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5 Best VPNs when using Tor - Browse Anonymously by Using a VPN With Tor

Some VPN providers offer a VPN + Tor feature. In this article, I discuss how such features work and what the implications of using them are.

Top VPNs to use with Tor

1. AirVPN

BestVPN.com Score 9.8 out of 10
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Editor's Choice

This Italian provider offers among the best security and anti-censorship technology available on the web, allowing both SSH and SSL tunneling to evade government blocks. Add in no logs, some of the strongest encryption around, and a Windows, Mac OSX and Linux client with built-in DNS leak protection and kill switch, and AirVPN should be on the top of every privacy fanatic’s wish list. In keeping with its usual technical excellence, AirVPN is one of the only two VPN providers I know of to offer VPN through Tor (plus it provides instructions for connecting Tor through VPN using the Tor Browser). The main problem with AirVPN is that its service is definitely aimed at techies, which despite initial interest does appear to put many of our readers off. Additional features: Real-time user and server statistics, VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels, very reliable, open source client with internet kill switch and DNS leak protection, 3-day free trial, dynamic port forwarding, 3 simultaneous connections

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 19
  • Average Speed N/A Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 5
  • Jurisdiction Italy

Likes

  • No logs
  • Strong encryption (including Perfect Forward Secrecy)
  • Port forwarding
  • Accepts Bitcoins (and other crypto-currency)
  • 3-day free trial

Dislikes

  • Not a huge number of server locations
  • Italy is not an ideal location

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 250
Countries 19
Simultaneous connections 5
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Router Support
Routers Supported Asus AsusWRT based routers
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux
Windows Phone

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN

Privacy

Jurisdiction Italy
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data
Website tracking? No tracking

Performance

Data limits
Bandwidth limits
IPv4 leak detected?
IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Yes
IPv4 leak protection
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection

Support

Free trial Yes - 3 days
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

2. NordVPN

BestVPN.com Score 9.2 out of 10
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Based in Panama, NordVPN has a ‘no logs at all’ policy, uses strong encryption, and accepts anonymous payment using Bitcoin. It also supports Tor through VPN via one of its OpenVPN configuration file. The main advantage of this over simply using the Tor browser with the VPN connected is that all your internet traffic is routed Tor through VPN rather than just that of the Tor Browser. Although it scores very well in terms of privacy and security, NordVPN is somewhat let down by poor speed performance, which is a shame, as it is otherwise a very good service.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 62
  • Average Speed 59.23 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 6
  • Jurisdiction Panama

Likes

  • Based in Panama (great for privacy)
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
  • Dedicated IPs (cost extra)

Dislikes

  • IPv6 leak in macOS IKEv2 app

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 4568
Countries 62
Simultaneous connections 6
Bare metal or virtual servers Combination
Router Support
Routers Supported Raspberry Pi Tomato Synology DD-WRT AsusTOR AsusWRT AsusWRT-Merlin pfsense D-Link Linksys TP-Link OpenWRT belkin DrayTek Qnap Arris TOTOLink Mikrotik Huawei Tenda WD MikroTik IPFire TRENDnet EdgeRouter GLiNet NetDuma Fortinet Sabai ubee
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux
Windows Phone

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN

Privacy

Jurisdiction Panama
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data
Website tracking? Google Analytics

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 229.99
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 59.23
Data limits
Bandwidth limits
IPv4 leak detected?
IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Yes
IPv4 leak protection
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection

Support

Free trial Yes - 3 Days
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee
Money back guarantee length 30

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

3. PrivateVPN

BestVPN.com Score 8.8 out of 10
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PrivateVPN features both a firewall-based system kill switch and a per-app kill switch, which pretty neat. and IPv6 DNS leak protection is also built-in to its client. Like AirVPN, PrivateVPN offers VPN over Tor, allowing for true anonymity while online. Unlike AirVPN, though, this functionality is not built into the client and requires some manual configuration. We have been particularly impressed by PrivateVPN’s high level of customer service, which even features remote installation for technophobes! Up to a generous 6 simultaneous devices are permitted, and port forwarding plus HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies are a nice bonus. With a 30-day no-quibble money back guarantee, why not give PrivateVPN a try?

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 60
  • Average Speed 58.97 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 6
  • Jurisdiction Sweden

Likes

  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Servers in 56 countries
  • Strong OpenVPN encryption
  • Zero logs
  • 24/7 customer support

Dislikes

  • Not much

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 100
Countries 60
Simultaneous connections 6
Bare metal or virtual servers A combination
Router Support
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux
Windows Phone

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
Other protocols IPSec, Shadowsocks

Privacy

Jurisdiction Sweden
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data
Website tracking? Google Analytics

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 327.86
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 58.97
Data limits
Bandwidth limits
IPv4 leak detected?
IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Proxy
IPv4 leak protection
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection

Support

Free trial Yes - 7 days
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee
Money back guarantee length 30

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

4. PrivateInternetAccess

BestVPN.com Score 7.2 out of 10
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PIA is based in the US, so is not a provider for the more NSA-phobic out there. However, it keeps no logs, which is a claim that it has proven in court ! It is not common to have such definite proof that the VPN does what it says it does when it comes to logs, so well done PIA! And although optional, its security can be first rate. Its desktop software supports multiple security options, a VPN kill switch, DNS leak protection, and port forwarding. Up to 5 simultaneous connections are permitted. Its Android client is almost as good, and PIA boasts excellent connection speeds. We should, however, note that Apple users seem to have a less positive view of this service. PIA does not specifically support Tor, but it is an excellent service, and using Tor Browser with the VPN connection is more secure than most of the dedicated Tor solutions offered by other VPNs, anyway.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 32
  • Average Speed 49.15 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 5
  • Jurisdiction USA

Likes

  • Cheaper than most similar VPNs
  • Great for privacy and security
  • Lots of encryption options (including OpenVPN, our recommended protocol)
  • Fast connection speeds for streaming
  • Servers all over the world

Dislikes

  • Not the best VPN for beginners who need hands-on support
  • Doesn’t unblock some popular websites (Netflix US and BBC iPlayer for instance)

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 3500
Countries 32
Simultaneous connections 5
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Router Support
Routers Supported DD-WRT, Tomato, PfSense, LEDE, Merlin, AsusWRT
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux
Windows Phone

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
Other protocols Cisco iPsec

Privacy

Jurisdiction USA
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data
Website tracking? Google Analytics

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 219.85
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 49.15
Data limits
Bandwidth limits
IPv4 leak detected?
IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Proxy
IPv4 leak protection
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection

Support

Free trial No
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee
Money back guarantee length 7

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

5. Privatoria

BestVPN.com Score 6.6 out of 10
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This Czech-based provider is notable for being very wallet-friendly, but is otherwise fairly barebones (for example it has no custom desktop VPN client, although it does have a promising Android app with secure email and chat built-in). Privatoria’s speed performance is a little underwhelming, but it makes up for this somewhat by keeping no logs and accepting Bitcoin payments (and did I mention that it’s cheap!) Like NordVPN, Privatoria lets you route your entire internet connection Tor through VPN via an .ovpn configuration file.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations N/A
  • Average Speed N/A Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections N/A
  • Jurisdiction N/A

Likes

  • No logs at all
  • Great OpenVPN encryption suite
  • No IP leaks
  • Cheap
  • Five simultaneous connections

Dislikes

  • Terrible download speeds
  • P2P prohibited

What is Tor?

The name Tor originated as an acronym for The Onion Router, and refers to the way in which data encryption is layered. When using Tor:

  • Your internet connection is routed through at least 3 random “nodes” (volunteer run servers)
  • These nodes can be located anywhere in the world
  • The data is re-encrypted multiple times (each time it passes through a node)
  • Each node is only aware of the IP addresses “in front” of it, and the IP address of the node “behind” it
  • This should mean that at no point can anyone know the whole path between your computer and the website you are trying to connect to (even if some nodes along the path nodes are controlled by malicious entities)

The real beauty of the Tor system is that you do not have to trust anyone. It is designed so that no-one can discover your true identity, and (if you connect to a secure website) no-one can access your data. For a detailed look at Tor, please check out our full Tor Review.

What are main differences between Tor and VPNs?

Tor provides a very high degree of true anonymity, but at the cost of day-to-day internet usability. Using a VPN can provide a high degree of privacy, but should never be regarded as anonymous because your VPN provider will always know your true IP address.

A VPN does, however, provide a much better day-to-day internet experience than Tor, and because of this, is a much more flexible general-purpose privacy tool.

Tor, on the other hand, is a vital tool for that tiny subset of internet users who really require the maximum possible anonymity. Thanks to being free, Tor can also make quite a handy anti-censorship tool. The only problem being that many repressive governments go to great lengths to counter this by blocking access to the network (to varying degrees of success).

  • VPNs are faster than Tor, and are suitable for P2P downloading. The major downside (and reason VPNs are said to provide privacy rather than anonymity) is that it requires you trust your VPN provider. This is because, should it wish to (or is compelled to), your VPN provider can “see” what you get up to on the internet. a VPN also allows you to easily spoof your geographic location.
  • Tor is much slower, is often blocked by websites, and is not suitable for P2P. But it does not require that you trust anybody, and is therefore much more truly anonymous than a VPN. Malicious exit nodes present a real threat when using Tor.

Using Tor and a VPN Together

VPNs and Tor can be used together. In theory, this can provide an extra layer of security and privacy, but this is a hotly debated point – especially when it comes to Tor though VPN setups.

The Tor network is designed from the ground-up to provide security and anonymity. there is a very strong argument that adding a VPN to the equation actually weakens the setup.

That said, there are also good arguments that using Tor and a VPN together is beneficial, and that it mitigates some of the drawbacks of using either technology exclusively.

One thing that is certain is that using Tor and a VPN together is slow. You will suffer the combined speed hit of using both Tor and a VPN.

There are two basic ways that Tor and a VPN can be combined. You can connect to your VPN then route the connection through the Tor network (Tor through VPN), or you can connect to the Tor network before routing your connection through your VPN…

Is Tor + VPN worth doing?

As already mentioned, this is a hotly debated subject. Using a good no-logs VPN with Tor (in both Tor through VPN and VPN through Tor setups) provides an additional obstacle that an adversary must overcome. As discussed above, each setup also provides other perks.

On the other hand, it introduces a potentially unreliable third party into a setup that is the most secure and anonymous way to access the internet yet devised.

My personal feeling is that VPN through Tor of the kind offered by AirVPN is a much more interesting proposition than Tor through VPN.  It allows for complete anonymity while using a VPN, and will protect you from malicious Tor exit nodes.

Tor through VPN means that your VPN provider knows who you are, although as with VPN through Tor, using a trustworthy provider who keeps no logs will provide a great deal of retrospective protection.

Is it worth the hassle over just using Tor on its own? That is for you to decide. One thing that using Tor + VPN is not useful for, though, is providing of the extra layer of encryption. Both Tor and good OpenVPN encryption are very strong on their own, so “doubling up” provides no meaningful additional benefit.

How to Choose a VPN for Tor

If you want service that supports VPN through Tor then you have no choice but AirVPN or PrivateVPN. Luckily, they are both  great providers if you are more technically inclined. The other services on the list above are featured in this article because they support Tor through VPN using transparent routing.

Many may like this feature as it can be convenient and allows you to access .onion sites using your regular browser. Do remember, however, that this is not very secure. It is much more secure and private to use any secure VPN and no-logs VPN with the Tor Browser. Just run the Tor Browser after a VPN connection has been established.

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BestVPN.com Score 9.8 out of 10
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Written by: 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.

15 Comments

  1. harie g
    on April 29, 2017
    Reply

    very good answers from both of you,, thanx

  2. Mike Ng
    on April 16, 2017
    Reply

    Hello. This article provides some really nice, easy to understand, information and I thank you for that. I did have a couple of comments. I believe the phrase "VPN through Tor provides no protection against malicious exit nodes", in the paragraph before the Conclusion (Tor through VPN), is a typo as you say the exact opposite in your description "VPN through Tor". Also, in the graphic describing "How Tor Works" you describe exit node behavior as "enters and exits this node unencrypted" but show the entry as a green arrow (encrypted) instead of a red arrow (unencrypted). I only bothered to write this because I think this is article provides some really nice info in a non-technical way, not to criticize. Thank you.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Mike Ng
      on April 18, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Mike, - You are correct, it should have been the other way around (now corrected). I did get myself a little muddled when first writing this article, but I believe everything is now correct. - Ah. What I mean is that traffic enters and exits the exit node from the internet unencrypted. I agree that this sentence could be clearer, and have now modified it. Thank you for your input. I want all my articles as to be as accurate and clear as possible, so I welcome this kind of feedback.

      1. Mike Ng replied to Douglas Crawford
        on April 19, 2017
        Reply

        Thanks Douglas. This article was very helpful for me.

  3. Dave
    on March 28, 2017
    Reply

    I was planning on using PIA (Private internet access) for my vpn. As well I wanted to use Tor, but it's not listed as one of the Vpn's that it can be used with Am I reading it wrong or am I not able to use Tor with PIA?

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Dave
      on March 28, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Dave, Any VPN (including PIA) can be used in Tor through VPN configuration simply by connecting to the VPN, then accessing the web using the Tor Browser. As discussed in this article, some services offer Tor through VPN routing, although I do not consider this nearly as secure as the method just mentioned. The only VPN services to support VPN through Tor are AirVPN and BolehVPN.

      1. Dave replied to Douglas Crawford
        on March 28, 2017
        Reply

        Thanks for the reply I had sent PIA an email asking if Tor can be used and this was the response. They make it sound like you shouldn't do it... Thanks for contacting PIA support. I'm sorry about the issue that you are experiencing. Having more than one VPN and/or proxy very likely will result in a reduction in privacy and possible security leaks as well as possible connection issues. The VPN by itself is encrypting the data to and from your device. When you add an additional VPN or proxy it tries to encrypt the encryption and then doesn't allow the first connection to perform as it should. While trying to use our VPN and get it stable, please remove any other proxy and VPN connections from your system as we can't offer any troubleshooting support while these additional connections are in place. Please let us know how can we further assist you. Regards, Toshy M. Technical Support Specialist Private Internet Access™

        1. Douglas Crawford replied to Dave
          on March 29, 2017
          Reply

          Hi Dave, I would say that this is a very unsatisfactory response, and that Toshy M. failed to engage with or understand the question. Using Tor and VPN together brings the advantages and disadvantages outlined in this article. One thing that he is right about is that such a connection will be less stable as there are increased points of failure.

  4. Joseph Kaluna
    on December 22, 2016
    Reply

    is there a free vpn

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Joseph Kaluna
      on December 23, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Joseph, Pleases see 5 Best Free VPNs.

    2. TE replied to Joseph Kaluna
      on February 19, 2017
      Reply

      WHAT THE BEST WAY TO BE SECRERT COMPLETELY HIDED

      1. Douglas Crawford replied to TE
        on February 20, 2017
        Reply

        Hi TE, As discussed in this article, using Tor plus a VPN is a very good way to stay hidden on the internet.

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