Freedom House ranks France’s internet freedom status as “Free.” The organization gave the country an overall 2019 Internet Freedom Score of 76/100 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free).
Internet censorship in France is relatively low, with filtering mostly limited to certain types of obscene content and websites that promote racial bias or terrorism.
Facebook, Twitter and other international social networks are freely available to users in France. Popular international blog-hosting services are also available in the country.
A “3 strikes” copyright law passed in France in 2009 threatens to ban users from the internet upon their third violation of regulations, preventing the sharing or downloading of copyrighted materials, including movies, TV shows, music and other copyrighted content.
French officials require Internet Service Providers in the country to retain data related to their users’ online activities for 1 year. This rule also applies to online services such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.
The Netflix streaming service is widely available in France. However, the content available on the French version of the streaming site can vary greatly from the content available in other countries. Geo-restricted services, such as BBC iPlayer and Hulu, only allow viewing of their content from their home countries, the United Kingdom and United States, respectively.
However, if you’re a visitor to or a resident of France, you need not worry your little head, mon ami (said in my best “Pepé Le Pew” voice). By taking advantage of a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you can protect your online activities from being observed by nosy folks, and you can open access to content that might normally be unavailable from inside of France.
In this article, I’ll be sharing information about the 5 VPN services that offer the best protection and enhancement for your online activities when you’re inside France, and that will provide optimal access to French content when you’re traveling or living abroad.
How to Use a VPN From Inside France
To use a VPN from inside France, do the following:
- Subscribe to a VPN provider. (ExpressVPN is my top choice.)
- Install the provider’s app(s) on your device(s).
- Connect to and log into the VPN service.
- Select a VPN server outside of France to access geo-blocked content, or connect to a French server if you’re looking to protect your online activities, or if you’re a Francophile living outside of France and are looking to access French content.
- Enjoy your internet anonymity and freedom!
Best VPNs for Use in France
During testing, the following 5 VPN providers proved to be the best for use inside of France. The “tout de suite” version is as follows:
- ExpressVPN: This provider is a recognized leader in the VPN industry, and for good reason. Fast connections, a comprehensive global server network, and excellent multi-platform support are only a few reasons why ExpressVPN is the #1 choice in this roundup.
- NordVPN: Budget-minded users will do well to consider NordVPN, which is my low-price leader this time around. A low annual price belies this provider’s strong level of all-around service, as it provides excellent connection protection, great app support, and top-notch customer support.
- CyberGhost: If you’re a first-time VPN user or if you’re a novice online explorer, you’ll want to take a look at this provider, thanks to its easy-to-use apps. The provider also has an excellent global server network, which includes both streaming- and file sharing-optimized servers.
- PrivateVPN: This provider is a recent addition to the VPN scene and is still experiencing growing pains. The PrivateVPN global server network is a bit lacking, as is its app support. However, the provider’s connection protection and download speeds compete well with more established providers.
- Surfshark: While this provider also has a somewhat lacking global server network, its coverage has doubled over the last year. Fast, well-protected connections are a plus, as is the provider’s unlimited simultaneous connections allowance.
When I ranked the providers on this list, I considered the following factors:
- Global server network (must include servers in France)
- Security and privacy features
- Download speeds
- Multi-platform support
- Customer support
Note: While the main focus of this article is on using a VPN to protect and enhance your online activities while living in or visiting France, French users who are traveling internationally or living abroad may also have need to access content on geo-blocked French servers. So, I have only included VPN providers that have servers stationed inside French borders.
My list of the 5 best VPNs for use inside of France are:
ExpressVPN is the top option for reliable VPN service both inside and outside of French borders.
The ExpressVPN server network spans the globe, with over 3,000 servers in France and 93 other countries.
Your online anonymity and security are well protected here thanks to military-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and DNS and IPv6 leak prevention. You can also take advantage of the provider’s split-tunneling feature to pick and choose which apps will use the encrypted tunnel.
Privacy is also a no-worries proposition with ExpressVPN thanks to a no-server-logs-ever policy and a willingness to accept cryptocurrency in return for their services.
Movie fans, gaming fans, and folks who enjoy sharing multiple files at once will appreciate the provider’s fast connections. No data caps to get in the way of the fun, either.
No lacking in the app support department here, with apps offerings for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions also make the scene.
Plus, extensive router support protects all of your connected devices. Up to 5 devices can connect at once on the same account.
Customer support is 24/7, with always-available live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket tracking system and a searchable support library.
- Excellent global server network
- Fast download speeds
- Reliable access to content in France and other countries
- Privacy and security second to none
- Top-notch multi-platform support
- Higher-priced than many of its competitors
BEST VPN FOR FRANCE:My top choice for protecting and enhancing your French online activities, ExpressVPN offers fast connections, and optimal privacy and online security protections for every popular device platform that I can think of. A 30-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN, a budget-priced VPN provider, should prove to be an attractive option for users looking for a reliable VPN provider that won’t empty their billfold.
NordVPN’s global server coverage isn’t quite up to those of a few other providers on this list, but its 5,500+ servers located in 58 countries, including France, still offer excellent access to content in numerous countries around the world.
Privacy protections include a strict no-server-logs policy and a cryptocurrency payment option.
While this provider’s connection speeds are the slowest of any provider on this list, they are not slow. NordVPN connections can easily handle HD video, most online gaming, and sharing of large files. The provider never imposes daily or monthly data caps.
App support doesn’t come up short, thanks to apps for Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows devices. Chrome and Firefox extensions protect your browsing sessions, and extensive router compatibility is also available. Up to 6 devices can connect to the service concurrently.
Around-the-clock customer support includes always-available live support chat, email support and a searchable support database.
- Servers based in 58 countries
- Comprehensive app support
- Low-priced annual subscription prices
- Excellent privacy and security protections
- Connection speeds could be better
BEST LOW-PRICED VPN OPTION:NordVPN should prove attractive to users looking for optimal protection without paying a huge sum. The provider’s services match up well with higher-priced services, delivering good all-around protection. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
If you don’t have much experience in using a VPN, or if you simply don’t want to deal with a bunch of bells and whistles, take a closer look at CyberGhost.
CyberGhost’s global server coverage is some of the best in the business. 5,800+ servers are stationed in 89 countries around the globe. Scattered among those servers are those that are optimized for file sharing and streaming video.
Those fast connections are well protected by government-level encryption, a kill switch, and DNS and IPv6 leak protection. Ad and tracker protection can also be enabled, as well as the ability to force websites to offer up HTTPS versions of their pages if available.
A strict no-server-logs policy and an acceptance of Bitcoin in return for their services ensure your privacy is well-protected.
Fast connection speeds mean you’ll have no issues streaming HD and 4K video, playing games online, or sharing and downloading large files. You’ll never need worry about data caps or other restrictions.
CyberGhost’s easy-to-use apps are available for the popular device platforms, which includes Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions protect your browsing.
Router protection has the rest of your devices covered. Up to 7 devices can connect to the service at once using the same set of login credentials.
24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket system, and a searchable support database mean support is always available.
- Top-notch global server coverage
- Fast connections
- Easy-to-use, yet powerful apps
- Specialty servers for streaming and file sharing
- Advanced users might miss some app options
BEST FIRST-TIMER VPN OPTION:Users who don’t have much experience working online or who haven’t used a VPN in the past will appreciate this provider’s easy-to-use, but powerful selection of apps. The provider’s streaming- and file sharing-optimized servers add to the attraction. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
Although PrivateVPN, a fairly recent addition to the VPN industry, is a bit lacking in a few categories, it makes up for it in others.
Global server coverage is a category in which PrivateVPN is lacking, as the provider has a somewhat limited global network made up of 150+ servers stationed in France and 59 other countries.
Connection protection is a category where the service shines, protecting your online activities with government-level encryption, as well as IPv6 and DNS leak protection. Also available is a proprietary “Stealth VPN” feature that hides VPN activity by disguising it as normal browser activity.
Privacy is also a bright spot, as the provider has a strict no-server-logs policy and also accepts Bitcoin as subscription payment.
PrivateVPN download speeds are snappy, providing more than enough bandwidth for HD streaming, sharing large files and gaming online. No data caps spoil your fun.
App support is a bit of a downer, with apps available only for the Android, iOS, macOS and Windows device platforms. Linux users can manually set up the provider on their machines.
No browser extensions are to be found, but the provider is compatible with certain brands of routers. Up to 6 devices can connect concurrently using the same set of login credentials.
Customer support is available via email support and a non-searchable FAQ page. While the provider claims its live support chat is always available, I’ve visited the provider’s site numerous times to find it unavailable. (If the chat balloon is green, it’s available.)
- Reliable access to blocked content
- “Stealth VPN” offers additional protection
- Up to 6 concurrent connections
- Server numbers could stand expansion
- App support could also be much better
“STEALTH VPN” ADDS PROTECTION:PrivateVPN comes up short in some service categories, but generally performs well. The provider offers fast connections, well protected by its proprietary “Stealth VPN” protection. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
Surfshark offers a small but quickly growing global server network, and an unusual unlimited simultaneous users policy that should make it attractive to business users.
Surfshark’s global server network is somewhat limited compared to many of its competitors, but it’s quickly addressing that issue. The provider’s global server count is 1,000+ servers located in over 61 countries, including France. Those server numbers are nearly double what they were last year.
Surfshark provides industry-standard online security and then goes an extra step. The usual military-grade encryption, a kill switch, and DNS and IPv6 leak prevention all make an appearance. Plus, a “Multi-Hop” option routes your connection through two VPN servers, adding another layer of anonymity to your online activities.
Surfshark privacy protections also measure up well thanks to a no-server-logs-ever policy and a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
The provider delivers above-average connection speeds, providing more than enough horsepower to handle HD video, online gaming and file sharing. No data caps to worry about here.
The provider has most of the popular device platforms covered, offering apps for the Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows and Amazon Fire device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available, and the service is compatible with various routers.
Large families and those requiring coverage for a large number of employees will appreciate the provider’s unlimited simultaneous connections allowance.
Around-the-clock support is available via 24/7 support chat, a contact form and a searchable support knowledge base.
- “Multi-Hop” protection adds extra anonymity
- Unlimited concurrent connections
- Fast download speeds
- Global server coverage is lacking but still expanding
- Monthly subscription option is a bit expensive
BEST VPN FOR LARGE GROUPS OF USERS:Surfshark’s fast connections, top-notch security and privacy protections, and unlimited concurrent connections allowance will make the provider an attractive option for large families and businesses. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
Will a Free VPN Work in France?
I can’t tell you that a free VPN won’t work from inside of France. However, I can honestly say that you likely won’t enjoy the “user experience.”
Free VPNs are inconvenient. When you attempt to connect to a free VPN server, you may find that you’re forced to cool your heels in a queue, waiting for the go-ahead to connect to a server.
Then, once you’re given the green light to connect, you’ll likely find that your server selection is severely limited or that you’ll be automatically connected to a server of the provider’s choice.
When you connect, you’ll probably find that your connection speeds have dropped precipitously, as many freebie VPNs will throttle their free users’ connection speeds to preserve bandwidth for their paying customers. You’ll also likely face daily or monthly data caps.
What’s worse, your privacy may be at risk when you’re using a sans-fee VPN provider. Even a “free” VPN has to keep the lights on and pay their employees. This has led to some of these providers tracking their users’ online activities, then selling that valuable info to the highest bidder.
Still other free VPN providers have been found to be injecting unwanted tracking cookies and advertisements into their users’ browser sessions. (And tracking cookies stick around well after you’ve disconnected from the VPN provider’s servers.)
After reading this, don’t you agree that it’s actually a better deal to pay a few euros per month for quality VPN protection, instead of risking your online security and privacy with a “free” VPN?
What Can I Do With A VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) offers numerous features that both enhance and protect your online activities.
Concerning enhancement, a VPN can temporarily assign a new IP address to your connected devices. Since an IP address is the way many streaming and gaming services identify your geographical location, this opens up access to geo-blocked content you might normally be unable to access.
In the protection column, a VPN encrypts your internet connection, preventing Nosy Nellies from monitoring and tracking your online activities. Governments, bad guys, and even your own Internet Service Provider (ISP) would love to track your online moves.
The ISP can sell your usage information to advertisers and other interested parties, while the bad guys want to monitor your connection to try and steal important information like your bank account info, credit and debit card numbers and logins to various websites. The government wants to track you because, well, that’s just what the government does – they’re nosy.
Bad guy hackers’ favorite targets are users of unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots are usually unencrypted, leaving users’ online activities open to being monitored. If you shop online, pay bills, or check your bank account balances, you’re an attractive target of online crime.
Since encryption also prevents your ISP from monitoring your online antics, it also prevents them from throttling or blocking your internet connection because you’re engaging in “unapproved” activities like sharing files via P2P or streaming video from certain services.
French citizens and visitors would be well advised to investigate the benefits of a Virtual Private Network subscription.
My #1 provider, ExpressVPN, offers fast, well-protected connections, and a top-notch global server network that offers access to geo-blocked content via apps for most popular device platforms. 24/7 customer support means help is always available.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.