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Visit TunnelBear
  • Simple user interface
  • Cheap long-term plans
  • Solid security

TunnelBear Review

TunnelBear offers top-notch security, user-friendliness and unlimited connections. Do the perks, coupled with the adorable brand, make TunnelBear a reliable VPN? Our TunnelBear review digs deep to find an answer.

Samson Kiarie
By Samson Kiarie (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2024-02-19T22:25:33+00:00 Facts checked by Jasna Mishevska

Key Takeaways: TunnelBear Review

  • TunnelBear offers top-notch security but has a limited free version — you get 2GB of data and no city-level access to servers in the U.S. and Canada. 
  • While TunnelBear is fast enough to support HD streaming, it doesn’t unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus or BBC iPlayer. It unblocks Peacock and Max only. 
  • TunnelBear’s long-term paid plans are affordable, but they offer no money-back guarantee. 

While TunnelBear doesn’t rival the best VPN providers, it has earned a reputation as one of the best free VPNs. Beyond its appealing bear imagery, TunnelBear sports a simplistic design that makes it easy for beginners to use — but it’s far from perfect. In this TunnelBear review, we’ll lift the veil on the provider’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Our experienced VPN testers put TunnelBear through the wringer. We professionally tested everything from streaming and torrenting to speed and security, and this review is based on these results. By the end of this review, you’ll be able to decide whether TunnelBear is cut out for your online security and privacy needs. 

  • 09/25/2022 Facts checked

    Rewritten to reflect current features, audits and server spread.

  • 03/10/2023

    TunnelBear changed its free data amount to 2GB per month, up from 500MB per month.

  • 12/19/2023 Facts checked

    We rewrote the review to reflect TunnelBear’s current speed, features and performance across the board. 

What Is TunnelBear & Who Is It For?

TunnelBear is a virtual private network (VPN) owned by McAfee Security company and has been around for over a decade. Famed for its bear-themed branding, the Canada-based provider has established itself as one of the best free VPNs thanks to its free servers in 47 countries, solid security and unlimited simultaneous connections. 

The Cloudwards Expert Opinion: TunnelBear

Thanks to its ease of use, TunnelBear is a VPN ideal for beginners or non-tech-savvy users. It offers solid security features and allows you to connect unlimited devices, making it a good pick for protecting the entire household. Sadly, it doesn’t tick the box for streaming and torrenting due to its 2GB data cap on the free plan, and its inability to unblock popular services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

TunnelBear: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Simple user interface
  • Unlimited device connections
  • Free servers in 47 countries
  • Organized knowledgebase
  • Chrome, Edge & Firefox extensions
  • Cheap long-term plans
  • Solid security 

Cons:

  • No money-back guarantee
  • Unblocks few streaming apps
  • No city-level server access on the free plan

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Features: What Can TunnelBear Do?

75 % – Good

TunnelBear’s simplistic design matches its slim feature set. It has commonplace features like a kill switch but no advanced features such as a malware blocker, content filters or automatic connection. Many of the features’ names align with TunnelBear’s bear theme. 

Device Compatibility & Simultaneous Connections

TunnelBear provides native desktop and mobile apps for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS devices, but none for Linux distros. Moreover, there are browser extensions for Opera, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. You can’t install TunnelBear on a smart TV. 

TunnelBear isn’t compatible with routers, which means there’s no way to protect other devices at home, such as gaming consoles. Thankfully, TunnelBear offers unlimited simultaneous connections. Whether using a paid or free version, you can actively connect unlimited devices, which makes TunnelBear ideal for large households. 

VPN Automation

TunnelBear prioritizes the absolute basics, keeping advanced automation on the back burner. You can configure the app to launch on startup, but beyond that, your wings are clipped. You can’t set the app to connect on launch or establish a connection when it detects an unsecured network, like you can with VPNs like CyberGhost.

tunnelbear automation
TunnelBear isn’t for advanced users; it offers limited
automation and advanced options. 

VigilantBear

VigilantBear is TunnelBear’s kill switch, which is available on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. When you activate this feature, it provides always-on protection. 

If the VPN connection fails or drops for any reason (power flicker, Wi-Fi network change or VPN malfunction), VigilantBear cuts off your internet. This prevents internet traffic and data leaks until the VPN connection is restored. We tested the TunnelBear kill switch, and it worked as described. 

SplitBear

SplitBear is TunnelBear’s split tunneling tool, which is available only on Windows and Android apps. With it, you can configure certain apps to use the internet directly while tunneling others through the TunnelBear VPN encrypted connection.

tunnelbear split tunneling
TunnelBear offers an app and URL-based split tunneling.

GhostBear

GhostBear is an obfuscation mode available on Windows, Mac and Android apps. When you activate GhostBear, it makes your VPN traffic look like regular web traffic. When your VPN traffic is less detectable, it becomes difficult for authorities in countries to detect that you’re using a VPN. Moreover, obfuscation enables you to access services that usually block VPN users. 

There’s one caveat with GhostBear: It slows down your connection significantly, so use it only when necessary.

Online Tracking Blocker

Another arrow in TunnelBear’s quiver is the online tracking blocker on Google Chrome, though it isn’t as powerful as the ad blockers with ExpressVPN, NordVPN or Surfshark. However, if you want a blocker that can thwart simple ads and trackers, TunnelBear ticks the box. Note that the TunnelBear blocker doesn’t block malware. 

Data and Bandwidth

tunnelbear windows client
TunnelBear apps display your monthly data balance to help you plan usage better. 

Whether you are using the free or paid version, TunnelBear offers unlimited bandwidth, making it a good choice if you plan to engage in bandwidth-intensive activity. 

However, the story is different on the data front. Paid users have unlimited data; users on the free version have a data cap of 2GB. 

Some users, such as those in countries known for censorship or internet restrictions, may receive a data bonus. One of our testers based in Kenya received a 10GB data bonus upon subscribing to the free TunnelBear plan. We contacted TunnelBear support, and they shared a list of countries where the bandwidth offer is available. 

TunnelBear Features Overview

General
Payment methodsCredit card
Accepts cryptocurrency
Simultaneous connections Unlimited
Supports split tunneling
Unlimited bandwidth
Free trial available
Refund period
Worldwide server amount47 countries
Desktop OSesWindows, MacOS
Mobile OSesAndroid, iOS
Browser extensionsChrome, Firefox, Edge
Can be installed on routers
Streaming
Can access Netflix US
Can access BBC iPlayer
Can access Hulu
Can access Amazon Prime Video
Security
Encryption types256-AES
VPN protocols availableIPSec, OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
Enabled at device startup
Allows torrenting
No-logging policy
Passed DNS leak test
Killswitch available
Malware/ad blocker included
Support
Live Chat
Email support24/7
Phone support
User forum
Knowledgebase

User-Friendliness & Hands-on Testing

90 % – Excellent

Overall, TunnelBear is easy to use — partly because of its intuitive design and lean feature suite. You won’t struggle to navigate the app if you’re a beginner or an experienced VPN user. We tested TunnelBear’s usability and prepared several guides to get you started. 

How to Install TunnelBear VPN

In this section, we’ll show you how to download and install TunnelBear on desktop devices. For this guide, we installed the free version on a Windows device. On mobile, you have to install the app from Apple’s app store or the Google Play store, but the process is pretty straightforward.

  1. Download TunnelBear Installer

    On TunnelBear’s website, select “get TunnelBear now,” then “free” and click “try for free.” Click “download for Windows” or your respective operating system to download the installer.

    tunnelbear apps
  2. Install TunnelBear

    Double-click the installation file and select “install” on TunnelBear’s installation window. When prompted with the request “do you want to allow this app to make changes…” click “yes” to initiate the installation.

    install tunnelbear
  3. Sign Up with TunnelBear

    Open the TunnelBear app, enter your email and password and click “create a free account” to sign up.

    tunnelbear signup page

How to Set Up & Use TunnelBear

By default, TunnelBear is ready for use. You don’t have to change any settings to make it work — just jump in and select your preferred location to secure your connection. The process is easy if you choose to customize your options, too, but if you need a hand, this guide will help: 

  1. Log In

    Using the credentials you created earlier, log in to the TunnelBear app.

    tunnelbear user interface
  2. Automate TunnelBear

    TunnelBear offers one option in the way of automation. Click the “settings” icon, then “general” and toggle the “launch TunnelBear on startup” option. This option launches the app when you start your device.

    tunnelbear settings
  3. Turn on the Kill Switch

    The TunnelBear kill switch is turned off by default, and you have to activate it for always-on protection. To do so, head over to the “settings” tab, select “connections” and toggle the VigilantBear button.

    tunnelbear kill switch
  4. Activate Obfuscation

    If you’re in a country where VPNs are banned, like China, you’ll need to activate obfuscation to hide that you’re using a VPN. To do so, go to “settings,” select “connection” and toggle the “GhostBear” button.

    tunnelbear ghostbear
  5. Use Split Tunneling

    Go to “settings,” select “SplitBear” and toggle the on and off button. Click “add applications” or “add a website” to add an app or URL that you want to bypass the VPN tunnel.

    tunnelbear splitbear
  6. Change the VPN Protocol

    By default, TunnelBear uses the “auto” protocol. To change the protocol, go to “settings” and select “connections.” Scroll down to the “VPN protocol” section and click on the dropdown button to choose a protocol.

    tunnelbear protocol options

TunnelBear on Desktop: macOS & Windows Apps

The TunnelBear Windows app adopts a simplistic design; you should be able to figure it out within seconds. The story is the same with the macOS app, which features a similar design. 

The home window has three action areas: a menu on the left, a connection button at the top with a server selector beside it, and a grayed-out map, which turns green when you connect. Clicking on the “connection” button connects you to the selected server. 

tunnelbear connected
The TunnelBear VPN client turns green when connected.

The only issue is that TunnelBear doesn’t offer a server search function or allow you to highlight your favorite location. As a result, you have to scroll down the list to find a preferred server. You can also click and drag the map to find your preferred server. 

Alternatively, set the server option to “fastest” to configure TunnelBear to connect you to the fastest server, which is usually the nearest server. 

There are two settings categories: “general,” with the automation and notification options, and “connection,” with options to customize your connection. If you need more clarification about how an option works, click on the question mark icon to get a detailed description. 

TunnelBear on Mobile: Android & iOS Apps

The Android and iOS apps sport the familiar color scheme and bear burrows on the map, but the UI design is slightly different. The “connection” button and the location picker are at the bottom of the screen and the “settings” icon is at the top right. 

This minor design tweak doesn’t impact the mobile app’s usability — if anything, it improves it. There are two ways to select your preferred server. You can pull up the location selector and scroll through the list, or tap and drag the map to find your preferred server location. The mobile apps offer a server search function to help you find your preferred server location. 

tunnelbear android app
It’s easy to find and connect to a TunnelBear server on mobile devices.

TunnelBear Pricing: How Much Does TunnelBear Cost?

90 % – Excellent

While TunnelBear’s free plan is solid, it offers more features with affordable paid plans.

TunnelBear Free Plan & Money-Back Guarantee

The TunnelBear free plan is a great option if you’re on a tight budget. With this plan, you have access to all TunnelBear servers in 47 countries. You also enjoy unlimited bandwidth, but data is capped at 2GB per month. However, users in countries with internet restrictions and censorship may receive a data bonus. 

You can use TunnelBear’s free plan to test all of the VPN’s features and functionality, as you’re limited only with data allowance.

Because TunnelBear offers a free plan, it’s not surprising that TunnelBear does not offer a money-back guarantee. The provider’s refund policy states that all payments are non-refundable. However, the provider may consider and honor some refund requests on a case-by-case basis. 

Pricing Plan Breakdown

When it comes to paid plans, there are two models: Unlimited and Teams. The Unlimited model costs $9.99 per month, which is more affordable than the best services, such as ExpressVPN. However, it’s not great from a value-for-money perspective because TunnelBear isn’t as feature-rich. 

tunnelbear vpn cost
When you purchase TunnelBear, you have access to all features and VPN servers.

TunnelBear becomes cheaper when you pay for long-term plans. The one-year plan costs $3.33 per month, whereas the three-year plan costs $3.33 per month. 

The Teams pricing model is for companies that want centralized user billing. The plan costs $5.75 per user per month — there are no long-term plans. For that price, you receive all of the VPN features, unlimited devices, priority support and an account manager. 

Free
  • 2GB
  • 2GB
  • Unlimited
Unlimited
  • Unlimited GB, unlimited devices, priority customer service *Price for the 1-year and 3-year plans are only billed for the first year.
  • Unlimited GB
  • Unlimited
  • Yes
Teams
  • Unlimited GB, centralized billing, account manager, price per user per month
  • Unlimited GB
  • Unlimited
  • Yes

TunnelBear Speed

75 % – Good

We tested TunnelBear’s speeds with a 10 Mbps internet connection. We started by testing our unprotected speed and the speed of the nearest TunnelBear server. We then picked six servers across the world to gauge TunnelBear’s speed on long-distant servers. For the speed test, we used the TunnelBear WireGuard protocol.

Nearest Server Speed Performance

Location:DownloadUploadLatency
Unprotected*10.1410.0122
Nairobi, Kenya10.03 (98.9%)9.79 (97.8%)31 (+40%)
*Thika, Kenya

Distant Server Speed Performance

Location:DownloadUploadLatency
South Africa9.26 (91.3%)8.35 (83.4%)142
United Kingdom9.19 (90.6%)8.03 (80.2%)326
Singapore7.90 (77.9%)7.66 (76.5%)321
Brazil5.09 (50.2%)6.08 (60.7%)738
Australia6.54 (64.5%)6.63 (66.2%)867
United States7.63 (75.2%)8.51 (85%)471
Worldwide Average7.63 (75.2%)7.54 (75.3%)478

Overall, TunnelBear demonstrated a worldwide average speed of 7.63 Mbps and 7.54 Mbps for download and upload speeds, respectively. Compare TunnelBear’s speeds to other VPNs in our VPN speed tests.

TunnelBear’s download and upload speeds decreased with increasing distance, which is common for VPNs. This trend was more prevalent on the upload than on the download front. However, Australia and the U.S. were outliers, delivering fast speeds despite being the farthest away from our testing location. 

When it comes to latency, the ping rate increases with distance, but the U.S. server latency is comparatively good. This means that when streaming videos, the load times may increase with increasing server distance. Beyond that, you may experience poot quality video during online meetings when connecting to a longer-distant server. 

Security: Is TunnelBear Safe?

90 % – Excellent

One of the reasons why TunnelBear retains a spot on our list of best free VPNs is its top-notch security. It supports secure protocols and solid encryption standards and has never had a security breach. 

TunnelBear Security Features

VPN protocols and encryption standards form the basis of a provider’s security. The last time we reviewed TunnelBear, macOS and Android users had no option to choose their preferred protocol except with TCP override. The provider has since made this option available. 

tunnelbear macos protocols
TunnelBear now allows macOS users to change the VPN protocol. 

By default, TunnelBear supports the “auto” protocol option on all apps. When on the “auto” protocol, TunnelBear picks the best protocol based on your connection. However, users who prefer more control can manually change the protocol. 

Windows and MacOS users can choose WireGuard, OpenVPN or IKEv2. Android users can choose between WireGuard and OpenVPN, and iOS users have four options: WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2 and IPSec. Read our comprehensive VPN protocols guide if you don’t know which protocol is right for you.

tunnelbear ios app protocols
The TunnelBear iOS app offers the most VPN protocols of any of its apps. 

TunnelBear supports two encryption standards: AES 256-bit and ChaCha20. AES 256-bit encryption works best with OpenVPN and IKEv2, whereas ChaCha20 is the best encryption for the WireGuard protocol. 

TunnelBear Leak Test Results & Detailed Security Analysis

We also carried out a series of WebRTC, IPv6 and DNS leak tests. Thankfully, TunnelBear came out clean. In other words, the VPN doesn’t leak DNS queries to your internet service provider (ISP). This means that your ISP can’t see the websites or online services you visit when connected to TunnelBear.

Privacy: Is TunnelBear Private?

80 % – Good

TunnelBear’s privacy policy has no legal jargon or sneaky fine print. It’s written in concise language that’s easy for regular users to understand. 

Privacy Policy: Does TunnelBear Keep Logs?

Unlike other VPN providers, you won’t find a no-logs claim in TunnelBear’s privacy policy. Instead of making such claims but have exceptions, the provider focuses on the information they collect and how they handle it. The key point is that TunnelBear collects minimal personal information and stores it within Canada’s physical border per the country’s data protection laws

tunnelbear privacy policy
TunnelBear’s privacy policy is concise and transparent
about the data the VPN provider collects. 

According to the privacy policy, TunnelBear collects your email address or Twitter/X ID when you create or update your account. It also collects operational data, such as your device’s OS, and payment data, such as the last name on your credit card. Most of this data is not identifiable, meaning that TunnelBear or third parties cannot use it to determine your real identity or location.

The only slight knock against the policy is section 1.4, which claims that TunnelBear can collect session information through third-party payment processors for fraud prevention. This session data, known as device hash, includes the device type, OS and IP address used at the time of payment. 

Independent Audits

TunnelBear has been undergoing third-party security audits since 2017. Its VPN applications and infrastructure were last audited in October 2022 by Cure53 — an independent cybersecurity firm. 

The auditors found minor risks and severities, which was to be expected with the level of scrutiny administered, but they reported no severe vulnerability. The apps and infrastructure received the stamp of approval. 

TunnelBear Streaming Performance & Unblocking Ability

40 % – Terrible

TunnelBear isn’t a great VPN for streaming. While its download speeds are fast enough to support HD streaming, there are two inhibiting factors. First, the free plan offers a meager 2GB per month, which you’ll likely chew through in less than two hours of HD streaming. Second, TunnelBear doesn’t unblock many popular streaming platforms. 

Streaming Apps:Status
Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
HBO Max
Hulu
Disney Plus
BBC iPlayer
Peacock

Can TunnelBear Unblock Netflix?

In our testing, TunnelBear did not unblock Netflix. The streaming giant has blocklisted TunnelBear’s U.S. IP addresses. We tried to log in to our company account with TunnelBear, but Netflix blocked all of our attempts, citing an “incorrect password” error. If you want to watch Netflix, we suggest using one of the best VPNs for streaming, like ExpressVPN.

tunnelbear for streaming
TunnelBear can’t access Netflix, BBC iPlayer or Amazon Prime Video.

Other Major Streaming Platforms

With Netflix blocking proving a hard nut to crack, we tried our luck with other major streaming services. The story was the same for Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus and BBC iPlayer. These streaming services noticed that we were using a VPN and blocked us. 

Fortunately, TunnelBear helped us access HBO Max and Peacock on the first attempt.

TunnelBear VPN Server Locations

60 % – Fair

One of the main draws of TunnelBear is that it allows you to access servers in 47 countries on both the free and the paid plans. The only difference is that free-plan users don’t have city-level access.  

Global Distribution of VPN Servers

North America 317
South America 55
Europe 2727
Asia 77
Africa 33
Oceania 22
Middle East 00
Total:4751

TunnelBear distribution is good compared to other free VPN options. In comparison, Windscribe allows you to access free servers in 11 countries. However, the distribution isn’t great when you consider it from the perspective of a paid VPN. For comparison, ExpressVPN has servers in more than 160 locations in 100 countries. 

Most TunnelBear server countries are in Europe, but each country has only one server location. On the other hand, North America has servers in three countries spread across 17 locations: 13 in the U.S., three in Canada and one in Mexico. 

It’s nice to see three locations in Africa and five in South America, since many VPNs leave those regions high and dry. 

TunnelBear Customer Support

75 % – Good

TunnelBear is easy to install and use, and you won’t need help finding your way around. However, if you hit a snag, you have two options: the knowledgebase or ticket-based support. 

tunnelbear knowledgebase
TunnelBear has a well-organized knowledgebase.

The knowledgebase offers articles organized into different categories. It should be easy to find a helpful article based on your problem. Alternatively, you can use the knowledgebase search bar to find the right help article quickly. 

If your issue requires a human touch, submit a ticket via the “contact us” link and expect a response within 48 hours. Unlike other VPN services, TunnelBear requires you to log in first to submit a ticket. You’ll also have to wade through several multiple-choice questions and attach a screenshot to describe the issue. 

tunnelbear ticket form
TunnelBear requires you to answer several multiple-choice
questions before submitting a support ticket.

Sadly, TunnelBear doesn’t offer phone or live chat support.

TunnelBear vs Other VPN Services

Thanks to its free server distribution, TunnelBear earns the second spot on our list of best free VPNs. While competitors like Proton VPN and Windscribe offer access to servers in five and 11 countries, respectively, TunnelBear allows users to access servers for free in 47 countries. It’s also one of the few free VPNs with servers in Africa. 

Regarding the data limit, Proton VPN and Windscribe have a leg up on TunnelBear. Proton VPN offers unlimited data, while Windscribe offers free users 15GB of data per month. On the other hand, TunnelBear offers only 2GB of data monthly, but users in countries with strict censorship and internet restrictions may receive a bonus.

Community Feedback: TunnelBear Reviews on Reddit & Social Media

Most users’ reviews online mirror our own opinion about TunnelBear. Its proponents praise the cute bear branding and user-friendliness, while other users cite the data cap and lean feature set as major drawbacks. 

One Reddit user claims, “While TunnelBear may be appealing to some due to its cute branding and user-friendly interface, its limitations in server network, data cap for free users, and privacy concerns make it a less competitive option.”

The Verdict: Is TunnelBear a Good VPN Service?

TunnelBear is a reliable free VPN that ticks the box for basic use. It has its merits: solid security, unlimited simultaneous connections, an intuitive user interface and free servers in 47 countries. You can try TunnelBear for free with all its features, but its 2GB data cap and inability to unblock major streaming providers make it a poor choice if your goal is to stream and download torrents. 

Have you used TunnelBear or any other free VPN? What did you like about the free VPN service? What did you hate about the service? We’d like to hear about it in the comments. As always, thanks for reading. 

FAQ: TunnelBear Review

  • Yes, TunnelBear VPN offers a free plan with a 2GB data cap.

  • Yes, TunnelBear is a trustworthy service that uses solid protocols and encryptions. However, the provider is based in Canada, which is part of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance.

  • Proton VPN is better than TunnelBear in the free VPN world. On the paid VPN front, many VPNs are ahead of TunnelBear, including ExpressVPN, NordVPN and Surfshark.

  • TunnelBear isn’t suitable for torrenting. It offers fast download speeds but limits you to 2GB of data per month.

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