Hola VPN is hella popular: almost 200 million people use it.
Is it really that good? Is it safe to use? Is it actually a VPN?
Find out in today’s review!
You can use the navigation menu to quickly skip to the part that interests you the most.
- Hola VPN: Unique Benefits and Features
- Hola VPN: Pros and Cons
- Hola VPN: Speed and Security Tests
- Hola VPN: Benefits and Features Tests
- Hola VPN: Free & Paid Versions Comparison
- Hola VPN: FAQ
- User reviews about Hola VPN
|Hola VPN pros||Hola VPN cons|
|⊕ Has a free version||⊗ Keeps logs|
|⊕ A 30-day refund||⊗ The free version doesn’t unblock some sites|
|⊕ Fast speeds on the free version||⊗ The free version is not really a VPN|
|⊕ The PLUS version unblocks Netflix||⊗ Have to share resources on the free version|
|⊕ The free version unblocks CBS||⊗ No encryption on the free version|
|⊗ Criminal activity may be linked to you|
|⊗ No torrenting allowed|
|⊗ Some advertised platforms aren’t supported|
So why do so many people use Hola? It’s free, that’s why. Or rather, there’s a free version.
I have to admit: the differences between the paid and the free versions are some of the most drastic I’ve ever seen.
Hola VPN advertises itself as a tool to bypass regional restrictions. What you see below is the first thing you notice on their website. However, there’s a caveat: to unblock any website, you absolutely do need the PLUS version.
The differences don’t end here. The free version is not really a VPN (yes, despite the name). It’s more of a proxy service. There is no encryption on it. There are no dedicated servers. Instead, the users’ IPs are used by other users.
Look at the scheme above, if you would. This is how Hola VPN works (please note that all characters are purely fictional and any coincidence is just that):
- Mr. Schmidt uses the IP belonging to Mr. Stavridis;
- Mr. Onozaki uses the IP belonging to Mr. Schmidt;
- Ms. Bayramoğlu uses the IP belonging to Mr. Onozaki;
- Mr. Stavridis uses the IP belonging to Ms. Bayramoğlu…
And so goes the cycle. Obviously, it’s not as short and simple as my representation of it, but you got the idea.
While it may seem convenient for bypassing regional blocks (and it is) because there are no dedicated servers that website’s algorithms can learn about and blacklist, there’s this small problem… I’m sure you saw it coming from ten thousand miles away, but I’ll still spell it out.
Your IP and your bandwidth can and will be used by other users.
I’ll let you mull it over until we’ll talk more about it in one of the following chapters.
That said, Hola does deliver on its promise to unblock any website. Yes, you need to buy the PLUS version for it, but if you do, all those Netflix shows you wanted to watch (but couldn’t because of the region restrictions) will be open to you.
There is a free version
I feel like this is the main attraction for most people who use Hola. It comes at a huge price, though, and even the download menu on their site tells you that there’s no free privacy.
I’ll be blunt: it’s okay for a proxy. But it’s not a VPN. Your traffic isn’t encrypted. You can access some region-locked websites but not others.
Welp. At least it’s free.
You can get a refund
If you opt into getting the paid version, you can get your money back before 30 days pass. It can be considered somewhat of a free trial for the full version.
That’s a big plus because the free version doesn’t really tell you much in terms of how the full plan works.
Fast speeds on the free version
Since the free version doesn’t encrypt anything, the speeds on it are pretty good. With it, even when I’m connected to a US server (very far away from my location), the speed isn’t affected that much.
Above you see that with Hola active, my download speed drops by 54% while my upload speed is actually improved.
PLUS version unblocks Netflix
As of the time of testing, Hola managed to bypass Netflix’s regional restrictions just fine, unlocking some US-only movies with no problem.
The free version can unblock CBS
Even though the free version of Hola can’t unblock Netflix, it works well with other streaming services like CBS.
For example, 60 Minutes is blocked in the country I’m in right now.
But even Hola Free bypasses it:
Not everything is, though.
Hola VPN keeps your logs
And we have a major problem right at the start. A good VPN provider should have a no-logs policy. Hola doesn’t.
This isn’t good.
This isn’t good at all.
In all seriousness, this sort of data collection is what you want to avoid, period. You know, one of the reasons to use a VPN.
But wait, there’s more! It’s not only Hola that has access to your private info, but also “other third parties”!
Let’s summarize what info Hola collects on its users, free and PLUS both:
- Browser type;
- Pages they visit and the time they stay there;
- Access times and dates;
- Their real IPs;
- Their names;
- Their email addresses;
- Their screen names;
- Their billing information;
- And the ever-vague “other” information.
Yep, Hola is extremely not safe.
Honestly, I should just end this review right here and now, with the bottom-line written in all caps: NOT RECOMMENDED. But that wouldn’t be fair, and besides, there are still many cons to go through.
The free version doesn’t unblock some websites
I’m talking about Netflix, BBC, ABC/Freeform, etc. You do need to upgrade to the PLUS version to access those.
You have to share resources on the free version
Without VPN servers hosted by the provider, access to those virtual addresses must come from somewhere.
And it does. From you.
Every free user has to provide some “idle resources” to others, according to Hola’s website. There’s an option to turn it off in the settings menu… that does this:
The utopia didn’t last long. There are those who give and those who take, and there’s no transferring from the former to the latter without paying.
What’s worse, you never know who can be using your resources and how.
There is no encryption on the free version
As I mentioned, Hola’s free version is not a VPN, it’s a proxy service. Naturally, it offers no data encryption. It is easily confirmed by going to their website’s FAQ page and searching for “encryption”.
This is the only result you’re gonna get.
Remember our good fictional friend, Mr. Onozaki? He’s a swell guy. He won’t use your IP address for any shady business.
But what if it’s not him who connects to your IP? What if it’s, in fact, a Yakuza affiliate? It may sound far-fetched, and, in all honesty, it won’t probably happen to you, or your friend, or anyone you know, but the fact is simple.
Criminals want to hide their real location while surfing the Web.
Just like you and I do.
So there is a possibility your IP may get used for something illicit. And if it does, the chances are it will be brought to the light. And some people won’t like it.
Be it oriental finger-mutilation enthusiasts or your local law enforcement, you probably don’t want to make an acquaintance. At least, not like that. So consider getting something like Private Internet Access or another real VPN.
Hola doesn’t allow torrenting
Several advertised platforms are not actually supported
Wow, look how many platforms Hola supports! Windows, Android, iOS, even Xbox, even PlayStation! Isn’t that cool?
The reality is not quite as bright, though. If you click on that Xbox (or PS, for that matter) icon, you get taken to the page where prices are listed.
But there is no separate bill for getting a VPN on your console. The voice of reason says: that’s because those aren’t actually supported by Hola. False advertisement? Yep, false advertisement.
For shame, Hola, for shame.
Boy was it a rough ride to get here. But it shouldn’t cloud my judgment, and it won’t: I will test Hola’s performance in terms of speed and security without bias.
Yes, I said “security”. An astute reader might have noticed that so far Hola VPN hasn’t impressed me with its safety. True, it keeps users’ logs and has no qualms giving away their personal information to third parties. However, we will see if it at least hides your real IP from your ISP and websites you visit.
Let’s get started.
As I mentioned before, Hola’s two versions are as different as they can be. Namely, there’s no data encryption on the free one.
Therefore, I will test how speedy my Internet is while using both free and PLUS plans.
Hola Free VPN Speed Test
First of all, let’s see how the free version affects my speed.
Here’s my speed without any proxy or VPN active:
Now I’ll see how it changes when I use Hola’s free version to connect to, say, Helsinki:
Cool! The download speed is pretty high, and the upload speed is barely affected.
But again, keep in mind it is not a VPN, it’s just a proxy, so there’s no use comparing these speeds to those provided by other VPN services[Y7] such as ExpressVPN can offer.
I find that connecting to a node situated in Europe generally doesn’t drop my speed by too much.
Here’s one in London:
And here’s one in Vienna:
Now I’ll go for a farther location, Kabul.
Not too shabby, considering I’m half the world away from it.
Last by not least, a US server:
Seeing these numbers for a server in Miami, it’s easy to forget that they are so good because your traffic isn’t encrypted.
They are so good because your traffic isn’t encrypted.
Hola PLUS Speed Test
And now we will see what speeds a PLUS user can expect. It’s pretty important, as this is the plan that allows you to watch Netflix.
I’ll connect to London first.
Aha! I think now it’s doing some encryption behind the scenes! Notice the speed drop from 53.67 to 32.73 Mbps.
It’s even more apparent with Vienna, going from 52.11 to the measly 18.71.
And these are the speeds I get when connected to the server in Miami again:
The download speed suffers a very modest blow (from 37.98 to 34.10), but the upload speed goes from 80.43 to 11.45 Mbps.
Overall, speeds are largely good enough if I’m not using a VPN but only a proxy server. With the VPN (and the PLUS version), they drop considerably. They may vary, though, depending on the time of day… and on the amount of bandwidth provided by Hola Free users.
|Hola server in||Download speed, Mbps||Upload speed, Mbps||Speed change, download/upload, %|
Now we’ll look into leaks. Are there any IP leaks with Hola VPN? Are there any DNS leaks?
As usual, we’ll start with the free version.
I’m definitely not in Arizona, and my real IP is nowhere to be found here. It seems that even the free version is good enough to hide your real IP and location.
Just to be safe, I’ll also see how the PLUS version fares (connected to a French server this time).
There we go. Again, no signs of my real IP address seen.
To conclude this section, what Hola lacks in protecting your privacy from third parties (and, potentially, governmental agencies), it makes up for by protecting it from your ISP and websites you visit.
While not an even trade (honestly, there shouldn’t be a trade in the first place), it’s better than nothing.
Is Hola easy to use?
Well… it’s not difficult, it’s just weird.
For starters, you can install a free Google Chrome browser extension (such a plugin is also available for Firefox).
You can find it on Hola’s website. The website itself is pretty barebones and mostly just advertises Hola’s free and paid versions.
Anyway, it’s easy to find the FAQ page as well as the download links. Here’s one for the Chrome extension:
If you agree, it shows you this page:
Which takes you to Chrome Web Store, where you install the add-on.
That gives you a drop-down menu in your Google Chrome.
Simple enough. What’s so weird about that?
Good that you asked. That part is coming.
This is what happens if you install a free PC version of Hola on your Windows:
You download a client, install the software…
Once it’s installed, you launch it, and you’ll never guess what happens next.
It opens a new Chrome window with the browser extension installed.
And that’s it. There isn’t a separate app or anything. It’s just a Google Chrome window with the plugin.
I wouldn’t really call it a Windows version.
Mind that the only settings for the free version are:
- Selection of a country you want to connect to;
- Popup tuning;
- Link to the upgrade-your-account page.
In fact, the “peer to peer” section you see on the picture also takes you to the upgrade page.
Let’s do just that.
There you can choose a plan:
- one month—$11.95/m;
- six months—$9.00/m;
- one year—$6.99/m;
- two years—$3.99/m.
Nothing too outrageous here. For instance, you can buy NordVPN for approximately the same amount of money[Y8] , although it also keeps no logs on your Net activity. The choice is yours.
Hola accepts payments via PayPal, credit cards, Giropay, Sofort, and several other services. It does not, however, accept bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies as payment. By this point, it shouldn’t come off as a surprise that Hola doesn’t really care about your anonymity.
Anyway, if you buy the full version, you finally get an actual VPN. And an actual app. And an actual settings menu.
Here you can:
- choose and change a country/server you want to connect to;
- set up an auto-connect option;
- set up the kill switch (you have to manually add apps you want it to kill if the VPN connection fails);
- choose an encryption protocol.
Hola offers to choose a server for you, but you’re better off speed-wise choosing it yourself.
That’s intuitive enough. But what if you run into a problem?
Well, you can write Hola an email about it.
That’s it: no live chat, no contact form.
And the “Help Center” link inside the app? Why, it leads to the FAQ page, of course.
Good luck getting in touch with them.
This bit of advertising is true. Hola VPN PLUS does unblock Netflix’s region-restricted movies.
You may use the Chrome or Firefox plugin or the stand-alone app, but as long as it is the paid version, you can watch Netflix with Hola.
Can I use it for torrenting?
Normally, I’d test this as well, but this time there’s no need. Hola doesn’t allow torrenting and says so on the FAQ page:
|Hola Free||Hola PLUS|
|Is a VPN||No||Yes|
|Keeps your logs||Yes||Yes|
|Uses your IP & bandwidth||Yes||No|
|Leaks your IP||No||No|
|Encrypts your traffic||No||Yes|
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