Freedom House gives South Africa a 2019 Internet Freedom Score of 72/100, “free” (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free). However, the organization says internet freedom declined in South Africa during the coverage period, at least in part due to election-related factors.
The report says self-censorship, online harassment, and online manipulation all increased during the run-up to the general elections held in May 2019. However, there were no reported instances of filtering or blocking of websites, nor were there restrictions on social media.
The South African government generally allows a free internet in the country, although it does partially censor political content. However, authorities have not yet targeted bloggers or other online content creators for their activities.
Internet Service Providers are required to issue takedown notices for illegal content, including copyrighted material, defamatory content and sexually explicit content.
Most popular sites and services are available in South Africa, including social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
While Netflix and other streaming services are available in the country, the content offered by the services is different than that offered in other countries. Meanwhile, Hulu is available only in the U.S. and Japan, and BBC iPlayer is available only to viewers inside the borders of the United Kingdom.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) offers South African users optimal online protection, while also expanding their online content options. Both residents of South Africa and visitors to the country will find that a VPN enhances their online experience.
In this article, I’ll share information about the top 5 VPNs to protect and enhance your online activities while you’re living in or visiting South Africa.
How to Use a VPN From Inside South Africa
It’s easy to use a VPN to protect and enhance your online activities while you’re in the country of South Africa. Simply do the following:
- Subscribe to the VPN provider of your choice. (I recommend ExpressVPN.)
- Install the VPN provider’s app(s) on your device(s).
- Log into the VPN service on the device of your choice.
- Select a VPN server located outside of South Africa to access content based in other countries, or select a server inside of South Africa to protect your online activities from observation while accessing content located inside the country.
- Enjoy your new online protection and freedom!
Best VPNs for Use in South Africa
The 5 VPN providers below have proven to be the best VPNs for use while inside South African borders. The TL;DR version is:
- ExpressVPN: This is the #1 best VPN option for protecting and enhancing your online activities while inside the borders of South Africa. This provider delivers fast, well-protected connections, as well as wide-ranging global server coverage and much more.
- NordVPN: This provider will prove to be an attractive one for users who are looking for comprehensive VPN protection that won’t break the bank. NordVPN delivers excellent online protection, HD-capable connection speeds and more, all for a reasonable fee.
- CyberGhost: First-time VPN users would do well to take a closer look at CyberGhost. The provider’s easy-to-use apps provide quick access to protection, and also offer access to streaming- and file sharing-friendly servers.
- PrivateVPN: While this provider’s global server coverage is spread a bit thin, as is its app support, the provider offers excellent online protection and its “Stealth VPN” feature helps hide your VPN activity, making it appear to be normal browsing activity.
- Surfshark: Fast connection speeds and a fast-growing server network are two attractive features of this provider. However, users with a need for a large number of connections will appreciate the provider’s unlimited connections allowance.
When ranking this top 5 lineup, I considered the following factors:
- Global server network (with servers in South Africa)
- Security and privacy protections
- Speed of protected connections
- Multi-platform app support
- Customer support
Note: This article concentrates on using a VPN from inside South Africa. However, I only included providers in this list that do have servers stationed inside the country so that you can also access South Africa-only content when you’re outside of the country.
Here is my list of the 5 best VPNs for South African users.
ExpressVPN is the #1 choice for best VPN to protect and enhance your online activities while in the country of South Africa.
The provider has the globe covered with a global server network of 3,000+ servers spread among 94 countries. Some of those servers are stationed inside South Africa.
ExpressVPN provides top-notch online security thanks to military-grade encryption, a kill switch option, and DNS and IPv6 leak prevention. The provider also offers split tunneling on its desktop apps, allowing users to pick and choose which apps will communicate through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel.
Privacy protection comes in the form of a Bitcoin subscription payment option, as well as a strict no-server-logs-ever policy.
Connection speed is another category where ExpressVPN shines, scoring the best in my most recent speed tests. Depending on your usual speeds, the provider’s connections can easily handle HD and 4K video streaming, online gaming and the sharing of large files. The provider doesn’t enforce data caps of any type.
Multi-platform support is also a high point, as the provider offers native app support for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux and Chromebook device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available.
Wide-ranging router compatibility protects all of your connected devices. 5 devices can connect simultaneously using the same login info.
Customer support is available around the clock via 24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket system and a searchable support library.
- Reliable access to geo-blocked services and websites
- Excellent global server coverage, with servers inside South Africa
- Speedy downloads
- Comprehensive online protections
- App support for all popular device platforms
- More expensive than other VPN providers
BEST VPN FOR SOUTH AFRICA IN 2020:ExpressVPN is my #1 choice for South African users who desire reliable online security and privacy, as well as reliable access to all types of geo-blocked content housed around the globe. A 30-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN is the best option for budget-minded individuals who are looking for premium protection at a not-so-premium price.
NordVPN’s global server network of 5,500+ servers includes servers inside South Africa, along with 57 other countries.
Privacy is also well covered at NordVPN thanks to a no-server-logs policy and a cryptocurrency subscription payment option.
While NordVPN’s connection speeds aren’t the fastest in this roundup, their connections can still easily handle HD video, online gaming, and downloading and sharing of files. Data caps are nowhere to be found.
Native app support from the provider has the popular device platforms covered thanks to apps for the Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Android TV and Linux platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions protect your browsing.
Extensive router support protects all of your connected devices via a single connection. Up to 6 concurrent connections are allowed on a single set of login credentials.
Customer support is always available thanks to 24/7 live support chat, email support and a searchable knowledge base.
- Servers in South Africa and 57 other countries
- 24-hour customer support
- Top-notch privacy and security protections
- Budget-priced provider
- Slowest connection speeds on this list
BEST BARGAIN-BASEMENT VPN:NordVPN should prove to be the most attractive VPN provider for budget-minded users in search of a deal on VPN protection. The provider’s offerings belie its low price, offering excellent privacy and security protections and above-average global server coverage. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
First-time VPN users will want to take a closer look at this provider. CyberGhost’s apps are easy to use and offer quick access to streaming- and file sharing-optimized VPN servers.
CyberGhost’s global server network includes 5,800+ servers, stationed in 89 countries, South Africa included. Among those servers are streaming-optimized and downloading-optimized servers.
While the provider may be easier to use than many of its brethren, it doesn’t “dumb-down” its security and privacy protections. Government-grade encryption, a kill switch, and DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection are all present and accounted for. Plus, ad and tracker blocking is available, as is the ability to force websites to serve up HTTPS versions of their pages.
Privacy is also well protected thanks to a strict no-server-logs rule and the ability to use Bitcoin to pay for a subscription.
CyberGhost’s encrypted connections will likely keep up with your favorite online activities, easily handling both HD and 4K video streams, downloading and sharing large files, and playing games online. No data caps to worry about here, folks.
Easy-to-use apps are available for the Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox extensions protect your web browsing, and support is available for various router makes and models. You can make up to 7 simultaneous connections using the same account.
Around-the-clock support is available thanks to 24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket system and a searchable knowledge base.
- Servers in 89 countries (South Africa included)
- 4K-capable connection speeds
- Easy-to-use apps
- Online activity-optimized servers
- Users may miss the ability to customize settings
BEST VPN FOR NEWBIES:CyberGhost is my top pick for first-time VPN users thanks to its easy-to-use, yet powerful app lineup for most popular device platforms. The provider also scores points with its servers optimized for specific online activities. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
PrivateVPN is somewhat new on the scene, and still has plenty of room to grow when it comes to global server coverage and app support.
Admittedly, the provider’s global server coverage is thin, considering that it has just 150+ servers spread out among 60 countries.
The provider’s connection protection isn’t thin, though, thanks to banking-grade encryption, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and their proprietary Stealth VPN protection, which disguises your VPN activity as regular browser traffic.
PrivateVPN keeps no server logs, ensuring your online activity history stays private. Plus, the provider accepts Bitcoin as payment.
The provider’s connection speeds can handle your favorite online activities, including gaming, sharing large files, and streaming HD and 4K video.
While app support is limited to the big 4 platforms (Android, iOS, macOS and Windows), you can protect the rest of your connected devices by using the provider’s router features. Up to 6 devices can connect to the PrivateVPN servers at once on a single set of login credentials.
Customer support consists of email support, an FAQ library and what is claimed to be 24/7 support chat, but I’ve visited the site numerous times when live chat wasn’t available. (The support chat balloon will be green when it’s available, red when it isn’t.)
- Reliable access to geo-blocked content
- Extra protection via Stealth VPN
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Server numbers are quite low
- App support needs a boost
EXTRA SECURITY:PrivateVPN offers reliable and not-easily-detectable access to content around the world. The provider’s “Stealth VPN” obfuscation feature disguises your VPN traffic as normal internet traffic. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
Surfshark hasn’t been around as long as most of the providers in this list of 5, but it’s quickly earning a good reputation as a reliable VPN service.
While this provider’s server coverage could use a boost, it appears the company is investing in server growth. Surfshark currently has 1,000+ servers in South Africa and 59+ other countries. That’s nearly double what the count was a year ago.
No logs are to be found on Surfshark’s servers, and they accept Bitcoin to protect your payment privacy.
Surfshark’s dependable connections offer more than enough speed to handle all of your favorite online activities, including gaming, video streaming and more.
App support from the provider includes options for the Android, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows device platforms. Firefox and Chrome protection is also available. The provider’s service is also compatible with multiple brands of routers. You can protect as many devices at once as you wish, since the provider has an unlimited simultaneous connections policy.
Someone is available to support you 24 hours per day thanks to around-the-clock live chat, a support request form and a searchable knowledge base.
- Fast-growing server numbers
- Unlimited simultaneous device connections
- Excellent security and privacy protections
- App support could be better
- 1-month subscription isn’t cheap
BEST FOR LARGE GROUPS:Users looking for VPN protection for large groups of users would do well to take a close look at Surshark’s offerings. In addition to an unlimited concurrent connections policy, the provider also offers excellent online security protections. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
Won’t a Free VPN Work in South Africa?
While you could probably find a “free” VPN that will work inside of South Africa, I’ll bet you wouldn’t be happy with the performance of that provider, its limitations or its “protections.”
Using a freebie VPN provider is just downright inconvenient. First of all, you may have to sit in a queue with other free users, waiting until a slot opens up on one of the provider’s limited number of free servers.
Then, once you’re given the green light to connect, you will either be automatically connected to the server of the provider’s choice, or you’ll have a limited number of servers to choose from. So, you may not be able to connect to the region of the world that you’d like to.
Once you’re connected, you’ll likely find that the free VPN throttles your connection speeds. Plus, many freebie VPNs will impose daily or monthly data caps on your free usage. Neither one of these limitations is exactly copacetic if you enjoy streaming video or sharing files.
Your privacy and online security will be limited on a free VPN. Even a free VPN has to keep the lights on, and many VPNs of this type will keep their servers humming by tracking their users’ online movements, selling that valuable information to advertisers or other interested third parties.
The provider might also inject unwanted ads and tracking cookies into your browsing sessions. Those cookies stick around on your hard drive even after you’ve disconnected from the VPN provider’s server.
Does any of this sound good? It doesn’t to me. Why not budget for a few bucks per month for reliable, paid VPN service? Believe me, you’ll be happier.
What Can I Do With A VPN?
A Virtual Private Network not only protects your online activities from prying eyes, it can also enhance your online life in other ways.
A VPN can temporarily assign a new IP address to your connected device. Since an IP address can be used to identify your geographical location, this makes it appear as if you are in another location.
This opens up access to geo-controlled content you might normally not have access to, such as video streaming services (like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, etc.), online games (like Minecraft, League of Legends, etc.) and other sites and services.
An encrypted connection also protects you from having your online activities monitored by your Internet Service Provider. That means your ISP can’t throttle or block your connection simply because it doesn’t approve of your video viewing or file sharing activities.
A VPN’s encrypted connections are also a handy shield to have when you’re using an unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspot, like you’ll find at Starbucks or a hotel.
Hotspots are usually left unprotected, meaning anyone on the network can monitor your online activities if they’re savvy enough. This can be hazardous to your financial health if you use a hotspot to shop, pay bills or do your banking.
Residents of South Africa, as well as visitors to the country, will find that a Virtual Private Network is an indispensable tool. A VPN can both enhance and protect your favorite online activities.
ExpressVPN’s comprehensive global server network provides access to content around the globe, and its fast and well-protected connections offer swift and reliable access to that content. The provider’s security and privacy protections ensure you can’t be monitored while online, keeping your activities private.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.