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 commitment to privacy. I also research actual customer feedback posted in online forums.
These providers offer fast servers around the world, reliable apps, and a dedication to privacy:
- ProtonVPN — a reliable service based in Switzerland
If you wish to unblock sites or torrents, I recommend these providers:
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 install OpenVPN. I recommend using a reliable VPS like Digital Ocean. You can purchase their $5 per month plan, and then 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 you or block your connections. A VPN service will also allows your computer to appear to be 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 a bit, but in some cases, they may actually speed up your connections. VPNs won’t really affect direct downloads, but they will affect web browsing and torrenting (basically anything that pulls data in lots of small bursts). Personally, I don’t notice a difference unless I’m connected to a very 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 All-Round VPN: ProtonVPN
I’ve been testing ProtonMail for a couple of years now, and I’ve found the service to be reliable. So I was pleased to hear that a VPN service was also being launched.
ProtonVPN is actually operated as a separate legal entity from ProtonMail. This is due to the fact VPNs are often banned in certain countries. For example, ProtonMail is able to continue operating in China whereas ProtonVPN is blocked there.
I recommend this VPN service if you are looking for a VPN with a particular focus on privacy.
ProtonVPN passes VPN traffic through a “Secure Core network” in privacy-friendly countries like Switzerland and Iceland. This means that a compromised VPN server will not reveal your true IP address.
ProtonVPN also supports Perfect Forward Secrecy. This means that even if your encryption key is discovered, your encrypted traffic cannot be captured and decrypted later.
- Website: ProtonVPN
- Business Location: Switzerland
- Server Location: 698 servers in 44 countries
- Number of connections allowed: 10 simultaneous connections
- Cost: $96 USD per year or $8 USD per month
- Payment Types: Bitcoin, Credit Cards, Paypal, and Cash
- Trial Account: free accounts are available with “medium” speeds and limited servers
- Apps available: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux
The Best Budget VPN
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access is a VPN service that is highly regarded by privacy advocates. 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, 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 year, or $6.95 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: Window, 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, The service costs $6.95 per month, or $40 per year.
Private Internet Access – Service Summary
- Website: Private Internet Access
- Business Location: USA
- Server Location: 3322 Servers in 31 Countries
- Cost: $9.95 USD per month, $39.95 USD per year, $69.95 USD for two years
- Number of connections allowed: 5 simultaneous connections
- 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 VPN For Privacy (based in Europe)
VPN.AC is a VPN provider based in Romania. This service is an good choice if you need to avoid firewalls or other 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 a recently rolled out obfuscation for 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 along with 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 their international servers ($9 per month or $58 per year). For payment they accept Alipay and Unionpay, Paypal, BitCoin, CashU, Paysafecard and UKash.
- Website: VPN.AC
- Business Location: Romania
- 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, Linux (in beta)
- Terms Of Service
iVPN (Gibraltar — a British Overseas Territory)
- Link: 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: $15 USD monthly, $40 USD per quarter, $100 USD 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 that 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 to be 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, 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, and does not allow P2P and are able to match an external IP address to their subscribers. They limit the number of times you can change servers and changes 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.
Keeps logs, doesn’t support torrenting.
Customer service fairly slow and minimal. Some (very limited) logs are kept, slow speeds, limited servers. Also costs $97.76
Keeps logs, they say they support P2P, but shut down account as soon as they receive DMCA notice.
Awful customer service, constant disconnection issues.
Requires your personal info when signing up, doesn’t respond to request for refunds.
Only supports OpenVPN, limited number of servers.