TunnelBear VPN fast facts
Our rating: 3.1 stars out of 5
Pricing: Starts at $3.33/mo (annual)
TunnelBear’s unique, bear-themed approach to its VPN service sets it apart from the more technical and standardized implementations of other VPNs. TunnelBear is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox and Edge, offering 5,000+ servers, unlimited device connections and a subscription option for teams and organizations.
Despite its fun design and accessibility, TunnelBear’s slower speeds and buggy app are causes for concern. In addition, its server fleet only spans 47 countries.
- TunnelBear VPN pricing
- TunnelBear VPN free version
- Security and privacy: Is TunnelBear VPN secure?
- Key features of TunnelBear VPN
- TunnelBear VPN servers and locations
- Customer service
- TunnelBear VPN pros
- TunnelBear VPN cons
- Who is TunnelBear best for?
- If TunnelBear VPN isn’t ideal for you, check out these alternatives
- Review methodology
TunnelBear VPN pricing
|Duration||TunnelBear Free||TunnelBear Unlimited||TunnelBear Teams|
|1 year||Free||$3.33 fall sale|
|1 month||Free||$9.99||$5.75 per user, per month|
|Notable Features||2GB data cap||
TunnelBear offers TunnelBear Unlimited at a discounted rate of $3.33 per month. If you opt for the TunnelBear Unlimited paid plan, this discounted annual rate is a steal. However, because this is a sale offer, prices may vary in the future.
I would suggest trying TunnelBear’s free version before purchasing a subscription. While data is capped at 2GB and some features are omitted, the free version allows you to get a feel for TunnelBear’s desktop VPN implementation.
For business owners, TunnelBear Teams is a practical option. You get all of TunnelBear’s paid features in addition to more team-based add-ons, such as centralized billing and account manager tools.
TunnelBear VPN free version
One of TunnelBear’s standout features is having a dedicated free version of its VPN. Those interested in trying the service don’t have to worry about providing payment information.
However, there are notable differences between the free and paid versions. The free version has a 2GB data cap that resets every month. So, realistically speaking, free users will only be able to try out the VPN for around a day or two before data runs out.
In addition, only paid users will be able to select city-designated servers on TunnelBear’s network. Free users are only able to choose from available countries (Figure A).
Despite this, TunnelBear states that their free and paid versions don’t have any difference performance-wise, making the free version a viable way to test if the VPN is right for you.
Security and privacy: Is TunnelBear VPN secure?
Specs-wise, TunnelBear has all the requisites needed for a modern VPN to be considered secure. It has OpenVPN, WireGuard and IKEv2 — the three industry-standard security protocols we want in a VPN. It also utilizes AES 256 encryption, includes a kill switch (VigilantBear) and split tunneling (SplitBear).
TunnelBear has a no-logs policy, which states that it doesn’t collect any user’s browsing information, IP addresses, DNS queries and applications used while connected to the VPN.
TunnelBear also has an impressive track record of undergoing annual independent testing. Since 2016, TunnelBear has completed five annual independent security audits. The most recent third-party audit was done in 2021 by Cure53. This commitment to annual testing is a definite plus for consumers who value a VPN that’s transparent and willing to be audited.
On the flipside, there are two possible causes of concern with TunnelBear VPN. The first is that during the 5th annual audit, Cure53 discovered ” … four low, nine medium, three high, and three critical-risk vulnerabilities.” TunnelBear said their team was able to quickly resolve the vulnerabilities after Cure53’s report — and I personally appreciate their candidness on the matter.
Some people may also be wary of TunnelBear being based in Canada, one of the members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, along with Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. If government intervention is something you’re trying to avoid, TunnelBear may not be for you.
Overall, TunnelBear’s security features, transparency and annual independent testing make it a secure and trustworthy VPN in 2023.
Key features of TunnelBear VPN
TunnelBear has a few key features that set it apart from other VPNs. Let’s check out four in particular that you should know about.
Compared to other VPNs, TunnelBear has a very user-friendly, bear-themed interface. Servers are represented by tunnels, and when you connect or switch to a new tunnel, a bear will pop up (Figure B) from inside the tunnel — hence the name, TunnelBear.
The bear theme is fun and foregoes the very technical approach that most security software usually have. If this is your first VPN, this whimsy user interface may make learning the software less confusing. The navigation experience itself is also very intuitive, with most features or options being placed where you’d expect them.
For users that are only starting to explore VPNs and want a less daunting experience, TunnelBear can be a good pick.
TunnelBear Teams (Figure C) is their version of team accounts for their VPN subscription. It nets users the paid service and additional features tailored to businesses such as centralized team billing; the ability to add/remove users and edit billing info from an admin account; and an auto-join feature that automatically enrolls users with a specific email address.
If you’re a small business thinking about getting a VPN for your workflow, TunnelBear Teams offers a convenient option that reduces a lot of legwork normally associated with setting up a VPN for an organization or business.
Unlimited device connections
TunnelBear VPN allows for an unlimited number of simultaneous device connections to one subscription. This means that any combination of computers, smartphones or browsers can be protected via a TunnelBear server at no additional cost.
This is a meaningful feature given that some of the top VPN providers only offer around five to eight simultaneous connections with one account. The ability to connect an unlimited number of devices provides users with added value, eliminating the need to purchase additional connections.
Speed and performance: How fast is TunnelBear VPN?
Performance-wise, my experience with TunnelBear wasn’t great. During my first day of testing the VPN, I couldn’t establish a connection using TunnelBear’s “fastest” server connection option (Figure D). It was frustrating as the VPN was able to find the server closest to me — but was still not able to connect to it reliably.
Even after I uninstalled and reinstalled the VPN, the issue remained. When I was able to connect, it took almost three minutes to do so; and when I disconnected, it was almost impossible to re-establish the connection. What’s weird is that when I connected to a server farther away from my location, I had no issues.
When I was connected, the speeds were slower compared to other VPNs. During my testing, I used TunnelBear mainly to do work in Google Workspace apps such as Drive and Docs, browse social media and research with multiple tabs open. Webpages seemed to take a bit more time to load and the connection was unstable. 1080p YouTube videos also had more buffering time than expected while connected to the VPN.
A day after my horrible experience with TunnelBear’s fastest server feature, the issue seemed to have resolved itself. I was able to connect to the server nearest to my location and disconnect/reconnect without any issue. The slower speeds, however, persisted even when the connection bug seemed to have been fixed.
TunnelBear performed decently in terms of uploads and download speeds. In my speed test, TunnelBear had a decrease of 38.46% for downloads and 11.64% for uploads — with the upload speed being one of the faster speeds I’ve recorded compared to other VPNs.
TunnelBear also performed well on the DNS leak protection front. After multiple rounds of testing through a public DNS leak tool, I got zero leaks even while I used different locations.
Of course, VPN speed and performance will vary depending on factors such as your location, your internet service provider, server traffic and your machine. However, my testing showed that TunnelBear may give you a buggy and slower experience compared to other VPN providers available today.
TunnelBear VPN servers and locations
TunnelBear offers around 5,000+ servers from 47 countries worldwide, putting TunnelBear’s server fleet in the middle-to-upper range against the competition. This is useful for those who want flexibility in terms of server choice.
While TunnelBear’s server count is on the higher end, I would prefer a more geographically diverse network. At 47 countries, TunnelBear has some catching up to do as other VPNs are offering around 60 to even 100+ countries in their server spread. So if you’re specifically looking for a VPN to unblock geo-restricted content, TunnelBear may not be the optimal choice.
I like that TunnelBear features P2P-friendly servers specifically optimized for tasks such as torrenting and file sharing.
Customer service (Figure E) is another aspect where TunnelBear could see some improvement. In particular, I believe TunnelBear should offer 24/7 live chat. Because VPNs can have unexpected technical issues, many of the top providers offer a service for answering questions and troubleshooting.
TunnelBear’s Support Page. Image: TunnelBear
At the moment, TunnelBear has a web form and email, online guides, and an AI chatbot (Figure F) called RoboCub for customer support.
In fairness to TunnelBear, RoboCub was able to provide fairly helpful answers when I asked a few questions.
TunnelBear VPN pros
- Beginner-friendly UI.
- Free version.
- Affordable one-year plan (fall sale).
- Annual independent audits.
- Unlimited device connections.
- TunnelBear Teams for businesses.
TunnelBear VPN cons
- Buggy app experience.
- Slow real-world speed.
- Connection can be unstable.
- Smaller country count for its servers.
- Vulnerabilities in most recent audit.
Who is TunnelBear best for?
TunnelBear is best for users who want a beginner-friendly VPN that doesn’t have an uber-technical interface. Its bear-themed UI is a fun take on a VPN desktop app, especially if you’re not a tech-savvy user or are just starting to get acquainted with VPNs. Its dedicated free version also gives users access to the service without having to spend any money.
In addition, TunnelBear’s Teams subscription can be a practical choice for small businesses who want an easy way to manage a single VPN for their team.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear VPN’s less than ideal performance and speed prevent it from being a top recommendation for people who fall outside these categories.
If TunnelBear VPN isn’t ideal for you, check out these alternatives
If you find that TunnelBear isn’t the best fit, we’ve listed similar VPNs that could offer a better experience.
If you’re looking for a VPN with an easy-to-use interface and fast performance, ExpressVPN is one of the best options in the market. It has strong security features, servers across 90 countries, and a password manager included at no additional cost.
Proton VPN is a great pick if you’re looking for a VPN that operates in a privacy-friendly country. Based in Switzerland, it complies with the country’s strong privacy laws that offer an additional layer of security to your data. Proton VPN also has a free version with no data cap.
Private Internet Access
Users who want a massive server suite should consider Private Internet Access VPN. PIA reportedly has around 10,000 to 35,000 servers across 91 counties, making it a smart choice if you plan to use a VPN to unblock content. Its Windows app is also one of the more customizable VPN applications available today.
My review of TunnelBear VPN involved a detailed analysis of its security features, price and real-world performance. I had hands-on experience with TunnelBear through its free Windows application, and I supplemented my findings with user testimonials and reputable reviews.
Finally, I scored TunnelBear VPN on various elements, including its security protocols and price, based on an internal algorithm to get a rating of 3.1 out of 5 stars. I looked at TunnelBear VPN both on its own and in relation to other VPN solutions in the market today.
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