What Is The Best VPN For Saudi Arabia in 2018?
NordVPN is the best VPN around to keep your Saudi web travels undercover.
This provider supplies speedy, kill switch-protected, encrypted connections, as well as top-notch privacy protection and great customer support.
NordVPN also makes for a great way to unblock content and to protect your personal information from bad guy hackers, the Saudi Arabian government and any other third parties that might be attempting to monitor your activities while connected to an unprotected Wi-Fi hotspot.
Internet Freedom in Saudi Arabia
Internet access in Saudi Arabia is among the best in the Middle East, with 73.8% of its residents having access to the web.
In recent years, the following internet-freedom-related developments took place:
Freedom House gives Saudi Arabia an aggregate 2017 Internet Freedom Score of 72/100 (0 = Most Free, 100 = Least Free). That ranks the country as 58th out of the 65 countries that Freedom House ranks (which is less than impressive).
Top 5 VPNs for Use in Saudi Arabia
Why Do You Need a VPN in Saudi Arabia?
The Saudi Arabian government places strict filtering on internet content, especially on content related to religion, the royal family and politics.
In this section, I’ll cover what types of content and services are allowed from inside of Saudi Arabia, and more importantly, what types are blocked.
The Saudi Arabian government’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) maintains two lists of websites they block.
The first list of websites they block contains websites that the government considers “immoral,” such as sites that are pornographic, support LGBT rights or promote Shia ideology.
The second list is based on decisions by a security committee led by the Ministry of Interior. The list can include sites that are critical of the Saudi Arabian government.
The lists also contain websites that Saudi citizens report. The government actively encourages citizens to report “immoral” sites for blocking.
Voice over IP
Saudi Arabian regulators and telecommunication companies do place restrictions on Voice over IP (VoIP) usage.
They block VoIP over Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. However, VoIP calling is still possible using Signal and Telegram.
The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission is responsible for providing internet access to the private sector, and also sends content takedown requests to social networks.
While it does not block major social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, out of hand, the social networks may still be asked to remove content that the CITC considers objectionable.
Any speech or public demonstration (either online and offline) that the government considers to be critical of it (and especially the royal family) or that they consider “immoral” can lead to imprisonment, as well as corporal punishment.
The Saudi Arabian government blocks websites that visitors use to trade or distribute copyrighted materials, such as the Pirate Bay website.
This is likely related to comments from the MPAA, RIAA and others, which suggested that the Saudi Arabian government isn’t doing enough to prevent online piracy.
Saudi Arabia does its best to monitor as much internet activity as possible, using the excuse of maintaining social order and protecting the nation’s security.
While I was unable to find a required data retention regulation for ISPs in Saudi Arabia, many other similarly restrictive governments do require ISPs to retain user activity logs, so there’s a good possibility that the government there has access to user activity logs as well.
Netflix is available in Saudi Arabia and has been since early 2016. However, the content selection is greatly censored due to local religious beliefs, meaning that much of what is available in other countries is missing on the Saudi flavor of Netflix.
Not only is the content censored, it’s also very scant. Saudi Arabian Netflix only offers 176 TV shows and 468 movies. Compare that to the U.S. version, which offers 1,326 shows and 4,339 movies.
Other popular streaming services, namely Hulu and BBC iPlayer, are only available in their home countries - unless a VPN is used to open up access to the services, of course.
Legality of VPNs
Using a VPN in Saudi Arabia is not illegal.
However, the Saudi government does block the websites of many major VPN providers.
Every form of gambling is illegal in Saudi Arabia.
There are no online gambling sites hosted inside Saudi borders, and the government does its best to block access to online casinos hosted outside of the country.
How a VPN Protects Your Internet Usage in Iran
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is arguably the best tool available today to protect your Saudi Arabia-based internet activities from the prying eyes of government officials.
A VPN coats your internet connection in a layer of encryption, making it nearly impossible for a third party, such as the government or hackers, to detect your activities or access your personal information.
A VPN can also “spoof” your current connection location, making it appear that you are connecting to the internet in another location, such as another country - perhaps one with much less blocking of “immoral” websites.
Choosing the Best VPN for Use in Saudi Arabia
When you’re searching for the best VPN to keep your Saudi Arabian web travels under wraps, there are a number of important features to consider.
When using a VPN from inside Saudi Arabia, privacy is of high importance, as is a VPN that can hide itself from observers. Also, connection speeds inside the Saudi kingdom aren’t exactly blazingly fast, so you don’t want a VPN that is going to slow things down much further.
In this section, I’ll share each feature that should be carefully considered. I’ll explain why each feature is important, and at the end of each section, I will list my favorite VPN services and rank them in order of how well they perform in that particular category.
Special Mode to Hide VPN Usage
Some of the Virtual Private Network providers we’ll look at in this article offer a special mode that is designed to make it more difficult for especially oppressive governments to detect that you’re using a VPN.
While each provider uses a different method of protecting your connection in this way, they all provide a way to make your VPN connection tougher to detect and block.
“Special mode” is a simple “Yes/No” type of feature, so the providers in the list below are listed alphabetically and are designated with a checkmark or an X to denote if a mode to hide VPN usage is offered by the company.
Although privacy protections are always important, it is of particular importance for a VPN that will be used from inside of a restrictive country like Saudi Arabia.
When I say “privacy,” in this case, I’ll be referring to how well a provider protects the information related to your online activities and your payment information.
When you’re considering a VPN provider, always take a close look at which country they are located in, whether they keep logs containing information about your online travels, and whether or not the provider accepts privacy-protecting methods of payment for their services. (These can include Bitcoin or merchant gift cards.)
The providers listed below are sorted in order of most privacy protection to least.
Connection speed always ranks high on the list of features for any VPN consideration, but in countries like Saudi Arabia, where the average internet connection speed is already less than impressive, it becomes even more important.
Connection speed is tightly entwined with the user experience for most popular online activities. A fast connection ensures users won’t have to wait long for a website to load, streaming music or video to begin playing, or for the next level of their online game to get ready.
The figures in the table below were calculated by first visiting the Speedtest website to measure the speed of my usual connection to my Internet Service Provider. I then connected to each VPN service, once again measuring the connection speeds with another visit to the Speedtest website. The speed percentage numbers were then calculated by comparing the two speeds.
This list ranks the VPN providers, sorted fastest to slowest.
“Kill switch” is another important consideration when deciding on a VPN provider to be used inside a restrictive country. A kill switch automatically disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection fails. This prevents your online activities form being laid bare to outsiders.
“Kill switch” is also a “yes/no” feature. The providers are listed alphabetically, with a simple “Y/N” indication as to whether they offer a kill switch.
Other Factors to Consider
While I would never wish bad luck on any of my readers, it’s almost a sure bet that you’ll need to contact your VPN provider’s customer support folk at one time or another, even if it’s just with a billing question.
Look for customer support offerings that include live support chat, a trouble ticket tracking system and a support library that can be used to find a quick answer when you’re in a hurry.
In the table below, I’ve ranked my favorite VPN providers according to what types of support are offered by the provider, as well as the speed and accuracy of their support answers. The providers are listed in order of best support to worst.