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 prosHola VPN cons
Has a free versionKeeps logs
A 30-day refundThe free version doesn’t unblock some sites
Fast speeds on the free versionThe free version is not really a VPN
The PLUS version unblocks NetflixHave to share resources on the free version
The free version unblocks CBSNo encryption on the free version
Criminal activity may be linked to you
No torrenting allowed
Some advertised platforms aren’t supported

It pains me, but I can’t recommend Hola VPN’s free version to anyone. Seriously, you’ll be probably safer without any VPN than with it. The PLUS version is better, but due to its highly questionable privacy policy, it still falls short of what a good VPN.


Hola VPN: Unique Benefits and Features

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.

Hola VPN advertisement

Netflix and BBC can be only unblocked on PLUS

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.

Visual representation of how Hola VPN works

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.


Pros and Cons of Hola VPN

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.

Version difference of Hola VPN

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

A refund is possible

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.

My speed without Hola

US server speed

Above you see that with Hola active, my download speed drops by 54% while my upload speed is actually improved.

I’ll tell you more about speeds in the next chapter.


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.

Hola VPN unblocks Netflix


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.

60 Minutes is inaccessible

But even Hola Free bypasses it:

60 Minutes is accessible with Hola

Neato!

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.

Hola’s Privacy Policy

Oh wow.

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”!

Hola on private info disclosure

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.

PLUS version is needed to unblock some sites


You have to share resources on the free version

Free users have to share resources

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:

Upgrade is needed to not be a peer

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”.

Encryption for PLUS users only

This is the only result you’re gonna get.


Criminal activity may get linked to you

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

The writing is on the wall (or rather, on Hola’s website), clear and legible: no torrenting allowed. Sad! At least, you can always check out our Best VPNs for torrenting” list.


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?

Platforms allegedly supported

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.

The address bar shows that it is the “Xbox page”

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.


Hola VPN: Speed and Security Tests

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.


Speed Tests

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:

Internet speed with no VPN

Now I’ll see how it changes when I use Hola’s free version to connect to, say, Helsinki:

Internet speed with no VPN

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:

Internet speed with no VPN

And here’s one in Vienna:

Internet speed with no VPN

Now I’ll go for a farther location, Kabul.

Speed when connected to Kabul

Not too shabby, considering I’m half the world away from it.

Last by not least, a US server:

Speed when connected to Miami

Seeing these numbers for a server in Miami, it’s easy to forget that they are so good because your traffic isn’t encrypted.

Don’t.

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.

London speed on Hola PLUS

Aha! I think now it’s doing some encryption behind the scenes! Notice the speed drop from 53.67 to 32.73 Mbps.

Vienna speed on Hola PLUS

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:

Miami speed on Hola PLUS

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 inDownload speed, MbpsUpload speed, MbpsSpeed change, download/upload, %
No VPN/proxy82.1175.65n/a
London (proxy)53.6777.33-35/+2
London (VPN)32.7319.69-61/-74
Vienna (proxy)52.1174.71-36.5/-1.2
Vienna (VPN)18.7141.55-78/-45
Miami (proxy)37.9880.43-54/+6.3
Miami (VPN)34.1011.45-58.5/-85

Security Tests

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.

Hola doesn’t leak my IP

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).

Hola PLUS doesn’t leak my IP either

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.


Hola VPN: Benefits and Features Tests

Is Hola easy to use?

Well… it’s not difficult, it’s just weird.

I’ll clarify.

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.

Hola VPN’s website

Anyway, it’s easy to find the FAQ page as well as the download links. Here’s one for the Chrome extension:

Hola VPN download

If you agree, it shows you this page:

Hola VPN browser installation

Which takes you to Chrome Web Store, where you install the add-on.

That gives you a drop-down menu in your Google Chrome.

Chrome drop-down menu

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:

Hola Windows installation

You download a client, install the software…

Hola VPN installing

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.

Hola free Windows version

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.

Hola Free VPN settings

In fact, the “peer to peer” section you see on the picture also takes you to the upgrade page.

Let’s do just that.

Hola VPN plans

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 VPN payment methods

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.

Hola VPN PLUS menu

Hola VPN PLUS Settings

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.

Automatic and manual server selectionManual server selection

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.

Hola’s customer support

And the “Help Center” link inside the app? Why, it leads to the FAQ page, of course.

Help Center is just an FAQ

Good luck getting in touch with them.


Can Hola unblock Netflix?

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.

Hola VPN unblocks Netflix

Hola PLUS app unblocks Netflix


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 doesn’t support torrenting


Hola VPN: Free and Paid Versions Comparison

Hola FreeHola PLUS
Is a VPNNoYes
Keeps your logsYesYes
Uses your IP & bandwidthYesNo
Leaks your IPNoNo
Encrypts your trafficNoYes
Unblocks NetflixNoYes
Unblocks CBSYesYes
Allows torrentingNoNo
Is safeNoNo

Hola VPN: Frequently Asked Questions

The paid version is. The free one, despite the advertisement, not so much.

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Hola is based in Israel. While not a member of Fourteen Eyes, Israel has always been cooperative towards the US and its agencies.

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No! They keep your logs and reserve the right to share them with third parties. It is extremely unsafe.

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