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5 Best UK VPN Services (2017)

In this article looking at the best UK VPN services, I will discuss how the UK is now one of the most “extreme” surveillance states in the world. In addition to this, aggressive copyright enforcement and a desire to limit access to porn make the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) one of the most censored countries in the so-called free world.

The Best VPNs for the UK

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. IPVanish
  3. NordVPN
  4. Buffered
  5. VPNArea

These issues make the use of a VPN service essential for British internet users. Conversely (and somewhat ironically, given the UK’s dire privacy and censorship situation), Britain is a popular place for VPN services to locate their VPN servers. This is primarily because a VPN for UK allows users outside Britain to watch BBC iPlayer.

Although not as popular as the world famous BBC streaming service, access to Channel 4’s All 4 is also a big draw.

The VPN services listed below are good for both types of user. Brits who wish to surf the internet free from government surveillance and censorship, and non-Brits (or expats) who wish to access the UK’s world-class streaming content.

I will discuss all these issues further once we have looked at BestVPN.com’s pick of the best UK VPN services.

Best UK VPN Services: Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN LogoExpressVPN
Read Review10/10
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

IPVanish LogoIPVanish
Read Review8.8/10
$6.49 / monthVisit Site

3

NordVPN LogoNordVPN
Read Review8.4/10
$5.75 / monthVisit Site

4

Buffered LogoBuffered
Read Review7.4/10
$8.25 / monthVisit Site

5

VPNArea LogoVPNArea
Read Review7/10
$4.92 / monthVisit Site

*All prices shown in US dollars

* Advertiser Disclosure

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Editor's Choice Award

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

Best UK VPN Service

  • ProsPROS
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • Excellent customer service
  • P2P: yes
  • ConsCONS
  • Connection logs
  • 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. A very slick and professional VPN, 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. 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.

Get the best UK VPN now!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day money-back guarantee

2nd place

IPVanish

4.4/5

IPVanish

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Smart DNS included
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • P2P allowed
  • ConsCONS
  • 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.

Visit IPVanish »


3rd place

NordVPN

3.7/5

NordVPN

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • Six simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 47 countries
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • “Double-hop VPN”
  • ConsCONS
  • 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.

Visit NordVPN »


4th place

Buffered

4.2/5

Buffered

  • ProsPROS
  • Fast speeds
  • No usage logs
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • P2P: yes
  • Based in Hungary
  • ConsCONS
  • 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.

Visit Buffered »


5th place

VPNArea

3.5/5

VPNArea

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • Five simultaneous devices
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • P2P: yes
  • ConsCONS
  • Minor issues

This small Bulgarian company has always impressed me with its well-designed Viscosity-based client (with DNS leak protection, a per-app kill switch, auto-IP changer, and server statistics). VPNArea’s five simultaneous connection limit is very generous. Furthermore, it accepts potentially anonymous payment via bitcoin. Its UK VPN servers are well optimized, and you shouldn’t have issues with streaming or anything else that you’re doing.

Visit VPNArea »


Considerations for UK VPN Services

Use a UK VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer

In theory, the world famous BBC iPlayer online catch-up service is only available to UK residents who have paid the UK TV licence fee. In reality, you can use a VPN to geo-spoof your location in order to access the service from outside the UK.

BBC iPlayer Feb 20127
That is, as long as you are willing to fib a little, and click ”I have a TV licence” when asked. In the past, any VPN service with servers in the UK would allow you to access BBC iPlayer. Over the last year or so, however, the BBC has been trying to block VPN users in order to shore up this loophole.

Even legitimate UK residents who have a TV licence, but who use a VPN for increased privacy and security reasons, can find their access blocked.

This “VPN ban” works simply by blocking IP addresses known to belong VPN providers. In our experience, many (if not most) VPN providers have found ways around the ban. But it always pays to take advantage of any free trials and/or money-back guarantees on offer in order to check that your chosen service works before laying down real money.

It is worth being aware that the BBC has announced that a login using a personal BBC ID will be required in order to access iPlayer “from early 2017.” If/when this actually happens, and whether proof of TV licence ownership will be required, remains to be seen.

It is also worth mentioning that the UK’s other major TV streaming services, All 4  and ITV Player, do not block VPN users. They can therefore be accessed using any UK VPN server.

Use a VPN to Avoid UK government Surveillance

The Investigatory Powers Act

On 1 January 2017, The Investigatory Powers Act (aka the “snooper’s charter”) came into force.

In fact, “extreme” hardly covers it. The act 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. In fact, the list of government services that can now access your highly personal records is staggeringly long.

It includes 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.

The UK government has granted itself the power to become the most repressive state in the so-called free world. Indeed, given the reach and technological sophistication of its Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spying agency, the UK is now positioned to become the most repressive surveillance state anywhere in the world.

UK GCHQ

For a full discussion on why this terrible law constitutes a full-frontal assault on our freedom, please see here.  The law will also have a negative impact on human rights that far exceeds the United Kingdom’s borders. It will erode international standards, and be used by (other) authoritarian regimes to justify their own intrusive surveillance operations.

Use a VPN to Evade Censorship

The Digital Economy Bill

As if the Investigatory Powers Act was not a big enough assault on our most fundamental freedoms, the government is preparing a double-whammy. The Digital Economy Bill is expected to achieve Royal Assent by the end of spring 2017.

Aimed primarily at improving public internet services, the new legislation requires every UK adult who wishes to access porn to sign in using their credit card and a UK government-authorised age verification system. This will provide the UK government with access to a vast trove of information that is about as personal as information can get!

As Brian Paddick, Shadow Home Secretary of the Liberal Democrats party, explains,

The Investigatory Powers Act already has the potential to undermine online privacy and there is very little in the new bill to protect our most sensitive data. Liberal Democrats will do everything possible to ensure that our privacy is not further eroded by this Tory government.”

And of course, the government’s current record on data breaches is hardly reassuring. So it is probably safe to assume that this trove of ultra-personal information will also soon be available to legions of criminal hackers.

Perhaps even more controversially, the bill bans websites that feature “non-conventional” sex acts. In other words, UK adults will be prevented from viewing perfectly legal sex acts between consenting adults. This is content that is legal and increasingly normalized throughout the rest of the “free world.”

Mission Creep

Although many would argue that this is bad enough in and of itself, it is clear that the move has broad support from the public. The real danger, however, lies in “mission creep.”

Past experience has shown ample evidence to suggest that the UK government is exploiting “think of the children” fears about the “porn bogeyman” in order to soften up an already largely docile public into accepting more authoritarian forms of censorship.

Convincing the public to accept that the government has a key role to play in policing access to legal content is a powerful step towards building a repressive state. It is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.

Copyright Censorship in the United Kingdom

The British government has always amply demonstrated its willingness to bend over to an extremely well-funded (.pdf) pro-copyright lobby. It then uses the blunt tools of domain takedowns and IP blocks to censor what now amounts to hundreds of allegedly “pirate” websites.

The result is that, thanks to copyright restrictions, the UK bans more content than pretty much any other country in the free world. And the situation has recently become even worse.

The Pirate Bay

All major ISPs in the UK have come to an agreement with copyright lobbyists. Offenders who download copyright material without paying for it can now expect to receive “educational letters” from their ISP warning them to stop.

Indeed, Sky will even go so far as asking customers to remove file sharing software from their computers! At present, no one in the UK will have their internet disconnected or throttled for receiving a notice. But it is not yet clear how ISPs will deal with repeat offenders…

How a VPN Protects UK Users’ Privacy and Defeats Censorship

Using a good VPN service is a solution to all the above problems. It encrypts your internet connection so that your ISP cannot see what you get up to on the internet. And what it cannot see, it cannot log and hand over to the government or GCHQ.

If you connect to servers outside the United Kingdom, a VPN will also bypass all UK censorship restrictions.

The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Romania do not require VPN providers to log their users’ activity, have lax copyright enforcement laws, and are close enough to the UK to have minimal impact on internet performance. This makes them great locations for British VPN users to connect to.

Do please also note that, by law, all UK VPN providers are required to keep extensive logs. Thus they should be avoided at all costs by the privacy-minded. The same goes for the UK’s Five Eyes (FVEY) and even Fourteen Eyes spying partners. These share all data collected with GCHQ.

Although less of a risk, non-UK VPN providers lease servers in the UK from British hosting partners, which are subject to UK laws. Although the data stored in these servers should be securely encrypted, it is safest from a privacy standpoint to avoid servers in the UK anyway.

For a full discussion on how VPNs work and how they protect your privacy (plus their limitations) please see my VPNs for Beginners guide.

Best VPNs for United Kingdom: Conclusion

If you want to watch BBC iPlayer, then almost all VPN providers offer VPN servers in the UK. Just be sure to trial-run the service to ensure it is not blocked by “Auntie Beeb.” If you are a UK citizen with even a passing interest in privacy or not having your internet content censored, then using a good no-logs overseas VPN service (or Tor) is a must. It’s as simple as that.

Best VPNs for the UK (2017): Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN LogoExpressVPN
Read Review10/10
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

IPVanish LogoIPVanish
Read Review8.8/10
$6.49 / monthVisit Site

3

NordVPN LogoNordVPN
Read Review8.4/10
$5.75 / monthVisit Site

4

Buffered LogoBuffered
Read Review7.4/10
$8.25 / monthVisit Site

5

VPNArea LogoVPNArea
Read Review7/10
$4.92 / monthVisit Site

*All prices shown in US dollars

* Advertiser Disclosure

Image credit: PJ photography/Shutterstock.com

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


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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