Best VPNs for India – 2020
Internet freedom is a complicated topic in India. Many levels of government and an independent judiciary all have powers over web content and entertainment. For example, there are no specific bans on gambling websites in India but gambling is illegal in the country, so you will find it almost impossible to open an account with a gambling website from an Indian address.
Dating and sex are other difficult topics in India. LGBT websites are not banned, but homosexuality is illegal in India, so there aren’t many Indian-based gay websites and people visiting overseas LGBT-themed websites need to be careful that their online activity isn’t traceable.
The Indian government will often fine, shut down, or block dating sites under the guise of protecting public moral standards. You also can’t visit escort or porn sites in India. The national censors uphold India’s moral standards, making a lot of US blockbuster entertainment unsuitable for broadcast in India.
All levels of government and the judiciary can issue temporary website bans and order arrests for activities that don’t actually breach any laws. These ad-hoc interventions are performed “in the public interest.” Religious festivals can spark riots or terrorist activities, so local courts are empowered to ban a large number of websites “until further notice.”
Other limitations on internet freedom in India also apply in many countries around the world – torrenting is banned and access to torrent index sites, such as The Pirate Bay is blocked.
Indian government internet controls
Local governments and law courts in India are apt to shut down the internet completely during school exam time or when professional exams are taking place. For example, the government of Rajasthan shut down internet access entirely within the state for two days in July 2018 because police recruitment tests were taking place. These complete shutdowns are very common in India and so are temporary bans on specific websites, particularly social media sites. They can shut down Facebook or any other site for a few days in a few towns if they want to … and they frequently want to.
Government surveillance and internet access controls are easy to implement because all access to the internet is facilitated by internet service providers (ISPs). This means that all internet traffic from end users out onto the web has to pass through the computers of one ISP or another. That creates opportunities for monitoring, logging, and website blocks.
Indian government DNS manipulation
Web addresses need to be translated into internet addresses, known as "IP addresses," before the browser can send out requests for web pages. Each ISP runs a lookup service, called a "domain name server," which is part of the Domain Name System (DNS).
Website bans in India are implemented by altering the records in DNS tables. If the Indian government wants a site to be blocked, it sends a notification to ISPs, which then alter their DNS records for that site. The replacement IP address points to a warning message page instead of the requested page. A local judge has enough power over the area he serves to make Facebook, Google, and the New York Times disappear completely as far as the local population is concerned.
Getting around Indian government controls
Here are nine reasons that you need to evade Indian government controls:
- Get access to social media sites during a local ban
- Get access to overseas streaming services
- Watch porn video streaming services
- Use dating sites and look at international hookup websites
- Download by torrenting without fear of prosecution
- Read news sites that are banned in India
- Join online gambling sites such as sports betting, poker, or roulette
- Learn what other people of your religion are doing and saying in the rest of the world
- Access LGBT content without being identified by government surveillance
There are two threats that you need to combat:
- Indian government bans on website access
- Indian government monitoring of the online activities of Indian residents
The logging activities and secret court-ordered monitoring implemented by ISPs means there is no privacy on the internet. All ISPs in India execute the same government surveillance routines.
Monitoring the activities of internet users is as effective as banning sites. If people are afraid of visiting sites, then those sites might as well not exist.
You can get around Indian government surveillance and website bans with a tool called a virtual private network (VPN). However, before we explain this technology, there is one more problem that we need to address.
Site-imposed access blocks
A large number of overseas sites that Indians might want to look at impose access restrictions on their own content.
Google is different in every country. Even if you specifically try to get to the American version by typing in “google.com” instead of “google.co.in,” you will get all search results filtered for India.
Netflix allows access to its services anywhere in the world. However, you get the video library of the country that you are in and not the country you subscribed in. So, if you go to the UK or the USA and access the Netflix website, you will see TV shows and movies that aren't available in India. Other video streaming sites will let you see the page while you are in India, but you can’t watch any videos.
This phenomenon is called “regional restrictions.” It occurs on a range of sites, including the websites of newspapers and recruitment sites. People in India don’t get to see the same version of those websites that people in the UK or the USA see.
A VPN service can unblock these controls on your internet freedom.
Best VPNs for India
The websites that you visit all know your IP address – they have to know where to send back the code for the request web page or video. This is how they know where you are and adapt their content according to your location. When you turn a VPN app on, you first have to select a server location. Once the VPN is active, the VPN server replaces your Indian IP address as the source of the request with its own. So, if you select a VPN server in the UK, you will appear to be in the UK and you can watch the cricket on the BBC iPlayer.
A VPN service's security features mask your connections, so the authorities and your ISP can't see which sites you are visiting. All of your communications are fully encrypted and can’t be read by the ISP. When the VPN is working, every request from your browser will be addressed to the VPN server – the IP addresses of sites that you are really visiting are hidden.
VPNs run their own DNS servers, so that gets around the government trick of DNS manipulation.
We have selected the five best VPN providers for India so that you can reclaim your internet freedom.
ExpressVPN is probably the leading VPN service in the world today. It has strong encryption that can protect customers in China from government surveillance and it will certainly block the internet controls of the Indian government. The main session of a VPN connection is protected by AES 256-bit encryption and session establishment uses RSA encryption with a 4096-bit key.
The network of servers working for ExpressVPN is spread across 94 countries, including India. The VPN apps for ExpressVPN are built for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Amazon Fire TV. There is also an app for DD-WRT and Tomato routers and browser extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
The VPN service can unblock Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, and Netflix for the US, Canada, the UK, and Germany.
Security features in the VPN app include IP leak protection, a private DNS service, and a kill switch. The main VPN protocol in the VPN app is OpenVPN. However, it is also possible to switch to L2TP or SSTP. PPTP is available for manual setup.
ExpressVPN gives every customer a simultaneous connection allowance of three devices and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Strong encryption
- Live chat customer support available around the clock
- No logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Only allows three simultaneous connections
NordVPN is a good choice because it is one of the best VPNs in the world but also one of the cheapest VPN services around – especially with one of the 3-year special offer plans. The VPN provider runs server locations in 58 countries.
This VPN service has good connection speeds for video transfers and it can get into a lot of streaming services, including Netflix for the US, Canada, the UK, France, and India. It can also get you access to Hulu, Sky Go, ITV, and ABC, among many other streaming services.
The main VPN protocol in the VPN app is OpenVPN. However, users are also able to opt for IKEv2 and L2TP, with PPTP available for manual VPN connections. There are NordVPN apps available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Android TV. The VPN can be set up manually on routers and there are also browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox.
Security features in the app include IP leak protection, a private DNS, and a kill switch. The system can be set to automatically apply security when accessing public wi-fi hotspots. The app also includes CyberSec, which blocks ads, popups, and malware.
NordVPN customers get a six device simultaneous connection allowance and all plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Unblocks many streaming services
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- CyberSec feature blocks ads, trackers, and malware
- No free VPN version
- Some servers can be slow
CyberGhost has VPN servers that are tuned for torrenting and video streaming. This is a great choice for those who play games online, too. In total, the VPN provider runs a 1,550-strong network of servers all across the world. That includes 22 VPN servers in India.
The VPN apps of this service are available for Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire. The VPN can be set up manually on Linux computers, routers, and set-top boxes. There are also CyberGhost browser extensions available for Google Chrome and Firefox.
The main VPN protocol in the app is OpenVPN, using 4098-bit RSA encryption for session establishment and AES 256-bit encryption for the VPN connection. Other VPN protocols available with CyberGhost are IKEv2 and L2TP/IPSec.
Security features in the VPN app include automatic protection for public wi-fi hotspots, a kill switch, IP leak protection, and a private DNS server. The app will block ads, popups, and trackers and it also stops malware-infected web pages from loading in the browser.
All accounts of CyberGhost come with an allowance of seven simultaneous connections and a 45-day money-back guarantee.
- 45-day money-back guarantee on annual plans
- An allowance of seven simultaneous connections
- Fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth
- Discontinued its free VPN version
IPVanish is the fastest VPN available and it is great for access to streaming services. This VPN service can get into US Netflix from India plus a long list of other video sites. The server locations of IPVanish cover 75 countries.
The VPN app includes automatic protection when using public wi-fi hotspots and security features, such as IP leak protection, a kill switch, and a private DNS server. Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, and Chrome OS. Each account holder is allowed to make 10 simultaneous connections and every account comes with a seven-day money-back guarantee.
- The fastest VPN service
- Strong security in the VPN apps plus public wi-fi hotspot protection
- Gets into Netflix
- Customer support can be slow
- Money-back guarantee only for seven days
Surfshark has 1,040 VPN servers in 61 countries. The VPN apps provided by Surfshark will run on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, and Playstation consoles. The VPN provider also created browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox. Security features in the Surfshark apps include a kill switch, IP leak protection, and a private DNS service. The VPN service also provides protection for public wi-fi hotspots automatically.
Surfshark has fast connection speeds, is good for torrenting, and can unblock streaming services. The company is serious about privacy protection and operates a no-logs policy. All VPN connections are protected by AES 256-bit encryption.
A free VPN version of Surfshark is available for iOS and Mac OS devices from the iTunes store. A Surfshark subscription has no limit on simultaneous connections and each plan includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- IP address leak protection and a kill switch
- Good connection speeds for access to streaming services
- Allows torrenting
- Settings are complicated