There are hundreds of VPN services on the market, some good, some bad, and some downright dangerous.
One thing’s for sure, you certainly don’t want to end up using an unsafe VPN that puts your online security and privacy at risk.
That’s where we can help. We’ve tested 99 VPN services extensively to answer the ultimate question: what is the best VPN for 2019?
The five VPN services we recommend below are the absolute best VPNs we’ve seen.
Not only are these trusted VPN providers are fast, private, and safe, but they will also unblock your favorite websites and apps from anywhere in the world.
Want to unlock Netflix’s full video library? Torrent safely and privately? Use public WiFi securely? Bypass aggressive online censorship? These VPN services will do all of that, and more.
And if you think it’s hard to install a VPN, think again. These five VPNs are super easy to download, install, and use.
Sounds great, right?
Keep reading for our honest review of each of these VPN services, where we look at their pros and cons, how much they cost, and how to get them.
Here’s a sneak peek at the top three:
Here are the Most Important Factors When We Review a VPN
- Privacy and security features
- Download (and upload) speeds
- Jurisdiction and logging policies
- Netflix and torrenting availability
- Ease-of-use and customer support
- How much it costs
Wondering why you should trust our reviews? Take a look at How We Test VPNs
See More Information on the 5 Best VPN Services
What Is a VPN?
In a nutshell, a Virtual Private Network – VPN for short – is a piece of software that routes your internet traffic to its own servers through an encrypted tunnel before the traffic reaches the website, service, or app you want to access.
What does that mean for you, though?
This process ensures that your browser traffic remains secure and private, preventing your ISP or any other third parties from snooping on your online activities.
You might have heard about VPNs in the context of the workplace. Business VPNs allow employees to access the office network remotely and securely.
On the other hand, personal VPNs – the ones we test and review – are slightly different.
Personal VPNs are generally used by individuals who don’t need remote access to files on a home or work network.
They are used for personal privacy and security reasons, instead.
We strongly believe that everyone should use a VPN to protect themselves online.
If you’d like to know more details about what a VPN is and how it works, please read our guide ‘What Is a VPN?’.
Why Should You Use a VPN?
Now you know what a VPN is you’re probably wondering: why should you use one?
Well, there are loads of reasons to use a VPN. Here are the main benefits:
1Keeps your online activities private from your ISP, the government, and snoopers
Without a VPN, your internet service provider (ISP) logs everything you do online.
If that’s not unsettling enough, under many unsuspecting jurisdictions ISPs are forced to track and store customers’ online activities and hand it over to the authorities if asked to.
That’s pretty scary.
In some countries, like the United States, ISPs are also permitted to collect, share, and sell your personal data and information about your online habits to third parties, including advertisers.
They can do this without your explicit consent. That’s a huge infringement of your privacy.
If you want to prevent this from happening you need to use a trusted VPN service.
When you connect to a VPN server, your internet provider is unable to see beyond that server and therefore can’t track what you do online.
2Allows you to bypass online geo-restrictions
You already know that the internet provides a wealth of information and content, but did you know that not all of it is accessible from where you live?
That applies to every country.
When you connect to a VPN server your real IP address is replaced with the IP address of the server.
You can unlock geo-restricted content by connecting to a VPN server in the region where that content is readily available, as the website will think you’re really in that country.
Just make sure the VPN service you choose comes with VPN servers in your desired countries or cities.
One popular example of geo-restricted content is Netflix.
Netflix libraries are different in every country, varying in size and content drastically from one to another.
If you aren’t in the US but want to access US Netflix – which has the biggest Netflix content library in the world – you’ll need to use a VPN.
3Protects you from hackers on public WiFi
Public WiFi hotspots are dangerous.
Because they can be vulnerable to hackers who might try to steal your personal information.
Hackers can conduct a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on your device, eavesdrop, intercept your private data, or carry out a phishing scam.
While convenient, free WiFi networks in restaurants, coffee shops, department stores, and on public transport are all very risky.
Using a VPN can help stop hackers from carrying out these attacks.
This means can use the internet while out and about without the worry of being spied upon or having your details stolen.
4Helps you to beat censorship imposed by the government, your ISP, your workplace, or school
Censorship seems to be everywhere now – it’s no longer restricted to the most authoritarian regimes like China.
The owner of any internet network can impose blocks to specific websites and apps. The most common examples are in the workplace, schools, or libraries.
Governments can force ISPs to block websites and apps, too.
In China, for instance, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all blocked at a government-level, along with thousands of other websites.
The best – and safest – way to get around censorship blocks is to use a good VPN.
Your VPN connection will take you to the censored website as opposed to your internet provider.
Not all VPNs work in China, though – in fact only a tiny minority have what it takes to beat the country’s sophisticated censorship. If you want to use one there check out our list of the best VPNs for China.
What’s the Best VPN?
As we’ve said, there are loads of VPN services out there, but the absolute best one we’ve tested is undoubtedly ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN excels in almost every area: it’s private, it’s exceptionally fast, and it’s reliable.
You can use ExpressVPN to watch Netflix, you can use it to torrent safely, and it even works in China.
If you can afford ExpressVPN’s slightly higher price, we fully recommend it.
Are VPNs Legal?
VPNs are clearly very useful tools, but are they really legal?
Yes, VPNs are legal. At least in the majority of countries.
Here are the countries where VPN usage is illegal:
Belarusians are prohibited from accessing foreign websites, and face fines for using a VPN to bypass blocks.
VPNs were fully banned in Iraq in 2014, a move that the government defended by claiming that it would stop terrorist organizations such as ISIS using them for influencing over social media.
North Koreans are technologically isolated from the outside world, unallowed to view foreign media. VPNs are illegal, but the punishment for using one is unknown.
In 2015, Turkmenistan banned the use of VPNs in order to censor foreign media. Fines are issued to those who go against this law, and sometimes the accused will be summoned to the Ministry of National Security to have a “preventative conversation.”
And here are the countries where VPN usage is restricted:
Only government-approved VPNs are permitted in China. VPN providers have to comply with the Chinese Communist Party’s demands which may include logging user details. Many non-government-approved VPNs are blocked in China.
Since 2013 only sanctioned VPNs are permitted in Iran, and they are heavily monitored. If you use a non-sanctioned VPN service you may face a year-long prison sentence. Like China, Iran actively blocks VPN traffic.
While corporate VPNs are permitted in Oman – albeit highly monitored – personal VPN usage is against the law. If broken, the law can bring a fine of OMR500 (~$1,300).
Only government-approved VPNs are permitted in Russia. This is to stop citizens from accessing “unlawful content.” There are hefty fines for those who use non-permitted VPNs, and even heftier fines for the VPN services themselves.
The Turkish government started to restrict VPN usage in 2016 in an alleged attempt to fight terrorism.
During the Arab Spring of 2012 the United Arab Emirates began restricting VPN usage, allowing only government-approved VPNs. This is to discourage the use of VoIP services like Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook, forcing people to fork out on expensive subscription fees for local telecom services.
You can read more about the legality of using VPNs in our guide ‘Are VPNs Legal?’.
If you’re located outside of the above countries that prohibit the use of VPNs, you can download and use a VPN without any legal repercussions.
That’s as long as you don’t use a VPN to mask illegal activities.
If you use a VPN to break the law, you can still be caught and punished. We recommend you never use a VPN to do anything that you wouldn’t do without one.
Does a VPN Really Protect You?
Yes, using a VPN does protect you from numerous threats online.
Good VPNs can keep you safe from hackers and online surveillance by encrypting your personal data and hiding your IP address.
There are some threats that you will need a different set of tools for, though.
Some VPN services come with the ability to block pop-ups, but you’ll want to install your own ad-block extension to help with that.
VPNs are not antivirus software, either.
However, some VPNs do provide some real-time malware protection.
While a VPN may help prevent harmful or malicious software reaching your computer in some circumstances, you should always use dedicated antivirus software.
Can You Trust Your VPN Service?
When you use a VPN all your internet traffic flows through the VPN provider’s servers. So you want to be sure that you’re using a VPN worthy of your trust.
How do you know if a VPN service is to be trusted?
A good, trustworthy VPN service retains no logs, properly encrypts your traffic, refuses to hand over user data to those it doesn’t belong to, and is based in a secure and safe jurisdiction.
A bad VPN collects extensive user logs, mines and sells data, manipulates your traffic, and can even share your browsing data with governments and third parties.
Before you make a decision on which VPN to subscribe to you should make sure you fully understand what encryption it uses, what sort of data it logs, and what legal jurisdiction it falls under (click on the links to go to the relevant guides).
We make sure to cover all of these important areas in our independent VPN reviews.
Rest assured that you really can trust the five VPN services on this page as the best for 2019.
Can You Be Tracked if You Use a VPN?
A VPN does not make you 100% untraceable – it’s important to bear that in mind and set your expectations accordingly before downloading one.
If someone, be they a hacker or government, wants to track you down online then with enough determination they will be able to.
However, tracking someone who uses a VPN is significantly more difficult than tracking someone who doesn’t.
A proper VPN service will swap your IP address and DNS servers for one of its own, encrypt your traffic thoroughly, and then delete any connection and browsing logs that you leave behind so as to secure your anonymity.
The rule when using a VPN is simple: don’t do anything when connected to a VPN that you wouldn’t do without one.
You can reduce the chances of being tracked online by using a privacy-friendly web browser – as opposed to, say, Google Chrome – alongside your VPN.
Let’s take Tenta Browser as an example.
This privacy-centered web browser automatically blocks ads and trackers, and it vows never to sell your personal data.
You should also consider how search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook track, log, and sell your personal information.
If you’re concerned about being tracked online, use a more private search engine like DuckDuckGo.
Which VPN is the Safest & Most Secure?
All of the VPN services listed on this page are extremely secure and will keep you safe and private online.
Any VPN that we recommend will have the most advanced encryption technologies and security features in place.
None of them leak your IP address or DNS requests – we’ve thoroughly tested them all. If you’d like to find out more about leaks and testing read our guide here.
Can VPNs Be Hacked?
In theory, VPNs can be hacked.
But if you use a good VPN, it’s highly unlikely to happen.
VPNs use encryption to keep your internet traffic secure and private, but not all VPNs use strong encryption.
The outdated VPN protocol PPTP is an example of weak security. Some VPNs use PPTP because it’s compatible with pretty much any device.
But its compatibility comes at a cost, and that cost is your privacy.
PPTP can be cracked in minutes, leaving your personal data vulnerable to prying eyes.
If you use OpenVPN with cipher AES-256 it would take billions of years and a whole lot of processing power to be cracked through brute force.
Stick with one of our recommended VPN services and your confidential data will be kept safe and secure. A good VPN will prevent hackers from taking advantage of you online.
Are VPNs Easy to Use? Which Is the Easiest?
When we test a VPN service, we really download, set up, and use it.
We test every VPN app on every platform offered to make sure it’s as easy as possible to use.
Whether you’re a VPN beginner or a tech expert, our best VPN recommendations are intuitive and quick to set up, with lots of advanced features that are clearly labeled, accompanied by in-depth online support.
Take a look at the ExpressVPN Windows app, for instance:
As you can see, ExpressVPN’s custom app is clean, intuitive, and simple.
Just select the VPN server location and hit the big connect button – you’re good to go.
But not all VPNs are as easy to use.
Here’s an example of a more complicated VPN app:
AirVPN is a great VPN for experienced users, but its custom apps are unintuitive and user-unfriendly.
They’re cluttered, confusing, and even frustrating at times. But AirVPN’s apps do come with loads of configurable options that some simpler apps lack.
If you’re a VPN beginner, we recommend using a VPN service with simple custom apps before moving onto more complicated ones like those of AirVPN.
On Which Devices Can I Use a VPN?
Depending on the VPN service that you choose, you can use a VPN on pretty much any internet-connected device.
Some VPNs offer custom/native apps for a wide range of devices (like the ones recommended on this page), while others come with only mobile apps, for example.
It’s sometimes possible to manually configure VPNs to work on devices or platforms that lack a custom app. This is a little trickier than downloading an app, though.
Take a look at the following guides to find out the best VPNs for a particular device:
You can also install VPN add-ons for your browser, though these are proxy extensions rather than full-blown VPN connections.
These are available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. We have rounded up the best VPNs for the following browsers:
If you want to protect all internet-connected devices in your home, be sure to install the VPN at router level.
How Do You Set Up & Install a VPN?
It’s easy to install and set up a VPN if it comes with custom apps.
In that case, all you need to do is download the app from the VPN provider’s website, follow the installation prompts, and log in.
If there are no native apps available for the device you’d like to protect, you may be able to use manual configuration to install the VPN.
Check out our comprehensive installation guides for the following devices and platforms:
- Microsoft Windows
- Apple MacOS
- iOS (iPhone and iPad)
- Amazon Fire TV and Stick
- Apple TV
Once you’ve installed the VPN onto your device, you should take a look at the VPN settings before you connect to a server.
Be sure to enable the VPN kill switch and any DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection.
Now select your preferred VPN server and click the connect button.
Will Using a VPN Slow Down Your Internet Speeds?
Generally speaking, yes, but not by much if you choose the right VPN.
VPNs work by routing online traffic through an encrypted tunnel, which slows down your internet speed a little in the process.
You can ensure that you get the fastest possible speeds by connecting to the nearest VPN server to your physical location. The farther away the VPN server is, the slower the speeds will be.
If your VPN shows the server loads of each server within the app, choosing the server with the lowest server load will produce better speeds.
Some VPN protocols are quicker than others – but be aware that speed sometimes comes at a price. For example, PPTP is a very fast protocol, but it’s not secure.
IKEv2 is an example of a very quick (and secure) VPN protocol.
The very best VPNs (those recommended on this page) will only slow your internet down by about 10% if you connect to nearby VPN servers.
That probably won’t affect anything you do online.
You’ll be able to stream, torrent, and browse as you normally do without a VPN, but you’ll be much safer doing so with one.
In some cases, using a VPN may help you to experience faster speeds if your ISP usually throttles your connection when you stream or torrent.
What Is the Fastest VPN?
When it comes to performance, the most reliable VPN service is ExpressVPN.
It’s not quite the fastest on nearby servers – that’s Private Internet Access – but it’s definitely the most consistent and the quickest overall.
On same-country connections ExpressVPN only slows down internet speeds by about 11%. Take a look at our speed test below:
ExpressVPN is consistent across its whole VPN server network, and it’s fast over longer distances, like the UK to the US, too.
Can You Use a VPN for Streaming Netflix?
Yes, you can use a VPN to stream Netflix.
But not with every VPN.
Netflix actively blocks VPN providers. Ever seen this annoying error message when you try to watch something on Netflix with a VPN or proxy?
Getting a good VPN for Netflix is crucial if you don’t want to see this message every time you try to catch up on your favorite shows.
Check out our list of the best VPNs for Netflix here.
Some VPN services like CyberGhost and PrivateVPN come with dedicated streaming services that help you to unlock video content instantly.
Others like ExpressVPN and NordVPN don’t, but they still work with most popular services.
Just get in touch with the live chat support team to find out which VPN servers to use in order to access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sky, or whatever your service of choice may be.
Some VPNs unlock various Netflix libraries, which is great for accessing geo-specific content.
Did you know that US Netflix has twice the number of TV shows as UK Netflix?
It’s true – and that difference can be even larger depending on where you live in the world.
Other streaming services you can watch with a VPN are BBC iPlayer (click the link to find out the best VPNs for iPlayer), Hulu, and Pandora, among many, many more.
Do VPNs Protect Torrenting?
A secure and trustworthy VPN is an essential tool for any torrenting fan.
Because even if you aren’t engaging with copyrighted material, the moment you open up a torrent client and begin downloading or uploading files your IP address is exposed, leaving you vulnerable to hackers and snoopers.
Using a VPN will hide your true IP address and encrypt all of your traffic.
When it comes to choosing a VPN for torrenting, there are two necessities: speed and privacy.
A good VPN will make your torrenting much more private, with very minimal impact on your download speeds.
If you’re a keen torrenter then take a look at our best (and safest) VPN services for torrenting.
Our top five VPNs all provide uncapped P2P traffic and speeds free from throttling. They also all come with privacy-friendly logging policies, so you know you’re in safe hands.
Some of these VPN services even have special servers designed just for torrenting.
Before you open up your torrenting client make sure to enable the VPN kill switch as this will prevent your IP address from being exposed if the VPN connection drops suddenly.
What Is the Best VPN for iPhone?
The best VPN for iPhone is ExpressVPN – it comes with a super simple custom app for iOS devices – that includes iPads – and it’s very fast, secure, and private.
ExpressVPN is also the best VPN for Android too.
It’s just the best VPN, period.
If you can afford it, ExpressVPN won’t disappoint, whatever device you use.
Free VPN vs Paid VPN: Are Free VPNs Safe?
Often when you have the choice between a free product and a paid product, the free one will be worse.
Unfortunately, this is absolutely the case with VPNs.
Many free VPN services come with drawbacks like:
- Tiny VPN data allowances
- Speed caps
- Limited server locations
- Loads of ads
And unfortunately it doesn’t end there…
Some free VPNs pose serious risks to whoever uses them.
When we recently examined the 150 most popular free Android VPN apps we found that over 85% were potentially unsafe.
We 100% recommend that you use a paid VPN, if you can afford the small monthly fee of course.
Are there any good free VPNs out there, though?
Yes. Read on to find out which are the best.
Which Free VPN Is the Best?
There are only a handful of free VPNs that we recommend – you can read about them in this guide. The best free VPNs on the market are:
These free VPN services are the best available, even if they come with some restrictions.
Above all, they are safe to use.
Can You Get Premium VPNs For Free?
All of the free VPNs that we recommend are ‘freemium’ VPNs. This means that, while free, they are essentially stripped-back versions of the premium product.
But not all premium VPNs have a ‘freemium’ option.
Don’t worry, though.
You can still use some premium VPNs for free – at least for a period of time.
Many VPNs offer free trials or money-back guarantees so that you can fully test out the VPN software before you commit to it for the long term.
Look for a 30-day money-back guarantee with ‘no questions asked’. That way you know that you’ll get a refund if you aren’t satisfied with the service.
Here are some guides for getting popular VPNs for free:
VPN vs Proxy
VPNs and proxies are often mixed up, but they are not the same technology.
Both tools help users to get around content blocks, but when it comes to privacy the two pieces of software are pretty different.
Proxies hide your real IP address and location from the website you are trying to access, but they often don’t encrypt browser traffic.
Many proxies have been known to keep logs of users’ personal data. Like VPNs, there are good proxies and bad proxies, so you should do your research before you use a free proxy (trustworthy ones are rare, and totally private ones are almost non-existent).
VPNs, on the other hand, encrypt all traffic, at an OS-level rather than a browser-level. All your personal data flows through a secure VPN tunnel, and a good VPN won’t log your online activities.
Sometimes, free services are labeled as VPNs when they are in fact proxies. One example is Hola, which we recommend you completely avoid.
VPN services often come with add-ons for certain web browsers like Google Chrome or Firefox. These browser extensions are proxies, as they work at a browser-level, not an OS-level.
The best proxy extensions use encryption to secure connections.
You can read more details about the differences between proxies and VPNs in our guide.
VPN vs Tor
Tor (The Onion Router) and VPNs are both privacy tools, but they aren’t one and the same.
In fact, Tor is more of an anonymity tool than a privacy tool. It is often used by political activists and journalists in high-censorship countries.
The Tor browser directs internet traffic through a global network of volunteer-run servers.
The traffic is routed through guard nodes, middles, servers, and exit nodes (all randomly selected), so that no one server knows both what the message is and where it came from.
Because of this process, Tor is very, very slow.
One of the other issues related to Tor is that others will be using your IP address, and you don’t know what they will be doing with it.
Tor is commonly used to access the Dark Web, which is a nesting ground for criminal and illegal activity.
That’s why you should use a VPN alongside Tor for extra security. Some VPN services even come with special servers for use with Tor.
If you want to know more about Tor, read our guide to VPN vs Tor.
VPN vs Smart DNS
You can use VPNs or Smart DNS to watch streaming content, but are they the same thing?
Not at all.
Smart DNS works by changing the DNS of your device and reroutes traffic through a proxy server that will enable you to bypass regional content restrictions.
It’s primarily used to access streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
Unlike a VPN, Smart DNS is not a privacy tool. It doesn’t encrypt traffic or hide your IP address.
ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer tool is similar to Smart DNS.
Smart DNS is very easy to set up (including on games consoles and streaming devices) and it allows for faster speeds than a VPN connection.
But, again, it won’t help keep your personal data private.
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