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TunnelBear free review: Good features, but limited data usage

In this guide, our experts will provide a comprehensive review of the free version of TunnelBear by describing its features and how it performs compared to other free virtual private network (VPN) providers.

The internet has become such an integral part of our lives that we can’t perform the smallest of tasks without it, from getting directions and checking emails to online shopping. However, this dependency on the internet has brought some risks in our daily lives, such as risking our personal information to data leaks and exposing online activity to cybercriminals.

Fortunately, VPNs help cloak your data and ensure that your details remain anonymous by encrypting them, preventing your internet service provider (ISP), cybercriminals or even government agencies from accessing your information. There are many VPNs out there, but today we’ll be looking into TunnelBear’s free VPN service, its features, performance and how it compares to a few other free VPN services.

60-second review

Rating: ★★½

TunnelBear’s free VPN service includes a lot of features, but it restricts the amount of data used in a month to only 2GB. TunnelBear has more than 5,000 servers in more than 47 countries. It uses the most secure encryption standards, including 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256) and 256-bit Secure Hash Algorithm authentication. 

There have been concerns about data logging on TunnelBear since its acquisition by McAfee, which were addressed by conducting third-party audits. TunnelBear is considered a reliable option; however, one issue with the free version is that it struggles to unblock and load popular video streaming websites such as Netflix.

How we research and rate VPNs

200+
HOURS PERFORMANCE TESTING
500+
CUSTOMER REVIEWS READ
175+
HOURS OF RESEARCH
38
COMPETITORS COMPARED
4
VPN EXPERTS CONSULTED

Our reviewers are dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision when it comes to buying a VPN. We will only recommend a VPN after hours of testing, extensive head-to-head feature comparisons, and after taking into account verified customer feedback and reviews, and the opinions of industry experts.

Our review scores are determined by the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30 per cent)
  • Features and functionality (30 per cent)
  • Reputation and credibility (25 per cent)
  • Plans and pricing/value (10 per cent)
  • Customer experience (5 per cent)

We research and test a total of 25 elements within these categories, including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Streaming service accessibility
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload and download speeds, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees and customer service
  • Independent server-site security audits

All of our VPN articles are fact-checked and verified by our in-house team of fact-checkers, so you can be assured that our content is as accurate and up to date as possible. To find out more, read our article on how we review VPNs.

TunnelBear overview

Data limit: 2GB per month

Number of servers: 5,000+

Number of locations: 47+

Maximum number of connected devices: Unlimited

AES-256: Yes 

No-log policy: Yes

Audited no-log policy: Yes

Headquarters: Canada

Pros Cons
TunnelBear’s free VPN will give you access to more than 5,000 servers in 47 countries, significantly more than other free VPN providers The free plan often struggles to unblock popular websites
TunnelBear is a secure service due to its no-log policy and conducting audits in the last five years The data limit is 2GB per month, which is relatively low compared to other free VPN services
TunnelBear’s free plan allows you to use multiple devices while connected to the service TunnelBear’s free servers are unreliable and have inconsistent speeds

TunnelBear’s free VPN servers are spread across 47 countries, with 27 countries in Europe, three in North America, two in Oceania, seven in Asia and five in South America. The scale of its servers is apparent if you compare this with other services, such as Proton VPN’s free service, which only offers 100 servers in three countries.

TunnelBear has been regularly conducting annual audits through independent parties, whereas some VPNs don’t conduct annual audits, such as PrivadoVPN. One of the significant drawbacks of TunnelBear’s free version is that it only allows 2GB of data per month, which is extremely low compared to others, such as Proton VPN (unlimited) and Atlas VPN (5GB).

TunnelBear is also known to be unreliable when unblocking streaming websites, which isn’t an issue when using other VPNs such as PrivadoVPN and Atlas VPN.

TunnelBear compared

VPN Servers Countries Data limit/month Platforms supported Torrenting Unblocked streaming Audited no-log policy
TunnelBear Free 5,000+ 47 2GB 5 Yes No Yes
Proton VPN Free 100 3 No limit 6 No No Yes
PrivadoVPN Free 12 10 10GB 6 No Yes** No
Windscribe Free 11 11 2-15GB* 12 Yes Yes** No
Atlas VPN Free 3 3 5GB 4 Yes Yes** Yes
Hide.me Free 5 5 10GB 19 Yes No Yes
Best alternative to
NordVPN is one of the most trusted VPN providers in the world, offering top-notch encryption, incredible speeds, and extra features to make all your online activities more secure.
4.5
Excellent Trustpilot rating
24/7 customer support
AES-256 encryption
VIEW PLANS At NordVPN

TunnelBear free VPN features

TunnelBear’s free service has a vast number of servers and overall good performance. It also provides users with an ad-free experience and industry-standard encryption. However, it has a set data limit of 2GB per month, which is certainly not enough to fulfil most users’ requirements. To enjoy all of TunnelBear’s features, you can buy its premium version for £2.61 per month for a three-year plan that will provide you with an even higher number of servers and unlimited data.

The free version of TunnelBear doesn’t have any ads, which is quite convenient for the users to be able to use the VPN without being bombarded with pop-ups.

Server count and countries

With TunnelBear’s free VPN, you can connect to more than 5,000 servers in 47 countries, more than any other free VPN provider.

Encryption and privacy

TunnelBear offers the same level of encryption (AES-256) for its free users as it does for those who subscribe to the paid-for plans. TunnelBear’s no-log policy means that the VPN provider doesn’t store its user’s data in any way. To fulfil its no-log promise, TunnelBear has been audited by Cure53, making it more reliable than other VPN providers offering non-audited services.

Other features

Ghostbear

GhostBear makes your encrypted data less detectable to ISPs, governments, and other prying eyes by making VPN traffic less noticeable on your network and harder to block

Splitbear

SplitBear is just like split tunnelling. It allows users to tunnel specific apps and websites through TunnelBear’s connection. 

VigilantBear

TunnelBear’s free version offers a kill switch called VigilantBear. Like other kill switches, it protects your privacy when your VPN connection drops unexpectedly. It secures your information by immediately restricting access to the internet until a stable VPN connection is established again.

TunnelBear free performance test results

When using a VPN, a significant drawback is that it slows down the internet speed. A good VPN keeps your data secure while providing a stable connection and high-speed internet.

  • Download speed: The rate at which data is transferred from another server to your device (in Mbps). In other words, it’s the speed at which you can receive data or information
  • Upload speed: The rate at which data is transferred from your device to the internet (in Mbps)
  • Latency: The time data takes to travel from one point to another. Generally, latency below 60ms is considered adequate

We’ll discuss TunnelBear’s free service performance based on the above-mentioned metrics.

tunnelbear free vpn review speed test
Speed test before connecting to TunnelBear VPN (Ookla)
tunnelbear free vpn review speed test
Speed test on a TunnelBear VPN server in the UK (Ookla)
Speed test on a TunnelBear VPN server in the US
Speed test on a TunnelBear VPN server in the US (Ookla)
Speed test on a TunnelBear VPN server in Japan
Speed test on a TunnelBear VPN server in Japan (Ookla)
Download speed (Mbps) Degradation (% of base value) Upload speed (Mbps) Degradation (% of base value) Latency Latency increase from base value
No VPN 154.97Mbps 49.19Mbps 7ms
UK to UK 145.37Mbps 93% 51.88Mbps 105% 7ms 100%
UK to US 112.93Mbps 72.80% 27.54Mbps 55.90% 81ms 1157%
UK to Japan 85.22Mbps 54.90% 35.14Mbps 71% 227ms 3242%

Connecting to a UK server reduced the download speed to 145.37Mbps and the upload speed to 51.88Mbps, with a ping of 6ms.

Establishing a connection with a US server decreased the download speed to 112.93Mbps and the upload speed to 27.54Mbps, with a ping of 81ms.

The speed was significantly affected upon connecting to a server in Japan, with the download speed being 85.22Mbps, the upload speed being 35.14Mbps and a ping of 227ms.

Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) leak test

WebRTC is an open-source technology that simplifies real-time communication on web browsers. It is commonly used for voice/video calls and file sharing. 

Although many internet users benefit from WebRTC, it has a significant drawback. It can potentially expose your Internet Protocol (IP) address, which can cause concern for those who value their privacy online.

TunnelBear successfully cloaked our real IP address and passed the WebRTC leak test, only displaying the IP address of TunnelBear VPN’s server. The result remained the same on multiple attempts, confirming that it will always hide your IP address.

Breaches and audits

There have been no breaches in TunnelBear’s data logs. They operate a no-logs privacy policy and an audit by a third-party security firm ensures that the security policies of a VPN are valid. TunnelBear VPN has conducted regular annual audits for complete transparency and assurance in the past five years, demonstrating its reliability and trustworthiness. Cure53, a German cybersecurity firm, has conducted these audits.

TunnelBear compatibility

TunnelBear offers its free VPN services to users on five operating systems, including MacOS 11, Windows 10, iOS 12, Android 8.1 and Linux. However, only limited support is offered for Linux. It also provides browser extensions for Chrome versions 22.0 and above and Firefox 58.0 and above.

Desktop app

TunnelBear free VPN’s desktop application has a very easy-to-understand interface. The app’s main interface displays a map of the available servers, with an indicator of remaining data in the bottom right of the map. On the app’s top-left corner, you can see an option to quickly select a server instead of searching on the map. Other protocols and features, such as SplitBear and GhostBear, are accessible from the settings option.

tunnelbear app desktop

Mobile app

The TunnelBear mobile VPN app shares a similar interface with its desktop counterpart, with the main difference being the location of the settings option on the right side in the mobile version. Users can easily navigate through the map to select their preferred server.

tunnelbear app mobile

Protocols and other TunnelBear services, such as SplitBear, VigilantBear and GhostBear, can be accessed from the settings menu in the top-right corner.

TunnelBear customer support

Every reliable VPN service provider offers great customer service to its users to solve their queries and problems quickly, and TunnelBear is no exception. However, TunnelBear’s free service has no 24/7 live chat support. So, if a user wants to communicate with TunnelBear employees, they must submit a complaint form on its website. 

If a user needs an answer to a query, it would be best to visit the FAQs section on the website.

What do customers say?

Overall, TunnelBear is relatively well-reviewed by users on the Apple App Store (4.5 out of five stars) , but it has below-average ratings on Google Play (3.9 out of five stars) and Trustpilot (3.1 out of five stars). Most customers have complained about issues such as server disconnections.

“Very pleased overall but it does have a habit of disconnecting after three hours or so. I really wish they would fix that. My speeds UK to US are very good and otherwise happy. I feel a number of the negative write ups are motivated more from politics than usage. I have found the VPN service meets all my needs except when it disconnects halfway through a movie…”

Rich via Trustpilot

“For a free VPN, it works very well. They could’ve just remained at letting you use 2GB a month, but they actually let you choose your region while you browse privately. I personally use this to gain access to things out of my region, like codes or products. A few issues, sometimes when connecting, the VPN just won’t and you’ll have to reconnect again. Additionally, I occasionally find myself logged out for some reason when I try to connect via my notification panel (they have that too). Works well.”

Rafael kortum via Google Play Store

Independent Advisor’s verdict

TunnelBear’s free VPN service benefits users who want to access multiple locations with a single VPN service. TunnelBear is also considered reliable and safe due to its audited no-logs policy. However, like all free VPN services, some things could be improved with the free version, such as the restricted data limit of only 2GB per month. Compared to its competitors offering free versions, TunnelBear is a decent choice for privacy-conscious individuals.
★★½

Reputation ★★
Privacy ★★★★
Performance and features ★★
Plans and pricing value
Customer experience
Round up of today’s best VPN deals
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Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

Whatever the area of interest he’s worked in, Nick has always been a consumer champion, helping people find the best deals and give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision.