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Hola VPN Review: The True Cost of Free VPNs

Last updated: March 23, 2022

If you’re looking for a free VPN, you’ve probably come across Hola VPN once or twice in your search. While the free price tag might be appealing, many users report that they get what they pay for— and not in a good way.

Founded in 2012, Hola VPN has long touted itself as “the first peer-to-peer VPN.” With a free membership option, Hola VPN has enjoyed some popularity since its founding. But is it safe to use?

In this Hola VPN review, we’ll dive into its key features and see if there’s any security behind the low price tag. Read on to learn more about Hola VPN and how leading providers such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN might be better alternatives.

Key features

Feature
Jurisdiction Israel
Simultaneous Connections 10
Time Limits Yes (30 minutes per hour)
OS Compatibility Windows, Android, macOS (with browser extension)
Encryption No
Internet Kill Switch (IKS) No
Ad Blocking No
Free Add-ons No

Despite the Spanish name, Hola VPN is an Israeli VPN provider with both free and premium options. While Israel is technically a safe jurisdiction, its extensive logging and previous collaboration with the “Fourteen Eyes” surveillance alliance puts user data at risk. As a result, Hola VPN users could have their data surrendered to any government in the alliance, such as the U.S. and most of the European Union.

Hola VPN’s security features are virtually nonexistent. In addition to having no encryption whatsoever, users share their bandwidth and devices over a peer-to-peer (P2P) network instead of dedicated VPN servers. This quality alone makes using Hola free VPN even less safe than going without a VPN.

To make matters even worse, Hola VPN also lacks the most basic security features, including an internet kill switch. Privacy is equally poor, with the privacy policy expressly stating that the VPN service may provide user data “to other trusted third party service providers or partners” or legal authorities.

Performance also varies by user location, and free users can only use Hola VPN for 30 minutes per hour.

On the upside, Hola VPN offers users up to ten simultaneous connections. This number is higher than some major VPNs, making it appealing to users with multiple devices or shared networks. Hola VPN is also available on every major operating system and device, including iOS and Android for mobile users.

However, these are common features of many of the best premium VPNs on the market. Surfshark, for example, offers users an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.

Unblocking features

Streaming Service / Website
Netflix No
Hulu No
Amazon Prime Video No
Disney+ No
BBC iPlayer Sometimes
Channel 4 No
Sky Go No
ITV Sometimes
Great Firewall of China No

Most VPNs unblock geo-restricted streaming services and other content by rerouting traffic through dedicated foreign servers. Since Hola VPN uses its own users’ devices instead of its own server network, it usually can’t unblock Netflix and other major streaming services.

However, many users report that they can successfully unblock BBC iPlayer and ITV. While there are also reports of unblocking Netflix and Amazon Prime, these are exceptions to the norm.

In any case, unblocking content with Hola VPN is a matter of luck. Since your unblocking capability is based on the location of another user’s computer, the unblocking ability is random at best. Many streaming services are also quick to crack down on the IPs of Hola VPN users, so most services are unavailable anyway.

By contrast, most premium VPNs offer massive networks of dedicated servers that can reliably unblock most streaming services. NordVPN, for example, is famous for unblocking Netflix in many major countries.

Servers and performance

Performance Factor
Servers Unknown
Countries 40
Average Speeds Varies by location

The Hola network is unreliable. In the best cases, however, connecting to a nearby server (read: another Hola user) usually offers speeds similar to those you’d have without using a VPN.

For example, this was our starting speed before connecting to Hola VPN.

Speed test results without a VPN connection

As you can see, we were already working with a blazing fast connection. Then, we attempted to connect to a Hola VPN server in the UK.

Speed test results after connecting to Hola VPN in the UK

We had a decrease of about 17%, which isn’t the fastest we’ve seen, but it was still more than enough to browse without interruption.

Finally, seeking something a little closer to home, we connected to a Hola VPN server in the U.S.

Speed test results after connecting to Hola VPN in the US

It was roughly the same speed as the UK server but just a hair slower. This was likely due to the P2P nature of the connection.

This benefit is a double-edged sword, however. Though Hola VPN offers relatively high speeds when connecting to nearby servers, it’s mostly because Hola VPN works more as a peer-to-peer proxy rather than a VPN. In other words, with no encryption and virtually no security features, Hola VPN only provides high speeds because it isn’t taking extra steps to encrypt or secure traffic.

Even so, Hola VPN claims to offer servers in at least 40 countries. While it’s unclear how the VPN service can claim this figure with no dedicated server network, they’re at least clear about their practices: “We don’t need to have servers in each and every country as we leverage our peer-to-peer network in other countries.”

In summary, Hola VPN’s server network is mostly composed of its own users. As a result, performance and reliability vary while putting user privacy and security at risk over unsecured peer-to-peer networks.

Security features

Security Feature
VPN Protocols None
Data Encryption None
App Security None
DNS N/A
Internet Kill Switch (IKS) No
Split Tunneling No
Double Hop No
Obfuscation No

Hola VPN offers no security whatsoever.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an exaggeration. With no VPN protocols, no data encryption, and no security features such as an internet kill switch or double-hopping, Hola VPN users can expect little to no protection from major security threats. Combined with its peer-to-peer “server network,” Hola VPN might be one of the least secure VPNs we’ve ever reviewed.

But what do premier VPNs have to offer? At a minimum, most VPNs on the market offer military-grade AES 256-bit encryption and, at the very least, allow users to choose a VPN protocol. Common VPN protocols include OpenVPN, L2TP, and more, with most major VPNs offering at least a few for users to choose from. In addition to securing your VPN connection, these protocols are also crucial for preventing a DNS leak.

All that said, we can safely conclude that using Hola VPN makes you less secure than using your default connection. Even though you’re using someone else’s device and IP address as a VPN server (or, more accurately, a proxy server), someone else is also using yours — which could link any potential cyber crimes or suspicious activities back to you.

Privacy and torrenting

Privacy Feature
Activity Logs Yes
Connection Logs Yes
Safe Jurisdiction Yes
Torrenting Supported No
Dedicated P2P Servers No
Anonymous Payment No

Hola VPN offers surprisingly little privacy, even for a free VPN service.

In addition to keeping extensive activity and connection logs, Hola VPN is also based in Israel. While Israel is technically a “safe” jurisdiction in that it can’t seize user data, it’s still an active contributor to international intelligence-sharing networks. As a result, Hola VPN users could have their thoroughly logged activity handed over to any major government on these networks.

The privacy issues don’t stop there, unfortunately.

While Hola VPN’s one privacy benefit is that it hides user IP addresses, there’s still a catch. Hola VPN uses a peer-to-peer network of user devices instead of a dedicated VPN server network. As a result, instead of routing your traffic through an encrypted VPN server, you’re simply adopting the IP address of another Hola VPN user.

Of course, this dynamic goes both ways. Though you may have some protection by simply using someone else’s device as a proxy, another Hola VPN user will likely be using your device in the same way. In doing so, Hola VPN compromises everyone’s privacy and security.

Users also shouldn’t expect support for torrenting. Despite relying on P2P networks, Hola VPN doesn’t offer dedicated P2P servers or support torrenting activities. Combined with little to no privacy or security, Hola VPN is a poor choice for torrenting and just about everything else.

Device compatibility

Platform / Browser
OS Compatibility Windows, Android, macOS (with browser extension)
Browser Compatibility Chrome, Firefox, Opera
Router Compatibility N/A

Hola VPN offers direct compatibility with Windows and Android devices. While macOS isn’t supported, Apple users can still use Hola VPN as a Firefox, Opera, or Chrome extension.

However, server performance varies between the desktop Hola app and the browser extension. Using the desktop app will connect to Hola VPN’s peer-to-peer network, while the browser extension will use one of the provider’s private servers.

While the thought of an actual VPN server may seem like a relief, Hola VPN provides next to no details about where these servers are located. Also, many users report automatically connecting to servers in countries other than those they chose.

Device compatibility usually isn’t an issue for VPNs. At a minimum, most top providers are compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, and most mobile devices, with some even working on specialty devices like a smart TV.

User interface and support

Interface / Support Feature
Easy User Interface Yes
Automatic Setup Yes
Server Location Selection Yes
Mobile-Friendly Yes (Android only)
Live Chat No
Email Support Yes
User Guides and Tutorials Yes

The Hola user interface is extremely simple and streamlined. With very simple controls and a quick automatic setup, users will have no trouble navigating the VPN in either the app or browser extension.

Unfortunately, much of this simplicity is due to Hola VPN’s lack of features. Apart from country selection and language settings, users have few options for configuring the VPN. Considering that country selection isn’t always reliable, simplicity isn’t really a benefit here.

User support is also limited. In fact, Hola VPN is a bit hard to contact, offering no live chat or phone support. While users can contact the provider via email, many report going days without a helpful response. Apart from this option, users can also consult setup guides and FAQs on the Hola VPN website.

Pricing

Subscription Period
Base Price Free
Premium/Plus Price $14.99/mo
Ultra Price $29.99/mo
Money-Back Guarantee Yes (30 days)
Anonymous Payment No

While Hola VPN is free, users can pay extra for better performance and improved features. However, with Plus plans starting at $14.99 per month, even top-of-the-line providers like ExpressVPN become bargains.

A rear view of the Hola VPN logo revealing that it’s a cheap cardboard cutout.

Though all plans still suffer from security and privacy issues, premium members can use Hola VPN 24/7 instead of just 30 minutes per hour. Premium, Plus, and Ultra plans also promise higher speeds and improved customer support, but most users report only somewhat better performance.

Thankfully, Hola VPN provides a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans. While it accepts PayPal and most major credit cards, it doesn’t accept Bitcoin or other forms of anonymous payment.

Top 3 Hola VPN alternatives

No price is worth sacrificing your privacy or security. With Hola charging some of the highest prices on the market for its premium plans, any leading VPN service would be a better value.

ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and NordVPN logos showcased on strong pillars.

Here are a few of our favorites.

ExpressVPN

For the absolute best performance on the market, look no further than ExpressVPN. With a massive network of over 3,000 encrypted servers spread across 94 countries, ExpressVPN offers one of the most robust and secure VPN services around.

ExpressVPN’s starting price of $12.95 per month is also cheaper than Hola VPN, especially with long-term subscriptions offering reduced monthly fees.

Learn more in our ExpressVPN review.

Try ExpressVPN

NordVPN

Another leading provider, NordVPN is famous for its robust security and strong unblocking features. Supported by over 5,000 encrypted servers in 60 countries, NordVPN offers users a great balance between performance and security.

At a starting price of $11.95 per month, NordVPN is also less expensive than Hola. Considering its overall better features, it’s another great value.

Learn more in our NordVPN review.

Try NordVPN

Surfshark

While most VPNs limit simultaneous connections, Surfshark doesn’t. With unlimited simultaneous connections and over 3,200 secure servers in 65 countries, it’s a great choice for users with many devices or shared networks.

Surfshark is also less expensive than Hola VPN, with plans starting at $12.95 per month before long-term subscription discounts.

Learn more in our Surfshark review.

Try Surfshark

Is Hola VPN safe to use?

Unfortunately, we can’t recommend Hola VPN. With barely any security or privacy features to support its P2P network, using it might make you less secure than you were before.

Combined with unreliable performance and shady policies, we’d recommend almost any other service over Hola VPN. Thankfully, even premium services like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark provide top-notch security and performance for less than a Hola VPN premium membership.

To discover even more top VPNs, visit our VPN reviews page.

Published on: March 28, 2022