TunnelBear VPN offers a free VPN, which may look like a great offer, but in reality, it is nothing more than a half-baked attempt to drag some attention. While it is logical to think that the premium version of the VPN will be great, the reality is far from imagination.
The annoyingly slow speeds, high latency, and absolute lack of a large server network make TunnelBear not a great investment in the first place.
What’s worse is that the VPN service provider originated in Canada, and later, was acquired by McAfee – an American security company! What’s wrong with that?
Canada is a member of the 5 Eyes alliance, and the USA is one of the founding members of that alliance. If you have already gone through the other VPN reviews I have written so far, you will know that I absolutely dislike any VPN that originated or is located in a country that is a member of the 5, 9, or 14 Eyes alliance.
The members of those countries are enemies of privacy. A VPN is supposedly meant to secure your privacy. If the VPN company is based in a country that doesn’t give a damn about privacy, that VPN provider is not trustworthy!
My Ratings for TunnelBear VPN | Overall Rating: 6
If you have been following this website, you must be aware of my review methodology by now. So, in the ensuing review, I will keep things crisp and short instead of beating around the bush.
As a regular habit, I will break this review in 8 broad segments, with each segment having its individual rating. Sounds good? So, here is how I rate this VPN provider:
|Rating Parameter||My Rating|
|UI and User Experience||10|
Okay, now that you have a glimpse of my ratings for TunnelBear VPN, it is about time that I walk you through the pros and cons of the VPN service.
The Pros and the Cons of TunnelBear VPN
Have you ever encountered a product called the “gift of nothing?” It is available on Amazon, and it packs nothing but air! People literally buy air! Yes, that’s the power of marketing.
TunnelBear does a great job of marketing the VPN service. I have to give it credit. However, not everything that glitters is gold. This is what I learned the hard way after falling for all the gimmicks of TunnelBear marketing efforts.
After using the app, this is what I found:
The Pros of TunnelBear VPN
- It has a neat and clean user-friendly interface.
- It has a kill switch.
- It offers a free plan.
- The apps and browser extensions are secure.
- TunnelBear passed an independent third-party security audit.
- The user interface is clean and easy to use.
- It supports torrenting.
- It has a kill switch.
- It allows split tunneling.
- It uses state-of-the-art AES encryption.
- It has a no-logs policy.
The Cons of TunnelBear VPN
- It is based in Canada – a member state of the 5 Eyes alliance.
- It is terribly slow speeds.
- It has a small server network.
- It fails to bypass the geo-restriction of Netflix and several other streaming services.
- It has high latency, making it an awful choice for gaming.
- The free plan has extremely limited data, making it a joke.
- The customer support is bad.
- It will not provide any refunds.
- It uses hard drive storage.
TunnelBear VPN at a Glance
Are you wondering how many servers the VPN provides? What about the number of simultaneous connections against a single license? Go through the table below to get your answers.
|Location of PrivateVPN||Canada|
|Year of Foundation||2011|
|Storage Type||Hard drive storage|
|Logging Policy||No-logs policy|
|5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes||Located in a country that is a member of 5 Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance|
|Number of Simultaneous Connections||Five connections against a single license|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Browsers|
|Refund Policy||No refunds|
Now that you have a fair idea of what TunnelBear is all about, allow me to walk you through the detailed review.
TunnelBear VPN Security | My Rating – 9
Just like almost every other VPN service provider, TunnelBear uses a 256-bit AES encryption. This is a type of encryption that even the NSA lauds and recommends. So yes, if you are using TunnelBear, your data will be encrypted using the most powerful algorithm available.
Once encrypted, only a private key can open decrypt the data. Not even a supercomputer can decrypt the data in a million years. You can rest assured that your data will be safe.
TunnelBear offers the standard VPN protocols that almost every other VPN provider offers. You will get OpenVPN and IKEv2 if you are using Windows. In case you are using a Mac or Android, you will get access to OpenVPN. On iOS, you will get the IPsec/IKEv2 protocol.
All of them are time-tested protocols that you can trust. You can rest assured that your data will be traveling safely through the VPN tunnel.
No IP/DNS Leaks
This is one segment where TunnelBear performs pretty well. If a VPN leaks your IP or your DNS, your online activities will become easily visible to your ISP and hacker, or any nosy government agent out there who has nothing better to do in this world.
Luckily, when I tested TunnelBear for those leaks, I was pleasantly surprised to see no leaks at all. Here is a screenshot of the test result with a connection established to a server in Australia:
What do I say about this? No VPN provider in this world will be honest. Yes, none of them will log your activities online, but they have to log something.
They will log your payment details, your email ID, your computer MAC id, and a few more things required for processing your payment, providing support, and sending emails.
So yes, they do have a no-logs policy, but they aren’t a completely no-logs VPN. If you are not comfortable with this, you cannot be comfortable with any VPN in this world. In that case, you have to build your own VPN, which requires a lot of technical knowledge. There are some YouTube videos that you can follow.
This is the worst part of the TunnelBear VPN. It is based in Canada, which is a member country of the 5 Eyes alliance. Those member countries are engaged in mass surveillance of its citizens in the name of national security, and they blatantly breach users’ privacy.
If Canada wasn’t enough, the VPN is now owned by McAfee – a security company that is headquartered in the USA – the flag bearer of privacy intruders. The USA is the founding member of the 5 Eyes alliance and a member state of 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes alliances.
On top of that, the USA has what is known as the Patriot Act that can force these security companies and any online service provider like a VPN company to log and share user data. Failure to comply will simply mean shutting down the company.
The worst part is that if the companies are forced to hand over user data under the Patriot Act, the companies are forbidden from disclosing that to their users. That’s too much of democracy, don’t you think so?
So no, TunnelBear is not a company I will ever trust for a VPN. I will rather settle for options like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, which are located in countries that do not have any law that allows the government to force the companies to hand over user data.
TunnelBear VPN Speed | My Rating – 5
I should have given a lower score to TunnelBear VPN in this segment, but somehow, I am feeling too generous today. When it comes to speed, this is a VPN that you should steer away from.
I used my standard equipment set (that I regularly use to test every other VPN that I write about) to test TunnelBear’s speed. In case you don’t remember, here is what I use:
- A Windows 10 PC running a 64-bit OS version.
- A Corei5 process clocked at 3 GHz.
- 16 GB RAM
- SSD storage.
- A fiber broadband connection with 85 Mbps base speed.
I always remove the router while testing VPNs and connect the internet cable directly to the RJ45 port to ensure that I get the maximum speed allowed by my internet package. As a slave of my habits, I run the tests between 11 AM and 12 noon.
Here are the test results (be awfully surprised):
|Server Location||Download Speed||Upload Speed||Ping Time|
|United States||12.25 Mbps||2.76 Mbps||54ms|
|Sweden||8.37 Mbps||1.22 Mbps||142ms|
|Australia||4.90 Mbps||0.87 Mbps||321ms|
|United Kingdom||11.14 Mbps||4.13 Mbps||333ms|
|Germany||11.69 Mbps||6.56 Mbps||267ms|
|Singapore||7.81 Mbps||2.58 Mbps||345ms|
|India||6.57 Mbps||1.48 Mbps||412ms|
This is what they call superfast. They must be kidding me. These results forced me to decide that I will ask for a refund, but surprise, surprise – that’s not an option! However, they do offer refunds on a case-by-case basis! Good luck to you!
Streaming with TunnelBear VPN | My Rating – 3
One of the primary reasons why people subscribe to a VPN service nowadays is that they want to enjoy streaming services across the world. Of course, there is a craze for Netflix US, because it undoubtedly has the best library of shows and movies.
Unfortunately, none of the servers of TunnelBear that I tried managed to unblock Netflix. Netflix was smart enough to catch me. It outsmarted TunnelBear every single time.
What more? I turned my attention to HULU. Result? FAILED!
Next in line was BBC iPlayer. Result? FAILED!
One last time, I tried HBO GO, and it worked! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Anyway, since TunnelBear unblocked it, I decided to stream something. I could stream in HD without trouble when I connected from a US server. The moment I switched to a server in a far-off location (Australia), the whole HD streaming thing came crashing down with extreme buffering. It was so painful that I almost decided to stop writing the review.
But for the love of God and, of course, you people, I decided to sacrifice myself and carried on.
The bottom line, my rating is highly justified.
TunnelBear Features | My Rating – 8
TunnelBear has several features that make it look good (at least on the books). Some of these features are desired while selecting a VPN service. So, what does TunnelBear has to offer?
Let’s find out.
Obfuscation (Great Firewall of China):
Users say that TunnelBear can bypass the Chinese firewall. That’s a surprise considering that it fails to bypass Netflix! Honestly, I never tried this feature, and I couldn’t find anyone in person who can either confirm or deny the claims you can see on different websites.
So, I will go by what people say. Maybe it works! The feature is called GhostBear, which makes VPN traffic look like regular internet traffic. That is how obfuscation works. So, if GhostBear is there, you will perhaps bypass the Chinese firewall.
There was a time when TunnelBear did not allow torrenting. Things have changed now. All servers of TunnelBear support torrenting. Excited? Don’t be! The download speeds are painfully slow. I never went past the download speed of 300 Kbps. Sometimes, downloads simply stopped.
Here is a glimpse of what I mean:
Eventually, I had to stop that thing. It could download only 4.3% of 78.78 GB data in 5 hours. Why, TunnelBear, why?
A kill switch is undoubtedly the most desired feature of any VPN. Its job is to block all incoming and outgoing traffic if the connection to the VPN server stops. All traffic remains blocked until the VPN reconnects.
TunnelBear has that feature, and it goes by the name VigilantBear. You can find the option under the Security tab in the settings panel.
You can use the Tor browser after you connect to a TunnelBear server. However, do remember that Tor will slow down your connection exponentially. You don’t really want to use Tor over a VPN that is slower than a sloth! Really! Don’t use Tor with TunnelBear. You will feel like killing yourself.
TunnelBear VPN allows you to connect up to 5 devices against a single license. That’s standard for the VPN industry. Very rarely, you will find a VPN that allows more than 5 simultaneous connections.
User Interface of TunnelBear | My Rating – 10
There is nothing bad to speak about TunnelBear in this segment. The user interface is clean, with no fuss!
Installation was simple. What’s interesting is that the whole interface is set up like a map. There are pipes on each server location. All you have to do is click on the preferred location.
This is how the interface looks like:
The menu items are also clear and easy to understand. If you cannot understand something in the menu, there is a small icon next to each option. Clicking on the icon will give you the necessary explanation.
I must say that the overall graphics that I saw while connecting was pleasant.
This is how the menu options look like:
Gaming Experience with TunnelBear | My Rating – 0
Tell me honestly, do you really think that with such speed that TunnelBear offers, it is wise to even try playing an online game? I have repeatedly said one thing in my previous VPN reviews that if you plan to play an online game over a VPN connection, you need to have a low ping.
High ping will mean latency and lag. You don’t want that. For a high-octane game like Valorant, high latency will simply get you disconnected from the Valorant server. With such slow speeds, people on the gaming servers will never want you.
So, I didn’t even try connecting to a gaming server. I don’t want to gift myself the misery of seeing my ID thrown out of the gaming server. Thank you, TunnelBear!
Customer Support | My Rating – 6
The customer support of TunnelBear needs to improve – a lot! They don’t have any chat support, which sucks, to say the least. They only have email/ticket support, which is more like a hit or a miss. They respond within 48 hours, but sometimes they respond within a couple of hours.
The email response looks like a rote response rather than a real person sending customized answers. Here is what a response from TunnelBear looks like:
I did feel that it was a canned format that they send to everyone. It looked to me like they always know that they will lose customers because of TunnelBear’s failure to unblock geo-restricted streaming services.
So, they actually offered a refund in that template response without me even asking for that.
There is a good collection of knowledge base articles, though! I didn’t try out those articles, but yes, you can always go through them.
Pricing Plans of TunnelBear – 7
The price set by TunnelBear is more or less industry standard. Technically, I should have given them a 10-on-10 rating for this segment, but I didn’t do that for several reasons.
The terribly slow speed, lack of a chat support system, awful experience with streaming – these drawbacks don’t fit well with the pricing structure.
I mean, charging someone $9.99 a month for a faulty VPN like this is outrageous. Yes, you can get it for $3.33 a month if you go for a 3-year plan, or you can opt for yearly pricing at the rate of $4.99 a month.
The Free Plan of TunnelBear is a Joke!
It is needless to say that something with a ‘free’ tag is always attractive. However, there is something awful about TunnelBear’s free offering. It comes with 500 MB of daily data allowance.
500 MB? Really? That must be a JOKE and trust me, it is! What on earth can you do with SO MUCH OF DATA (sarcasm intended)?
Watch a funny video of “cats being jerks” on YouTube, and the data allowance will evaporate as if it was never there.
Things I Didn’t Like About TunnelBear
There are a lot of things I didn’t like about TunnelBear. I don’t even know where to start. Anyway, I will give it a try.
You get servers in 23 locations only across the globe. In the case of the United States, you really cannot select a server of your choice, which tells me that there is only one server across the whole of the United States.
The story is the same for Canada and Mexico. So, the entire North American continent has only three servers!
That’s a guess because there is no way you can tell where the servers are located as TunnelBear has never disclosed that.
I won’t name those websites (because that will be a clear attack on their popularity and trust), but there is one website that says that TunnelBear has 4000 servers while another one says that they have 1800 servers, and yet another one says that they have 1000 servers.
Who is correct? How do they know the server count? Did TunnelBear tell them? If TunnelBear told them, then why do they have different figures? Why hasn’t TunnelBear disclosed the server count on their website like every other VPN provider does? Why isn’t there an option to select from multiple servers in a single country?
There are too many questions with no clear answer. This makes me think that some websites write positively about TunnelBear to earn some money from affiliate links. That’s fine, but I believe that there has to be some honesty.
When you go to TunnelBear’s website, you will note that they display several payment options. This is what you will see:
Unfortunately, when you go forward and make a purchase, the only option you get is a credit card payment option. That’s awful! If they accept credit cards only, then why do they display Bitcoin?
We are in the 21st century. It is the era of high-speed internet. Look at the speed offered by TunnelBear! That’s not acceptable at all! Even a Slow Loris can run faster, I guess.
Streaming & Torrenting
If you are signing up for TunnelBear for streaming and torrenting, you are basically signing up for ‘DISAPPOINTMENT.’ It cannot unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc. Torrenting speeds are totally unsettling to look at.
No RAM Storage
RAM storage is the best option for any VPN. ExpressVPN has all RAM storage. NordVPN is switching to RAM-only storage. Well, their high prices are justifiable. What is the TunnelBear offering for such a high price? I have one word for their offering – “LEMON.”
How many times have you been annoyed by automated scripted emails as replies? I guess you have experienced it earlier. Maybe you have done that yourself by setting up Auto Responders for vacations or post-office hours.
Auto Responders sucks, to say the least! It looked to me like their email support (which is the only support they have) sends template messages for common queries. Is that what you will pay for?
Born in Canada and now sold to the US – I am out! Privacy is a big concern for me. If you are equally concerned about your privacy, you better show yourself the door. Or, you may just take the risk. It is your choice.
No Router Support
Major VPN players in the world offer support for VPN-supported routers. A VPN router can help you to extend VPN protection to more devices than what is supported normally. The absence of router support is not acceptable.
No Linux Support
TunnelBear has no support for Linux operating systems. Why? There is no answer. Maybe they don’t like opensource operating systems.
Conclusion – Do I Recommend TunnelBear
If you want to see a cute cartoon bear and some fancy emails, you can go for TunnelBear. But, if you are serious about your privacy, and you want to unblock geo-restricted streaming content, TunnelBear VPN is going to make your cry blood. You will end up cursing yourself. I don’t recommend it at all!
It is the 21st century. We have traveled at a speed of 39,937.7 kilometers per hour on the Apollo 10 command module. Google wants websites to be faster than light and want websites to load completely within 3 seconds on 3G connections. And here we have TunnelBear that can easily lose to Slow Loris.
Bottom line – I don’t recommend it! Finally, it’s your choice!