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5 Best UK VPN Services (2017)

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

June 2, 2017

UK citizens are largely unaware that Britain has become what is arguably the most extreme surveillance state in the Western world. In this roundup of best UK Virtual Private Network (VPN) services, I will examine what makes this the case.

The Best VPNs for the UK

  1. ExpressVPN Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  2. IPVanish
  3. NordVPN
  4. CyberGhost
  5. Buffered

By far the biggest threat to our privacy comes from the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). This “formalises” what the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been doing in secret doing for years. It provides the UK government with a broad legal basis for spying on all of our phone conversations, text messages, emails, and web browsing history.

Shocking and wide-ranging as this full-frontal assault on our most basic rights to privacy is, the IPA is not the only threat from our government that we face.

The newly passed Digital Economy Act censors perfectly legal content in the name of “morality,” and allows the government to jail copyright pirates for up to ten years!

Indeed, the copyright climate in the UK is extremely hostile, and the UK leads the world in forcing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to censor websites on copyright grounds.

I will discuss these issues in greater detail after listing BestVPN.com’s pick of the best UK VPN services. For now, suffice it to say that if you live in the UK, you really should be using a VPN!

Best UK VPN Services: Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link
1
ExpressVPN review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site
Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
2
IPVanish review
$5.19 / monthVisit Site
3
NordVPN review
$3.29 / monthVisit Site
4
CyberGhost review
$2.90 / monthVisit Site
5
Buffered review
$8.25 / monthVisit Site
BestVPN Editor's Choice Award
PROS:
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Excellent customer service
  • P2P: yes
CONS:
  • Keeps summary statistics e.g. bandwidth usage (activity and IPs are never logged)
  • A bit pricey

Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is a popular UK VPN provider, thanks in no small part to its excellent customer service. Our Express VPN review found their service to be very slick and professional, ExpressVPN provides 24/7 support and offers a very generous and a 100% genuine 30-day quibble-free guarantee.

Its Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS software is notable for its ease of use, and ExpressVPN offers a custom firmware for routers. Although not the cheapest VPN service out there, when you consider that a full Smart DNS service is thrown in for free, ExpressVPN works out as great value for money.

Additional features: P2P allowed, mobile apps for all operating systems, five simultaneous connections.

Special Deal: Save 49% Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »30-day money-back guarantee
2nd Place

IPVanish

PROS:
  • No logs at all
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Smart DNS included
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • P2P allowed
CONS:
  • Based in the US
  • So-so support

IPVanish is US-based no logs (at all) provider. Being US-based means it may not be ideal if NSA (and therefore GCHQ) surveillance worries you. However, it accepts payment in bitcoin and permits P2P, and torrenting.

IPVanish throws in a free Smart DNS service for all customers, and although a little basic, its client works well. With servers in an impressive 61 countries, IPVanish is also an excellent choice when traveling.

Additional features: apps for Android and iOS.

3rd Place

NordVPN

PROS:
  • No logs at all
  • Six simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 61+ countries
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • “Double-hop VPN”
CONS:
  • Speeds can be slow

NordVPN has its headquarters in Panama. This is excellent news for the more GCHQ-phobic out there, as Panama sits well outside The Five Eyes’ area of influence. It also keeps no logs at all, uses strong encryption, and accepts payment via bitcoins.

Some may appreciate NordVPN’s “double-hop” VPN chaining feature, although I am dubious about its value. Some NordVPN servers are rather slow, but its 30-day money-back guarantee means that you have plenty of time to test out this privacy-focused VPN service for yourself.

Additional features: P2P permitted.

4th Place

CyberGhost

PROS:
  • High speed for ultra-fast streaming
  • More than 800 servers & global coverage
  • Multiple usage on up to 5 devices
  • No Logs Policy, guaranteed security and encryption
CONS:
  • No longer offering a free version (but does offer 30 day money-back guarantee)

CyberGhost has more than 800 servers & global coverage. The CyberGhost app is really funky and will appeal to a fashion-conscious, young crowd. CyberGhost are based both in Romania and in Germany, the latter being responsible for most of the software development. With both teams united by a common credo for internet anonymity, CyberGhost is a major supporter and promoter of civil rights, a free society and an uncensored internet culture.

5th Place

Buffered

PROS:
  • Fast speeds
  • No usage logs
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • P2P: yes
  • Based in Hungary
CONS:
  • A bit pricey
  • Some connection logs
  • Does not accept bitcoins

Buffered operates from Hungary. Therefore, it is not required to keep any logs (although it does keep some connection logs). It also means that this small provider is out of the direct reach of GCHQ and its Fourteen Eyes spying partners. Buffered runs VPN servers in 39 different countries, including the usual favorite locations, and of course has plenty of UK VPN servers.

Its 30-day money-back guarantee is quite generous, but please do be aware that conditions apply. Buffered’s most interesting and unique feature is “port discovery.” This allows you to bypass login requirements when using WiFi at airports, in hotels and so forth, by searching for open ports in the local LAN neighborhood.

Additional features: three simultaneous connections.

Considerations for UK VPN Services

Watch BBC iPlayer with a UK VPN

As I noted in the introduction to this article, the UK takes a highly aggressive stance on copyright infringement. It is no small irony, then, that the UK is a very popular location to base VPN servers. The reason for this is primarily BBC iPlayer.

 

The BBC is a television broadcaster which is world-renowned for the quality of its programming. The BBC has a unique funding model: all UK residents who own a TV are required to pay for a TV licence. One side-effect of this is that anyone in the UK can watch the BBC’s online catch-up service, iPlayer, for free.

In theory, to do this you must now be a member of a household that has paid its TV licence. However, currently the only check on this is that website visitors are asked to click on a button saying “I have a TV licence. Watch now.”

Use of BBC iPlayer will soon also require that you register with the service, but registered emails will not be tied to TV licence ownership. In fact, even a disposable email address will work just fine.

All of which means that overseas viewers can easily watch high quality BBC content on iPlayer for free. All you need is a UK IP address, which using a UK VPN server provides.

Much like US Netflix, iPlayer does try to block VPN users from accessing its service, but these blocks are much less effective than those of Netflix, and most VPN services continue to work with BBC iPlayer.

It might also be worth noting that if you like BBC iPlayer, All4 is another UK streaming service that provides some great content. As with BBC iPlayer, it can be easily accessed using a VPN.

Opt out of Mass Government Surveillance with a VPN

In January this year, the Investigatory Powers Act came into force. Widely dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter,” ex-NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said of the law,

The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.

The IPA provides the UK government with the legal framework to spy on every citizen’s telephone conversations, emails, text messages, and web browsing history.

It also grants the government wide powers to hack into computers, force companies to weaken the security of their encrypted products with backdoors, and imprison any whistleblower who attempts to warn customers that this has happened.

GCHQ headquaters

Furthermore, the information collected will be available to a ridiculously large number of government organizations. These include bodies such as the Department of Health, HM Revenue and Customs, the Postal Services Commission, the NHS Ambulance Service Trust, the Scottish Ambulance Service Board, and many more.

UK GCHQ

A recently leaked draft document shows that the government is fully planning to implement mass realtime surveillance of ISP customers, and to force backdoors into encrypted products.

For a full discussion on why this terrible law constitutes a full-frontal assault on our freedom, please see here.

Use a VPN to Evade Censorship

The Digital Economy Bill

UK residents are now required by law to prove that they are over 18 in order to access adult content online. Even more controversially, the new Digital Economy Act requires ISPs to censor websites that feature “non-conventional” sex acts.

It should be stressed that many such “non-conventional” sex acts are perfectly legal. That the UK government can take it upon itself to censor legal content on prurient grounds sets a dangerous precedent for censoring political and social content “for the good of society.”

The UK also leads the world in censoring content that is alleged to infringe copyright. All major UK ISPs have now agreed to issue “educational letters” to customers who pirate copyrighted content. These letters do, admittedly, lack teeth. A relatively obscure provision of the Digital Economy Act, however, most certainly does not…

Use a VPN to Protect Yourself while Torrenting

Copyright pirates who share infringing material can now be jailed for up to ten years! The government claims that only large-scale commercial pirates will be targeted, but has refused to set a threshold on how the law can be applied.

“A person…who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public commits an offense if [the person] knows or has reason to believe that [they are] infringing copyright in the work, and…knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.”

The Pirate Bay

This means that, according to the letter of the law, you can be jailed for ten years for peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading a single movie.

It is worth noting here that this provision affects P2P torrenters, but not those who stream via Kodi or streaming websites. This is because with the BitTorrent protocol you are literally sharing files with other torrent users, whereas with streaming you are downloading content only.

Use a VPN to Defeat UK Surveillance and Censorship

A good VPN service will:

  • Prevent blanket, un-targeted government surveillance of all your online activity
  • Allow you to access websites censored on prurient, copyright, or other grounds
  • Protect you when torrenting or streaming copyrighted material

Please see my VPNs for Beginners guide for a full discussion on how VPNs work and how they protect your privacy. I also discuss the limitations of using a VPN in that article, which are important to understand.

With specific reference to the UK, if you wish to evade government surveillance then it is vital to choose a VPN service based not just outside the UK, but outside its Five Eyes (FVEY) and even Fourteen Eyes spying partners.

Given that the government is pushing forward with plans to force all UK companies to backdoor their encrypted products, I would also recommend only connecting to VPN servers located outside the UK and FVEY countries.

Good locations to connect to are the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Romania. These are close enough to the UK that distance will have a minimal impact on your internet performance, but they do not require VPN providers to log users’ activity. They also have much more lenient copyright laws.

Please see Five Best VPNs for Torrenting for a full discussion on how and why a VPN will protect you while P2P downloading.

Best VPNs for United Kingdom: Conclusion

This article is necessarily split, in order to deal with two diametrically opposed groups of readers: those who want a UK IP address in order to watch BBC iPlayer, and those who wish to evade UK surveillance and censorship with a non-UK IP address.

Good news is that all the providers listed above are great choices for both kinds of readers*. None of them are UK-based, but all of them offer servers in the UK.

* Those very paranoid about government surveillance may wish to give IPVanish a miss due to it being based in the US – founding member of the FVEY alliance.

Best VPNs for the UK (2017): Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link
1
ExpressVPN review
$6.67 / month Visit Site
Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
2
IPVanish review
$5.19 / month Visit Site
3
NordVPN review
$3.29 / month Visit Site
4
CyberGhost review
$2.90 / month Visit Site
5
Buffered review
$8.25 / month Visit Site

Image credit: PJ photography/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: GCHQ, Cheltenham, UK (UK Ministry of Defence [CC / Flickr])