Hola is surprisingly good at unblocking sites, but the free version isn’t free (you pay by sharing your bandwidth, IP address, browsing history and more), and the paid plan is vastly overpriced for what you get. If you have the tiniest interest in privacy, go sign up with a decent VPN instead.
Easy to use
Unblocks everything we tried
Apps for most platforms
Logs your browsing history
May share your data with others
Free use requires sharing some bandwidth with other users
Lengthy connection times
Few advanced features
Major Windows kill switch issues
Still supports outdated and unsafe encryption and other algorithms (DES3, MD5.)
Limited usage per day with the free plan
Paid plans are expensive for what you get
Limited 14-day money back guarantee
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Hola VPN review: quick menu
2. Privacy and logging
4. Hola apps
5. Hola Chrome extension
6. DNS leak and kill switch tests
7. Netflix and streaming
10. Final verdict
Sign up with a regular VPN and you’ll probably expect access to a carefully managed network of high-powered dedicated servers, while support for the very latest encryption and protocols blocks all unauthorized access to your traffic.
Hola isn’t like that at all.
The Israeli company describes its offering as a «community powered (Peer-to-Peer) VPN». You’ll get to choose a destination country from a list of 41 options, but Hola routes your traffic through other Hola user’s computers, rather than its own network.
The service is much more basic than other VPNs – there is no P2P support, no dedicated IPs, no port forwarding – but there are some possible benefits, especially if you’re looking to unblock Netflix or other sites or platforms.
Conventional VPNs often struggle with unblocking, exactly because they route their traffic through relatively few servers. Having large numbers of users with the same data center IP addresses makes them easy to detect and block.
But with Hola, your traffic could be routed through any of thousands of ordinary devices in ordinary homes. From the website’s point of view, your browsing looks no different to its other visitors, which means you’re far less likely to get annoying «unavailable in your region»-type warnings.
One obvious concern here is that although you get to use the bandwidth of other Hola nodes, they can also use yours. This isn’t just regular internet users looking to stream TV shows in other countries. Hola also makes money by selling some of your bandwidth to businesses, as a reliable way to access web data from around the world.
Plenty of people don’t like this idea on principle. The approach has created some very bad Hola-related headlines in the past, and left the company with a horrible reputation for privacy.
From a practical point of view, though, Hola shouldn’t have much impact on your system. The company points out that it only routes traffic through devices if they’re completely idle and not running on battery power, and even then, Hola doesn’t use more than 3MB data on mobile devices, 100MB on desktops.
There’s still scope for problems. If your system becomes the exit node for another Hola user who’s hacking, sending spam or downloading something illegal, for instance, your IP address may be recorded as the offender.
Fortunately, if you like the concept of Hola, there’s a simple way to avoid the risk: switch from a free plan to a paid option and you won’t have to share bandwidth.
Hola collects quite a bit of data about its users online activity
Hola is available in a free plan, but this has many issues. It allows others to use your bandwidth, displays regular popups while you’re connected, and limits the usage you can make of the service each day.
Uncomfortable with that? Then we’d really recommend you sign up with a real VPN, but if for some reason you’re keen on Hola, you can also upgrade to Hola Premium.
The service supports Windows, Mac, iOS and some Android devices, and can be set up to run on routers, gaming consoles, smart TVs and more. Hola Premium allows you to connect up to 10 of these devices simultaneously, and as you’re a paying customer, no one else will be able to use your bandwidth.
Prices start high at $14.99 billed monthly, or an equivalent $7.69 on the annual plan. You could sign up with ExpressVPN, a vastly superior service which actually will protect your privacy, for a very similar price ($12.95 monthly, $8.32 on the annual plan.)
Hola’s pricing is designed to push you to the three-year plan, though, which is far cheaper at $2.99 a month. That’s good value, but again, you can get far better VPNs for much less.
The excellent Private Internet Access gives you three years plus three free months for $2.03 a month, for example. That translates to 39 months of coverage for $79, while Hola offers 36 months for $107.55.
The Hola Ultra plan allows connecting up to 20 devices, and adds support for Smart DNS and 4K streaming. Sounds reasonable, at least until you see the very high prices: $29.99 billed monthly, $19.99 on the annual plan, $7.99 over three years. Private Internet supports unlimited devices, also has smart DNS and should have no difficulty with 4K streaming, all from barely a quarter of the price.
If you do decide to sign up, Hola’s payment options include credit card, PayPal, Google Pay and more.
Hola has a money-back guarantee, but beware, this only applies if you’ve never made a single Hola Premium connection, and you make your claim within 14 days of purchase. Most VPNs allow you to use the service as much as you like for a full 30 days to decide if the service is right for you.
Privacy and logging
In theory, signing up with a VPN can be a great way to shield your browsing from snoopers.
In practice, there’s a problem. Sure, using a VPN prevents your ISP from tracking what you’re doing, but it also gives your provider a perfect chance to do the same. That’s why it’s important to check that your chosen VPN doesn’t log any of your online activities.
When you use the service, for example, the policy says Hola might log your IP address, operating system, browser type, the web pages you visit, when you arrive, and how much time you spend on each one.
If this is a mobile device, Hola also makes a careful note of all your installed apps.
Hola says it doesn’t ‘rent or sell any Personal Information’, but that’s not as reassuring as it sounds. The company also says it may share Personal Information with ‘subsidiaries’ and ‘affiliated companies.’ Even if Hola doesn’t rent or sell your data, that doesn’t tell you what these other companies might be doing with it.
There’s another potential catch. In data protection terms, «Personal Information» refers to items that identify an individual, so Hola is telling us that it won’t sell user contact details. Your browsing history isn’t necessarily ‘Personal Information’, though, and there’s nothing here that says Hola can’t sell it, or «share» it with an «affiliated company» for some other purpose.
It gets worse (no, really.) Hola says it may also share your Personal Information and other data to comply with legal requests or to detect fraud or violations of its policies. So not only might the company hand your browsing history over if the authorities ask, but it also reserves the right to analyze it for potential ‘violations.’
Still in any doubt? Compare the Chrome Store ‘Privacy practices’ page for NordVPN and Hola. The NordVPN page says it will not collect or use your data. Hola’s says it collects personally identifiable information, financial and payment information, authentication information, personal communications, location, web history, and user activity.
Put it all together, and if you care at all about privacy, Hola is clearly not the service for you. Check out the best free VPNs for far more trustworthy providers who’ll genuinely protect your privacy rather than compromise it.
Hola provides its users with a custom version of the Chromium browser
Hola protects your web traffic using the IKEV2 protocol by default, and the Hola site says apps can also fall back to the older PPTP/L2TP protocols if IKEv2 won’t connect.
This gets you AES-256 encryption with relatively basic SHA1 integrity checks. Hola’s Windows app allowed us to customize encryption settings, so you can switch to SHA256 or SHA384, for instance. But the app also offers some very poor choices, including MD5 hashing and DES3 encryption, a near 50-year-old protocol which is so vulnerable to attack that NIST says it should no longer be used. (You don’t have to select these, but there’s always a chance someone might do so by accident, and we’re struggling to see why they’re on the list at all.)
Although Hola’s default encryption settings are enough to, say, shield your web traffic on public Wi-Fi, they can’t match the security you’ll get with the top VPN competitions. Most providers use leading edge protocols such as OpenVPN or WireGuard, for instance. PPTP and L2TP are so insecure that the bulk of the industry dropped them long, long ago, and although IKEv2 isn’t a bad option, it’s also on the way out. (NordVPN began removing IKEv2 support in June 2023, for instance, as it doesn’t offer the best security.)
Hola has apps for Windows, Mac, and iOS devices, but the Android situation is more uncertain. Hola has apps available on the Samsung Galaxy and Huawei stores, but not Google Play.
Confusingly, we noticed a ‘Hola VPN Proxy Unblocker’ app on Google Play, which uses an old Hola logo to add a little more legitimacy, but has nothing to do with the real Hola company. We would expect Hola to make more of an effort to detect bogus apps trying to cash in on its name, but in the meantime, download apps directly from the setup links on Hola’s website, and if you’re using Android, install the Chrome extension instead.
Hola’s mobile and desktop apps (stripped-down versions of Chromium) have a plain but very familiar interface: a big On/ Off button, a list of locations underneath, and a handful of icons for tasks such as managing your account or tweaking a few settings. If you’ve used another VPN app you’ll figure it out immediately and even if you’re a total VPN newbie, it’ll only take a minute or two.
One of the reasons the apps are so straightforward is they have almost no features. The Location menu is a simple list of countries with a search box, for instance: there’s no server load information, no ping times, no Recent Locations list, no Sort option, no Favorites system, no ‘right-click a Hola icon and choose a country’ option, nothing else at all.
Sometimes Windows VPN apps hide useful features away in a Settings box, but Hola’s options are relatively basic. There’s the usual ‘launch with Windows’ and «automatically connect» settings; an App Kill Switch to close specific apps if the VPN unexpectedly drops, and (as we discussed above) some largely unnecessary encryption options, but that’s about it. If you’re hoping for split tunneling, «auto-connect on accessing Wi-Fi», ad blocking, DNS tweaks, or anything similar, then prepare for disappointment.
Simplicity can work if what you get works well, for instance, but that’s not the case here. The app took an average of 15 seconds to connect, for instance; that would quickly wear down our patience, especially when ExpressVPN’s Windows app took around one second on the same system.
Occasionally the app didn’t connect at all, displaying a cryptic «there was an internal authentication error» message, along with what looked like a clickable «try again» link (although clicking this did nothing.) We found a «Fix connection» menu option that fixed these connection issues, which is better than nothing, although we’re struggling to see why the app didn’t automatically use that when its initial connection failed.
Overall, the apps are both far more basic and far less professional than most of the VPN competition. Even if you just want to connect to your nearest server and do nothing else at all, there are many far better and more reliable options elsewhere in the VPN world.
Hola Chrome extension
The simplest way to sample Hola is via its Chrome, Opera or Edge browser extensions. Hand over your email address to create a free account, and you can begin unblocking sites immediately.
The extension is very easy to use. Tap a shortcut to common destinations such as Netflix, or enter the domain you’d like to unblock, and Hola connects and takes you there immediately.
This worked well for us, and we managed to view exclusive Netflix content in the US, Australia, and Canada from our UK location.
The free version has some annoyances and limitations. It popped up alerts every 10 minutes, for instance. After 30 minutes, we also had to wait for a 60-second countdown. There’s also a limit on your usage per day, although this doesn’t appear to be fixed. Many reports say you can only use the service for an hour, but Hola doesn’t give a figure, and we made it to around 75 minutes before the clock ran out.
Still, if you’ve a quick and easy task in mind—checking Twitter when it’s blocked on your network, say—then Hola is one of the more reliable free ways to make that happen.
DNS leak and kill switch tests
A VPN must shield all your traffic from snoopers, and in part that means directing all your DNS queries (the requests which translate domains like techradar.com to IP addresses) through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel.
We checked Hola for problems with DNSLeakTest.com, DNSLeak.com, IPLeak.net, and others, but none of them spotted any DNS, WebRTC or other leaks.
Hola’s Windows app includes an application kill switch to close specified apps if it detects the connection has dropped. You could get Hola to close your browser if the VPN failed, for instance, to reduce the chance that your browsing might be unprotected.
Although this approach has some value, we prefer the full system kill switch you’ll get with most VPNs. If Surfshark’s connection drops, for instance, its kill switch automatically blocks all internet activity on your device, without you having to manually specify every possible process with a network connection (a very good idea, because there are way more than you think).
To test this, we added an app to the kill switch, connected to Hola, and then turned our router off and on to simulate a network failure. The app didn’t react for more than a minute, then switched its display to show that the VPN was off. It didn’t raise a notification to warn us, though, and the kill switch had no effect, either: our target app continued to run as normal.
We tried manually closing Hola’s connection, instead. The app reconnected, but the lengthy connection time meant our traffic could be unprotected for several seconds.
We expect a decent VPN app to at least display a notification when it spots the disconnect, then tell us that it’s redialling, and when the connection is established. Hola’s Windows app just displayed its status as ‘On’ at all times, with no alerts or notifications to tell us when we were (or were not) protected. And again, despite the service reconnecting (so it must have known the VPN had dropped), the app kill switch had no effect.
While this doesn’t prove the kill switch is entirely useless — maybe it activates in other situations that we didn’t test — it’s still a very poor performance overall. A simple notification if the connection drops would at least allow the user to stop what they were doing, if necessary, but the app couldn’t even manage that.
Hola was able to unblock many popular streaming sites in our tests but you’re limited to just an hour per day unless you upgrade to a paid plan
Netflix and streaming
Hola sells itself mostly on the ability to unblock top websites, especially Netflix and other streaming platforms.
We found Hola’s free browser extension successfully unblocked Netflix libraries in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Japan.
Hola Premium works a little differently, so we ran some extra tests. It also allowed us to view exclusive Netflix content in the US, UK, Canada, and Japan, and with Australia on its second try (having to retry is a hassle, but as long as a service is unblocked at least once in three connections, we count it as a pass.) The app got us easy access to a couple of other top US platforms in Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video. It worked with regional sites including Australia’s 9Now and 10 Play, and the UK’s BBC iPlayer, ITV, and Channel 4.
That’s an excellent set of results, but some other services are just as effective. Private Internet Access also unblocked 100% of our test streaming platforms when we last checked, for instance, for a fraction of the cost of Hola Premium.
We replaced our normal speed tests for this review and streamed 4K video from popular streaming sites to determine Hola’s performance
We measure the top speed of any VPN by running multiple top performance tests (SpeedTest.net, Cloudflare, Measurement Lab, and more) from a UK data center with a 1 Gbps internet connection.
Hola’s download speeds averaged around 180 Mbps to 240 Mbps, more or less what we’d expect for an IKEv2 connection.
Providers who support WireGuard or similar protocols can be much faster. For example, NordVPN and Surfshark all reached over 950 Mbps in their most recent tests. But, realistically, Hola’s performance is more than enough for browsing, streaming, and most other web tasks.
If Hola doesn’t work for you, there are a couple of ways to get some help and advice.
Hola’s web-based Help Center is a searchable support site with articles on installation, troubleshooting, billing, and more.
There’s a lot of information on offer. The Setup Guide area has sections for 11 platforms, for instance, many with step-by-step advice on how to get Hola running.
But there are also some significant problems. We couldn’t find even a mention of Hola’s Windows kill switch, for instance, or some of its other more advanced features. And although Google removed Hola from the Play Store long ago, Hola still hasn’t removed its «Get Hola for Android» link. Clicking it now leads you to a ‘we can’t find that page’ link; very unprofessional.
There’s no live chat, but paying customers can contact Hola’s support team via email (free users are stuck with the website, unfortunately).
We fired off a message explaining that our Windows app kill switch didn’t work, we’d uninstalled and reinstalled with no change, and asked what to try next.
A reply arrived about 8 hours later. That’s a reasonable response time, but the reply wasn’t the best. Instead of simply accepting what we said or sounding apologetic, the agent began: «I have tested the app kill switch and it works as it should.» Saying to a customer who has a problem, «Well it works for me,» is never going to create the best impression.
Still, we were intrigued. we responded «How did you test the kill switch?» hoping to get help improving our own tests. But, for some reason, our agent didn’t want to explain exactly what he had done, and four days and no reply later, we finally gave up.
Yes, Hola can unblock most websites, but at what cost? The free version requires you to share your IP address, bandwidth and browsing history with the company (and who knows else), while the paid edition charges 2-3 times as much as some top providers, yet still has more logging than almost anyone else. Run (don’t work) to our Best VPN list and choose a provider who will care about your privacy, rather than trash it.
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