Hola VPN is a living example of the fact that even worthless things can be popular.
Hola VPN is a living example of the fact that even worthless things can be popular.
Hola VPN is the first community-powered virtual private network (VPN). In addition to traditional technology, it also works as P2P software. Here users sacrifice their internet bandwidth in exchange for using other people’s. Unfortunately, that means you’re also sharing your IP address, which is the exact opposite of what a true VPN does.
In this Hola VPN review, I’ll evaluate its security and privacy credentials while also checking if it’s possible to unblock popular streaming platforms. I will also look at whether Hola VPN is good for torrenting. Finally, I will compare the free and premium plans and see if there’s enough (or any) value in those deals.
|Rank||#210 out of 215 providers|
|Number of locations||190+ countries|
|Number of servers||1500+|
|Safe for Torrenting||No|
|Customer Support||24/7 email|
|Logging policy||Extensive data collection|
|Free version or trial||Yes|
If you want an unlimited free VPN, Hola is not a go-to option. For starters, you will get only one-third of all possible “fast servers.” Furthermore, your video streaming quality will be limited to SD, no matter how fast your internet connection is.
In general, you can experience unexpectedly good speeds with the free version thanks to Hola’s giant network. However, that comes at the expense of your privacy because there’s no encryption whatsoever. Also, the algorithm might send you to a proxy, another data center, or a P2P network, so that’s yet another variable.
Before testing the free Hola VPN speeds, we measured the baseline speed from Europe:
Then, as usual, we tried to connect to different locations around the world:
After that came time for our paid Hola VPN to perform. Again, we measured the speed from Europe with the VPN turned off first:
The results speak for themselves – the free version is way faster, both in terms of drop-off and Mbps. But why premium Hola VPN is slower? The answer is simple – its free version doesn’t use encryption – it only gives you a new IP address.
However, even if the performance of free Hola VPN is seemingly way better, there’s still no consistency in connections. Due to constant drops, your experience can be ruined in no time.
Hola VPN doesn’t give the number of their servers. All we know is that the free users are entitled to about “500 fast servers”, and Premium doubles their number. Finally, the Ultra plan comes with “~1,500 fastest servers worldwide” and 200 “Ultra-fast servers.” Unfortunately, while checking my Premium plan, I could not identify which servers should offer me the best speeds.
Due to its unique nature, Hola VPN actually sends your traffic in one out of three directions. It can be a straightforward connection to the proxy, routing to another data center, or sending your traffic to the P2P network.
There are 40+ countries for app users and nearly 200 countries for browser extensions. Of course, most of these locations are from the P2P network, meaning the actual server is another person’s device. Sadly, this negatively affects the connection speed.
As it would be too much to put every available country, I’ll be listing only the core Hola VPN server locations from the free version in the table below:
|The Americas||United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia|
|Europe||United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland|
|Africa, Middle East, and India||Israel, India, Turkey|
|Asia Pacific||Russia, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea|
As you can see, Hola VPN has quite a few locations in Asia, which is not that common, especially among free services. I missed a location in Africa, but you can have more than one when using a browser extension. Finally, I wouldn’t recommend using servers in China or Russia – chances are the governments monitor them.
Free Hola VPN version is neither secure nor private. That’s something that I rarely get to say about any provider. Hola VPN encryption is non-existent, which means that it’s worse than regular proxies. Most importantly, it adds you to a huge P2P network where you share your bandwidth with other peers, getting almost nothing in return.
Premium plans have military-grade encryption, and that’s about it. Windows users get an application-level kill switch, while the rest have absolutely no security features or any features at all. At least in theory, you no longer have to be part of the P2P network.
There’s not much about the tunneling protocols. According to Hola VPN FAQ, it can either be an HTTPS proxy or IKEv2/IPSec connection, although the outdated PPTP is also listed. These protocols are probably for premium users because the free plan doesn’t come with an app. You should also be prepared for Hola VPN DNS and IP leaks because there’s no protection against that either.
Hola VPN’s physical location is in Israel, far from the best country for those seeking privacy. While it’s not a member of the Fourteen Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, it has a well-documented history of collaborating with the US. According to the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, Israel and NSA had an agreement to share US citizen’s data.
Because of its P2P foundation, Hola VPN may be one of the most dangerous services out there. Let’s start this section with some interesting facts from the past.
In 2015, Hola VPN was accused of a series of DDoS attacks using its free users’ hardware capacity.
In the summer of 2018, MyEtherWallet (MEW), a popular cryptocurrency service, was under attack via hacked Hola VPN extensions. Cybercriminals used Hola VPN browser extensions to steal cryptocurrency during the 5-hour long attack.
To conclude, joining this parasitic P2P network means that other free and premium users can use your idle bandwidth and your IP address as an exit node. The latter means that other Hola VPN users can pose as you online.
Does Hola VPN keep logs? It sure does! This is one of those rare VPNs that doesn’t claim to have a no-logs policy. Hola VPN collects your IP, email, name, and other personal data.
What’s more, Hola VPN doesn’t shy away from sharing your information with others:
We may disclose Personal Information to other trusted third party service providers or partners for the purposes of providing you with the Services, storage, and analytics. We may also transfer or disclose Personal Information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies.
In the end, Hola VPN offers almost no privacy to its free and premium users. I don’t recommend sending sensitive information over its P2P network, not to mention anything related to online shopping and banking.
Hola used to be primarily a free VPN service. But now, it seems more like a platform to exploit and promote the paid service.
For example, all that the free iOS app does is advertise a money-back guarantee disguised as a 3-day free trial. What’s more, they don’t say what plan it is and give prices you won’t see on Hola VPN’s website. Reading the fine print below reveals that you’ll be automatically charged if you don’t cancel 24 hours before the deadline.
To use this VPN service for free, you have to agree to become a peer. This means you’ll be an integral part of the P2P network of the Hola VPN global empire. When idle, your device will share bandwidth with other users, and the provider will collect your data.
Hola VPN has two paid plans – Premium and Ultra. They have different pricing depending on the contract length, which can be monthly, yearly, or 3-year long. However, the prices are way too high, given the lack of features, security, and speed.
Below are the plans that Hola VPN offers:
Free Hola VPN allows one device and limits the time you can use it uninterrupted to one hour. Video streaming quality is SD, and there’s no customer support save the FAQ.
In the meantime, Hola Premium comes with 10 simultaneous connections, HD streaming, email support, traffic encryption, and a dubious no-logs policy. You also get twice the amount of servers.
The Hola Ultra plan doesn’t add that much but is more than two times pricier. You get 20 simultaneous connections, 4K streaming quality, and 24/7 “real person support.” Finally, you get access to the full server list, including 200 “ultra-fast” ones, and Smart DNS, a basic feature of any solid VPN.
You can pay by credit card and PayPal, but there are also alternatives in AliPay, GiroPay, and Google Play, among others. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Hola VPN has clients for Windows, macOS, Android, Huawei, and iOS. There are also browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge. However, some Hola VPN clients come in the form of a Chromium browser, so the distinction is arbitrary.
You can manually configure Hola VPN Premium to work on routers (Netgear, D-Link), smart TVs (Apple TV, LG, Panasonic, Phillips…), and game consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch).
The way Hola VPN apps look often depends on whether it’s a free or premium version. For example, the Windows version can be a browser extension or a separate app. Premium version gives you exactly two VPN-related settings – kill switch and encryption type.
Users of Hola VPN for Mac don’t get any settings at all. Additionally, they have to enter a PIN code called “VPN password” each time they change the server.
It seems that Hola VPN isn’t planning to add any new features to its desktop clients anytime soon. Therefore, it’s hard to look at it as a full-fledged service, and there’s not much else that I can tell about it. After all, many proxies give more customization than this VPN.
Hola VPN for Android is quite unique in its design. It displays all your apps, and you can choose which one to use with a different IP. After connecting, Hola VPN automatically launches the app. Alternatively, you can use the built-in Chromium browser, but some websites like Netflix block it.
The settings are plentiful, but most are related to the way the aforementioned browser works. You can’t change your protocol or toggle the kill switch because these features simply aren’t there.
Free Hola VPN for iOS doesn’t exist. What you get is an option to choose a 3-day free trial, which is actually a money-back guarantee. The premium version of the Hola VPN iOS app is totally different from its Android counterpart. You get to choose the server and virtually nothing else. Then you can go browsing and streaming with your new IP address.
The Huawei version has similarities to the Android app. It also uses Lightning Browser instead of Chromium. If we believe the numbers on Huawei AppGallery, Hola VPN is not that popular – I saw 55,000 installs at the time of writing this review.
The free version puts a countdown timer at the corner of your browser window, even if you’re in full-screen mode. After one hour, you have to wait for one day. That’s bad news not only for the streaming fans but for everyone who wants to use Hola VPN without interruption.
Buying Hola VPN premium gets rid of the timer and adds optional encryption. You can choose to either protect one website, the whole browser, or the whole connection.
You can unblock Netflix with a free Hola VPN browser extension. The apps, however, require a paid account.
The problem with the free browser add-ons is the countdown timer discussed in the previous sections. You cannot hide it, and it has a one-hour limit, after which you’re disconnected until the next day. What’s more, free accounts get to stream in SD quality only.
I’ve tried streaming Netflix with the Plus version and was able to access the US, the UK, and Japan libraries. However, there wasn’t enough speed to stream from the latter, so the video quality was sub-par. Hola VPN did fine with the notoriously hard-to-unblock BBC iPlayer as well, but Popcorn Time is unavailable because of the torrenting block.
Another thing to note – Netflix blocks Hola VPN’s Chromium browser, so you should switch to a regular one.
To sum up, Hola VPN is not the best choice for watching your favorite movies and shows online. Even if it unblocks your favorite platform, the speed might not be enough for the best quality. For the best streaming experience, choose a decent VPN for Netflix instead.
Does Hola VPN allow torrenting? No. All P2P sharing activities are blocked. But even if you could use Hola VPN for torrenting, I’d strongly advise against that.
For starters, your traffic is logged and, in most cases unencrypted. That means your IP address and location are up there for grabs. If you happen to download a copyrighted piece of content, you may get into serious legal trouble. Also, only the Windows app has a kill switch that shuts down your connection in case of a VPN failure.
Torrenting with Hola VPN would mean that other people can be downloading pirated material using your IP address! Let this thought sink in a bit.
If you’re just a tiny bit concerned about your online security and privacy, you know exactly how unsafe it is to use Hola VPN for P2P. Instead, let me show you our list of the best VPNs for torrenting to make your decision easier.
Hola VPN offers the following support options:
The FAQ is extensive, addressing general issues and those related to Android and iOS devices. There’s also a separate list for billing-related questions and the Premium version.
Free users can forget about getting any other help, though. If you don’t find a solution in the FAQ, your best bet is searching the web.
Paying users get to submit a form or email directly. However, you’ll get 24/7 “real person” help only if you have a Hola VPN Ultra account. Even then, the response times are mediocre at best.
As you can see, there’s no live chat nor phone support, and that puts Hola VPN among the worst helpers.
As this Hola VPN review has hopefully shown, this service is neither good nor average. It’s plain bad. Even more, Hola VPN can be dangerous because of its global P2P network of users, sharing unencrypted bandwidth. Potentially, it can be used by cybercriminals to build botnets and enslave unsuspecting users’ IP addresses.
If that wasn’t enough, Hola VPN suffers from IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, rendering its few security and privacy features worthless. The Windows app has a kill switch, though.
Hola VPN can be used for streaming, but its free version has considerable limitations, and the premium plans might cost more than two solid VPNs combined. Torrenting is forbidden, and there’s no live chat or phone support even for those who made a mistake and bought the priciest plan for three years.
In short, don’t bother installing Hola VPN. There are plenty of great free VPNs for you to try.
Not only Hola VPN is not safe, it can also be dangerous. Consider the following:
And now, add the fact that all Hola VPN users belong to a P2P network, sharing bandwidth globally. What you get is a perfect playground for cybercriminals.
Yes, it does. However, free version users get to watch only one hour per day. Also, Hola VPN’s countdown timer is always visible at the corner of your window, even when you go full-screen.
Downloading and installing Hola VPN is easy. There are apps and browser extensions for all major platforms. What’s more, you can manually configure it for smart TVs, routers, and even game consoles.
When you launch Hola VPN for the first time, create a free or premium account, select the desired location and connect.
If you’ve installed the Hola VPN app, simply remove it from your device just like you would delete any other software. As for the browser extensions, most of the time, it’s enough to right-click the Hola VPN icon and choose to remove the add-on.
To add Hola VPN to Chrome, follow these steps:
Jan is a cybersecurity and consumer protection specialist focused on investigations that help readers navigate the complex infosecurity sphere. His research and commentary has been featured in Forbes, ComputerWeekly, PC Mag, TechRadar, ZDNet, The Mirror, Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications around the world.