When the leaked NSA files revealed the scope of mass surveillance, everyone turned their eyes to Virtual Private Networks. The sharp spike in demand charged the VPN market, and it literally exploded overnight. What once was a niche competition turned into a downright melee.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since now we can hand-pick the best VPNs at very affordable rates. This is also bad because way too many providers are capitalizing on your fears of state surveillance and cyber crime, and offer nothing but a false sense of security wrapped in cyber jargon. This means it’s getting hard to tell gold from brass, and assess contenders realistically.
It’s important to look past the sales-y babble and study the important features with a reasonable degree of suspicion. Before you study them, however, you need to know what matters most in a good VPN.
Some VPNs require a technically-intensive setup and fine-tuning process before you can even begin to use them. Others are cross-platform suites you can run on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux devices, virtually hassle-free. My goal is to pinpoint the VPN providers that offer comprehensive software that’s both easy-to-use and advanced at the same time so that you can enjoy sheer simplicity - or tweak every bit of it if you wish.
If you’re after an intuitive, but advanced software with posh looks, remember that you can never neglect other important features. Server locations, encryption protocols, privacy policies, connection speeds, availability of a kill switch and DNS leak protection are equally – or more – important because:
Businesses rely on VPNs to let their employees access corporate networks securely, so why can’t you do the same for your private browsing? You can because it’s affordable, and you should because:
All VPNs on my list are fully-featured and use the AES-256 encryption, which is currently the golden standard. If you travel frequently or want to run all your Internet traffic through a VPN, these providers will do a great job. Also, anyone trying to hack your Wi-Fi traffic on a public network would see nothing but scrambled gibberish.
These providers all support devices beyond the conventional Win, Mac, Android, iOS operating systems, offer wide server coverage in dozens of countries, and generally, let you pay anonymously. If you’ve been contemplating a free VPN, make sure to check my in-depth overview first because too many free services leak or trade your private data.
Hope this helps, and have happy – and safe – browsing!
If you’re an avid fan of Netflix or P2P torrenting, check out ExpressVPN, which is the hands-down fastest service, with impressive server coverage in 94 countries. They offer software for all platforms, and all their apps use OpenVPN, complete with an AES-256 encryption, a kill switch, DNS leak protection, auto-connect, port forwarding and shared IPs. Unlimited P2P torrenting and online gaming is lag-free.
ExpressVPN is intuitive and flexible, so you can toggle any feature with ease. On a side note, they only allow three simultaneous connections, which is a tad restricting if you ask me. If you're okay with that, you’ll appreciate that ExpressVPN is rock-solid on privacy. They accept Bitcoin and don’t log DNS queries or traffic data, while their British Virgin Islands location grants them exemption from the strict anti-piracy laws and surveillance of the 14 Eyes.
Their monthly subscription is pricey at $13, but the $60 bi-annual plan is quite reasonable. The annual plan is the best deal and comes in at $99.95. All subscriptions come with a generous 30-day refund policy.
If you’re privacy-paranoid like me, you may want to try NordVPN, which offers a gazillion security features bundled up into one tightly wrapped package. Strong AES-256 encryption, Open VPN, zero-logs policy and a kill switch are just the baseline here – NordVPN has all the bells and whistles to make your browsing secure. For example, they have double encryption technology and VPN into Tor. Top that off with a network of 830+ self-managed server locations and Panama-based headquarters, which grants them freedom from surveillance and pretty lax anti-piracy laws.
They allow up to six simultaneous connections, and the software is by far one of the most good-looking - and intuitive - suites. Oh yeah, and one that supports all the popular platforms. You’ll love how easy it is to switch servers with the pre-configured Ultra-Fast for gaming and streaming, and Ultra-Secure for privacy. NordVPN bypasses Netflix’ VPN blocks with grace and doesn’t cap your bandwidth when you’re P2P torrenting. Bear in mind that connections using double encryption can be slow, which is understandable.
Best for privacy, NordVPN is also affordable with a $70 annual plan, $42 bi-annual and $12 monthly subscription, all backed by a generous 30-day refund policy.
The best software for noobs is IPVanish, which offers excellent value for the money, too. It’s simple, self-explanatory and flexible enough for both novice and advanced users. You can customize your experience, or just relax and enjoy its default settings. All of their fully-featured apps come with a kill switch, DNS leak protection, 256-AES encryption, SOCKS5 web proxy and OpenVPN protocol. You can also view server stats, complete with speeds and bandwidth.
IPVanish software is cross-platform, but to get Android working, you’ll need to download an additional OpenVPN Connect app, which is not a con per se, but does make for a few extra taps that you’ll need to make (but only once, and it’s during installation). You can run up to five simultaneous connections per account.
IPVanish offers excellent speeds, doesn’t cap your bandwidth and allows HD streaming, P2P file-sharing and unblocking of geo-restricted websites. They boast a highly reliable self-managed network of servers in 60+ countries so you can spoof pretty much anywhere, including into your favorite US Netflix. On the privacy front, it’s a US-based provider, but they keep no logs and manage their own servers, so your data doesn’t pass through third-party hands.
At $10 for a monthly subscription and $78 for the annual plan, IPVanish is one of the most affordable providers, with a reasonable seven-day refund policy.
An all-around winner for cross-platform support is PureVPN, which supports more than 50+ operating systems including routers, smart TVs, ROKU, Boxee and more. You can connect up to five devices simultaneously, so it’s ideal for households. PureVPN boasts one of the largest networks of 750+ self-managed servers in 141 countries, so you can rely on all the consistently great speeds you need for online gaming or HD streaming.
The software is sleek, intuitive and offers extensive customization that even the technically-challenged will quickly sort out because the add-ons are self-explanatory. You can choose protocols, and switch to servers optimized for P2P and streaming, as well as use secure FTP access, stealth browsing mode or special connections for online banking.
They’re based in Hong Kong, which is good because there are no data retention laws there. You can also count on 256-bit AES encryption, OpenVPN and unlimited bandwidth for P2P torrenting. They keep no activity logs, but do maintain some session logs for troubleshooting and might leak DNS. If you’re okay with that, you’ll find their pricing quite affordable. PureVPN will set you back $12 in a month-to-month plan, $54 in for a bi-annual subscription and $72 for a two-year plan. They also offer a three-day free trial and a seven-day money-back guarantee.
One of the most affordable VPNs on the list is Private Internet Access. PIA has a very clean, minimalist interface that lets you customize settings with minimum effort on your part. But there’s more than meets the eye – PIA allows for up to five simultaneous connections and has software for 34 platforms (desktop, mobile, routers, you name it). It’s straightforward in installation and setup, and comes with loads of perks you can tweak. Count on unlimited P2P torrenting and great speeds for gaming and streaming, a kill switch, an ad blocker, a malware blocker, and DNS leak protection.
Private Internet Access has an incredible network of 3,250 servers in 25 countries and works great for spoofing into the US and unblocking Netflix.
Privacy-wise, PIA uses OpenVPN and 256-bit AES encryption, sticks to a strict zero-logs policy, and accepts Bitcoin and gift cards for anonymous payments. The company is based in the US, however, so if you have serious privacy concerns, you should take the US data retention laws into account.
PIS is cheap, and the $40 annual, $37 bi-annual and $7 monthly plans all come with a seven-day money-back guarantee.
VPNArea offers a great combination of price, privacy, and performance. Their software comes with plenty of bells and whistles including a kill switch, DNS leak protection, server speed test, auto IP change, dedicated IP address, auto-connect, and port forwarding. If you run into a problem, their customer service is extremely patient and helpful. That said, they really need to update their installation instructions.
You can run up to six simultaneous connections, and the cross-platform software is very flexible and polished, so if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the ability to fine-tune your experience. VPNArea is geared toward online gaming, HD streaming and P2P torrenting, so expect reliable performance during resource-intensive tasks.
They’re based in Bulgaria and host their servers in Switzerland, which is a great combination in terms privacy. Top that off with zero-logs policy, OpenVPN, AES 256-bit encryption and you’re in for a safe browsing backed by speedy servers in 60+ countries.
They offer the $10 monthly, $50 bi-annual, and $59 annual subscriptions, complete with a seven-day refund policy, which makes them one of the most affordable contenders on the list.
BufferedVPN has apps tailored for each popular platform, which translates into great usability for you. The apps come packed with nifty features like auto-connect, DNS leak protection, and a super-useful Port Discovery Mode that lets you connect to public WiFi without a password.
BufferedVPN is also privacy-conscious with AES 256-bit encryption, OpenVPN, and zero-logs policy. They’re based in Hungary, which has a decisive pro-privacy stance, so no data retention laws or intrusive surveillance.
The speeds for HD streaming and P2P torrenting are reliable and consistent, even as they keep adding servers to an already decent network across 37 countries. Buffered might not have the largest network, but servers are conveniently located so that you can spoof into pretty much everywhere, including the US Netflix, the UK BBC iPlayer, the French Canal+ and the Australian Channel 9.
One of my favorite perks is that BufferedVPN lets you install its apps on as many devices as you need, and then switch between them as long as you keep your usage to a limit of five simultaneous connections, which makes it a no-brainer for large families. Top that off with the auto-refund if you don’t use their VPN within the first week, and you’ve found yourself a reliable provider with great business ethic.
Their monthly plan comes in at $12.50, bi-annual is $57, and an annual subscription clocks in at $93. All 3 options come with a 30-day refund guarantee.
Germany has some of the best pro-privacy laws in the world, especially with the incoming EU General Data Protection Regulation. Next year when it goes into effect, the GDPR will enforce encryption, anonymization and proper data management on both EU and non-EU companies that stored and/or process the personal information of EU citizens.
This legislation will empower EU citizens with the right to portability, to be forgotten and to rectify their data. Oh yeah, and consumers will be able to sue companies for negligence in handling their private data if there are data breaches, which they will be required to disclose. Companies will finally have to justify why they need your data in the first place. But the proverbial cherry on top will be the administrative fines for noncompliance, which clock in at a whopping 2-4% of a company’s global annual turnover.
GDPR was the silver lining. Now let’s get to the cloud.
Germany’s intelligence agency, BND, has extensive powers to spy on you. And they do spy on you, which is quite evident from the Snowden files. Germany signed the 14 Eyes treaty, and their data retention laws allow authorities to hold your metadata (including the contents of text messages) for up to 10 weeks. The BND collects an estimated of 220 million metadata sets per day, which consists of communication that travels over the Internet, mobile networks, landlines and satellites about who communicates with whom, when, from where and for how long.
Also, after the 2016 terror attack in Munich, the BND gained powers to spy on foreign individuals and businesses without a warrant. So, if you’re a foreigner living, working or traveling in Germany, you’re probably being monitored, and perhaps even more than German citizens.
And let’s not forget about Germany’s strict anti-piracy rules. German authorities don’t tolerate P2P file sharing of copyrighted material, and your ISP will report you for illegal torrenting. You could end up with a hefty fine if caught torrenting copyrighted content. Some German legal firms are even called “copyright trolls” because they specifically scan popular torrents for German IP addresses to identify the offenders.
Language related to the fair use of copyrighted material for educational and artistic purposes is vague, and authorities tend to view it as an infringement rather than the fair use.
Worse yet, a lot of the content on YouTube is unavailable from Germany because the German performing artists rights organization GEMA wants Germans to pay $0.12 every time they view certain videos on YouTube. Google said it’s downright discrimination, and blocked a ton of content for the entire country instead.
Additionally, most of Germany is “connected,” so you’ll enjoy lots of free public Wi-Fi, which is also plagued by malware looking to empty your pockets.
A VPN is an efficient – and dirt cheap – solution to all these privacy, security, and locked content woes.
So, without further adieu, here are my top seven picks of best VPNs for Germany based on:
transparent privacy policies
broad availability of servers outside Germany and the 14 Eyes allies
a clear stance on P2P file sharing
ExpressVPN is one of the go-to VPNs for Germany because of its zero-logs policy, AES-256 encryption and OpenVPN. They’re based in the British Virgin Islands, so the company is exempt from the mass surveillance of the 14 Eyes and fairly immune to anti-piracy laws. Also, ExpressVPN works great for unblocking region-based streaming sites like Netflix and P2P torrenting, and their stealth servers across 94 countries offer consistently great speeds for gaming and streaming.
They support the majority of popular platforms, and the apps are polished and easy-to-use. You can install ExpressVPN on up tp three devices, which covers your desktop and mobile browsing needs, but may be a bit too tight if you’re anything like me and like to multitask using multiple devices. That said, the client is fantastic – it’s flexible with advanced features like auto-connect, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch.
Their 24/7 customer support is one of the best in the industry, and they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all subscriptions. If you commit to a long-term plan, you can land a pretty good deal of $99.95 per year. Their bi-annual plan will set you off $60 while the monthly plan comes at $13. ExpressVPN might not be the cheapest service out there, but it certainly is one of the most robust and reliable.
IPVanish is a zero-logs provider with a laundry list of features: 256-bit AES encryption, unlimited bandwidth for torrenting, superb speeds, servers in 60+ countries, and sophisticated cross-platform software you can install on up to 5 devices.
IPVanish does an excellent job of unblocking streaming websites like BBC iPlayer and keeping your identity safe from state surveillance and hackers. On the downside, it is a US-based provider, so data retention laws apply. Still, it's one of the best services to spoof into the US and UK, and they manage their servers instead of leasing them, so your data doesn't pass through third-party hands.
Subscriptions start at $10 per month, but the price drops to $6.49 per month if you commit to an annual plan, and all subscriptions come with a seven-day money-back guarantee.
PureVPN is pretty impressive, with 750+ self-managed servers in 141 countries, including 43 servers in Germany. They’ve been in the VPN game for 11 years and have evolved into a reliable service you might find just the right fit for your needs when browsing from Germany. They employ 256-bit AES encryption and keep a firm no-logs policy.
You can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously, and they support more than 50 platforms including Smart TV, ROKU, Apple TV, and Boxee. PureVPN works great for unblocking streaming services, but the speeds might drop during peak hours.
They’re based in Hong Kong, which means no data retention laws, but make sure you test your connection for DNS leaks. PureVPN also keeps session – not activity – logs for troubleshooting purposes.
On the bright side, the client is a breeze to use and comes with all the bells and whistles you may want in a VPN – stealth browsing mode, secure FTP access, online banking security, multiple protocols and more. They even have servers specifically optimized for P2P and streaming.
It’s one of the most affordable providers on the list. You can get a three-day free trial and then choose from three plans - $12/mo in a monthly subscription, $9/mo in bi-annual and $3/mo in a two-year plan, each backed by a 7-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN is hands-down one of the top providers for Germany because it’s tough on privacy. They’re based in Panama, which is far removed from 14 Eyes surveillance and anti-piracy laws. Top that off with a zero-logs policy, a kill switch, a DNS leak protection, a unique double encryption technology, VPN into Tor, and you’re in for a safe ride.
They run 830+ server locations across 57 countries, which grants you lightning-fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth for P2P torrenting, HD video streaming, and gaming. Do note, however, that connections using double encryption tend to be slower than the regular AES 256-bit.
NordVPN client is easy to get the hang of, and you can install it on up to six devices. It’s also very flexible so you can tweak pretty much everything from the kill switch behavior to encryption protocols. They even offer the list of servers slated toward gamers and streamers (Ultra-fast) and the privacy paranoid (Ultra-secure).
NordVPN might not be the cheapest proposition in its $12 monthly plan, but the bi-annual subscription costs $42 while the yearly is $70 only, at which point NordVPN offers the best value for the money, and you can always count on the 30-day money-back guarantee
HideMyAss is based in the UK, so the Orwellian surveillance laws apply. It’s also run by AVG Technologies, which has a reputation of cooperating with law enforcement. So, no illegal torrenting here. If you’re okay with that, you’ll find HMA to be a fast, functional and cheap proposition.
HideMyAss is ideal if you’re on a tight budget and use a VPN occasionally because it allows only two devices per account. There is a lot of eye-candy in the GUI, and the client is intuitive if somewhat light on features. Switching servers is easy as they run a huge network in 190 countries.
Their prepaid plans come in at $10 in the monthly subscription, $40 in bi-annual and $60 in the annual plan. The summer sale cuts 56% off of all the plans. One side note here: the 30-day money-back guarantee doesn’t cover purchases made via iTunes or Google Play, nor can you exceed 10GB of bandwidth.
VyprVPN belongs to Switzerland-based Golden Frog, a conglomerate that manages its own infrastructure, including the 700 servers across 70 locations. So you get great speeds and reliability, 24/7 customer care, and a fully-featured client – all in a single swoop.
Gaming and streaming sites like Netflix or BBC iPlayer works seamlessly, but you may want to avoid illegal torrenting when using this VPN, even though they don’t block P2P file sharing or cap bandwidth. VyprVPN deploys solid encryption and proprietary Chameleon technology and keeps a zero-logs policy, so you get rock-solid privacy here.
Considering that they have a free three-day trial, it seems fair that they offer no refunds. You can choose between the Basic plan for three devices ($60/year if billed annually, and $120/year if billed monthly) and the Premium plan for five devices ($80/year in annual subscription and $155.4/year if billed monthly). The Premium subscription comes with VyprVPN Cloud, protection from DPI, a kill switch, and the Chameleon Protocol.
IvacyVPN is based in Singapore and offers just about everything you may want in a VPN for almost no money. They have 250 servers in more than 50 countries, including at least 4 servers in Germany. They allow up to five simultaneous connections and support Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux.
Top that off with servers optimized for torrenting, zero-logs policy and the fact that they openly advocate for free torrents downloading, and you’re in for a smooth P2P file sharing. IvacyVPN also has a brilliant range of add-on features like split tunneling, auto reconnect, Kodi and XBMC support.
Single-month plans come in at $12 per month, but an annual subscription plummets to a heavily discounted $2.50/mo, and $1.66/mo if you commit for two years. Surprisingly, these prices apply for a lifetime, so if you buy a 2-year plan now, it will renew at the same rate even if the current price is different. All plans come with a 7-day refund guarantee with restrictions – you can not apply for a refund if you paid via Bitcoin, Paymentwall, if you’ve consumed more than 7 GB of bandwidth or connected more than 30 times.
For more than 200 years, the motto of the French Republic has been "liberté, égalité, fraternité." Today, however, the nation is moving further away from its ideals with each new law. It’s no wonder the French are increasingly turning to VPNs for protection.
Yes, and there's a laundry list of reasons why.
For starters, you can’t enjoy US or UK TV programming to their full extent without one. And you’ll always get a trimmed down version of everything from Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, to Sky TV, Steam, Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. Some restrictions are downright ridiculous, and you’ll probably have problems downloading an iPhone app from a French IP. Even YouTube gets filtered.
If you’re French and traveling abroad, you’re going to face the same types of problems – you won’t be able to access your favorite Canal+, Eurosport or Play TV. So, a VPN seems like the easiest and the cheapest solution to your entertainment woes.
Oh yes, and let’s not forget France is a member of the 14 Eyes. Data retention and surveillance laws in France (LPM, LOPPSI) mandate for the ISPs to keep your data for one year. State agencies can access that data with little to no oversight. The French Constitutional Council obliges ISPs to monitor the online behavior of users they find suspicious and forward that information to intelligence agencies. Without user consent, the ISPs and law enforcement install so-called black boxes like stealth cameras and keyloggers to analyze users’ metadata for suspicious behavior. French laws allow mass surveillance of electronic communications sent to and received from abroad, too.
The data collection and surveillance legislation in France is also conveniently vague. It widens the number of entities that have a warrantless access to your data, and the definition of who can be identified as a threat turns the population of an entire country into suspects. The very existence of TES, a biometric database on 60 million French citizens, speaks volumes of the active surveillance that takes place in the country.
The French Intelligence Act and the emergency powers grant authorities sweeping powers to conduct searches of electronic devices without warrants. The UN committee for human rights has even come out and said the French laws grant the state “overly broad powers for intrusive surveillance.”
France does not tolerate illegal torrenting either. The anti-piracy law HADOPI grants the overseeing agency powers to bypass the legal procedure and carry out “private policing of copyright.” So, you can end up with a hefty fine if your ISP catches you torrenting copyrighted material.
France is no stranger to content filtering and censorship. Emergency legislation and Anti-Hatred laws enable officials to remove content and block websites as they see fit, without judicial process.
And, much like the United States and Australia, France is highly targeted by cyber criminals, with the number of recorded attacks has grown by 51% last year. So, you can never be safe when browsing from home or a public Wi-Fi without a VPN in France.
I picked my top seven VPNs for France based on wide server coverage, fast speeds, watertight security and zero-logs policies, reliable performance when streaming geo-restricted content and unlimited P2P file-sharing, user-friendly cross-platform clients, the best price-per-value ratio, and excellent business ethics.
ExpressVPN is an great choice if you need a VPN for streaming Netflix and/or unlimited P2P torrenting. It has no problem streaming HD videos and shows no lag when it comes to online gaming. They have a huge network of servers optimized for speed and stability, which is why it’s one of my top picks.
ExpressVPN is watertight on privacy, too. They’re headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, so count on moderate pro-privacy legal climate. They don’t log traffic or DNS queries, use OpenVPN, 256-bit AES-CBC encryption, SmartDNS and perfect forward secrecy.
On the downside, you can only use it on three devices, but the apps come with a bundle of cool features like a DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and auto-connect. Both the desktop and mobile apps are sleek and easy-to-use.
ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back policy on all plans, and a yearly subscription is a bargain at $99.95 per year. The bi-annual plan costs $60, but the $13 monthly plan is a bit expensive for what you get.
NordVPN is a no-nonsense contender to every provider on the list, with an impressive network of 830+ self-managed servers and a true zero-logs policy backed by OpenVPN over TCP and AES 256-bit encryption.
They have servers optimized for HD video streaming, Tor over VPN, double VPN and anti-DDoS. Top it off with a kill switch and DNS leak protection, and you get one of the most robust VPNs in terms of encryption and security. The increased security in double encryption connections comes at the cost of reduced speeds, though.
NordVPN is a very capable VPN for streaming HD video lag-free, unblocking geo-restricted websites and online gaming. They also allow unlimited P2P file-sharing and enjoy fairly lax anti-piracy laws because they’re based in Panama. It also means no 14 Eyes, Big Brother, or data retention laws.
Their cross-platform client is hands down one of the most intuitive suites, and you can run it on up to six devices.
Their $12 monthly subscription might not be cheap, but the bi-annual plan is $42, and the annual will set you back $70, which is the best price per value proposition backed by the 30-day money-back policy.
VyprVPN has a reputation of excellence in the VPN market, with more than 700 self-managed servers that grant you superb speeds for everything – online gaming, HD streaming, and unlimited P2P file-sharing from France. VyprVPN unblocks streaming services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix and comes in a convenient, cross-platform client that’s easy to sort out even for the technically challenged.
The company is based in Switzerland, which is one of the best places on the planet for its strong data protection laws. They keep no logs and use OpenVPN, 256-bit AES encryption, VyprDNS and a proprietary Chameleon encryption. Even though they spoke out against illegal torrenting, VyprVPN does not cap your bandwidth or block P2P torrenting.
There’s no refund policy here, but they offer a three-day free trial so that you get a better idea of the performance and speeds. They have two pricing plans that can be billed yearly or monthly. Basic allows up to three connections and costs $60/year when billed annually, and $120/year when billed monthly. Premium allows up to five connections and clocks in at $80/year when billed annually or $155.4/year when billed monthly. Premium also comes with a laundry list of additional features like a kill switch, DPI protection, Chameleon protocol, and VyprVPN Cloud.
IPVanish is a top-notch VPN for France, with hundreds of self-managed servers in 60+ countries so you can enjoy great coverage of Europe and the United States, blazing speeds, and excellent performance. Highlights include unlimited torrenting, HD video streaming, online gaming and unfettered access to the US and UK libraries of the streaming websites like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Netflix.
IPVanish keeps no logs and uses 256-bit AES encryption and SOCKS5 web proxy. Their cross-platform client is user-friendly and you can connect up to five devices simultaneously. Since they own their servers, no third parties can mingle with your data. There's just one bug about them - they're US-based, so data retention laws apply. Since they keep no logs in the first place, however, they have nothing to turn in to authorities.
Their subscriptions are fairly affordable and come with a seven-day money-back guarantee. The monthly plan comes in at $10 per month, and the annual at $6.49 per month.
PureVPN is based in Hong Kong, which has no mandatory data retention laws. They have excellent server coverage of Europe and the US, with a huge network of 750+ self-managed servers. You can reliably spoof into France and into the US or UK, find servers located outside the 14 Eyes countries and enjoy decent speeds. They also keep no session logs and offer 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch, but they keep a timestamp and a total amount of bandwidth for “troubleshooting purposes.”
PureVPN has servers optimized for unlimited P2P torrenting while unblocking geo restricted content is uneven – you can experience issues during peak hours. Their strongest point is the extensive support for all sorts of platforms (50+) from routers to smart TVs, ROKU, mobile and desktop devices. I personally love the advanced features like the stealth browsing mode, secure FTP access, split tunneling and online banking security.
One subscription allows up to five simultaneous connections, and the cross-platform client is a breeze to use. With a three-day free trial and a 7-day money-back guarantee, PureVPN is one of the most affordable contenders on the list. Their two-year plan comes in at $3 per month, while the bi-annual plan is justly positioned at $9 per month, and the monthly at $12 per month.
Hungary-based Buffered VPN is a great option if you’re looking to stream in HD or need an extra layer of security when browsing from France. Even though Hungary is an EU member state, the Hungarian laws are decisively pro-privacy, so they keeps no logs. They unblock Netflix geo blocks with ease, so you get unchained access to its US libraries.
It boasts a cross-platform, user-friendly software with all the bells and whistles you may need in a VPN – a kill switch, OpenVPN, robust encryption, DNS leak protection and an awesome Port Discovery Mode for mobile. It lets you safely connect to public WiFi without a password (which is great in restaurants, cafes and hotels).
Buffered allows up to five connections, but you can install it on as many devices as you wish, which is super-convenient for families. All subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and they will refund you automatically if you don’t use their VPN within the first seven days, which serves as a testament of their business ethic.
Prices are a little on the expensive side, with the monthly plan coming at $12.50, the bi-annual plan at $57, but the annual subscription is $93, which is the best deal.
Hide.me offers impressive performance, speeds, and excellent zero-logs privacy protection. They’re based in Malaysia, and have 115+ servers in 23 countries, most of them in Europe, Canada, Mexico, the US, and Brazil. So you won’t have trouble spoofing into and from France. They don’t share data with third parties, and their location makes them fairly immune to the 14 Eyes Big Brother and anti-piracy laws.
The sleek, simple, cross-platform client is easy to sort out, and you can have it on desktop and mobile. Hide.me performs reliably when unblocking streaming services, allows P2P and does not leak DNS.
You might think Hide.me has a complex payment structure, but it’s quite simple really. They have three plans with a 14-day money-back guarantee. One is a Free-Forever plan with extremely limited server coverage in Netherlands, Canada, and Singapore. It grants you limited protocol support, 2 GB data transfer and “best effort” bandwidth. You can only run it on one device, and naturally, speeds aren’t all that stellar.
The second is the Plus plan that covers 30+ server locations, unlimited bandwidth, and full protocol support. Here, too, you encounter unexpected restrictions – only one connection and 75 GB data transfer allowed. You can choose between three configurations - $9.95 if billed monthly, $40 if billed bi-annually, or $60 if billed annually.
The Premium plan finally drops the restrictions. It adds unlimited data transfer, five simultaneous connections, port forwarding, SOCKS proxy, a Kill Switch and fixed IP on top of what you can have in the Plus plan. Here, too, you can choose between $20 if billed monthly, $80 if billed bi-annually or $120 if billed annually.
Australians know the real value of a good VPN because they routinely rely on VPNs not only for the sake of better Netflix or Steam accessibility, but also for proper privacy and security. So, when going to Australia, do as the Aussies do.
A quick look at the news headlines shows that Australia is no stranger to cyber threats, state surveillance, content restrictions, and censorship.
Traditionally, Australia is the last priority amongst filmmakers, streaming services, and game developers when it comes to releasing a new product to an English-speaking market. This means you get fewer options when you want to stream TV shows, play PC or mobile games, or listen to music with an Australian IP.
On top of that, you have to pay an extra tax on your Steam and Netflix purchases. The Online Goods Tax - also called the Netflix Tax - mandates an additional 10% on digital goods Australians buy from foreign vendors on the Internet. Netflix seized the opportunity to roll out a new pricing structure for the region, with one tier of their subscriptions increasing by a whopping 20%. And as if all of this isn’t quite enough, Netflix libraries available to the Australian audience are significantly trimmed in comparison to US libraries.
Piracy is also an issue, as the Australian federal court ordered ISPs to block many popular torrent sites. Torrenting copyrighted content is a serious crime, and it comes as no solace that the ‘three strikes’ rule that obliged ISPs to notify torrenters on behalf of copyright holders was canned last year because it was too expensive to implement. When they find a cheaper way of penalizing the offenders, they’ll unleash the wrath of copyright Titans and trolls on torrenters. If this is you, beware!
Last year, Freedom House compiled a laundry list of laws that impose state surveillance and censorship, and grant state agencies unprecedented powers to snoop on your private life. For example, the Australian Data Retention Act requires ISPs and mobile carriers to retain your metadata for two years. Let that one sink in for a minute.
Law enforcement, spy agencies and a ridiculous amount of state entities like the Post Office, Taxi Services Commission, and the National Measurement Institute enjoy warrantless access to the metadata of an entire nation. All they need to do is fill out a short request form, and your telco discloses everything they have on you.
Top that off with booming cyber crime – Australia is one of the top 10 most targeted nations. So, with the widely-adopted public WiFi hotspots across the country, there’s a whole load of reasons to use a VPN.
That’s not to say you only need a VPN to spoof into the US or UK. You also need one to spoof into Australia, as the censorship of video games and websites hosted in Australia is one of the strictest in the western world. So if you are an Australian traveling abroad, you may find that your favorite Channel 9 - whose slogan is, ironically, Welcome Home! - is unavailable.
You absolutely need a VPN for Australia if anything from the following list is important to you:
Protecting yourself from hackers and secure your Internet connection
Securing your privacy from state surveillance
Avoiding Australian Site Blocking Bill and Data Retention Law
Accessing geo-restricted content
Avoiding the notorious “Netflix tax”
Accessing Australia-only content from abroad (Channel 9, Stan TV)
My top seven picks of VPNs for Australia are based on:
Wide server availability, including locations outside the 14 Eyes territories, and fast speeds
Rock-solid security and transparent zero-logs privacy policies
Reproducible and consistent performance when unblocking geo-restricted content and P2P file-sharing
User-friendly cross-platform clients
The best price per value proposition and a reputation of excellence
NordVPN is at the best in the market, with 830+ server locations and a decisive pro-privacy zero-logs stance. It's one of the few providers that can bypass Netflix' VPN blocks with reliable consistency, and their Australian servers come handy when you need to spoof into Australia.
NordVPN supports any desired protocol including OpenVPN, and it manages its own DNS servers to avoid leakage. They’re also based in Panama, which means no 14 Eyes surveillance and fairly lax anti-piracy laws. Top that off with a kill switch, double encryption, VPN into Tor, and you’re in for safe surfing.
NordVPN lets you enjoy P2P torrenting, gaming and HD video streaming, powered by blazing-fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth. Understandably, double encryption connections can be slower than the AES 256-bit.
The software suite is hands down one of the most intuitive and comes pre-configured, so you can easily pick ultra-fast servers for gaming and streaming, or ultra-secure when working with sensitive data. It also offers cross-platform support, and you can use it on up to six devices.
Monthly plans are $12. Their bi-annual subscription drops down to $42 and an anuual plan comes in at $70. By far, NordVPN’s long-term plan offers the best value for the money, especially since it’s backed by a generous 30-day refund policy.
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs out there, with a huge network of stealth servers in 94 countries, including Australia and the US. Their VPN client comes packed with AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN protocol, and SmartDNS, so you can unblock Netflix or any other streaming service on virtually any platform.
ExpressVPN is also watertight on anonymity and does not log any traffic data or DNS queries. They’re conveniently based in the British Virgin Islands, which is exempt from the 14 Eyes spying and anti-piracy laws. It supports unlimited P2P torrenting and gaming with consistently great speeds.
On the downside, you can only install ExpressVPN on three devices, which is a bit too tight if you ask me. That said, the apps are sleek and flexible, and come with a kill switch, auto-connect, and a DNS leak protection.
ExpressVPN offers a 30-day refund on all plans, and an annual subscription lands you a pretty good deal for $99.95 per year. Their bi-annual plan is reasonably priced at $60 while the monthly subscription comes at $13.
IPVanish is an all-around top-drawer VPN for Australia, with hundreds of servers in 60+ countries (including Australia). So expect lightning-fast connections for your HD streaming, gaming, and P2P file-sharing. They keep no logs and let you connect up to five devices.
IPVanish ships a feature-rich cross-platform software complete with 256-bit AES encryption, unlimited bandwidth, and SOCKS5 web proxy. Being one of the top contenders on the list that let you spoof into the US and UK, IPVanish has no issues unblocking the US libraries of Netflix, Steam and BBC iPlayer.
They also own their servers, which means no third parties manage your data. On the downside, they're based in the US, so data retention laws apply, but then again, they keep no logs in the first place.
IPVanish is also relatively affordable. Their monthly subscription is positioned at $10 per month, but the annual plan cuts that down to $6.49 per month, while all subscriptions have a seven-day money-back guarantee.
SlickVPN offers one of the best price-per-value deals, with 150+ servers in 124 locations, Melbourne and Sydney included. They keep no logs and deploy a Hydra technology to route your traffic through multiple gateways.
The speeds might not be stellar, but they’re reasonably decent, and you can have it on up to five devices per subscription. The downside is they don’t have mobile apps, so that leaves you with Mac and Windows only, and you need to make sure you follow the installation instructions carefully to avoid setup hiccups.
On the bright side, they don’t cap your bandwidth and allow unlimited P2P torrenting. SlickVPN also works remarkably well when unblocking streaming sites, and it’s by far one of the most conveniently priced VPNs with a 30-day refund policy. Their monthly plan starts at $10/month, while the 3-month subscription will set you back $20. The $48 yearly subscription is, quite frankly, dirt-cheap.
Private Internet Access offers massive server coverage, including Australia, so you get a pretty good and reliable connection. PIA is a property of the US-based Trust Media, so unfortunately US data retention laws and subsequent surveillance apply.
On the other hand, however, they use robust encryption, OpenVPN, ad and malware blocking, and keep no traffic logs. They even pulled out of Russia because they could no longer guarantee their customers’ privacy under the new Russian data retention laws.
That said, their software is easy to get the hang of, and comes with a bunch of extras and customizable perks. Most of you will love how they have no restrictions on P2P and allow up to five simultaneous connections, so you can stream, torrent and play all you want.
All subscriptions ship with a 7-day refund policy and the $39.95 annual plan is a clear winner if you’re on a tight budget. The monthly subscription comes at a fair $6.95, and the bi-annual drops down to $36.95. You can pay anonymously using gift cards, which makes it even easier to stay below the radar.
VyprVPN is a big player in the VPN market, and owns/manages all of its 700 servers. As a result, they boast quite impressive speeds and performance, effortlessly unblock streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix, and offer an intuitive, clean-cut, cross-platform client complete with 24/7 support.
VyprVPN is the property of Switzerland-based Golden Frog, so count on rock-solid privacy here: no data retention laws, zero logging policy, OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit encryption and a proprietary Chameleon encryption topped with a VyprDNS. Even though Vypr supports P2P file-sharing and does not limit your bandwidth, they have spoken out against illegal torrenting.
Recently they revamped their pricing structure, and now offer two plans that can be billed on an annual or monthly basis. They offer no refunds, but you can test the service for free with the three-day trial. The Basic plan covers three devices and comes at $60/year billed annually, and $120/year billed monthly. The Premium plan covers five devices and comes with a bag of goodies like a kill switch, Chameleon protocol, VyprVPN Cloud and DPI protection, and costs $80/year when billed annually or $155.4/year when billed monthly.
Their software comes with a wealth of bells and whistles you are likely to need – a DNS leak protection, a kill switch, OpenVPN protocol and reliable encryption. You will love its Port Discovery Mode, which lets you connect to public WiFi hotspots without a password.
Even though you can use up to five devices simultaneously, you can also install Buffered on as many devices as you wish – all using a single subscription. This makes Buffered an ideal bundle for families. Notably, they will automatically refund you if you haven’t used their VPN during the first seven days, which speaks volumes of their business ethic.
Buffered’s three subscription plans come complete with a 30-day money-back guarantee and only differ in the discounts granted to long-term subscribers. Other than that, all plans come with the same level of service. The one-month plan comes at $12.50; a bi-annual plan will set you back $57, and their annual subscription runs $93 per year.
The United Kingdom is famous for a lot of great things, like tea, Windsor castle, and the London Eye. Something else it’s infamous for is the amount of surveillance that takes place within its borders. The Investigatory Powers Act, also called the Snoopers Charter, gives the UK government legal justification to monitor a variety of different communications, including telephone calls and Internet activity. If you live in the UK, work in the UK or are just visiting on holiday, and are concerned about your privacy, using a VPN is not only smart – it’s a must.
A VPN can help ensure your privacy and security, and allow you to move past content barriers that local networks may have, including the blocking of certain websites and bandwidth throttling. VPNs offer freedom and privacy, but with so many on the market, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options available. If so, keep reading…
The seven VPNs I’ve outlined here are amongst the best you can get. And with a variety of different options as it relates to affordability, security, server selection, ease-of-use and privacy policies that protect your anonymity at all possible costs, you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
When shopping for a VPN, I would encourage you to keep the following in mind as you evaluate your options:
IPVanish has more than 700 servers in over 60 countries, and comes standard with features like a kill-switch and automatic IP cycling. Installation and setup is simple, and the user interface is super intuitive. You can even filter the servers you want to connect to. Additional features include DNS leak protection, OpenVPN, and compatibility with Windows, OS X, iOS and Android.
IPVanish has 3 different pricing plans, all which allow for up to five simultaneous connections:
Payments can be made by credit card, PayPal, and Bitcoin. No free trials are available, but each subscription does come with a seven-day money back guarantee.
Performance-wise, IPvanish is a bit of a mixed bag. Some tests were impressive, and improved speed by about 15%. Other tests actually cut download speeds by half. Results were inconsistent, yet the connection was always fast enough to be useable.
IPVanish’s TOS state that they don’t store logs like connection times, amount of data transferred or IP addresses. Unfortunately, the company is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, and subject to US legislation regarding privacy. So, if the NSA and/or FBI requests certain information, they are required to fork it over. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a high level of anonymity.
With over 1,000 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN is a user-friendly service that comes packed full of features like a kill-switch, ad blocking, malware blocking, P2P support, streaming tools and DNS leak blocking. The user interface is straightforward, with customization options neatly organized. The website isn’t quite as easy to navigate, however, which makes finding user support options difficult.
NordVPN has four subscription options, each of which allows for 6 devices to be connected at the same time. This is perfect for families and tech geeks like me.
All plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee. Nord accepts Bitcoin payments, as well as PayPal and credit card.
A month-to-month plan costs $11.95
A six month plan costs $7.00 a month, billed every six months
An annual subscription is $5.75 per month
A two-year plan drops down to $3.29 per month
NordVPN delivers consistent, but slightly slow performance. Ping dropped considerably when connecting to remote servers in placed like in India and Australia, yet download and upload speeds were fairly consistent overall.
NordVPN has a strict no log policy, and does not record time stamps, IP addresses, traffic logs or bandwidth. And since the company is based in Panama, it falls outside the jurisdiction of US and European data collection agencies.
British Virgin Islands based ExpressVPN maintains more than 1,000 servers in 94 countries, and offers fast connection speeds coupled with 24/7 customer service. Many of their servers support P2P and BitTorrent, and there’s a smart DNS option to help you geo-spoof your location. A kill switch comes standard with all their plans, the UI is extremely easy to use, and there are apps for many different types of devices including Playstation, Xbox, AppleTV, and Kindle Fire.
ExpressVPN has 3 different pricing plans to choose from:
A 30-day plan costs $12.95
An annual subscription costs $8.33 per month
A 15-month plan is $6.33 per month
There's no free trial, but there is a 30-day money back guarantee. The biggest knock is that you’re capped at 3 simultaneous connections.
ExpressVPN performs admirably well during tests, with servers in the US maintaining a normal download speed of 20 to 25 Mbps. Even remote servers like those in Pakistan maintained a steady speed of around 18 Mbps. Latency clocked in around 85% of a normal, direct connection and downloads around 80%.
Their Terms of Service state that they will never log traffic data or browsing activity, but they do collect data related to server selection, connection dates, and the total amount of data exchanged. IP addresses and connection times are not logged.
PureVPN comes packed with advanced features like IPv6 leak protection, a kill switch, and a split-tunneling option that lets you choose which traffic goes through the VPN and which goes through your regular ISP. And with more than 500 servers in 141 countries, they offer some of the best global coverage on the market. The cherry on top is their VPN browser, which gives users a speed boost of up to 20Mbps, regardless of the speed of their regular Internet connection. The biggest knock for me with PureVPN is that the user interface is pretty lackluster. It’s rather clunky for my personal tastes, and some options are hard to find since they’re buried in sub-menus.
From a pricing standpoint, PureVPN is extremely competitive:
Unfortunately, there’s no free trial available, but there is a 7-day money back guarantee and all 3 subscription options will allow you to connect 5 devices at a time.
30 days of service will cost you $9.99
A six-month subscription is $7.99 per month
A 2-year plan is $59.99
Performance-wise, PureVPN is great. They consistently maintain download speeds of 80%, and sometimes even improve on regular download speeds by up to an impressive 400%. Upload speeds are also pretty consistent with regular speeds and latency is around 5% higher than normal.
PureVPN logs the total amount of bandwidth used, and the amount of time you remain connected to any one server. Websites you visit, files you download, and connection dates are not logged. And since the company is based in Hong Kong, you’ll be safe from prying eyes and over-reaching government agencies.
Another Hong Kong-based VPN is Ivacy, which offers compatibility with many different platforms including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Xbox, and support for P2P connections. A non-stop server switching option is standard, which will let you change servers without any restrictions. There's also no data cap to speak of. With over 200 servers in more than 50 countries, coverage is good, but the mobile client is rarely updated and customer support options are limited. Thankfully, Ivacy is easy to install and use.
Ivacy offers three plans, all of which allow for up to 5 simultaneous connections:
A one month plan costs $6.75
A 6-month plans costs $5.75 per month
A two-year subscription comes out to $2.04 per month
There's a seven-day money back guarantee on all plans, but you cannot get your money back if you’ve connected more than 30 times or used more than 7Gb of bandwidth, which is pretty easy to do. They do accept anonymous payments from Bitcoin and Paymentwall, but no refunds are available if this is your preferred payment option.
Ivacy tests well from a performance standpoint, and delivers suitable upload and download speeds. Ping decreased when connected to the UK servers, but upload and download speeds stayed fairly constant.
Ivacy doesn’t log or monitor your online activities, nor do they store any data beyond your email address, so if privacy is a top priority for you, this may be a great option to consider.
Buffered VPN couples superb connection speeds with a wide network of servers that are spread out over 37 countries. Overall, it’s a pretty stripped down service, so it lacks many customization options and advanced features like a kill-switch and DNS leak blocking. It does support OpenVPN though, and many servers support P2P as well. The user interface is easy to install and navigate, but Buffered lacks a native mobile client, which may be a bit frustrating if you’re always on the go, like me.
Three different payment plans are available:
A month long membership will cost you $12.99
A six-month subscription is $59.94
An annual subscription costs $99
Buffered offers no free trials, nor do they accept untraceable currencies like Bitcoin. All plans do guarantee refunds for up to 10gb of capacity, however, and allow for up to 5 connections at a time.
In terms of performance, Buffered VPN holds its own. Download speeds for UK servers were usually around 95% and upload speeds were typically unchanged. Latencies fluctuated, sometimes performing better than normal and sometimes dropping by as much as 40%.
Buffered is based in Hungary, which has charitable privacy and data retention laws. They don’t log IP addresses, connection times, or information about files downloaded. The only data they do collect is related to the length of your session and how much data ou use.
Private Internet Access maintains an impressive 3300 servers in more than 24 countries, along with an even more impressive feature set that includes malware and ad blocking options, OpenVPN, and support for P2P. Customization options are limited, however, and you don’t have the option of selecting a specific server. You can only select a specific geographical area. Customer support is also a little lackluster, and no live chat option is available. The user interface is extremely simple to use, but lacks good design sense, at least in my humble opinion.
PIA offers three subscription options, all of which support up to 5 simultaneous connections:
A one month plan costs $6.95
A six-month subscription costs $35.95
An annual subscription is $39.95
There are no free trials available, but they do have a 7-day refund policy. They accept payments by credit card, Paypal, Google Wallet, and Bitcoin.
Private Internet Access’ performance is OK, but nothing to write home about. Latency increases by around 85%, while upload and download speeds drop by anywhere between 15-25%. Not great performance, but still very useable.
PIA records basic details like your email address and payment information, but that’s about it. So, if privacy is the driving motivation behind using a VPN, you’re in luck.