change the server connection from one location to another.

Applications for PC, Mac, android, and iPhone are very simple with one click operation to enable and disable VPN services.

After the best part of a year using Tunnelbear, I haven’t had any issues and would recommend for anyone that wants a simple to use VPN service.

Anonymous Guy 6/10 June 5, 2017

Free = Not good. Paid = OK

Just wanted to chime and tell you that TunnelBear is a solid product, but only if you opt in for their paid version. Their free version is a bit clunky and not meant for daily usage. If you’re traveling – sure, go ahead and use it. Probably does the trick and you’ll be able to use it for Netflix.

However, if you need decent speed like me (daily user), you most likely need to use their paid version.

Just my thoughts…

Tim 1/10 May 2, 2017

Too slow

I used this VPN for some months and then the connection was unbelievably slow. It takes a minute to download 1mb file.

I used free version.

Luke Martin 8/10 May 1, 2017

TunnelBear is Good

When I first use Tunnelbear Free (Software & Android App), it has an interesting UI that you will see which country you are located along with the bear, once you chose a country for the VPN connection, the bear digs on you country’s ground then will pop out to a pipe much like Super Mario.

Once connected, it is stable and you don’t need to worry if you got disconnected, it can reconnect to the same country or reconnect to other VPN Server. Overall, Tunnelbear is easy to use, great UI and generous for the 500MB data(Free Account) especially if you are going to tweet it for the first time, they’ll give you an additional 1GB data.

Albert Anino 4/10 April 28, 2017

Needs improvement

TunnelBear was good for me for only 1 day.

It just stops, I don’t know – perhaps I’ve just reached the limit.

Now I’ve just uninstalled the app because it’s not working anymore. I guess that’s what you get for “free” version, ha.

Abishek 5/10 April 27, 2017

Mixed feelings about this software

The things I love about tunnelbear vpn is the amount of countries you can choose when using a paid account. It’s pretty fast, too.
The negative part of this app is sometimes it just hangs and I have to force stop and restart it to use again.

It’d be a solid product (but it crashes too often).

Michael 7/10 April 25, 2017

TunnelBear looks cool, although it's not the best out there.

I liked the UI of TunnelBear, therefore I used them for a while, until my mate told me to try out another service provider. I tried that one out and understood that it’s faster than TunnelBear.

I can’t say bad things about TunnelBear, since it didn’t disappoint me, but there are better providers out there. Right now I’m using PIA for all of my devices. (An android phone, a Macbook, an iPad and my sons PC).

Phil 8/10 March 11, 2017

TunnelBear is decent

I’ve used TunnelBear for the past 6 months. Mainly due to being a heavy Wi-Fi user (we all know the concerns of Wi-Fi, right).

Well, till date I don’t have anything to complain about. The $3.33 option is pretty decent, though I sometimes miss the ability to download bigger files (it’s just a bit slow).