5 Best VPNs for Ubuntu 2017 – The Best Ubuntu VPN Clients Reviewed

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

December 15, 2017

If you are serious about privacy then you should switch to Linux, rather than trusting spyware created by Microsoft or Apple. By far the most popular version of Linux is Ubuntu. This means that Ubuntu is well supported by many Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. To find out more about VPN clients and services for Ubuntu, read on!

Ubuntu has always been particularly popular among Linux newbies. It makes the transition from more traditional desktop operating systems to Linux as painless as possible. A very large and active user-base also means that plenty of support is available for new users.

The release of Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus), however, rocks the boat somewhat. For the last few years, Ubuntu has used developer Canonical’s in-house Unity desktop by default. Canonical, however, has stopped development of Unity.

Future releases of Ubuntu, beginning with next year’s 18.04 LTS, will use GNOME 3 instead. This means that new users may want to hold off switching to Ubuntu for a little while or just jump straight to using GNOME as the desktop for it.

Of course, Unity will not simply die. Existing Ubuntu users who love it can continue to use Unity, but Canonical will no longer update it.

Best VPN for Ubuntu: Summary

BestVPN Editor's Choice Award

1. AirVPN

AirVPN Homepage
  • Linux client (full GUI) with DNS leak protection and kill switch
  • No logs (at all)
  • VPN through Tor
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • P2P: yes
  • Techiness puts people off
  • Customer support could be better
  • Limited number of servers worldwide

Our AirVPN review found that thanks to its tech-heavy focus and lack of customer service skills, it's not a hit with the average VPN user. This is a big shame, as not only does AirVPN really care about its customers’ privacy, but it is the clear market leader when it comes to privacy technology. Its open source GUI Linux client (“Eddie”) is identical to the Windows and OS X versions, and is fully compatible with Ubuntu.

This means that users benefit from a firewall-based kill switch and DNS leak protection, port selection, and more. AirVPN uses very strong encryption, permits VPN obfuscation using SSH and SSL tunneling, supports anonymous Ubuntu VPN use via VPN through Tor, and allows port forwarding.

Additional features: real-time user and server statistics, three-day free trial, three simultaneous connections.

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2. Mullvad

Mullvad Homepage
  • Linux client (full GUI) with internet kill switch, DNS leak protection and IPv6 routing
  • No logs (at all)
  • Accepts Bitcoin and cash
  • Three simultaneous connections
  • Three-hour free trial
  • Average performance
  • Limited number of servers

Like AirVPN, our Mullvad review found that this small Swedish provider really cares about its users’ privacy. It even accepts anonymous cash payments sent by post! It also provides Ubuntu users with a full version of its GUI desktop client. This protects Ubuntu VPN connections with a firewall-based kill switch and DNS leak protection, and allows port forwarding. In fact, the Mullvad client is the only VPN software I am aware of that properly routes IPv6 DNS requests (even AirVPN only disables IPv6).

It hardly needs saying that Mullvad keeps no logs at all, and it now uses strong encryption. The main drawback, however, is that Mullvad runs servers in only a very limited number locations in Europe and the US (with no UK server).

3. PrivateInternetAccess

PrivateInternetAccess Homepage
  • Ubuntu client (full GUI) with internet kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • No logs (at all)
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • P2P: yes
  • No free trial
  • US-based company

There was a time when PIA was the darling of the VPN world among privacy fans. While so-so customer service and a variety of technical issues have removed a little of the shine, Private Internet Access still provides a very impressive service. It keeps no logs at all, permits up to five devices to connect simultaneously, and offers ridiculously cheap yearly subscriptions.

PIA also supplies a dedicated Ubuntu/Linux client that has all the functionally of its Windows application. This includes excellent encryption options, a firewall-based kill switch and DNS leak protection.

ExpressVPN Homepage
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  • Linux client (command line) with DNS leak protection
  • No usage logs
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Three simultaneous connections
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Minimal connection logs
  • A bit pricey

ExpressVPN is a popular VPN service thanks to great 24/7 customer service, easy-to-use software, and a 30-day, no quibbles, money-back guarantee that actually does what it promises. It also offers server end-points in an impressive 94 different countries.

Ubuntu users are not as well catered for as users of other operating systems, but ExpressVPN does at least provide a basic custom Ubuntu VPN client. It is Terminal command-line only, but works well, and is simple enough to use. It also now features DNS leak protection, which is pretty groovy.

Additional features: “stealth” servers in Hong Kong, free Smart DNS, DNS leak protection.

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5. Buffered

Buffered Homepage
  • Good Ubuntu/Linux setup guides
  • No usage logs
  • Based in Hungary
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Servers in 35 countries
  • Slightly pricey
  • Some connection logs

Buffered is a fast and reliable up-and-coming VPN service based Hungary. A Linux VPN client is mentioned on its website, but does not seem to be available at this time. Ubuntu users are well-supported, however, with good manual setup guides for PPTP and OpenVPN.

Being based in Hungary (and incorporated in Gibraltar) means that Buffered is safely out of reach of Five Eyes spying jurisdiction. It keeps no usage logs, uses shared IPs, and employs strong encryption.

Six simultaneous connections is very generous, and with servers in 35 countries, it provides great coverage. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available, but do read the terms of service, as important conditions apply.

Considerations for VPNs for Ubuntu

Ubuntu Privacy Concerns

Some ill-advised decisions on Canonical’s part have damaged Ubuntu’s reputation among privacy-heads. In 2012 Canonical released Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal), which introduced some worrying new features.


The most notable of these is Dash. This is a unified search bar that allows you to for search files, apps, and suchlike, locally. It also perform searches on the internet. Unfortunately, Canonical decided to try and monetize Ubuntu by partnering with Amazon.

Thus whenever you entered a search term into Dash, the query was also sent to Amazon so that it could target you with ads relating to your search terms!

This feature has now been disabled and Amazon removed from the search results. A special Amazon search option still appears on Unity’s Launcher Bar, however.

Sharing Data with Third Parties

Dash is not, unfortunately, the only privacy problem to plague Ubuntu. A quick peek at its third party privacy policies shows that Ubuntu shares a huge about of personal information with companies such as Facebook, the BBC, eBay, Google (via YouTube), and more.

Fixing Privacy Issues in Ubuntu

Other than Amazon being removed from Dash search results, these privacy issues continue to exist right up to Ubuntu 17.04. However, you can fix them. It is very annoying that you should have to do so, but there you go.

I strongly suggest that everyone follow the steps outlined in the video above, most of which are still relevant to Ubuntu 17.04.

Note that these privacy issues only affect the Unity desktop. If you use Ubuntu with the GNOME 3, KDE, or Cinnamon desktops then you can rest easy. Hopefully the upcoming switch back to GNOME as the default desktop will also signal an end to Canonical’s days of privacy invasion. Bad Canonical.

How to setup a VPN on Ubuntu

Thanks to its popularity, Ubuntu is well supported by VPN services. AirVPN and Mullvad are the only services to offer full Linux (Ubuntu compatible) versions of their desktop clients, but most providers supply detailed setup guides for manually configuring their service in Ubuntu.

Setting up OpenVPN Using Ubuntu Network Manager

  1. Download and install the Ubuntu OpenVPN packages for Network Manager by opening a Terminal window and typing:
    sudo apt-get install network-manager-openvpn openvpn
  2. Note that Network Manager should already be installed. If for some reason it is not, install it by entering:
    sudo apt-get install openvpn network-manager-openvpn network-manager-openvpn-gnome
  3. Restart Network Manager. This can be done by restarting Ubuntu or logging out and in again, but the easiest way is to enter the following at the Terminal command prompt:
    sudo restart network-manager
  4. Download the VPN provider’s OpenVPN configuration files (.ovpn and .crt), and extract them to a convenient location.
    ub 13
  5. Open Network Manager and click VPN Connections -> Configure VPN.
    ub 11
  6. Click on ‘Add.’
    ub 15
  7. Select ‘OpenVPN’ from the drop-down menu and click ‘Create…’
    ub 6
  8. Ensure the ‘VPN’ tab is selected, then enter the VPN server address supplied by your provider in the ‘Gateway’ field. Under ‘Authentication,’ select ‘Password’ from the drop-down ‘Type’ menu, and enter your account details. Then Click on the ‘CA Certificate Field’ and navigate to the .crt file at the location you unzipped the OpenVPN config files to in step two. Click on ‘Advanced.’
    ub 9
  9. Check ‘Use LZO data compression.’ This step may not be required, or may require different settings depending on your VPN provider. Click ‘OK’ and ‘Save,’ and setup is complete!
    ub 10
  10. To start the VPN connection, simply go to Network Manager -> VPN Connections -> Your connection.
    ub 11
  11. You are now connected! Notice that the Network Manager taskbar icon now has a tiny padlock on the bottom right.

ub 12
Custom VPN clients typically disable IPv6 connections in order to prevent IPv6 leaks, but note that using the native Linux OpenVPN client does not. You should therefore disable IPv6 manually.

For more information on OpenVPN and VPN setup, click the link.

Free VPN for Ubuntu

Free VPNs offer an underwhelming experience at the best of times.  The honest ones offer an extremely limited service in the hope that you will upgrade to a premium subscription.  The many dishonest ones out there will sell your data, sell your bandwidth, or install malware on your system.

As an Ubuntu user you should therefore rejoice that pretty much no free VPN supports Ubuntu (or Linux in general)!

Ubuntu VPNs: Conclusion

As long as you disable Unity’s frankly disgraceful privacy-invading features, Ubuntu is a great operating system. It is stable, user-friendly, and is by far the most widely supported Linux OS around in terms of community and resources.

Once its privacy issues are fixed, Ubuntu is much more privacy-friendly than Windows or Mac OS can ever be. Of course, once you have a secure and private OS, you will want a good VPN service to go with it!

Best VPN for Ubuntu: Summary

Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

7 responses to “5 Best VPNs for Ubuntu 2017 – The Best Ubuntu VPN Clients Reviewed

  1. I want to purchase a vpn,but need someone to walk me through the installation. Got any suggestion? I am dummy 101, but do not want to use windows os

    1. Hi sue,

      In this article is a section tilted “Setting up OpenVPN in Ubuntu”, which provides a step-by-step guide to doing just that. Many VPN services also provide detailed setup guides on their websites, and which are tailored to their specific settings.

    1. Hi poop,

      Nope. There is no such thing, really, as a good free VPN. Running a VPN is a very expensive business, and the only way to run a good one is if customers pay for it.

  2. ExpressVPN is completely useless in Linux unless you want to type lots of command lines every time you use it. There is no GUI app and configuration in Linux for this app via the command line is awful. Also as soon as you mention you are using Linux, all their support staff just begin to quote the “we don’t support Linux” matra and won’t help further.

    ExpressVPN is great for Windows but is really awful for Linux. Did the authors of this article even try it? How did this get to be number 1 when it has no Linux app and the company says they don’t support Linux? If you like typing a command line for everything you do, you might be able to use this VPN. Otherwise avoid it.

      1. Hi wanna vpn (and Don),

        As discussed in the more recent 5 Best VPNs for Linux article, ExpressVPN now offers a basic custom Linux VPN client. It is Terminal command-line only, but when I tested it, I found that it worked well and was simple enough to use. It now also features DNS leak protection. The reason ExpressVPN was placed at the top if this list is that the team decided that great speeds, 24/7 customer support, a genuinely no-quibble money back guarantee etc., offset the sightly flaky Ubuntu support (even for Ubuntu users).

        And I did clearly explain the limitations of ExpressVPN’s Ubuntu support (now improved, although not perfect) in the article. And yes, I did setup ExpressVPN manually using the excellent setup guide provided. TBH, if you are not happy typing a little text into a command line, then you should probably not be using Linux/Ubunutu in the first place!

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