Freedom House gives Saudi Arabia’s internet freedom a blunt and unequivocal rating of “not free.”
The Saudi Arabian government places strict filtering on internet content, especially on content related to religion, the royal family and politics.
Regulators in the country also control social media content, restrict Voice Over IP, block torrenting and monitor internet activity as much as possible. In addition, while the Netflix streaming service is available in the country, the content selection is heavily censored.
Luckily, there’s a way to get around these roadblocks and gain access to an uncensored internet. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts your internet connection, hiding your online activities from the Saudi government and their censors.
In this article, I share with you the top 5 VPNs to use while in Saudi Arabia.
How to Use a VPN in Saudi Arabia
Each of the 5 providers listed in this article work well for unblocking censored and blocked content while inside Saudi Arabia.
While the use of a VPN inside Saudi Arabia is legal, the government does frown upon the use of VPNs and blocks access to many popular VPN providers’ websites. Be sure to download the software of your preferred VPN before entering the country.
Users who wish to keep their online activities unencumbered with restrictions and monitoring by Saudi officials can take advantage of the protection a VPN offers by following these steps:
- Subscribe to a VPN provider.
- Download and install your VPN of choice’s app(s) to your device(s). (As mentioned previously, if you’re planning on traveling to Saudi Arabia, do this BEFORE entering their borders.)
- Log into the VPN provider’s server network.
- Connect to a VPN server located anywhere outside of Saudi Arabian borders.
- Enjoy your newfound internet freedom.
Best VPNs for Saudi Arabia
I ran all of my favorite VPN providers through rounds of testing, and I found that these 5 VPNs will offer the best protection for you while inside Saudi Arabian borders. Here’s a short summary:
- ExpressVPN: The provider offers top-notch encryption and privacy protections, fast and reliable connections, kill switch protection and wide global server coverage. The VPN’s easy-to-use apps are available for most popular device platforms.
- NordVPN: Connection obfuscation, Double VPN protections, fast connections that won’t let you down and kill switch protection all add up to a valid option for Saudi Arabian VPN protection.
- IPVanish: Well-encrypted connections, reliable connection speeds, kill switch protection and a “scramble” connection option mean this provider will do an above-average job of protecting your online activities from inside Saudi borders.
- VyprVPN: Provides kill switch protection, automatic reconnect, the ability to block malicious sites, custom DNS servers and much more.
- StrongVPN: This provider offers an impressive 12 simultaneous connections, as well as optimal connection and privacy protections. In addition, the provider offers an auto-reconnect feature and IPv6 leak protection.
Important Note: For definitions of security features, such as IPv6 protection or connection obfuscation, reference the “Glossary of VPN Security Terms” toward the bottom of the article.
I evaluated and ranked the top VPNs for use inside Saudi Arabia using the following criteria:
- No logging of any kind
- Reliability of connections
- High level of encryption
- Automatic kill switch protection
- Comprehensive global server coverage
- Top-notch multi-platform support
Here’s my list of the top 5 VPNs for use in Saudi Arabia.
ExpressVPN is the best option for full protection for your internet activities while inside Saudi Arabia.
The British Virgin Islands-based VPN provider keeps no logs of any kind related to their users’ internet voyages. This offers assurance that no one can successfully request evidence of any of your activities.
Users can combine the provider’s Bitcoin anonymous payment option with a throw-away email address to keep their payment information totally incognito.
ExpressVPN offers reliable, speedy connections that are protected by military-grade encryption. Automatic kill switch protection is ready, so your online antics are never subject to being monitored in the unlikely case you lose connection to the provider’s servers.
A global server network of 3,000+ VPN servers spread across 94 countries provides optimal opportunity to access blocked content, no matter where it might be located.
Native apps are available for the Linux, macOS, Windows, Kindle Fire, iOS and Android platforms. Browser extensions provide protection for Chrome, Safari and Firefox browsing sessions.
ExpressVPN allows up to 3 devices at a time to be simultaneously connected to their servers using a single login. If you need more, you can use the provider’s extensive router protection.
- Total no-logs policy and Bitcoin payment protection
- Reliable, encrypted connections
- Kill switch, IPv6 leak and DNS leak protection
- Top-notch app support
- Excellent customer support
- Only 3 concurrent connections per username
BEST VPN FOR SAUDI ARABIA:ExpressVPN is the best VPN to protect your Saudi Arabian internet travels. Fast and reliable is the best way to describe this provider’s well-encrypted, kill switch-protected connections. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN delivers comprehensive protection for your online activities while residing in or visiting Saudi Arabia.
This Panama-based VPN offers full privacy protection for your online travels, as it keeps no records of its users’ online travels. You can combine cryptocurrency payment options with a disposable email address to protect your payment privacy.
NordVPN’s connections are fast and provide a high level of reliability. The provider’s government-grade encryption protects your activities from prying eyes, and their connection obfuscation and kill switch protections ensure your connection will not be laid bare.
An extra level of protection is offered by NordVPN’s “Double VPN” protection, which routes your connection through two VPN servers, further anonymizing your activities.
NordVPN has 5,200+ servers well distributed throughout 60 countries, providing excellent access to the rest of the world.
You should find that NordVPN covers most of your connected devices, as the provider delivers native app support for iOS, macOS, Windows, Android, Linux and Android TV devices. Browser extensions are available for the Firefox and Chrome platforms.
Up to 6 devices can connect simultaneously using a single username, while comprehensive router support allows more devices to connect at once, when needed.
- Top-notch privacy protection
- 6 concurrent connections allowed
- Double VPN and connection obfuscation protection
- Low price attractive to budget-minded users
- App interface not user-friendly
ABOVE-AVERAGE CONNECTION PROTECTION:NordVPN is an excellent VPN option for budget-minded users. A strict no-logs policy, Double VPN and connection obfuscation protection are just a few of the features that provide comprehensive user protection. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
IPVanish earns its spot in the top 5 thanks to its self-owned and -operated server network, no-logs policy, reliable connections, and kill switch and connection obfuscation protection.
U.S.-based IPVanish ignores its home country’s opinion on privacy and keeps no logs of any kind, so your online activities stay incognito. Sadly, the lack of acceptance of cryptocurrency does mean your payment info can’t be perfectly secure.
IPVanish’s reliable, high-speed connections are protected by high-level encryption, a kill switch, auto-reconnect, IPv6 leak protections and a proprietary “Scramble” feature. You can also make use of either IPVanish’s DNS servers or their preferred third-party DNS servers. (For a full explanation of these security features, see the Glossary of VPN Security Terms.)
IPVanish provides additional protection, as the VPN service owns and operates all of its server farms. This removes third-party operators from the equation, keeping anyone from having access to your info.
This provider has over 1,300 servers located in 50 countries around the globe, providing ample access to the free world.
Device support isn’t a worry with IPVanish thanks to their app support for the Linux, Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Amazon Fire platforms. The provider lacks any browser extension offerings.
If you need VPN protection for other devices, or you need more than 10 concurrent connections, you can make use of the provider’s excellent router compatibility.
- Dependable, well-encrypted connections
- Self-owned and -operated server farms
- 10 simultaneous connections
- Money-back guarantee limited to 7 days
- No cryptocurrency payment option
EXCELLENT FOR LARGE GROUPS:IPVanish’s well-encrypted connections to their self-owned and -operated servers, and their 10 simultaneous connections allowance, make the provider a great option for privacy-minded users with plenty of devices. 7-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
Like IPVanish, VyprVPN also owns and operates its server farms. The provider ups the protection with reliable, well-protected connections, as well as “Chameleon” protection.
Swiss cheese may have plenty of holes, but this Switzerland-based provider’s privacy protections have none thanks to a strict no-logs policy. Unfortunately, the service does not accept any form of cryptocurrency as payment.
VyprVPN provides well-protected, speedy connections that are more than up to just about any activity you prefer.
Military-level encryption, kill switch and auto-reconnect protection is available to prevent your online travels from being tracked. Plus, the provider offers the option to use either their DNS servers or third-party DNS servers.
VyprVPN’s “Chameleon” custom OpenVPN protocol helps mask your VPN connection as normal internet usage. Chameleon scrambles your data, disguising the fact that it’s VPN activity. This prevents restrictive governments from detecting your VPN usage.
As mentioned above, VyprVPN joins IPVanish in the self-owned and -operated servers club, keeping third parties farther away from your valuable data.
With 700+ proprietary servers in over 70 countries, VyprVPN opens your Saudi-based internet connection up to a literal world full of content.
Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Windows and macOS devices can all benefit from this provider’s native app support. However, the provider lacks browser extension options.
Protection for other devices and the ability to connect more than 3 concurrent devices on a single login are possible thanks to the provider’s support with numerous makes of routers.
- Able to mask your connection as normal internet traffic
- Strict no-logs policy
- Owns and operates all of its servers
- More expensive than some other VPNs
- No anonymous payment option
ADDED SECURITY:VyprVPN’s self-owned and -operated server farms, along with its Chameleon connection obfuscation feature, both add an additional layer of security for you and your data. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
StrongVPN may be a relative newcomer to the VPN industry, but it has all the makings of a rookie of the year thanks to reliable, well-encrypted connections and no-logs privacy protections.
The word “United States” and “privacy” don’t usually go together, but this U.S.-based VPN provider keeps no logs of any kind that connect their users to their online antics. Sadly, StrongVPN lacks a cryptocurrency payment option.
Military-grade encryption protects StrongVPN’s fast, reliable connections from prying eyes, while kill switch, auto-reconnect and IPv6 leak protections keep your info from leaking to the wrong parties. An OpenVPN “scramble” feature helps hide your VPN usage.
(For a full explanation of these security features, see the next section.)
Saudi-based users will have access to 26 countries through the provider’s over 650 servers.
Apps for the Windows, iOS, Android, macOS and Amazon Fire platforms has users well protected. Unfortunately, no browser extensions are available.
For devices not included on the above list, or if you require more than the generous 12 simultaneous connections the provider allows, extensive router compatibility has you and your devices covered.
- OpenVPN “scramble” feature
- Optimal connection protections
- No-logs privacy protections
- Lacks a cryptocurrency payment option
- Server network needs expansion
GREAT FOR ANONYMITY:StrongVPN may be a recent entrant into the VPN industry, but they are quickly becoming known for their high level of protection. A kill switch and OpenVPN “scramble” protection offer excellent connection protections. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Glossary of VPN Security Terms
Here are some simple explanations for different security features that VPNs offer.
Auto-Reconnect: The auto-reconnect feature automatically reconnects your device to the VPN server if your connection to the VPN server is accidentally interrupted.
Connection Obfuscation: This process uses OpenVPN servers that are specially designed to bypass internet restrictions, hiding the fact that you’re using a VPN.
Connection “Scrambling”: Similar to connection obfuscation, connection scrambling hides the fact that you’re using a VPN server to connect to the internet.
DNS Leak Protection: When you enter a website address (for example: www.pixelprivacy.com) in the address bar of your favorite browser, the address is sent to a DNS server, which looks up the numeric IP address for that domain name.
The request is then forwarded to the correct server, and the website loads in your browser window.
If your ISP’s DNS server is handling your VPN connection’s DNS requests instead of your VPN provider’s DNS server, this is considered a “leak” and your online activities are open to monitoring. Learn more about DNS leaks.
IPv6 Leak Protection: An IP address is a series of numbers that identify your device (and location) to the internet. Because the number of internet-connected devices is rapidly growing, the current address range of IPv4 is running out, resulting in an increasing number of IPv6 addresses.
Because IPv6 addresses are relatively new, there can be compatibility issues, making IPv6 leak protection important. If your VPN doesn’t offer IPv6 leak protection, any requests sent via an IPv6 address could leak outside of your VPN tunnel, possibly exposing your location and activities.
Kill Switch Protection: If your connection to a VPN server fails, the kill switch automatically disconnects your device from the internet, preventing your online activities from being exposed.
Is a Free VPN a Good Option for Use in Saudi Arabia?
I must answer this question with a resounding NO! NO! NO!
“Free” VPNs are a horrible option for any type of online use, but when discussing your online protection in a severely restricted country like Saudi Arabia, a freebie VPN shouldn’t even be part of the conversation.
Any VPN you use while in Saudi Arabia should offer optimal protection for your connection, while providing wide-ranging access to content in other countries. A gratis VPN will not offer either.
Many “free” VPNs have a hidden cost: your personal information. Some of these providers will log a user’s online activities and then sell the information to interested third-parties, such as advertisers. Do you really think these providers will put up much of a fight if the Saudi government demands those same logs?
Free VPNs are also known to insert unwanted ads and tracking cookies into their users’ browser sessions. While that might not lead to detection by Saudi authorities, it’s still a violation of your privacy.
VPNs that provide their services on the house can also cost you in terms of your precious time and convenience. Some will force you to sit in a queue, where you’ll have to wait until you’re allowed to connect. Once you’re allowed to connect, your server choice will be severely limited (if you have a choice at all).
Other downsides of freebie VPNs are connection throttling, bandwidth limitations and monthly data caps. Does any of this sound good to you?
Why Do You Need a VPN in Saudi Arabia?
The Saudi Arabian government employs strict filtering of internet content. Much of the filtered and blocked content involves religion, politics and the royal family.
Although popular social media and messaging apps are not blocked, their use has been restricted thanks to connection throttling of apps, such as Telegram. Over the years, Telegram’s users have reported bandwidth limitations, preventing file and image sharing among users.
Websites that are judged to contain harmful, anti-Islamic, illegal or offensive material are routinely blocked. Access to online gambling sites, as well as file-sharing sites like Pirate Bay, is blocked.
Websites and social media pages belonging to political organizations or human rights organizations are also often blocked.
Members of the public can submit blocking requests via a web-based form. A team of Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) employees review the requests to determine if they are justified. The CITC received 732,504 such requests in the year 2015.
In addition to blocking and filtering content, the government also forces the removal of “offensive” content. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are among the online services that have received takedown requests from the Saudi Arabian government.
A VPN can help prevent connection throttling by hiding your online activities with encryption. That same encryption prevents your ISP and government from tracking your online travels and connecting those activities back to you.
It can also provide access to websites and services that may be blocked in your area, thanks to its IP address-“spoofing” abilities. This restores your ability to access gambling and social media sites, and allows you to once again share files via P2P file sharing.
Download Your VPN Before Entering Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Arabian government routinely blocks the websites of censorship circumvention tool providers, such as the Tor browser and many major VPN providers.
That’s why I strongly recommend that you decide on a VPN provider and download the provider’s apps on your devices before traveling to Saudi Arabia.
How to Maximize Your Privacy in Saudi Arabia
Once you’re inside Saudi Arabia, do the following whenever you connect to the internet:
- Start up your VPN app and make sure you have all of the protective measures enabled.
- If OpenVPN is an option, use it.
- Make sure to enable your VPN’s kill switch, auto-reconnect, obfuscation, “Double VPN” and any other security features to keep your internet activities undercover.
You can also maximize your anonymity by
- Downloading a secure browser, like Tor
- avoiding public Wi-Fi hotspots, and
- Using an encrypted email provider.
Are VPNs Legal in Saudi Arabia?
While you won’t be arrested for using a VPN inside the country (it’s still legal to use one), you could be arrested for posting materials the government considers offensive or dangerous.
To be on the safe side, make sure that you use a VPN that makes privacy and security top priorities, like the 5 providers I listed above, when in the country, so that none of your online activities can be traced back to you.
What Else Can You Use a VPN For?
Besides offering excellent protection for your online activities, a VPN also offers other definite advantages.
A VPN opens access to a world of content, whether the content is being blocked by the country you’re in or by the provider itself (due to geographical or other restrictions). This enables access to streaming, gaming and other types of content that may normally be blocked in your area.
A VPN also prevents your Internet Service Provider and even your government from throttling your connection speed when you’re accessing non-approved websites and other services, since they won’t know what you’re looking at.
The same encryption that keeps the Saudi Arabian government from monitoring your online activities also keeps the bad guys sharing an unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspot with you from monitoring your everyday activities, such as banking, shopping and paying bills.
When faced with Saudi content blockades, connection throttling and other forms of censorship, a VPN is your best bet for preserving your internet freedoms.
A VPN like ExpressVPN offers the best method of avoiding content roadblocks, protecting your online activities and your personal information from observation and theft, and opening access to a big, wonderful world of online content.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.