Internet users in the United Kingdom require the services of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect their online activities from the prying eyes of governmental agencies, hackers and even their own Internet Service Provider.
Freedom House ranks the U.K.’s internet freedom status as “Free.” The organization gave the country an overall 2019 Internet Freedom Score of 77/100 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free).
The United Kingdom is a member of Five Eyes, an alliance made up of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. The members of this alliance have agreed to share information about their citizens, which is collected by each country’s intelligence agencies. This information can include a citizen’s online activities.
The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 requires Communication Service Providers (the U.K. version of Internet Service Providers found in the United States) to retain U.K. internet users’ “internet connection records” for one year. Police and intelligence officers can view the connection records without needing to have a warrant in hand.
In addition to blocking websites containing what is considered to be illegal content in the United Kingdom (which can include copyrighted material, hate speech, extremist materials and more), the U.K. government’s blocking can also inadvertently block innocent websites.
While Netflix is available in the U.K., the content there can vary greatly from that available from the service in other countries. Other streaming services, like Hulu, limit their viewing to citizens of their home countries.
Luckily, U.K. residents and visitors to the country don’t have to worry about having their online activities tracked or having their online entertainment options constrained. A VPN offers encrypted protection for your internet connection and provides reliable access to services and websites from around the globe.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at 5 VPN services that have proven to be the best for use from inside of the United Kingdom. These providers also offer reliable access to content limited to inside of the U.K. when you’re traveling or living abroad.
How to Use a VPN To Protect Your U.K.-Based Travels
To use a VPN from inside the United Kingdom, do the following:
- Subscribe to a VPN provider. (ExpressVPN is my top choice.)
- Install the VPN’s app(s) on your device(s).
- Log into the VPN service.
- Select a VPN server outside of the U.K. to gain access to content in other countries, or connect to a U.K. server if you are just looking to protect your online activities or if you are outside of the U.K. and are looking to access content from inside the country.
- Enjoy your new internet anonymity and freedom!
Best VPNs for Use in the United Kingdom
These 5 VPN services have proven to provide the best VPN services for U.K.-based internet users. TL;DR version:
- ExpressVPN: This long-time VPN provider is a leader in the industry, providing reliable access to content around the globe, delivering fast, well-protected connections for all popular device platforms.
- NordVPN: This budget-priced provider offers an excellent VPN option for users who are looking to save a few bucks while still gaining excellent online protection. While the provider’s connection speeds are lacking when compared to others on this list, its other services are more than above average.
- CyberGhost: Newbie VPN users or even users who don’t have much experience with connected devices overall will appreciate CyberGhost’s easy-to-use apps and comprehensive global server network, which features streaming- and file sharing-optimized servers.
- IPVanish: Extra privacy is the hallmark of this provider, which owns and operates its entire global server network. This adds to your privacy protections by keeping third-party contractors away from your personal information.
- Surfshark: While this VPN service’s global server network is spread a bit thin, the provider is steadily adding servers. Users with a need for VPN protection for numerous devices will appreciate this provider’s unlimited concurrent device connections allowance.
The providers on this list were ranked according to the following factors:
- Global server coverage (including U.K. servers)
- Level of privacy and security protections
- Speed of connections
- Devices supported
- Customer support offerings
Note: While this article focuses on how VPNs can protect and enhance your online activities from inside of the United Kingdom, it should be noted that all of the services included on this list also have servers based in the U.K. This allows U.K. citizens to access U.K.-only content like BBC iPlayer while traveling or living abroad.
The 5 best VPNs for use inside of the U.K. are:
ExpressVPN is your best bet when searching for a Virtual Private Network to protect and enhance your online activities from inside the U.K. and elsewhere.
A comprehensive global server network, which includes over 3,000 servers located in 94 countries, including the United Kingdom, provides access to content around the globe.
All of your online antics are kept well undercover thanks to the provider’s use of military-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. You can make use of the provider’s split-tunneling feature to pick and choose which applications will use the service’s encrypted tunnel of protection.
Your privacy is also protected when using ExpressVPN, thanks to the provider’s strict no-server-logs policy, as well as its acceptance of Bitcoin in return for its services.
ExpressVPN provided the fastest download speeds of any VPN provider in my most recent connection speed tests, delivering speeds well above what is required for efficient streaming of HD and 4K content, as well as online gaming and downloading and sharing of large files. There are no data caps to worry about when using ExpressVPN.
No matter which internet-connected device you use, there is a good chance that ExpressVPN has you covered. The provider’s app selection includes apps for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows device platforms.
Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available, as is comprehensive router support. Up to 5 devices can connect simultaneously on the same set of login credentials.
Around-the-clock customer support offers 24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket tracking system and a searchable support knowledge base.
- Comprehensive global server coverage
- HD- and 4K-capable connections
- Reliable global content access
- Excellent privacy and security protections
- Support for popular devices
- More expensive than many competitors
BEST VPN FOR THE U.K.:Users in the United Kingdom will do well to consider ExpressVPN for their online protection needs. In addition to offering optimal connection protection, the provider also delivers comprehensive access to geo-blocked content around the globe. A 30-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
Budget-minded online users will appreciate NordVPN’s budget prices, which belie the high level of services that the provider offers.
This provider’s global server coverage measures in at a bit above average, with 5,500+ servers stationed in the U.K. and 57 other countries.
This provider’s connection protections are second-to-none, with banking-level encryption, kill switch protection, and IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. Malware and advertisement blocking are also options.
Privacy is no problem thanks to the provider’s no-server-logs-ever policy, as well as its cryptocurrency subscription payment option.
Connection speeds aren’t one of the highest points among the provider’s offerings. That said, while NordVPN’s connection speeds are slower than the other providers on this list, it can still provide enough bandwidth for HD streaming, gaming, and most other of your favorite online activities. No data caps ever impose upon your online fun.
App support is a category where NordVPN shines, with apps for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions also make an appearance.
Comprehensive router features protect all of your connected devices. Up to 6 devices can connect simultaneously while using the same login.
Always-available customer support offers 24/7 support chat, email support and a searchable support library.
- Servers in the U.K. and 57 other countries
- Comprehensive app support
- Budget-priced annual subscriptions
- Excellent privacy and security
- Connection speeds could use a bump
BEST LOW-COST VPN OPTION:NordVPN should prove to be an attractive option for budget-minded users who are looking to save money on a reliable VPN provider. Although the provider comes up slightly short in the connection speeds category, it performs above average in all other arenas. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
Users new to the online scene will appreciate this provider’s easy-to-use apps, as well as its comprehensive global server network.
CyberGhost scores well in the global server coverage column thanks to its network of 5,700+ servers stationed in 89 countries, including the U.K. Many of the provider’s servers are optimized for streaming and sharing of files.
Any online activities you partake in while connected to the CyberGhost network are well-protected from observation thanks to government-grade encryption, a kill switch, and IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. Plus, you can block ads and trackers and even force websites to serve up HTTPS versions of their web pages.
As for privacy, the provider has you covered with a strict no-logs policy for its servers and a willingness to accept Bitcoin in return for its services.
CyberGhost connection speeds are well above average, easily handling HD and 4K video streams, the fastest online games, and sharing of large files. No worries about the action being interrupted, thanks to the provider’s lack of data caps.
Those easy-to-use apps I mentioned previously include offerings for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows device platforms.
Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available to protect your browser-related activities. Router protection is also available. Up to 7 devices can connect simultaneously on the same account.
24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket system and a searchable support database make for always-available customer support.
- Wide-ranging global server coverage
- Super-fast connections
- Easy-to-use apps
- Optimized servers for streaming and file sharing
- Advanced users might miss some options
BEST VPN OPTION FOR NEWBIES:Newbie online users who are looking for comprehensive connection protection, but don’t want to deal with a bunch of complicated settings, will appreciate CyberGhost’s easy-to-use app lineup. The provider offers streaming- and file sharing-optimized server options. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
IPVanish is an attractive option for users who are looking for an extra bit of privacy over the already-excellent privacy coverage from the other providers on this list.
The provider has a global network of 1,300+ servers spread a bit thinly through 60 countries around the globe (including the U.K.).
All of those servers are owned and operated by the provider itself, unlike many other VPN providers, which lease their servers from third-party contractors. Owning and operating their servers allows IPVanish to keep those third-party eyes away from customers’ personal info.
IPVanish-supplied internet connections are protected using bank-grade encryption, a kill switch, an auto-reconnect feature, and a proprietary “scramble” feature that disguises IPVanish VPN activity as web browsing activity.
While IPVanish unfortunately doesn’t offer a cryptocurrency payment option, it does follow a strict no-server-logs policy.
The provider’s connection speeds are up to snuff and are well able to handle HD video streaming, online gaming, and file sharing and downloading. Data caps are nowhere to be seen.
IPVanish app support covers the most popular platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, ChromeOS and Amazon Fire devices. Setup instructions for Linux and Windows Phone devices are available.
Unfortunately, there are no browser extensions to be found. Router support is available. Up to 10 devices can simultaneously connect on a single login.
Around-the-clock support includes 24/7 customer support chat, a searchable support database, and email support.
- Plenty of servers, including in the U.K.
- Owns and operates entire global server network
- Up to 10 devices can connect simultaneously
- 7-day money-back guarantee period is too short
- Expensive short-term subscription options
EXTRA LAYER OF PRIVACY:IPVanish will be an attractive VPN option for users who are looking for an extra layer of privacy. The provider’s owned-and-operated servers offer that extra bit of protection. It also offers the second-highest simultaneous connections allowance on this list. A somewhat short 7-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of IPVanish.
Surfshark offers an unlimited simultaneous connections allowance, making it an attractive option for users who require a large number of connections at once.
The provider’s global server network is adequate, if not impressive. With 1,000+ servers in over 61 countries, I’ve definitely seen worse coverage. It should be noted that the provider’s server count is approximately double what it was last year, meaning the provider seems to be investing in expansion.
This provider’s connections offer industry-level protection to users thanks to military-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and DNS leak and IPv6 leak prevention. A proprietary “Multi-Hop” option routes your internet connection through two servers, providing double the encryption and increased anonymity.
A strict no-server-logs policy and a Bitcoin subscription payment option keep your privacy protected.
Surfshark connection speeds can easily handle the usual suspects when it comes to online activities, such as streaming, gaming and file sharing. No data caps to worry about with this provider.
Apps for the Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows and Amazon Fire device platforms are available. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions make the scene. Router support is also available.
If you’re looking for enough simultaneous connections for your entire city, then Surfshark’s unlimited concurrent connections policy makes it the most attractive VPN provider on this list.
24/7 support chat, a contact form and a searchable support library all add up to around-the-clock support.
- “Multi-Hop” protection provides more anonymity
- Unlimited concurrent connection allowance
- Speedy connections
- Global server coverage is somewhat limited but improving
- Monthly subscription option is a bit expensive
BEST VPN FOR LARGE GROUPS:While Surfshark’s overall service offering matches up fairly well with competitors, their main attraction is their unlimited concurrent connections allowance. This is an excellent VPN for users who require a large number of connections on one account. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
Will a Free VPN Work in The United Kingdom?
Sure, you likely won’t have a problem finding a free VPN that will work from inside U.K. borders.
However, if you’re concerned about convenience and privacy protection, the experience will be less than satisfactory.
Free VPNs are inconvenient as heck. Instead of clicking a server and immediately being connected, you may find that a freebie VPN will make you cool your heels, waiting with other free users until a seat opens up on the provider’s “free” VPN servers.
Once you’re allowed to connect, you may find that your server selection is limited, or you’ll find that you don’t have a choice, but are instead automatically connected to a server.
Once you connect to a free VPN, you may notice that your connection speeds have dropped precipitously. While any VPN will slow your connection speeds a bit, freebie VPNs are known for throttling their users’ connections, as they want to save most of their bandwidth for their paying customers. Streaming fans and gamers are strongly advised to look elsewhere for their VPN protection.
“Virtual Network.” Notice something missing in that sentence. That’s right, “Privacy” is missing, just as it’s missing from a free VPN. “Free” VPNs are for-profit businesses, meaning they need income. Many free VPNs make money by tracking their users’ online travels, then selling info about those travels to advertisers and other nosy third parties.
Still other freebie VPNs have been found to be inserting unwanted tracking cookies and ads into their users’ browsing sessions. Unfortunately, those cookies stick around to track you even after you’ve disconnected from the provider’s servers.
What Does a VPN Do For Me?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides optimal enhancement and protection for your online activities. But what exactly does that mean?
As far as enhancing your online activities, a VPN has the ability to open access to streaming video and music, gaming content, and other sites and services that you might normally be blocked from.
Many streaming and gaming services will either limit their content to a few countries or vary their content according to which country a user is accessing the content from.
A VPN can “spoof” your geographic location by temporarily assigning your device an IP address located in another region of the world. This fools online services into serving up their geo-blocked content to you, even though you’re actually located in a country where you shouldn’t have access. This greatly enhances your online entertainment options.
On the protection side of the coin, a VPN protects your online activities from being observed by interested third parties by encasing your internet connection in a tunnel of encryption. And, much like a physical tunnel, anyone outside of that tunnel cannot see what’s happening inside the tunnel.
There are plenty of Nosy Nellies that would like to monitor your online activities.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) would like to monitor your online travels, as they can sell that info to advertisers and other interested folks. Bad guys want to see what you’re doing so they can steal your personal and business-related information. The government wants to track you because that’s what they do; they’re nosy by nature.
If you use an unprotected Wi-Fi hotspot, like those found in your local coffee shop, hotel or other public locations, your online activities are open to being tracked. That means hackers can monitor your activity, waiting for you to do some shopping or banking online so they can glean valuable personal info, like checking account information or credit card numbers.
By using a VPN, you encrypt your connection, shielding your online activities from the prying eyes of other users.
That same encryption also helps prevent your ISP from throttling or blocking your connection simply because you’re engaged in “unapproved” activities, like streaming from certain services or sharing files with your friends.
Residents of the United Kingdom, as well as visitors to the country, will appreciate the protection and enhancement features a Virtual Private Network offers.
ExpressVPN offers complete connection protection for your connected devices, as well as lightning-fast connections to most of the globe via a wide-ranging global server network. The provider is always available to help thanks to its 24/7 support.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.