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Best VPN for Russia

Rebecca Duff
Rebecca DuffUpdated

If you don’t use a VPN when you’re in Russia, not only will you be subject to intrusive surveillance by the Russian government, you could also lose access to some of the sites you take for granted on a daily basis – one major example is LinkedIn. The country is well known for its draconian approach to internet policy, and following the introduction of a VPN ban in November 2017 the situation has become even more challenging. We are continually testing our top picks to make sure every VPN we recommend works reliably to provide you with unrestricted internet access in Russia from one day to the next.

The best VPN services for Russia allow you to bypass internet censorship measures and browse privately on an encrypted connection, meaning you don’t need to worry about being spied on by the government, your ISP or any other potential snoopers. Our top picks provide reliable access to popular sites and apps including Netflix and BBC iPlayer, and our proprietary speed testing technology means we can provide you with the most up-to-date VPN speeds on the current market.

The 5 Best VPN Services for Russia
  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. Astrill
  4. PrivateVPN
  5. VyprVPN
Read on for our detailed analysis of each VPN.
Our pick for Russia
ExpressVPN

Most reliable VPN for Russia. Consistent access to popular sites and excellent performance.

Best price
$6.67 per month
Special deal
49% off 15-month plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
94 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
3
Pros
  1. Excellent speeds and reliability
  2. Choice of servers in Europe/US
  3. User-friendly apps. Instant setup on all devices
  4. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox & Safari
  5. No restrictions on P2P traffic
  6. Reliable access to Netflix and iPlayer
Cons
  1. Fairly expensive on shorter plans
  2. Limited to three simultaneous connections
Bottom Line

ExpressVPN is the most reliable provider for Russia even following the recent VPN ban. This goes a long way to justifying the above-average price, although you can drop the monthly cost down to a pretty reasonable $6.67 on the 15-month plan.

Its server network is a good size with over 90 countries in total, including loads of different options across Europe and the west coast of the US, which is vital if you want the best possible performance.

The custom apps are available for almost every device you could possibly think of, and are simple enough to use without lacking advanced privacy features such as a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection. There are also configurable protocol settings which could be useful if content blocks get any more aggressive, and a sensible logging policy means they only collect anonymous usage stats in order to maintain server performance.

Customer support includes 24/7 live chat and loads of useful resources but unfortunately the website is inaccessible in Russia without a VPN, as is the case with a lot of providers. ExpressVPN is undoubtedly the best VPN for connecting out of Russia and a brilliant all-rounder for everything else.


Read our full ExpressVPN review

2
NordVPN

Good budget option for Russia. Solid performance and access to streaming sites.

Best price
$2.99 per month
Special deal
75% off with 3-year plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
62 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
Pros
  1. Excellent value on the two-year plan
  2. Solid speeds on local connections
  3. Loads of servers in nearby Europe
  4. User-friendly app for popular platforms
  5. Strict zero-logs policy
  6. Advanced features including DoubleVPN
Cons
  1. Browser extensions are proxies
  2. Slow responses to email
Bottom Line

NordVPN is a fantastic budget pick for Russia that will only set you back $2.99 per month on the three-year plan, saving you over 50% compared to our top pick ExpressVPN. This does come with the caveat that it doesn’t offer the same level of reliability and also the desktop app is OpenVPN only, which is likely to get blocked as censorship measures get more aggressive. It offers obfuscated servers as a solution to that, but if even those don’t work it only requires a small amount of manual setup to use the L2TP protocol.

Performance is solid thanks to loads of servers across Eastern Europe in countries such as Georgia, Ukraine and Romania. You can also choose from nearly 20 city-level servers in the US to access the best speeds.

A strict zero-logs policy combined with a jurisdiction in privacy-friendly Panama makes Nord a great choice for privacy. They also offer loads of optimized servers that could come in very useful during VPN crackdowns including Double VPN and Tor over VPN.

Customer support is excellent with helpful live chat but as is the case with our other top picks, the site is blocked in Russia so be sure to set up the software before you travel. Overall excellent value but a little less polished than our top pick.


Read our full NordVPN review

3
Astrill

Solid and reliable VPN for Russia with a good track record at bypassing censorship measures.

Best price
$8.33 per month
Special deal
47% off with 12-month plan
Money-back guarantee
7 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
62 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
5
Pros
  1. Two proprietary protocols to beat censors
  2. Good track record in high-censorship countries
  3. Lots of server choice in Europe and US
  4. 24/7 live chat support
Cons
  1. Very strict refund policy
  2. Inconsistent performance
  3. Expensive even on longer plans
Bottom Line

Astrill became well-known as one of the best VPNs for use in high-censorship countries such as China and even though performance isn’t quite as good as that offered by our top picks, it remains one of the most reliable options for Russia, even following crackdowns on VPN providers.

Its main selling points are the two proprietary protocols, Stealth and OpenWeb, as these mask your VPN connection as normal web traffic and therefore give you a much higher chance of bypassing censorship blocks and accessing restricted content.

City-level server choices in both the US and Europe are excellent for optimizing performance even if the number of servers and IP addresses on offer isn’t the best we’ve seen. Speeds also lag behind those offered by our top picks but will be more than enough for most everyday users, even if they’re nothing special.

We really don’t like the consumer-unfriendly refund policy that doesn’t allow for change of mind but rather requires you to experience unsolvable technical issues before you can get your money back, however fortunately judging by online reports it would appear that most users aren’t having any problems.

Customer support is decent enough with 24/7 support via live chat but the website is currently blocked in Russia. Even on the annual plan the monthly cost doesn’t drop below $8.33, but this isn’t bad value for a reputable VPN such as Astrill, even if it isn’t quite as slick as some of its rivals.


Read our full Astrill review

4
PrivateVPN

Under-the-radar budget VPN that works well in Russia and is great elsewhere.

Best price
$3.60 per month
Special deal
67% off with 17-month plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
Live chat Support
No. of Server Locations
57 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
Pros
  1. Stealth VPN unblocks censored content
  2. Excellent value on longer plans
  3. Choice of servers in Europe and the US
  4. User-friendly apps for popular platforms
  5. Advanced privacy features such as Tor over VPN
  6. Strict zero-logs policy
Cons
  1. Advanced privacy options limited to desktop
  2. No browser extensions available
Bottom Line

PrivateVPN is an alternative budget option for Russia that doesn’t require a two-year commitment to cut monthly costs by almost 70%. It’s also a good choice for those who are going to be using it outside of the country too, due to excellent local and international speeds and access to Netflix and iPlayer.

PrivateVPN’s proprietary Stealth protocol masks your VPN connection as normal HTTPS browser traffic, making it a lot harder for censors to detect and block it. This means you have a much higher chance of being able to access content that would otherwise be blocked in Russia.

A choice of hundreds of servers in Europe and the US means you can connect to a nearby country for the best possible performance, even if there’s only city-specific choice in a handful of locations. The custom apps are really simple to use and pack in advanced features such as access to Tor over VPN for an extra layer of privacy.

PrivateVPN is a genuinely zero-logs VPN offering fast speeds and reliable access to users in Russia – the only downside is the relatively small server network which could lead to congestion at peak times. The budget price of just $3.60 on the 17-month plan means most will probably be willing to overlook this however.


Read our full PrivateVPN review

5
VyprVPN

User-friendly zero-logs VPN offering a Chameleon protocol to bypass censorship measures.

Best price
$4.17 per month
Special deal
68% off with 2-year plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
64 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
5
Pros
  1. Chameleon protocol bypasses censorship blocks
  2. Server choice in Europe and west coast US
  3. Zero-logs policy
  4. User-friendly apps. Instant setup.
  5. Connect securely to 64 countries
  6. 24/7 support via live chat
Cons
  1. Best features restricted to Premium plan
  2. Limited customer support resources
Bottom Line

VyprVPN makes the cut as even though it isn’t as reliable as ExpressVPN or Astrill, it still provides reliable access to blocked sites in Russia despite Putin’s VPN ban, thanks to its proprietary Chameleon protocol.

There are enough server locations in Europe and on the west coast of the US that you won’t have to connect over ridiculously long distances before you reach a free-speech country. Speeds could definitely be better, especially on local connections, but they’re still good enough for everyday browsing and some streaming.

VyprVPN has recently become zero-logs, with a revamp of the old privacy policy and an independent audit to verify its claims. It also operates first-party DNS servers and offers essential privacy features such as a VPN kill switch.

It’s currently only $4.17 per month on the two-year Premium plan, which includes the Chameleon protocol along with an NAT firewall, which is very good value for money. If you use it with multiple devices, VyprVPN offers a more configurable experience than ExpressVPN, but be prepared to compromise on performance.


Read our full VyprVPN review

How we picked the best VPN for Russia

Our top picks for Russia obviously have to work effectively to bypass government censorship blocks and allow users to access restricted content, even despite the ever-growing ‘blacklist’ of VPN providers. We look for excellent performance in our worldwide speed tests and lots of server choice in nearby free-speech countries such as Ukraine, Lithuania, Finland the the west coast of the US. Other important factors include the level of customer support on offer and the user experience of the custom apps.

We are constantly testing all of the VPNs on our site to ensure we’re giving you the most up-to-date recommendations we possibly can. We test access to popular sites such as Netflix, Facebook and Google and make sure local speeds are good enough so you can do everything you want to online without breaking a sweat. Providers got bonus points for offering extra obfuscation tools too, such as Stealth VPN, as these make it far easier to overcome content blocks without being detected.

Do I need a VPN in Russia?

If you want to be able to access the internet without any restrictions then you absolutely need to use a VPN in Russia. The Russian government is gradually blocking more and more websites in an attempt to limit online freedoms – the most recent victim was the popular messaging app Telegram. There have also been reports that Putin is working with the security officials behind the Great Firewall of China and is attempting to integrate some of these elements into the so-called ‘Red Web’, which would further increase the level of state control on the internet.

Another reason is the so-called ‘Yarovaya law’ that was passed in 2016 in an attempt to ‘regulate counter-terror and public safety measures’. This law requires all Russian telecoms companies and ISPs to store detailed user communication records for six months and all connection metadata for three years, meaning details of everything you do online can be accessed by the government at any time. The legislation also states that these companies are required to help intelligence agencies such as the FSB decode messages sent via encrypted services such as WhatsApp and Signal, which is a complete invasion of privacy and incredibly concerning. The only way to avoid this happening is to use a VPN so that all of your web traffic is sent over a secure, encrypted connection.

While VPNs are still technically legal in Russia, Putin introduced a list of ‘banned’ providers in November 2017 that is constantly being added to. They are very commonly used in the country but we’d advise you to be discreet about it, and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t attempt to access any content that would break copyright laws.

How to choose a VPN for Russia: 7 Tips

  • Does it offer some kind of "stealth" protocol?

    Since Putin began blacklisting VPNs that failed to conform with Russias internet policy in November 2017, its essential that the VPN you choose offers some kind of stealth protocol. This will provide additional layers of obfuscation on top of the usual VPN protocols (such as OpenVPN) in order to disguise your VPN traffic as normal web traffic and therefore make it harder for the censors to detect and block. This kind of information can often get lost on the provider websites so look to our top picks to call it out.

  • Does it have servers in location close to Russia?

    For the best possible performance, you need to connect to a VPN server close to your physical location. A higher number of servers usually means a lower chance of server congestion and therefore improved speeds but this isnt necessarily always the case check out the Speed & Reliability section of our reviews for more details. Look for server locations in Europe (particularly in the east) and west coast US for the best performance.

  • Will it work with your favorite websites and apps?

    Before you choose a VPN, you need to make sure its going to allow you to access the websites and apps you use on a daily basis. Not all providers will work with popular streaming sites such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer, so we make sure we test them all on a regular basis and share the results in our VPN reviews.

  • Does it work on your preferred devices?

    The majority of VPN providers will offer custom apps for Windows, Mac and Linux machines as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. However, some services are also compatible with other internet-connected items such as routers, games consoles and streaming devices, such as the Amazon Fire Stick. If youre looking to protect any devices outside of the main platforms, look to the Platforms & Devices section of our VPN reviews for more information.

  • Are their client apps and software easy to use?

    If you choose a VPN with well-designed software thats simple enough without lacking any advanced features, youll be far more likely to use it on a regular basis. We test each VPN app out to make sure its powerful but user-friendly enough for VPN newbies and experienced users alike, and share the results in the Ease of Use section of each provider review. We spend all day looking at these apps, so hopefully we know a thing or two!

  • Check the number of simultaneous connections supported

    If you want to protect your familys devices as well as your own, youll need to look for a provider that offers a decent number of simultaneous connections. This can range anywhere from three up to ten, with some VPNs even supporting an unlimited number of connections.

  • Finally, check the price and money-back guarantee

    Even the most expensive VPN plans are very affordable but its likely that you have a budget in mind. Annual plans (12 months or more) typically offer the best value for money and you can reduce the risk of buyers remorse by opting for a VPN with a generous refund period the best ones are 30 days and so-called no questions asked. These types of guarantees are much more common than traditional free trials but are essentially the same thing, especially if you opt for one thats risk-free.