If you’re looking to keep your web browsing activities incognito, the Tor Browser is one of the best available tools to help you do so.
However, it only provides a single layer of anonymity for your online activities, as it only protects your web browsing activities from exposure – the rest of your online activities are left open for observation.
Using a VPN not only adds another layer of protection to your Tor Browser-based activities, it keeps all of your online activities private, including activities like torrenting files or streaming video from outside your region.
When you pair the Tor Browser with a VPN, you have a dynamic duo, efficiently protecting your privacy.
When considering a VPN for use with Tor, always keep connection speed in mind when doing your research. I assure you that using a slow VPN with the Tor browser will prove totally unsatisfying.
The reason is because, when using the Tor network, your connection is sent through a series of relays that anonymize your activities. This relay process has a tendency to slow down your browsing activities.
As a rule, a VPN will also slow your connection speeds. This makes speed an important consideration when evaluating a VPN for use with Tor – so your connections can be kept as fast as possible.
When you’re online, keep in mind that plenty of third parties would love to be able to monitor your online activities. Hackers, government agencies – even your own ISP and their advertisers – would all love to keep track of you. This makes privacy another essential factor to keep in mind.
In this article, I’ll share the information you’ll need to make an informed decision about which VPN makes the best privacy-protecting partner for the Tor Browser.
Best VPNs for Browsing the Web With Tor
After extensive testing, I’ve found that the following 5 VPNs are the best for use with Tor:
- ExpressVPN: Fast connections, no logs, accepts Bitcoin, offers a .onion site
- NordVPN: Good security, fast connections, no logs, wide-ranging server coverage
- CyberGhost: Fast speeds, reasonable pricing, no logs
- IPVanish: Fast connections, no logs, top-notch security
- PrivateVPN: No logs, easy-to-use apps, fast connections
I evaluated and ranked my top 5 VPNs according to the following criteria:
- Compatibility with Tor
- Special features for use with Tor
- Fast connection speeds
- No-logs policy
- Excellent encryption
- Offers anonymous payment methods
Here is our list of the best VPNs for Tor:
ExpressVPN is my top choice for Tor users.
This provider is located in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, allowing it to follow a self-imposed no-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t record the online activities of its users.
It’s true that the service does record some non-identifying information, such as login dates (no times recorded), the server location used and the amount of data transferred. However, none of this can help authorities identify any of your online activities.
ExpressVPN protects its users’ connections using military-grade encryption and protects their connections from being laid open to prying eyes by using kill switch protection on their desktop apps. (Apps are available for all of the major device platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux.)
This provider offers excellent connection speeds, helping to alleviate the slowdown you’ll experience when using Tor.
The provider even offers a .onion version of its website to allow users to create a completely anonymous account with the VPN provider by using a throw-away email address and paying with Bitcoin. (It also offers a list of .onion sites to get you started.)
- Fast connection speeds
- Well-encrypted, kill switch-protected connections
- Accepts Bitcoin as payment
- Offers .onion site
- Keeps no user logs
- More expensive than other providers
- No kill switch protection on mobile devices
BEST FOR TOR:ExpressVPN is my #1 choice. It provides fast, well-protected access to the internet, working hand-in-hand with Tor to provide anonymity and security. The provider’s fast connections help alleviate Tor’s tendency to slow things down when browsing the web. A 30-day money-back guarantee offers a risk-free way to put the provider’s features to the test.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN is my #2 pick for use with Tor.
The provider offers specialized Onion Over VPN servers that are configured to work closely with the Tor network to protect all of your online activities, not just your web browsing.
NordVPN also offers a Double-VPN option to help obfuscate your connection when using the Tor Browser. Be advised that you may see a hefty connection speed hit due to the use of 2 VPN servers, which the feature requires. However, the provider’s connections should still be more than up to anything you throw at it, as their connection speeds are usually quite fast.
NordVPN also offers excellent privacy protections, keeping no logs of any kind and providing kill switch-protected connections that use government-grade encryption to protect your connection from being tracked. The provider also accepts Bitcoin in return for its fine services.
Native apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android devices.
- Offers Onion Over VPN servers
- Double-VPN servers
- Fast connection speeds
- No user logs
- Accepts Bitcoin
- More complicated to select servers than some other providers
EXCELLENT VALUE:NordVPN provides an excellent value for the money, delivers fast connections and ensures top-notch protections for Tor users. A 30-day money-back guarantee means there’s no risk in giving them a try.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
CyberGhost is an excellent option for the first-time VPN user. The app is simple to use and protects your online sessions well despite its lack of Tor-specific features.
Speedy connections from this provider will help ease your worries about being slowed down too much while using the Tor Browser.
The provider does an excellent job of protecting your identity online, storing no user logs of any kind and accepting Bitcoin as payment.
Apps are available for the macOS, Windows, Android and iOS platforms, and up to 7 devices can be connected simultaneously on a single account.
- No logs
- Accepts Bitcoin
- Top-notch security
- Easy-to-use apps
- Missing Tor-specific features
GREAT OPTION FOR BEGINNERS:CyberGhost offers simple-to-use apps with one-click protection, good privacy protections and fast connections, all delivered at a low cost. The provider offers a 45-day no-risk guarantee.
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
IPVanish is a secure, easy-to-use VPN service that provides industry-standard security and privacy. The provider sticks to a no-logs policy, meaning there’s no evidence to be found of any of your online antics.
The IPVanish app includes an obfuscation feature that disguises your encrypted connection as normal internet traffic, adding another layer of anonymity. The app can also change your IP address at regular intervals if you so choose, but keep in mind that you temporarily lose your connection when changing out IP addresses.
Apps are available for the Windows, macOS, Android and iOS platforms.
While the provider does not offer any Tor-specific features, the VPN service works well with Onion, though you can expect the usual slowdown in speeds and performance.
Sadly, privacy protection does not extend to your payment information, as IPVanish does not accept Bitcoin or any other type of anonymous payments.
- Good security
- No logs
- Reliable connections
- Fast connection speeds
- Does not offer any Tor-specific features
- Does not accept Bitcoin
RELIABLE AND SECURE:IPVanish is a good mix of connection speed and security, delivering reliable connections for your Tor sessions. The provider offers a 7-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN is a VPN provider that many of you might not be familiar with, as they appeared on the scene just recently. The provider is quickly becoming known for its fast connection speeds and top-notch security protections.
While the provider doesn’t offer special Tor support right out of the box, it does provide helpful information on how to connect to its OpenVPN servers over Tor. This allows users to connect to websites that don’t normally allow connecting via the Tor Browser, as it hides the use of the browser.
PrivateVPN keeps no logs whatsoever connected to their customers’ online travels and accepts Bitcoin as payment for its services. Privacy high-fives all around!
Native app support is provided for the iOS, Android, Windows and macOS platforms.
The provider’s global server coverage is somewhat limited, with just 100 servers located in 59 countries.
- Fast connection speeds
- Excellent privacy protections
- VPN-Over-Tor support
- Global server coverage is lacking
FLEXIBLE AND REASONABLY PRICED:PrivateVPN users can have up to 6 devices connected simultaneously, enjoy fast connections and top-notch privacy, and take advantage of a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Don’t Use These VPNs With Tor
If you’re using Tor, then you’re concerned about keeping your online browsing activities undercover. Surprisingly, there are VPN providers that don’t have your privacy in mind.
Hide My Ass!
United Kingdom-based Hide My Ass! is subject to U.K. laws that require VPN providers to keep logs. It’s known to have turned over user logs to authorities at least once, leading to the arrest of one of their users. Not much privacy or anonymity to be found here, folks.
Despite a claim that it’s a “no-logs” VPN provider, authorities used PureVPN’s supposedly non-existent logs to track and arrest a man accused of cyberstalking an ex-roommate.
Can I Use a Free VPN With Tor?
While it’s technically possible to use a free VPN with Tor, I strongly urge you not to do so.
Free VPNs often have privacy policies that are lacking. They keep logs of their users’ online travels, sometimes selling that information to advertisers and other interested parties. (Hey, they have to make money somehow, right?)
Also, free VPNs often make users wait in a queue before allowing them to connect to a VPN server, and many free providers have data or bandwidth caps.
While a slower connection is always a concern, it’s especially critical when using a VPN with Tor, which slows things down by itself.
Free VPNs have also been known to inject ads and tracking cookies into their users’ browsing sessions. Plus, these providers usually have fewer servers and IP allocations, making it easier for users to be traced.
All of the above simply makes it a horrible idea to attempt to use a free VPN with Tor.
Differences Between Tor Over VPN vs. VPN Over Tor
You may have noticed that earlier in this article I’ve mentioned both “Tor Over VPN” and “VPN Over Tor.” Are those the same thing? How are they different? Let’s take a look.
Tor Over VPN
Tor Over VPN is when you first connect to your VPN and then browse the internet in the Tor Browser.
This means your internet traffic is first encrypted through your VPN, protecting it from the observation of outside parties.
Your real IP address is protected from detection by the first Tor relay. The Tor network relays further obfuscate your true location by relaying your connection through several locations.
- Keeps your ISP from detecting your use of the Tor Browser
- Opens access to .onion websites
- Allows use of regular browser for other types of browsing
- Blocks your real IP address from the Tor relay network
- Some websites don’t accept traffic from Tor networks
- VPN has access to your actual IP address
VPN Over Tor
VPN Over Tor consists of first connecting to the Tor network and then connecting to your VPN.
Whereas Tor Over VPN consists of simply connecting to your VPN and then using the Tor Browser, using VPN Over Tor requires you to manually set up a few things before use.
Only a few VPN providers offer this option, with PrivateVPN being the only one that comes to mind and the only provider on this top 5 list that does so.
- Blocks both your ISP and VPN from seeing your traffic
- Provides access to websites that block Tor traffic
- Cuts down on risk from improperly-configured Tor exit nodes
- ISPs can detect Tor usage
- Requires manual setup; not recommended for beginners
- No access to .onion websites
- The entry port for a Tor relay network can detect your real IP address
- Routes all of your internet traffic through Tor, slowing everything down