TunnelBear VPN Review

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog—or a bear. That used to be the case, anyhow. These days advertisers, corporations, and governments probably know a lot about you. A VPN helps you retake some of that privacy by routing all your web traffic through an encrypted tunnel to a remote server, making it harder for spies, snoops, and salespeople to track you online. Among the best VPNs we’ve tested is TunnelBear VPN, which protects your privacy with a cadre of cute but powerful bears. It bursts with charm, maintains an outstanding position on transparency and consumer privacy, and delivers excellent security tools at a good price. It’s a VPN that you’ll enjoy using, and it’s an Editors’ Choice winner, too.

User-friendly apps and browser extensions

For this TunnelBear review, I tested out the Windows and Mac OS apps. Both of these VPN clients did fine in my tests without any major issues. Below is a screenshot of the Windows VPN client that I tested out for this review:

TunnelBear VPN offers applications for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android. TunnelBear also offers browser extensions, which we will cover in detail further below.

Note: TunnelBear does not provide any app for Linux and it is not possible to use this VPN with routers. This is a major drawback we’ll discuss more below in the cons section.

Random connection issues – Another drawback I noted when testing the TunnelBear Windows client is that it would sometimes have connection problems. 


  • Average speed loss: 63% 
  • Number of servers: 1,800 
  • Number of server locations: 23
  • Number of IP addresses: Unknown

I ran speed tests using TunnelBear over three days with dynamic IP addresses, in two locations, using both wireless and ethernet connections. Internet speeds in the US vary by state and provider. And with any speed test, results are going to rely on your local infrastructure. Hyperfast internet service will yield higher test speed results. 

That’s one reason I’m more interested in testing the amount of speed lost (which for most VPNs is typically half or more) across both high-speed and slower connection types, and in using tools such as speedtest.net to even out the playing field. In the case of TunnelBear, nearly 63% of average internet speed was lost. That average includes both the superfast speeds recorded for nearby servers, and the sluggish speeds recorded for the more distant servers. 

Speeds I recorded for TunnelBear placed it near the middle of the VPN pack. It struggled to catch up to the popular NordVPN’s overall 32% speed loss, and catching up to other speed-intensive VPNs such as Surfshark and ExpressVPN (which in previous tests experienced overall losses of just 27% and less than 2%, respectively) could be an even bigger problem. TunnelBear’s speeds have steadily improved over the years as measured by other review and testing sites, though, and the US scores I recorded saw a speed loss of only 54%. 

In my tests, US servers delivered the peak speed of 176Mbps, with an average of 112Mbps. That’s more than fast enough to torrent, game, or browse. Non-VPN speeds in the same round averaged about 244Mbps. UK speeds came in second place, averaging 104Mbps. Australia followed in third place, with an average 100Mbps. 

Speeds bottomed out in Singapore, though, with a low of 4.95Mbps and an average speed of 68Mbps. TunnelBear’s connections routinely faltered when testing in the region. The lowest averages were found in Europe, at 65Mbps overall. As has been the case for every VPN I’ve tested, German servers underperformed compared to French. 

Unblocking Netflix with TunnelBear

We put TunnelBear’s abilities to access global Netflix content libraries to the test, and the results were pretty underwhelming. With this VPN you’re going to have to play around to unblock the US or UK libraries.

While we managed to access the UK location, it took us a while to find a server that would work. So, just know, that your experience trying to unblock Netflix US or UK might differ, you might not even be able to unblock these locations.

Also, trying to access Japanese, Australian, Singapore, or Canadian Netflix was a complete bust. The one location that successfully worked out was Netflix US.

Overall, TunnelBear isn’t the top pick for the best VPNs for Netflix. The continuous failure with Netflix and less than stellar performance with other streaming sites is why we don’t recommend this VPN.

Unblocking other streaming services with TunnelBear

Well, there’s nothing to shout from the rooftops about other streaming services either. TunnelBear did manage to access the BBC iPlayer, but the quality wasn’t too impressive and the connection wasn’t reliable throughout.

HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video were nice surprises. TunnelBear managed to access their servers, but the video quality wasn’t HD or without lagging. Surprisingly, there were no issues with YouTube TV either, but most of the VPNs are capable of unblocking the global content of this streaming site.

Also, DAZN was no longer accessible with TunnelBear, but then very few of our best VPNs can access it, so it would be hard to fault TunnelBear here.

Extremely Safe and Secure

Of course, no matter how cheap the VPN, you need to know that it’s safe.

Tunnelbear uses industry-standard OpenVPN protocol on Windows, Mac, and Android devices.

OpenVPN is a recommended option by default.

Recent iOS versions get IPSec/IKEv2, and older versions get IPSec (not recommended).

All in all, it’s the encryption you’d expect.

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 data protection, 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 (acting as a kill-switch).

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.

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