There are now over a hundred VPN providers located across the world. To create this list of VPNs, I test customer service, the reliability of their network, and their commitment to privacy. I also research actual customer feedback posted in online forums.
If you wish to unblock sites or torrents, I recommend these providers:
- Private Internet Access (USA) — fast, reliable, accept bitcoin
This provider offers fast servers around the world, and a dedication to privacy:
- ProtonVPN (Switzerland) — a reliable VPN service that includes encrypted email and a secure drive
I’ve also created a list of the VPN providers I do not recommend.
If you are technically inclined, you might consider creating your own VPS (virtual private server) and installing OpenVPN. I recommend using a reliable VPS like Digital Ocean. You can purchase their $5 per month plan and follow these instructions to set up OpenVPN.
What Is A VPN?
A VPN (a virtual private network) is a service that encrypts and redirects all the internet connections on your computer. This means all the data leaving your computer is encrypted, which adds a layer of protection against hackers and eavesdroppers. It is also very difficult for your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to monitor or block your connections. A VPN service will also allow your computer to appear to be in Europe, the USA, or other countries at will. This is helpful if you want to access blocked media like streaming videos. VPNs differ from web proxies because VPNs encrypt and redirect all of your computer’s outgoing network connections, whereas proxies will only usually redirect particular protocols within an application.
Note that VPNs may slow down your internet connections, but in some cases, they may speed up your connections. VPNs won’t affect direct downloads, but they will affect web browsing and torrenting (basically anything that pulls data in lots of small bursts). I don’t notice a difference unless connected to a remote server in Japan or Romania (from the US).
I don’t recommend using free VPNs because they are usually run by untrustworthy companies and tend to sell your private information. If you need an extra layer of privacy when signing up for VPN services, I suggest using a pseudo-anonymous payment method such as Bitcoin and doing a DNS Leak Test when using a VPN. However, for most people, this kind of obfuscation is not necessary.
The Best Budget VPN
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access is a VPN service that privacy advocates highly regard. It remains one of my top choices for a privacy-oriented VPN service. The company operates out of the United States with gigabit gateways in the USA, Canada, the UK, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
I’ve been testing their VPN service for about 12 months now, and I find the service quite reliable. They are one of the least expensive private VPNs, with rates at $39.95 per year or $11.95 per month. In regards to logging user activity, the company says:
We absolutely do not maintain any VPN logs of any kind. We utilize shared IP addresses rather than dynamic or static IPs, so it is not possible to match a user to an external IP. These are some of the many solutions we have implemented to enable the strongest levels of anonymity amongst VPN services. Further, we would like to encourage our users to use an anonymous e-mail and pay with Bitcoins to ensure even higher levels of anonymity should it be required. Our core verticals are privacy, quality of service, and prompt customer support. We will not share any information with third parties without a valid court order. With that said, it is impossible to match a user to any activity on our system since we utilize shared IPs and maintain absolutely no logs.
Their VPN service supports all the major platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android. They support the following VPN protocols: PPTP, IPSEC, OpenVPN, and L2TP. You can also configure Private Internet Access to work on a DD-WRT router or Tomato router (via SSL/OpenVPN) for constant security.
Their VPN client also has handy features like DNS leakage blocking and an “internet kill switch” (a feature that shuts off your internet connection if your VPN connection goes down). For payment, they accept credit cards, Paypal, almost any Gift Card, Amazon Payments, CashU, Google Wallet, OKPay, Bitcoin, and Liberty Reserve.
- Website: Private Internet Access
- Business Location: USA
- Owner: Kape
- Server Location: 35000 Servers in 83 Countries
- Cost: USD 11.95 per month, USD 39.95 per year, USD 79 for two years
- Number of simultaneous connections allowed: 10
- Apps available for Linux, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
- Payment Types: Bitcoin, Paypal and Credit Cards, major brand gift cards, Ripple, CashU, iOS In-App purchase (through our iOS app only) and Paygarden
- Trial Account: No (only 7-day money-back guarantee instead)
- Platforms Supported: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Chrome Extension, DD-WRT Router, Tomato Router, PfSense Router
- Terms of Service
The Best Privacy-Focused VPN: ProtonVPN
I’ve been testing ProtonMail for a couple of years, and I’ve found the service reliable. So I was pleased to hear that a VPN service was also being launched.
ProtonVPN is operated as a separate legal entity from ProtonMail. This is due to the fact VPNs are often banned in certain countries. For example, ProtonMail can continue operating in China, whereas ProtonVPN is blocked there.
I recommend this VPN service if you want a VPN focusing on privacy.
ProtonVPN passes VPN traffic through a “Secure Core network” in privacy-friendly countries like Switzerland and Iceland. A compromised VPN server will not reveal your true IP address.
ProtonVPN also supports Perfect Forward Secrecy. Even if your encryption key is discovered, your encrypted traffic cannot be captured and decrypted later.
- Business Location: Switzerland
- Owner: Proton Technologies AG
- Server Locations: 67 worldwide
- Number of simultaneous connections allowed: 10
- Price: 45 USD annually
- Payment Types: Bitcoin, Paypal, Google Pay, and Credit Cards
- Trial Account: No (has 30-day money-back guarantee)
- Apps available: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux
The Best VPNs For Privacy Enthusiasts (based in Europe)
VPN.AC is a VPN provider based in Romania. This service is a good choice if you need to avoid firewalls or another form of internet censorship. The people who run VPN.AC are experts in VPN security and obfuscation.
I recommend this service for use in China, UAE, Iran, Oman, and Pakistan.
They recently rolled out obfuscation for the OpenVPN feature. Here are the details:
Obfuscating the OpenVPN protocol makes it look like regular SSL traffic — making it harder to be blocked by Firewalls with DPI capabilities relying on protocol signatures to identify known VPN protocols. This is the case in China, where default OpenVPN implementations are blocked almost immediately. While our AES 256-bit implementation is still stealthy and working in China, we added one more protocol-type to bypass the GFW. It runs on several ports including TCP port 443 (HTTPS), replacing an instance of OpenVPN Blowfish 128-bit we used with port TCP/443. With this method, the handshake packets are obfuscated so it’s not possible to identify the traffic as being part of an OpenVPN tunnel. Encryption relies on RSA 4096-bit + ECDHE for key-exchange, AES 128-bit for data channel.
They also introduced support for Elliptic Curve Cryptography and TLS 1.2 — one of the most secure types of cryptography available today.
VPN.AC has servers in twenty-one countries (US, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, France, Romania, Hong Kong, and Canada), each capable of reaching gigabit port speeds.
VPN.AC offers one VPN package, which grants you access to all of its international servers ($9 per month or $58 per year). They accept Alipay and Unionpay, Paypal, BitCoin, CashU, Paysafecard, and UKash.
- Business Location: Romania
- Owned by Netsec Interactive Solutions
- Server Location: Servers in 21 countries
- Number of connections allowed: 6 simultaneous connections (3 during trial)
- Cost: 58 USD per year or 9 USD per month
- Payment Types: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, credit cards, Paypal, Alipay, UnionPay, and others
- Trial Account: 1-week trial account for $2, also offers a 7-day money-back guarantee
- Apps available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux
iVPN (Gibraltar — a British Overseas Territory)
- Website: iVPN
- Headquarters: Gibraltar (a British Overseas Territory)
- Number of servers: 22 servers worldwide
- Number of simultaneous connections allowed: 5
- Apps available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
- Price: USD 15 monthly, USD 40 per quarter, USD 100 per year
- Trial available: 7 days (only available if you signup using a credit card or Paypal)
- Payment methods: Credit cards, Paypal, Bitcoin, Cash
- Torrenting allowed: Yes (but not US-based servers)
- Protocols supported: OpenVPN, PPTP, IPSec
- Advanced privacy features: Logless DNS server, only email address required for sign-up
This Gibraltar-based provider focuses on privacy and anonymity. It has a smaller set of servers than the other providers listed here. Customer service is responsive.
VPNs That I Do Not Recommend
I no longer recommend these VPN service providers:
- AirVPN: Poor customer service.
- NordVPN: I was disappointed by their customer service too many times. Also, their VPN connections are sometimes slow. They were also embroiled in a Tesonet/data mining scandal.
- PureVPN: This provider was found logging users; see this article.
- ibVPN: Does not respond to email requests.
- These VPNs have DNS or WebRTC leaks: Hoxx VPN, Hola, VPN.ht, SecureVPN, DotVPN, Speedify, Betternet (free version), Ivacy, Touch VPN, Zenmate, Ace VPN, AzireVPN, BTGuard, Ra4w VPN, VPN Gate
They ask for your bank info during registration. I also did not enjoy my interactions with their customer service representatives. They declined comments about privacy and locks your account immediately if you get a DMCA notice.
Numerous reports of slow connection speeds and poor customer service.
Poor customer service. Requires a phone number.
Fairly expensive, confusing sign-up options do not allow P2P, and can match an external IP address to their subscribers. They limit the number of times you can change servers and change your username and password each time you do.
They don’t support torrenting. Their network can be unreliable. They often don’t respond to questions.
It Keeps logs and doesn’t support torrenting.
Customer service is fairly slow and minimal. Some (very limited) logs are kept; they have some slow speeds and limited servers. It also costs $97.76
Keeps logs. They say they support P2P but shut down the account as soon as they receive a DMCA notice.
Awful customer service and constant disconnection issues.
Requires personal info when signing up and doesn’t respond to refund requests.
It only supports OpenVPN, a limited number of servers.