The tech hack that can save you hundreds of pounds on your holiday

Norwegian landscape
Research from NordVPN suggests Brits are being charged more than other overseas customers - Getty

Using a VPN – a virtual private network – could help travellers save while booking holidays this summer, according to a new study.

Research released by cybersecurity company NordVPN has proved Britons are being charged hundreds of pounds more for hotel stays and car hire than overseas customers. Its study found that a two-week package holiday in Bali weighed in at 35 per cent more expensive (£460) on the UK version of, costing £1,774 for two adults rather than £1,314 quoted on the Indonesian version of the same website.

Here we look into the technology, how it works and whether it could help you save money on your next holiday.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) allows users to browse the internet from a different location, without leaving their home, by creating an encrypted connection or “tunnel” between their device and a remote server in another country, through which all of their web traffic passes. For a monthly fee, a VPN can increase a user’s security by hiding both their personal IP address (the identifier on your device that contains location information) and their true location.

What can a VPN be used for?

VPNs help users bypass geographical internet restrictions.

They can also help users save money. While browsing a local website, using a VPN, to access cheaper travel is not a new concept, whether the effort is rewarded with any real savings has long been debated.

Woman using laptop
VPNs are a useful way of finding cheaper travel options - Getty

How much can you save by using a VPN?

Following its research, NordVPN says consumers are subject to “wildly fluctuating” prices on car hire, cruises and theme parks depending on where they logged on – Telegraph Travel put it to the test.

While there was no variation in flight prices when we searched both British Airways and easyJet, nor in the prices quoted by some major hotel brands, at the other end of the spectrum, car hire varied enormously, with a staggering £164 difference in the cost of renting a small car in Faro, Portugal, for a week in June. Using from a US location, we were quoted £52.36 to hire a Fiat 500, which rose to £196.95 when we searched from the UK and then £216.73 from Portugal.

The dates available for some trips also varied from country to country – searching for a Norwegian Fjords cruise from the US offered only August departures, twice the price of July departures that were available to UK and Australian searchers.

Disneyworld packages varied, too – but not only in the cost. Searching for three days’ access during mid-July from a location in India we were offered tickets to only two parks – Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park – at a cost of £1,241.85 for two adults and two children. Using a VPN in the United States, the cost rose to £1,527 for three different parks on three different days. Accessing from the UK, we were only offered seven- or 14-day tickets, with multiple parks on any day, for a cost of £2,156 for the same family of four. While each version of Disneyland’s website offered a telephone number for guests to call, where perhaps a wider variety of tickets would be available, families were instead directed along a prescribed route when booking online.

Marijus Briedis, chief technology officer at NordVPN, says: “Never assume you’re getting the same deal as everyone else. Your location, the number of times you visit a website, and how your search fits in with the school holiday schedule can all influence the price you’re offered.

“Online tracking used by travel websites means they can tell what holiday we’re looking for before we do, while algorithms can adjust holiday prices to the spending power of different countries.”

There was no clear pattern on which country gave the best prices, so finding bargains will take patience and effort – and it’s vital to read the small print when booking to ensure you are not breaking the law.

Disneyland in California
Buying Disneyland tickets from a location in India is cheaper than doing so from the US or UK - AP

Is it legal to use a VPN to get lower fares?

While some governments ban VPNs or place restrictions on their use, most of Europe, Canada and the US permit their use.

“It is legal to use VPNs in most countries, so there are no laws against using a VPN to access better deals,” Briedis says. “However, some websites may prohibit VPN usage so if you’re unsure, make sure to read the terms and conditions of the websites you’re accessing. In most cases using a VPN to search for better travel deals is perfectly legal [but] falsifying your address details to make it look as though you are a resident of the country you are visiting is not best practice, as the hotel may question this when you arrive.”

What is the alternative to using a VPN?

While we found discrepancies in the prices of hotels using and Expedia from different locations, it has always been worth checking directly with a hotel to see if they are willing to match or offer a better price than a third-party website.

And, says Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel: “While it’s true that local sites may offer better rates than those you can ordinarily access in the UK, you don’t need to pay for a VPN service to take advantage of this. In many cases you can simply visit the local version of the site from your browser, for example using the .fr domain for France, or .it for Italy, to access local pricing options. Just make sure you pay in the local currency, and always use a card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.”

What is the cheapest country to book from via a VPN?

There is no silver bullet for finding better offers, but booking from a country with a stronger economy (for example Switzerland) may often have higher holiday prices, both domestically and abroad. But this is not always the case, so the general advice is shop around, compare and contrast.

Woman in Bali
Most governments permit the use of VPNs - iStockphoto

How else can VPNs help me when on holiday?

Finally, when you’re travelling, a VPN can be useful, says Berlin-based Briton Duncan Madden, author of the travel book Found in Translation: “I use a VPN if booking travel from more remote parts of the world as sometimes IP addresses aren’t as trusted or as secure, which can cause problems when booking last-minute flights or hotels.

“A VPN lets me bypass that issue and also helps with simple things like language — if I use a VPN from England, websites are in English by default.”