Many schools and college campuses have strict policies regulating access to online content. They block access to certain websites in an effort to keep their students – and faculty – focused on studies and work. You can’t blame your school for trying to help you focus. But the collateral damage from these restrictions can be frustrating to someone who is used to unrestricted access to information.
Keeping faculty and students behind institutionalized firewalls often blocks them from accessing content they actually need for research. Why, being locked out of your streaming sites and gaming servers is bad enough because you can’t get a moment of peace during short breaks between classes.
A Virtual Private Network helps you bypass your school’s blocks and browse the Internet freely.
Schools and universities restrict access to parts of the Internet having the best of intentions while all students are subject to their Acceptable Use restrictions.
School firewalls aren’t perfect, however. Sometimes, legitimate resources end up within a range of blacklisted addresses. As a result, students end up with a laundry list of websites they can’t access from school premises.
Anything from social media platforms to YouTube, Netflix, and eBay can end up on the block list. Let alone torrenting communities and sometimes even email servers. Entertainment aside, many of those blocked platforms contain a wealth of educational content.
Too often, draconian restrictions end up causing more harm than good. Besides, schools are supposed to be environments that foster free access to information instead of censoring it. So a VPN is an essential tool that helps you protect your right to online freedom, privacy, and security.
Colleges and schools typically monitor and log all your activity. This means school admins know what you’re up to online.
A VPN keeps your browsing private, so nobody – neither your school’s IT admins nor ISP – can track and monitor your online activities.
Although your school’s WiFi is most likely password protected, it is far from being secure. The password is an open secret in most cases while anyone from young hackers honing their skills to malicious outsiders can launch a honeypot or Man-in-the-Middle attack to steal your identity, or hack your webcam and snoop on you. In targeted attacks, evil pranksters can delete your term papers, research notes, or block your computer and demand ransom (ransomware).
The same dangers are looming from any public WiFi network, be it at school, in a shopping mall, park, or in restaurants.
A VPN encrypts your traffic, so those malicious intruders are unable to decrypt it and cause any damage.
Unfortunately, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, most gaming sites and servers as well as Facebook and Twitter are blocked by many schools. While the reasons for the ban are understandable (streaming and gaming eat up a lot of bandwidth), paying for a Netflix subscription and being unable to use it for months on end is unfair either.
With a VPN, you bypass your school’s firewall and can stream and play freely.
Most schools explicitly ban P2P file-sharing, levying harsh punishment for copyright infringement. You can torrent behind a VPN and your school will never know you access a torrenting website.
Many schools not only block VPN providers’ websites to prevent students from downloading VPN software but also block VPNs as such. To use a VPN on your college network, you need to be sure your college firewall won’t block it. From here, it gets a little technical but you need to know which VPN features are important to bypass school firewalls.
Schools can block VPNs using two methods:
Port Blocking is easier and cheaper to implement. In this case, schools block all ports except for HTTPS port 443 used for encrypted traffic, and HTTP port 80 used for unencrypted traffic. All applications using other ports get effectively blocked.
As far as VPNs are concerned, only SSTP protocol works on port 443. Neither OpenVPN nor IPSec/L2TP or PPTP use ports 443 or 80.
The good news is SSTP provides significantly better security than PPTP. The bad news is it only works on Windows.
A workaround is possible if your VPN supports port forwarding. That way, you can set up OpenVPN via port 443. The bad news is not all VPNs support port forwarding. Another bad news is port forwarding is only possible on desktop computers, and not on mobile devices.
Hence, your best bet would be to choose a VPN that:
DPI is a more advanced – and more expensive – technique. It enables school firewalls to detect encryption tools, distinguish OpenVPN traffic from regular HTTPS traffic, and block VPN traffic selectively.
If your college is that Orwellian, your best bet would be to choose a VPN that provides masking capabilities to hide your VPN traffic and make it look like regular HTTPS traffic. In layman terms, look for protection against Deep Packet Inspection.
Depending on what you intend to do through your VPN, you may need to look for other features, such as server coverage in a particular region, unblocking streaming sites or gaming servers. For a full breakdown of key VPN features, give my VPN Guide for Beginners a brief look.
Nord VPN is one of the top options on this list because it provides double data encryption, zero logs, and solid security. Nord VPN is based in Panama, which is also good for privacy protection. Their custom desktop app includes a kill switch and DNS leak protection.
A single license grants you six simultaneous connections, and you can order a few extra goodies, such as Dedicated, Shared Static and Dynamic IP. P2P is allowed and streaming is seamless with most sites.
Their 30-day money-back guarantee covers all first-time purchases. A month of Nord VPN will set you off $11.95 while their yearly subscription is conveniently priced at $69.
Hide.me accepts Bitcoin and 100+ other payment options, and provides excellent speeds. There is a free plan with limited bandwidth while their Plus plan is dirt-cheap at $4.99 per month. It buys you 75GB data, unlimited bandwidth and 30 server locations. Hide.me’s Premium kicks in at $9.99 a month bundling comprehensive features, including port forwarding. It also supports SSTP protocol and utilizes SoftEther custom encryption protocol designed to mask VPN traffic.
Pure VPN is a Hong Kong-based company with over 11 years on the market. With 750+ self-managed servers in 180 locations, Pure VPN comes as one of the most robust solutions for college students. It supports a wealth of protocols, including SSTP, and a wide range of platforms.
Its intuitive cross-platform client features a kill switch, NAT firewall, and split tunneling. So you get protection from unexpected VPN connection drops and unencrypted data leaks while being able to decide which apps get to send their traffic through the VPN, and which can go through the unencrypted school channel.
Its monthly price is just about even with most other providers – you can have their monthly subscription for $9.95, but a two-year license is a true bargain at $59.
VyprVPN owns and manages an impressive fleet of 700 ultra fast servers across the globe. It is also emphatically zero-logs and successfully bypasses most firewall thanks to numerous leak protections baked into its custom software.
VyprVPN features streaming and gaming optimized servers, as well as a wealth of security perks such as NAT Firewall and a proprietary Chameleon protocol that bypasses your college firewall and ISP-imposed throttling.
Vypr VPN has a 3-day free trial and two paid plans. Basic kicks in at $9.95 per month or $45 a year while Premium is available for $12.95 a month of $60 a year
Strong VPN has been around for 20 years, consistently providing high-end privacy and security features in wallet-friendly packages. Highlights include a wide selection of protocols, complete with OpenVPN obfuscation tools that let you bypass firewalls like that of China. So it works just fine for bypassing college blocks.
Strong VPN features more than 500 servers across 26 countries and offers impeccable speeds for gaming, streaming, and torrenting.
Priced at $10 in a month-to-month subscription, Strong VPN will set you off $69.95 if you commit to a yearly plan.
TorGuard VPN offers servers in 51 countries, solid encryption, P2P-optimized servers, extremely fast speeds in the U.S., and plenty of security features. Its custom SSL-based VPN client is blazing fast while you can also leverage its inbuilt proxy and embedded Man-in-the-Middle attack prevention.
TorGuard VPN allows five simultaneous connections per license while its Stealth feature helps you bypass college firewalls with ease. Desktop apps feature a kill switch, ad blocker, and malware blocker. It also integrates well with mainstream BitTorrent applications.
Available at $10 in its monthly subscription, TorGuard offers a significant discount on its yearly plan priced at $60.
Express VPN runs a well-oiled machine of hundreds of servers across 94 countries. It’s great for gaming, streaming, torrenting, and bypassing school firewalls. Express VPN features a zero-logs policy, which is great if privacy is top of mind for you. It also accepts Bitcoin and allows up to three simultaneous connections.
Express VPN runs a 24/7 live chat support, which is one of the best in the industry, so you can always count on timely assistance. It also works with most streaming websites and provides excellent speeds apt for streaming and gaming.
Its monthly and yearly license costs $12.95 and $99.95 respectively, backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Below are some more suggestions in case the above providers don’t make the cut for some reason:
Many schools and universities block access to VPN websites, which means you can’t subscribe to a service and install a VPN while being connected to your school network.
If that is the case, use your mobile connection to access a VPN provider’s website. Likewise, consider using public Wi-Fi hotspot in any of the nearby parks or cafes. You are strongly advised against online shopping via public Wi-Fi without a VPN, though.
Alternatively, you can share your mobile connection with your laptop by turning your phone into a mobile hotspot (here’s how to do it on iOS and Android).
Although there is a gazillion of free VPNs, especially on mobile app stores, many of them are downright malware. But most of them log your usage, so you end up submitting your browsing behavior to your school and VPN provider.
Also, it might be a bad idea to download terabytes of data while torrenting through your college network. Play nice and respect other users. It won’t do you good if college admins start investigating who is clogging the bandwidth.
One final word about torrenting – U.S. colleges are legally bound to comply with the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). So think twice if you need to get yourself into a DMCA dispute. Don’t try torrenting without a VPN, and always torrent with a kill switch enabled.
The more schools and colleges crack down on Internet freedom, the more VPNs are becoming popular among unlikely audiences. These days, tech-savvy students – and faculty – are well-familiar with numerous advantages of VPNs. The good news is you don’t need to have a technical background to use a VPN and enjoy its privacy benefits while bypassing your college firewall.How to Access VPN Websites
If you have more VPN suggestions for the list or would like to share your experience bypassing your school’s firewall, please share your thoughts in the comments below.
ExpressVPN is simple and speedy. It’s also one of the higher-end providers. Ease of use and its awesome features justify the price though. It’s reliable and lag-free with a staggering network of servers in 94 countries. You’ll get access to the American Netflix, and if you run into any issues, their support is fast and efficient.
The software comes with AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN support, SmartDNS, auto-connect and a kill switch. You can torrent and play online, sans traffic or bandwidth caps, but you can only install it on three devices, which is a tad disappointing if you ask me. That said, the client is sleek and intuitive.
They offer a 30-day refund, and while the $13 monthly plan is expensive, the bi-annual subscription is $60, and the annual is justly set at $100.
ExpressVPN keeps no logs or DNS queries, and even though it’s beyond the 14 Eyes, its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands is somewhat of a gray zone.
Note: ExpressVPN is now offering a reader exclusive: save 49% on my top recommended VPN.
Surfshark offers all the desirable perks, including military grade encryption, impressive high speeds, the ability to unblock content (websites and regional), 24/ 7 customer support, affordable subscription rates and a whole lot more.
Surfshark comes standard with features including a kill switch, multi-hop connections, whitelister, CleanWeb and a DNS leak protection functionality. Its Whitelister feature helps you during split tunneling to single out apps and sites to bypass the VPN. The kill switch feature comes in handy when you leave your connected device unattended since it’ll disconnect you from the Internet whenever your VPN connection drops.
NordVPN is hands down the best VPN if you’re after maximum privacy at all times. It sports a nicely designed interface, which is intuitive, and comes with a nifty search feature that makes things as simple as they can be. I like how they sorted their servers into Ultra-fast and Ultra-secure, which is ultra-convenient.
NordVPN is rock-solid on privacy with headquarters in Panama, which is well beyond the 14 Eyes. So, you can count on zero logs policy, and software packed with all the bells and whistles that make a VPN robust – OpenVPN, 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, DNS leak protection, double encryption, VPN into Tor – you get the idea.
It’s also fast with impressive 830+ server locations, which makes it an excellent choice for P2P file-sharing, online gaming, and HD streaming. There are no annoying bandwidth caps here, and you can connect to Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, or France’s Canal+ if you wish – there’s a server for every need. The double encryption will understandably slow things down.
They offer apps for all popular platforms, and you can use it on up to six devices for $12 a month, $42 per six months, or $70 per year, which is the best value for the money topped with a generous 30-day money-back guarantee.
PureVPN has a huge choice of 750 servers in 141 countries and counting. The sheer volume of features, toggles, and tools they provide makes it a top contender for the advanced users. There is a stealth browsing mode, online banking security, secure FTP access, multiple protocols and more. They have server lists optimized for P2P and video streaming, so switching is easy.
PureVPN allows up to five simultaneous connections, supports a staggering amount of platforms from routers and smart TVs to ROKU and Boxee, and unblocks streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Note that speeds might drop during peak hours though.
As far as pricing goes, it’s one of the most affordable VPNs on the list. They offer a three-day free trial and three plans - $12 monthly, $9 per month on bi-annual plan and $3 per month for a two-year subscription. Each comes standard with a 7-day money-back guarantee.
IPVanish is great for beginners, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in features. It’s robust yet simple to install and even has a Simple Mode. IPVanish doesn't log your data or connection details, and its client comes complete with a kill switch, 256-bit AES encryption, Open VPN and SOCKS5 web proxy.
They have hundreds of servers across the world, so the performance is lag-free most of the time. Some US servers won't unblock Netflix US, but some do – all it takes is a brief chat with the tech support.
It works great for HD streaming, P2P torrenting and online gaming as the bandwidth is not capped. You can have up to five simultaneous connections for $10 per month, or $6.49 per month if you commit to an annual plan. All subscriptions come with a seven-day money-back guarantee.
The drawback is that they’re US-based, so the whole bundle of data retention and surveillance laws apply. On the bright side, they keep no logs.
Buffered VPN is a Hungary-based provider, which means no data retention laws or excessively intrusive surveillance. Top that off with the zero-logs policy, P2P support, sleek apps for Windows, Mac, Linux and iOS that ship with the DNS leak protection, OpenVPN, and 256-bit encryption, and you’re in for the real deal.
The server coverage isn’t overly impressive, but the speeds are decent because the servers are located in useful places. I love their Port Discovery Mode, which lets you connect safely to public Wi-Fi hotspots without a password. You can use up to five simultaneous connections, and you can install Buffered apps on as many devices as you have.
They allow a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans, and the one-month subscription kicks in at $12.50, the bi-annual at $57, and the annual at $93.
VyprVPN is a powerful contender if you’re after performance and security. It boasts great speeds due to a staggering network of 700+ serves and more than 200K IP addresses. They own and manage their servers, which translates into reliable uptime, lag-free performance, top-notch support and great speeds. Add in unlimited bandwidth and P2P support, successful handling of Netflix and Steam geo blocks, and you can check all your VPN must-have features right off the bat.
VyprVPN comes with a sleek cross-platform client, Open VPN, AES-256 encryption, a proprietary Chameleon technology, VyprDNS and zero-logs policy, which is a rather impressive list. They’re also based in Switzerland, which means pro-privacy laws.
Unlike many other providers, VyprVPN offers no money-back guarantee, but you can test their service for free for three days. They have two plans that you can have billed on a monthly or annual basis. Basic allows up to three simultaneous connections and kicks in at $60/year if billed annually, and $120/year if billed monthly.
Premium allows up to five simultaneous connections and costs $80/year if billed annually or $155.4/year if billed monthly. It also ships with Chameleon technology for throttling and defeating geo blockades, a kill switch, and other advanced features.
Private Internet Access, or PIA, is a top performer overall, and one of the cheapest for that matter. It’s also one of the most fully-fledged VPNs out there, with 3K+ servers worldwide and a reliable, no-lag performance.
They deploy the solid 256-bit AES encryption and support OpenVPN protocol. You can count on ad and malware blocking while the client is intuitive and packed with customizable settings. They enforce no restrictions on P2P or bandwidth and allow up to five simultaneous connections.
You can stream and play to your heart’s content, but you won’t be able to unblock Netflix US. They’re based in the US, which may be a turn-off if you’re privacy-paranoid, but they keep no logs and let you pay anonymously.
All plans are backed by a 7-day money-back guarantee and are wallet-friendly at $7 in the monthly, $37 in the bi-annual, and $40 in the annual subscription.
In layman’s terms, a VPN hides your real IP address by assigning you a different IP address as you connect to one of the provider’s servers. That way, you can pretend you’re someplace else, or spoof. Your traffic is encrypted between your device and the VPN server, so that your real ISP can’t peek into your online activities.
If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, you need a VPN. Hackers, state surveillance, censorship, copyright laws, geo-blocks - a myriad of hazards can be avoided if you use a VPN.
Think of every time you shop online, the passwords you’re typing, the credit card details you’re throwing into the digital vortex – all that data is vulnerable to cyber crooks preying on the unencrypted pieces of your life.
VPNs are also essential for anyone living, working or traveling to countries with severe censorship, copyright and surveillance laws like Germany, France, the UK, China, Russia or Arab Emirates.
You don’t have to be a political dissident or torrenter to need a VPN. You just need to face the unjust geo blocks imposed by streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, or realize you’re locked out of your favorite shows just because you’re outside of the US.
VPNs keep you safe, open your digital boundaries and give you granular control over how you appear online. In a perfect world, privacy online should be the default for every program we use, but in the real world, the Internet is the wild west.
So, with a VPN:
Keep in mind that if you download malicious files while using a VPN, you only have yourself to blame. You still need to use common sense, even if your browsing is protected by a VPN.
The top of the crop providers must meet several key criteria to make it on my list:
There's a reason why all these VPNs are paid. Providing encryption and VPN services to millions of users is a resource-intensive work that requires servers across the world. A free VPN might be enough for something minor like checking foreign news occasionally. If you need a VPN on a regular basis, however, you’re better off with a reliable paid service.
Free VPNs are more likely to leak your data, provide weak encryption, or worse, collect and trade your personal details. Some trustworthy providers offer free but limited service as a way to attract more customers, and I’ve compiled a list of these, too.
When choosing your VPN, do your research and mind the legal aspects. Countries like Germany, France or Japan are cracking down on copyright infringement, while the members of the 14 Eyes treaty have draconian data retention laws and extensive surveillance. So, if you’re looking to maximize your privacy, you might want to avoid connecting to servers in those countries.
See if the plan you want to invest in offers ample server coverage in the region of your interest. Don’t just buy because a plan offers 300 servers. Sometimes, fewer servers in meaningful locations ensure far better performance.
In most cases, VPNs offer 3-6 simultaneous connections per user so you can use it from both desktop and mobile. Most providers can tell if you’re hogging resources by allowing your entire family to stream and torrent at the same time, which can get you in trouble.
Whereas most providers say they log nothing, that’s not always the case. Some record very little data like the day you subscribed, the amount of data you’ve consumed, and delete those logs when you end the session. Other providers log your IP address, the servers you used, and store those logs. If they’re based in the US, UK or any other country with data retention laws, they can be compelled to hand over that data to law enforcement.
Also, study the pricing structure carefully. Some very cheap deals might not include taxes, or be cheap only during the first month. Also, a refund policy may have prohibitive restrictions, so a deal that appears wallet-friendly upon the first look may not always be a good bargain.
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.