Hola VPN is a widely-used “VPN-like” product (as it relies on a P2P network), but it’s notorious for its past privacy breaches and mismanagement of user data. With this in mind, I wanted to test it out for myself and see if it was really as bad as I’d heard.
Since Hola’s free plan has a poor reputation, I was intrigued to see whether the Plus service avoided the same pitfalls and was overall worth the money. There are a range of premium VPNs on the market that offer high quality at an affordable price, so it’s not wise to settle for less at a higher cost. For example, CyberGhost is the most affordable VPN, and it offers 7 device connections (and much more).
To find out if Hola is worth using, I researched its streaming ability, security and infrastructure, privacy and past allegations, speed, and more. I was extremely impressed with one of these features (streaming) but disappointed with most other features — from security to privacy. Scroll down to find out why I currently can’t recommend you use Hola VPN (hint: it’s insecure and slow).
If you want to check out Hola’s features and see how it performs for yourself, you can try Hola VPN’s premium plan for free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee.
Hola VPN impressed me with the number of streaming services it unblocks, even with its free version. While testing, I was able to access Netflix (US, Canada, Japan, UK, and more), Amazon Prime Video (US and UK), Disney+ (all countries), HBO Max, HBO NOW, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and UKTV.
Other review sites claimed that Hola’s free version only allows up to 1-hour for streaming per day, but I found a way to work around this. After I watched Netflix for 30 minutes, I closed the window. I waited 5 seconds before going back onto Netflix, then I was able to restart the timer completely!
I was pleasantly surprised that both Hola VPN’s free and paid versions can unblock Netflix libraries without any proxy errors. The only difference was in speed — the free version was roughly 50% slower.
Buffering times only took an average of 3 seconds before a stream started with every server I tested. This worked impressively well even with servers far from me, such as the US and Australia.
While I couldn’t check every available Netflix library, Hola VPN consistently unblocked each of these countries’ respective libraries:
Unfortunately, the regions far from me (US, Canada, Australia, and Japan) took up to a minute for stream quality to become full HD. Your own experience will differ based on which servers are the closest to you — in my case, the closest servers had the best performance.
Since my Amazon account is linked to the UK, I get full access to the UK Prime Video library from anywhere in the EU (where I’m living). While I couldn’t simulate being outside the EU, I would’ve received an error message if Prime noticed I was connected to a VPN. I was able to unblock the UK catalog from Poland, which worked perfectly with fast, high-quality streams, and no errors — meaning that Hola did its job.
Hola VPN’s US servers (in particular US #1102 and #1237) gave me access to all content on Hulu within seconds. I watched Ford v Ferrari with zero error messages or issues. It took only 2 seconds to load the stream and quality increased to full HD in just 10 seconds! (Note that the image says HBO: Hulu adds the logo of where the content was originally produced.)
When I connected to Disney+ US, UK, Australia, and Germany, all servers were able to unblock the service. I streamed Hamilton, which took only 2 seconds to load! Although the US and Australian streams took up to a minute to increase in quality to full HD, all streams were stable once they started.
When I tested Hola VPN with both HBO Max and HBO NOW, both worked perfectly. I tried the services with multiple US servers (#1102, #1577, #640) and they were all able to unblock HBO’s streaming platforms. I watched Doom Patrol on HBO Max and Perry Mason on HBO NOW with roughly 15 seconds of buffering time for each stream. All streams played in full HD within 10 seconds with no interruption during the 3 episodes I watched.
Many VPNs I test can’t unblock BBC iPlayer since the BBC has stepped up its geoblocking technology. I was extremely surprised that I was able to use both Hola Free and Plus to access the streaming service and watch high-quality streams of Killing Eve and The Nest.
I primarily used Hola VPN’s auto-connect feature so it picked the fastest UK servers for me. When I chose manual servers, I had good results with UK #1767, #84, and #1602. All of them took just 2 seconds to load before streaming in full HD.
I was surprised by Hola VPN’s mixed speed results. With my 300Mbps connection in Poland, I generally reach an average speed of 100Mbps while connected to premium VPNs. Considering I ran these tests with Hola’s paid Plus service, I was underwhelmed. While it’s reasonable to expect distant servers to have lower speeds, those I got from the US and Australia (under 8Mbps) are the slowest I’ve ever gotten for these regions.
These speeds are enough for streaming in full HD and browsing normally (which only requires 5Mbps) — they should only affect you if you plan to stream in 4K (requiring at least 25Mbps). If your priority in a VPN is getting the highest possible speeds, I recommend that you avoid Hola VPN and take a look at CyberGhost instead. It’s one of the cheapest VPNs on the market and CyberGhost had some of the fastest speeds during my tests.
Using a VPN can sometimes cause slowdowns, so I was very happy with Hola VPN’s performance. I had fast speeds when I tested Hola VPN with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Rocket League. I had low latency (server delay), which is very important for speeds while gaming.
My average latency in Call of Duty without a VPN connection was 43ms (the lower the amount in milliseconds, the better). When connected to Hola VPN, it increased to an average of 58ms (34% increase). In Rocket League, my latency without a VPN was 34ms, which increased to 62ms when connected to Hola (82% increase). This may look like a lot for a percentage increase, but anything under 70ms is still fast enough for high-speed games. Keep in mind that I used servers closer to me during the tests — if you attempt this with more distant servers, you may have a significantly worse experience.
Speed determines how fast content uploads, so if you're torrenting or streaming, you want the speed to be somewhat identical to your regular internet speed. Since a VPN encrypts your data, it usually takes a bit longer to send your data back and forth, which can slow down your connection. However, if your ISP deliberately slows down your connection (also known as throttling) a VPN might increase your internet speed. Testing a VPN is somewhat pointless because new servers pop up and affect speed. Your speed can also differ according to your location, so your speed test might not match ours. Having said that, we tested the speed in numerous locations to provide you with the average.
Hola is known as a “VPN-like” service, as it relies on a global peer-to-peer network shared between users instead of a dedicated server infrastructure. This means you have access to servers in almost every country around the world, but also that your device’s resources may be used by others. If you don’t want to be used as a peer, you can upgrade to the Plus version. You’ll also gain access to Hola VPN’s hybrid network of peers and a dedicated VPN server infrastructure for more stable connections and higher speeds.
Hola took around 10-15 seconds to connect to each of the servers I tested. While this is a longer wait than most other VPNs I’ve tested, it’s still a reasonably short time to wait. Disappointingly, its manual servers don’t show you their location, so you can’t immediately choose the closest one to you — which will potentially further increase your wait times.
As previously mentioned, Hola VPN’s peer-to-peer server infrastructure isn’t immune to security concerns. Since Hola markets itself as a VPN, it’s likely that many users of the free version aren’t aware that their traffic isn’t encrypted. This would already be worrying, but it’s worsened by the P2P infrastructure it’s built on.
When you connect to Hola and browse a website that you think you’re browsing anonymously, you’re actually sending this unencrypted data through someone else’s device. This means your data could either be intercepted or that others could be using your IP address (when you’re being used as a peer) to access illegal content. You can get in serious trouble if illicit online activity is linked back to your device, even if you didn’t access it yourself.
I ran a few DNS tests and was happy that Hola passed with no issues. However, I’m disappointed by the lack of proper security features in the desktop app. The only real feature is the app kill switch which terminates specific applications if the VPN connection fails. I’d prefer a general internet-wide kill switch instead — an app-specific kill switch doesn’t offer the same level of security.
The service is also known to have operated as part of a botnet (a network of computers used for criminal activity without their owners knowing) in 2015. Hola users’ bandwidth was sold as part of the sister company Luminati, which then overwhelmed a target with traffic (known as a DDoS attack). Although this was a few years ago, Hola VPN never added any security improvements since the attack.
For a safer VPN with proven security features, ExpressVPN is a better option. It offers fully encrypted connections, a kill switch, an ad and malware blocker, and can bypass tough government restrictions even in China. You can try ExpressVPN risk-free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee.
“Log Data: Log data may include the following information- browser type, web pages you visit, time spent on those pages, access times and dates.”
This is one of the most crucial points for me when analyzing a VPN service. Unfortunately, Hola VPN is already making me question if there’s a point in using it at all. If it tracks everything you’re doing while connected, there’s no benefit to using Hola VPN beyond unblocking streaming content.
I even checked through the settings and was surprised to see that even in my paid Plus account, the setting for “No Logs” was switched off by default.
Besides these logs, Hola VPN retains the following information:
“The Personal Information we may collect and retain includes your IP address, your name and email address, screen name, payment and billing information…”
It can keep track of all your online activity, payment information, original IP address, and name (whether real or fake). If you signed up through a social network such as Facebook or Google, you’re also giving access to the basic information available on that account.
I strongly advise against using Hola VPN if you plan to use it for anything that you’d like to remain anonymous while doing, such as torrenting or watching adult content. Hola VPN might put you in more danger in various situations like when bypassing government restrictions or remaining anonymous as an activist. If you’d like to learn more about how a VPN can help you stay safe, take a look at the beginner’s guide to VPNs.
By labeling themselves as a VPN but not offering basic privacy features, Hola VPN is putting user information at serious risk.
Hola VPN blocks Bittorrent protocol traffic on its network, meaning you can’t download content from any torrent site or use software like Popcorn Time. This is likely for the best due to Hola’s lack of logging protections, user privacy, and encryption on its free plan.
I recommend ExpressVPN for torrenting, as it’s welcoming of P2P activity, has high speeds, and overall high security for anonymous downloading.
Unlike some premium VPNs, Hola VPN doesn’t offer the right tools to bypass Chinese internet restrictions. With the addition of the missing encryption in its free version, you’re better off using ExpressVPN for unrestricted internet access in China.
You can read more about the best VPNs for China if you’re researching all your options for an upcoming trip.
You can connect up to 10 devices at once with Hola VPN Plus. I tried connecting a Windows desktop and laptop, a MacBook Air, an Android phone, an iPhone, and a PS4. There was no difference in streaming, browsing stability, or speeds. None of the connections dropped during the hour I was connected.
You can use Hola VPN on the following devices:
I successfully tested Hola on all of these devices. However, if you have an older macOS, you might not be able to use Hola VPN. During testing, I wasn’t able to connect my macOS (as my MacBook Air uses a macOS version under 10.11, which doesn’t support IKEv2 encryption).
All of the browser extensions work well, allowing you to only unblock services through your browser instead of affecting all of your device’s internet connectivity.
If you’re specifically looking for a Windows VPN, you’ll likely find a good choice in the guide to the best VPNs for Windows.
Update October 2021: Hola VPN’s Chrome extension has been removed by Google from the Play Store and there’s no news from the company on when it’ll be back. So if you’re looking for a top VPN for Chrome, you might want to check out the ExpressVPN review instead.
Hola VPN offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Microsoft Edge. I tested it with Chrome and Firefox and had no issues. Connectivity was fast and allowed me to unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Chrome, as well as protect my browser. Keep in mind that if you’re using Hola VPN Plus, encryption within the browser extension isn’t on by default (and Free has no encryption at all).
The browser extension is extra convenient if you don’t want to open the full VPN every time you connect. It’s fast and easy to switch servers and you can even connect to servers specifically for certain streaming services.
You can uninstall Hola VPN by going to “Programs and Features” in the Windows control panel and removing it there. If you’re on Mac, drag the Hola VPN app from Applications to Trash and reboot your device.
On mobile, you can just long-hold the app and click the X or drag it to “Uninstall” to remove.
You can get support from Hola VPN in 2 ways:
While Hola VPN doesn’t offer live chat, it does have email support. I asked Hola’s support how I could increase my speeds and was impressed to receive a reply within 1 hour.
The FAQ section has lots of information on setting up, troubleshooting, billing, and other issues you might encounter. While I didn’t require it for technical help, I read through many of the guides and found them well-written and informative.
We personally test the customer support team of every VPN we review. This means asking technical question through the live chat feature (where applicable) and measuring the response time for email questions. Whether you need to connect to a specific server, change your security protocol, or configure a VPN on your router, finding a VPN with quality customer support should be important to you.
Apart from its free option, Hola VPN offers 3 pricing plans for a Plus subscription: 3 years at $2.99/month, 1 year at $7.69/month, or 1 month at $14.99. As usual with VPN subscription models, the longest subscription will save you the most money (on a monthly basis).
With the multitude of VPNs on the market that offer much more at similar prices, I don’t believe Hola is worth the price admission. You can check our VPN coupon page to find the best deals on some of the best VPNs out there.
You can pay for Hola VPN Plus with the following methods:
Hola VPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you plenty of time to check the service. If you decide you don’t want to continue your subscription, you can email support or fill out the refund form on the website to request your money back within 30 days.
I tested this guarantee myself to find out whether it really works. I signed up for a 1-month plan to test the VPN for a few days. Then I submitted a refund request through the premium support form. Even though I submitted the request at 10pm on a Sunday, the refund was already confirmed the next morning at 7:30am. I was pleasantly surprised that Hola VPN didn’t ask any questions about why I wanted to leave and simply processed the refund. As I’d made the initial payment through PayPal, I also immediately had the money back in my account.
If you’re interested in Hola VPN’s free version, you should check out this in-depth guide to free VPNs. While free services normally come with drawbacks, some of them offer a more advanced and secure service than Hola VPN.