Hi, I'm Alex and I'm a location-independent ("digital nomad") product manager. I travel a lot – at least one country a month – so finding a VPN for things like Netflix (Cheers reruns), secure online banking, and anonymity is important.

I've come to realize two things: VPNs are hard to understand.

Since I've used and tested so many VPNs, I figured I'd share what I've learned: which VPNs actually work and which VPNs don't make the cut.

I also wrote an extensive guide Blogger's Guide to WordPress Security – check it out! 

Top 3 VPNs

bestvpn choice badge
  • Fastest and most reliable VPN
  • User-friendly
  • 148 server locations
  • 24/7 customer support
Surfshark page
  • Good speeds
  • Intuitive software
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Good speeds
  • Intuitive software
  • 81 server locations

ExpressVPN

surfshark-vpn-logo

Surfshark

ExpressVPN offers anonymous and secure web browsing in an affordable, clean, and user-friendly package.

Surfshark offers desirable perks like military grade encryption, high speeds, the ability to unblock content (websites and regional) and more.

NordVPN

NordVPN

NordVPN has hundreds of servers and can be tailored to fit any user’s needs, from gaming, P2P file sharing, data security, and expanded content availability.

ipvanish vpn

IPVanish

IPVanish combines solid security and better-than-average privacy. It’s easy for the tech-blind to set up and affordable (though not the cheapest option).

CyberGhost

CyberGhost stands out as a modern Virtual Private Network provider that has a real dedication to user privacy.

ibVPN

There’s a lot to love about ibVPN, including the no-logs policy, robust encryption, fully-featured intuitive apps, security tweaks, and low-cost custom plans.

PureVPN

Pure VPN delivers on many fronts – excellent client, good speeds, a broad server coverage, and all the nifty pre-set modes for streaming, P2P, and privacy. 

VPN Area

VPNArea

Though it has its quirks, VPNArea has the building blocks to provide the utmost security and the tools to support the needs of any user.

CactusVPN

Not the largest network, but the cross-platform software is dead-simple, the security is watertight, and the speeds are decent. 

Hotspot Shield

A US-based VPN from AnchorFree. Hotspot Shield VPN comes as an app and a browser extension in both free and paid packages.

TunnelBear

If you’re after ease of use and no-hassle experience, you just might find TunnelBear an ideal solution for the moment.

Private Internet Access

This American-based company has thousands of servers worldwide and is one of the most trusted names in the VPN space.

Ivacy VPN

Ivacy

Few match up to Ivacy in terms of security, speed, and simplicity.

SaferVPN

Complete with 24/7 live chat support, comprehensive guides, a kill switch, and tops it off with a broad range of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN.

Hide Me VPN

hide.me

They have made a commitment to zero logs storage, gigabit speeds, and simplicity, which sets them apart in the industry.

VPNUnlimited

VPN Unlimited

From slow speeds and no choice of which server you use to poor marks for security and a very basic UI - a mediocre choice in VPNs.

VyprVPN

VyprVPN

Well-established, user-friendly and solidly secure, VyprVPN seemed to be evolving before my eyes. 

TorGuard VPN

TorGuard

Solid encryption and P2P file sharing, TorGuard offers a very good product with extremely fast speeds in the U.S. It also offers plenty of features for security buffs.

Hide My Ass VPN

HideMyAss!

A VPN with a great name and fun graphics, but if that’s your favorite thing about it, you may want to look for different software.

TigerVPN

It has great mobile apps and a useful help and lookup tool to make configuration and customization a breeze.

VPN Shield

VPN Shield has been designed to be easy to use and offers a variety of subscription options that provide a lot of flexibility.

Windscribe

As more are looking to use VPNs, niche VPN services are entering the market to capture different user buckets, like this one.

Astrill

The features look good: many servers support P2P, the protocol choice is ample, encryption is strong, and there’s a free trial if you’re on the fence.

SpyOff

A decent network of 395 servers in 21 countries. The technical specs look good – OpenVPN, 256-bit encryption, no traffic logs, and a free trial.

Mullvad

Owned by Swedish-based Amagicom AB, a well-known cybersecurity company. Mullvad is Swedish for a mole – a suitable name for a VPN with a strong stance on privacy.

Boleh

They support OpenVPN and L2TP and provide native clients for popular platforms. Robust encryption and privacy, make Boleh a feasible option for long-term.

Hideman

They use 256-bit encryption, PPTP, LTP, and OpenVPN, offer an intuitive cross-platform client, free no-registration trial, and even a Warrant Canary page.

SurfEasy

With over 1000 servers in 28 countries, SurfEasy offers excellent speeds, supports torrenting, and deploys OpenVPN and 256-bit encryption by default.

Freedome

A reliable VPN that’s easy-to-use, flexible, cross-platform, and lightweight. Not be the largest network, but the speeds and bandwidth are decent.

AirVPN

AirVPN is an Italy-based company that’s earned quite a reputation in the VPN industry.

Le VPN

Le VPN is based in Hong Kong and provides all of the standard VPN security and privacy features - plus a lot of extras.

Zoog

It doesn't have the best available performance or the most robust set of features, but it's easy to install, use, and supported on a variety of platforms and devices. 

Slick

A US-based VPN that's been on the market since 2012. It's lesser-known, but they boast fairly decent server coverage of 145 locations spanning 46 countries.

Perfect Privacy

Heavily geared toward privacy protection, Perfect Privacy offers the best encryption protocols the industry has to offer, backed by unique functionality, cross-platform support, and servers in 23 countries.

Zenmate

Zenmate's simplistic UI and fairly acceptable performance coupled with the ability to unblock popular streaming services make it a feasible proposition if you’re after entertainment and some privacy. 

VPNs: What They Are and How They Work

  1. A VPN works by funneling your internet connection through a private server based in a remote location, rather than through your local internet service provider (ISP). By rerouting your connection through a “digital tunnel”, a VPN encrypts the data sent back and forth from your computer, making it unreadable by outside parties. Most VPNs have thousands of these types of servers located in countries all around the world. 
  1. A VPN masks your actual IP address, and gives you a new one tied to the remote server that you connect to. Normally, when you connect to the internet, your IP address gives a lot of information about your location and internet activity. Your browsing habits, purchase history, the types of links you click on, and more, can all be traced back to your IP address. However, by channeling your network traffic through a VPN’s remote server, you are given a different IP address that makes it seem as if you are connecting from the VPN server’s location rather than your own, whether it be in a nearby city or a foreign country. By masking your true IP address, a VPN protects the data being sent back and forth from your computer and renders your true location undetectable. VPNs offer the closest thing to private internet access. 
  • Most VPNs use military-grade 256-bit AES encryption to encrypt your data, rendering it unreadable. Remote-access VPNs create a virtual tunnel from one network to another, most often through the use of point-to-point protocol (PPP).  PPP is a data link layer that creates a direct communication link between two routers without any host or network interference between the two links. 
  • VPNs typically use one of these three PPP protocols:
    • PPTP (Point-to point Tunneling Protocol)
    • L2F (Layer 2 Forwarding)
    • L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)

Why use a VPN?

There are many reasons to use a VPN beyond the cybersecurity benefits. In addition to anonymizing your internet activity and increasing your online privacy, a VPN can be used to:

  • Protect your connection while logging into a public wi-fi network at a coffee shop or a library. Logging in from a public hotspot is a notoriously dangerous proposition that leaves you vulnerable to attacks from malicious parties and even puts you at risk of identity theft. Using a VPN while connecting to the internet from a public hotspot encrypts your data and protects you from these attacks. 
  • Bypass geographical lockouts on regionally-restricted websites and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Many streaming services have vastly different libraries depending on where you connect to the internet from, or are locked altogether in many regions. What’s more, some countries, such as China and Iran, have a national firewall in place that blocks people from visiting popular sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. By routing your internet connection through a remote VPN server outside of the country or region, you can bypass these restrictions and make it appear as if you are connecting from the server’s location, rather than your true location, allowing you to access geo-restricted websites and streaming services.   
  • Torrent files freely without being tracked by your internet service provider (ISP). Your internet service provider often monitors your P2P file sharing and use of torrenting apps, which occasionally results in a nasty cease-and-desist letter or disruption of service. A VPN will mask this activity from your ISP, allowing you to engage in P2P file sharing without consequence.
  • Prevent against government or police surveillance. The Edward Snowden leaks of 2013 prove that the NSA and other government agencies are actively cooperating with telecommunications companies to spy on people and record their activities on the internet and in other situations. By using a VPN to mask your internet connection, you protect yourself against the threat of government surveillance.  

Are VPNs secure?

Although web destinations cannot see your true IP address, your internet service provider will be able to see packets flowing from your computer to the VPN server. While they may not be able to see the exact content of these packets, they can make broad conclusions about the kind of data that is being transferred, whether it be streaming video, visiting web pages, or torrenting files. Yet, they can’t do much with this kind of basic presumptive data. 

However, even with a VPN, you are vulnerable to HTTP cookies when you visit websites, regardless of whether or not your IP address is masked. The same goes for malware and computer viruses. 

So, even though a VPN protects you against surveillance, it's nevertheless important to be vigilant about the types of websites you visit and files you download. Always use effective anti-virus software in addition to a VPN, and download the latest updates for your operating system. 

The average cost of a VPN

As with other internet subscription services, the price of using a VPN goes down considerably when you commit to a longer subscription period rather than paying on a month-to-month basis. We calculated the average prices of our top 10 VPNs for when you pay for them monthly and when you commit to a longer subscription with an upfront payment. 

Here’s what they average prices come out to:

  • Average cost of a month-to month subscription: $11.97 a month
  • Average monthly cost when committing to a 12-month subscription: $6.54 a month

As you can see, across the board, those that opt to pay for a year’s service in advance experience a significant average discount of 45%. Some of the top VPN providers, like NordVPN (3 years: $3.49 a month), Cyberghost (3 years: $2.75 a month) and Surfshark (2 years: $2.49 a month) offer even more substantial discounts when you commit to a 2 or 3 year subscription term. The advantages of paying for a longer term subscription upfront are obvious.

However, the issue is that you don’t truly know whether you’ll be satisfied with a VPN until you try it, making the hesitance to make a long term commitment understandable. Thankfully, most of the major VPN services offer 30-day money-back guarantees that are virtually free of predatory conditions and fine print, allowing you to try a VPN for an extended period free-of-risk. 

The Best VPNs in 2020 

While a VPN is no doubt a vital cybersecurity tool, the rise in VPN use means that there is a glut of VPN service providers on the market, making it difficult to choose the right one. While the service and protections they offer are similar, not all VPNs are created equal: some offer faster speeds, while others have much stricter no-logging policies. Additionally, a number of VPN companies don’t allow P2P file sharing, making them not much better than your internet service provider.

With these concerns in mind, we’ve reviewed the 10 best VPN services available in 2020. These VPNs distinguish themselves from the pack with affordable prices, unique features, and excellent encryption standards.  Let’s take a closer look at the top VPNs available. 


ExpressVPN

The best all-around VPN on the market, boasting blazing speeds, a high server count, and excellent compatibility with Netflix and other streaming services

  • Server count: 3000+ 
  • Server locations: 160
  • Countries: 94
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, Apple iOS, Android, Linux, routers, streaming devices 
  • Free trial period: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: 5
  • Pricing: 1 month: $12.95/month, 6 months: $9.99/month, 12 months: $8.32/month

While it’s a bit pricier than many of its competitors, few VPNs offer as much value for your money as ExpressVPN. The industry leader offers military-grade AES-256 encryption, DNS leak protection, an internet kill switch function, and has thousands of virtual servers based in 94 countries around the globe. What’s more, ExpressVPN’s 24/7 live chat support is the best around. 

To top it off, ExpressVPN is the top VPN for unblocking regionally-restricted Netflix content and is the VPN of choice for those living in China or Iran, where popular sites like Facebook and Google are locked behind a firewall.    

If price is not a concern for you, then ExpressVPN is the top pick for a VPN in 2020. The service supports payment with credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and more. 


NordVPN

With a massive number of servers, state-of-the-art security, and an affordable pricing model, NordVPN is a force to be reckoned with

  • Server count: 5750 
  • Server locations: 80+
  • Countries: 59 
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, browser extensions
  • Free trial period: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: 6
  • Pricing: 1 month: $11.95/month, 1 year: $6.99/month, 2 years: $4.99/month, 3 years: $3.49/month

If ExpressVPN is the industry standard-bearer, then NordVPN is a worthy competitor, besting its rival in server count and affordability. NordVPN’s 5700+ servers in over 80 locations mean that you’ll always be able to log in, no matter where you are. The service is unmatched in affordability vs. server count, offering a 3-year plan that comes to just $3.49 a month.

Although NordVPN suffered a high-profile hacking in 2018, the company has addressed the issues and now boasts some of the industry’s best security, including AES 256-bit encryption, kill switch features, DNS leak protection, and a strong no-logging policy. NordVPN also performed excellently in our speed tests, earning well-above-average download and upload speeds.  


Surfshark 

The VPN-of-choice for casual users that don’t require a ton of features

  • Server count: 1700+
  • Server locations: 100+
  • Countries: 63+
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
  • Free trial period: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: No limit
  • Pricing: 1 month: $12.95/month, 12 months: $4.59/month, 24 months: $2.49/month

Surfshark is a solid, P2P-friendly VPN with great security and an app interface that’s perfect for casual users. While the British Virgin Islands-based company doesn’t offer the dazzlingly-high server count as some of the bigger names, you can always count on fast connection speeds and a reliable connection. Novices will prefer the app, which isn’t bogged down in features and options, instead presenting two main choices: ‘All locations’ and ‘Quick Connect’, along with a ‘Settings’ menu.

Surfshark’s security is top-notch: the service offers AES bit encryption, IKEv2 security protocols, a kill switch feature, and a strict no-logging policy. Also of note is that Surfshark allows an unlimited number of device connections at a given time, compared to an average of around five for competing services. All in all, a worthy and affordable VPN choice.  


Cyberghost

A formidable VPN with a high server count and excellent customizability

  • Server count: 6489
  • Server locations: 111
  • Countries: 90
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome and Firefox browsers 
  • Free trial period: 45-day money-back guarantee, 24-hour free trial
  • Maximum allowed devices: 7
  • Pricing: 1 month: $12.99/month, 1 year: 5.99/month, 2 years: $3.69/month, 3 years: $2.75/month

Although server count isn’t everything, Cyberghost’s nearly 6500 servers in 111 countries is very impressive, and all of them feature an optical fiber internet connection with no data caps. Cyberghost’s apps for desktop and mobile are feature-rich: they allow you to block trackers, malware, and ads or automatically connect to the ideal server for a regionally-blocked service like Netflix or BBC iPlayer. The service also offers high-end 256-bit encryption, no-logging, and automated HTTPS redirection. 

Cyberghost also shines in its value, offering a 45-day money-back guarantee and an unrivaled 3-year plan that comes to just $2.75 a month.  


IPVanish

A sturdy, streamlined VPN with great live chat support 

  • Server count: 1400+
  • Server locations: 75+
  • Countries: 52
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
  • Free trial period: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: 10 
  • Pricing: 1 month: $10/month, Quarterly:  $8.99/month, 1 year: $6.49/month

IPVanish is a top-notch VPN with over 40,000 shared IPs, servers in over 70 countries, support for 10 simultaneous connections, and unlimited P2P data transferring. The service’s 24/7 customer support is great, and unlike other VPN providers, you can access it straight from your phone or mobile device. 

In terms of speeds, IPVanish is solid, if not the best, but the service does offer unlimited torrenting on every server and works with Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. Minor downsides include IPVanish’s slightly expensive pricing and lack of support for payment with Bitcoin.


Hotspot Shield

A blazing fast VPN perfect for streaming HD video 

  • Server count: 3,200
  • Server locations: 130+
  • Countries: 80+
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
  • Free trial period: 7-day free trial, 45-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: 5
  • Pricing: 1 month: $12.99/month, 1 year: 7.99/month

Hot Spot Shield is a quality VPN that shines in its speeds, earning the title of the “World’s Fastest VPN” from Ookla’s Speedtest.net. In fact, Hotspot Shield rated 1.8x faster than ExpressVPN in local performance. 

Not only is it fast, but HotSpot Shield also boasts great security, with AES-256 encryption, and allows unlimited torrenting. However, there are some drawbacks, such as the lack of support for OpenVPN and no Bitcoin payment option. 

Although Hotspot Shield does offer a free version, most people will prefer Hot Spot Shield Premium, which features unlimited bandwidth and has no ads. 


PureVPN

A long-running Hong Kong-based VPN with servers in over 140 countries and support for many platforms

  • Server count: 2000+
  • Server locations: 180+ 
  • Countries: 140+
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, browsers 
  • Free trial period: $0.99 7-day trial period, 31-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: 10
  • Pricing: 1 month: 10.95, 6 months: $8.33

PureVPN has a lot going for it: a ton of servers around the world, support for many platforms, and the ability to unblock Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. The Hong Kong-based service has been in the business since 2007, and it shows: PureVPN’s security features are impressive and include DNS leak protection, a smart kill switch feature, and split tunneling.  

Although there have been questions about the company’s no-logging policy, the company claims it does not keep activity logs, and the service’s 31-day money back guarantee allows you to cancel if you aren’t satisfied. Overall, PureVPN does a lot to distinguish itself as a great VPN for the price, and even allows payment with Bitcoin. 


TunnelBear

A streamlined, user-friendly VPN solution 

  • Server count: 1800+
  • Server locations: 23+
  • Countries: 23
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, browsers
  • Free trial period: free trial with 500MB of data
  • Maximum allowed devices: 5
  • Pricing: 1 month: $9.99, 1 year: $4.99

Although Canadian-based TunnelBear doesn’t boast flashy server numbers or an app with a long list of features, the VPN is a trusted and reliable option. In fact, Tunnelbear is the only VPN that allows regular independent security audits and posts them on their website. It’s no surprise that the VPN elicits glowing feedback from its many users.

TunnelBear has a strict no-logs policy, great download speeds, and high-end encryption, but what really sets it apart is its ease-of-use: the desktop and mobile VPN apps have a cute, Super Mario-esque world map interface, and leave out technical features that could confuse most novice users. However, the low server count is notable, and the customer service is somewhat lacking. 


ProtonVPN

A unique VPN service provider with a range of plans available at different price points

  • Server count: 809
  • Server locations: 50+
  • Countries: 50
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers
  • Free trial period: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: 10
  • Pricing: Free: $0/month Basic: $4/month Plus: $8/month Visionary: $24/month

Swiss-based ProtonVPN is a one-of-a-kind VPN service provider that offers four levels of service at four different price points, starting with the free VPN which allows for 1 device to connect to servers in 3 countries at medium speeds. While that won’t cut it for most, it’s sufficient for bypassing geo-restrictions, and is one of the few free VPN services worth using.

The two higher-end plans offer more servers, P2P support, top-end encryption, and routes internet traffic through the famed Tor anonymity network. Additionally, you get access to ProtonMail, the world’s largest encrypted email service. Although ProtonVPN doesn’t offer the largest number of servers compared to some competitors, its exclusive features and pricing model separate it from the pack. 


VyprVPN

An affordable, publicly-audited VPN with top-end encryption and first-party hardware

  • Server count: 700+
  • Server locations: 70+
  • Countries: 60+
  • Works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, QNAP, routers
  • Free trial period: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Maximum allowed devices: 5
  • Pricing: 1 month: $12.95/month, 1 year: $3.75/month, 2 years: $3.75/month

VyprVPN is a Switzerland-based VPN that hits all the marks, boasting unlimited bandwidth, wide platform support, fast speeds, AES 256-bit encryption, and DNS leak protection. There’s also a kill switch feature that automatically shuts off your connection if the VPN connection is broken.

Although it doesn’t have servers in the thousands, VyprVPN performed great on speed tests and its proprietary Chameleon VPN protocol allows users to bypass stringent VPN-blocking attempts. Due to its affordable pricing, wide-ranging platform support, and first-party hardware usage, VyprVPN is a fine VPN that deserves serious consideration.