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5 Best VPNs for Indonesia - Best Providers & Servers to Use

With 800,000 websites banned by Indonesia's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), you need a VPN to access the internet properly. We've reviewed 150 different VPN companies over 5 years, and here's the 5 best we've picked, based on this

Transparency International ranks Indonesia's government as Highly Corrupt. Legislators frequently frame laws in vague terms to suit their own agendas. Thus, some sites are blocked for statements contrary to the national interest (if, for example they reveal human rights abuses). The 2011 State Intelligence Law gives the government the right to surveil anyone within Indonesia or abroad. Furthermore, there are no data privacy laws in the country. Whistleblowing on corruption is blocked by the illegality of divulging "state secrets." This imposes a blanket sanction on opponents who are judged to be harmful to national interests and security.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive funds from foreign sources are banned in Indonesia. Under the Civil Society Organizations Law, special interest groups are also banned from raising funds from within Indonesia. These measures make it difficult for independent pressure groups to operate within the country.

The fight against pornography has such wide parameters, that it allows the government to ban sites that deal with LGBT issues and women's rights. Dating sites are also often encompassed by the MICT ban on porn. The government also bans gambling sites for being immoral.

Entertainment is heavily censored in Indonesia. The authorities banned the local implementation of Netflix for the whole of 2016 because it failed to submit sufficient details of its media library content to state censors. Netflix is now available in Indonesia. However, other sites that the government has banned and since reinstated are still blocked in parts of the country.

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Web Access in Indonesia

Access to the web and privacy on the internet in Indonesia are complicated topics. The government can gather any information that it wants, without fear of scrutiny. It uses the constitution's clause obliging it to protect its citizens to give it the right to do whatever it wants.

If you live in Indonesia and want unfettered access to the world via the web, there are steps that you can take to beat the bans and block surveillance. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) protect your internet traffic from those who want to monitor your activities. They obscure the addresses of the sites that you visit and provide strong encryption. This makes inspection of the contents of your communications impossible.

A 2017 study by the Open Observatory of Network Interference, called The State of Internet Censorship in Indonesia discovered that Indonesia blocks some VPNs' websites. This shows that the Indonesian authorities are taking steps to block of this category of privacy software. Not all VPNs are equal and you need to be careful about which you choose. The toughest internet blocks and surveillance practices carried out by governments at the moment are those implemented by China. Indonesia is following in that country's path. Therefore, if you pick a VPN that successfully defeats the Great Firewall of China, you will be one step ahead of the authorities in Indonesia too.

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To make your selection of a VPN easier, BestVPN.com has researched the field to produce a list of VPNs that have cast iron security combined with stealth technology. You can read more about the Indonesian government's internet controls below. Firstly, let's take a look at the five best VPNs for Indonesia.

Indonesia's Internet Infrastructure

Indonesia covers a large geographical area. The country is made up of thousands of islands, which vary from small, isolated communities to densely packed, highly urbanized regions. The country's size makes it difficult and expensive to put together a contiguous internet backbone. Thus, the government relies on telecoms providers - some of which are state-owned - to put together their own regional coverage and link the structure together as best they can. This decentralized model requires each Internet Service Provider (ISP) to make its own deals for overseas connections. As such, the path your communications take will be different depending on where you connect.

The varied population densities and the large bodies of water that divide up Indonesia make cabling complicated. Thankfully, mobile technology has helped to make the provision of internet access to some regions economically viable. Only 1.7% of the country's 132.5 million internet users connect solely through their computers. The vast majority access the internet only through mobile devices, or employ both mobile devices and computers.

Access Filtering

The distributed nature of internet provision in Indonesia led the government to create a policy of access filtering that placed the implementation of those controls in the hands of ISPs. Therefore, the controls on the internet have a two-layer structure. Government departments define a list of addresses and keywords to ban, while ISPs enact those blocks.

This architecture results in an uneven application of bans. Indonesia uses a completely different method of script to the Roman alphabet used for URLs. Not every technician and manager in the ISP's employ can understand Western words. Thus, rather than implementing selective, dynamic blocks, which filter out pages that include specific terms, ISPs block entire sites once they've been alerted to a page that might contain subversive or racy content. Those site bans can remain in place for years.

If the government orders a block on a site, then subsequently lifts the ban, some ISPs may continue to implement the block. That's because it is too difficult to fish through a long list of filter rules that are written in an unrecognizable alphabet. Examples of this are shown in the study performed by the Open Observatory of Network Interference in 2017. Reddit and Vimeo were banned by the Indonesian government in May 2014. These sanctions were lifted in November 2014. However, the OONI tests showed that some ISPs were still blocking those sites in 2017.

Punishments in Indonesia can be severe. The government has a tendency to arrest first and bend a law to provide justification later. Thus ISPs err on the side of over-restricting web access, just to be safe. This means they ban some sites even though the government hasn't judged them to be offensive. They also enforce many blocks long after the government orders their removal.

Indonesian Web Blocks

The complexities of multi-lingual content filtering encourage Indonesian ISPs to block entire sites through the Domain Name System (DNS). This is the first call for your browser when you enter a web address (URL). URLs are not recognized by routers - they need an IP address instead. DNS servers cross-reference tables between URLs and IP addresses. Once the browser has the IP address for the site you type in, it sends out a request to the IP address it got from the DNS service.

Your ISP controls which DNS service your computer accesses. If it wants to block a site, it simply replaces the real IP address, which corresponds to the website's URL, for the address of a warning page on its own server. Thus, it is impossible to get to a site through one of Indonesia's ISPs once a government ban has propagated through to the Domain Name System.

VPNs for Indonesia

Each of our five best VPNs supplies its own DNS server. The VPN client software on your computer acts as a gatekeeper to your internet connection. It captures any request that goes out from your apps, including your web browser. It then diverts DNS requests to its own service. The request for an IP address is encrypted before it goes out of the computer and through the ISP.

By supplying their own DNS servers, VPNs also bypass another security trick that the Indonesian authorities practice. Indonesia uses a piece of software, called Remote Control System, produced by Italian spyware producer, Hacking Team. This program uses the DNS cross-reference phase to force web browsers seeking a connection over the secured HTTPS protocol to switch to the unencrypted HTTP protocol. This enables government snoopers to read the contents of a connection.

If you want to get into to overseas TV streaming services while you're in Indonesia, you have several hurdles to overcome. First, you'd better hope that your ISP hasn't rigged the DNS entry for the website that you want to visit. If you can connect to the streaming server, your next challenge is that the company that runs it won't let you watch its content from abroad. This is because of its contractual obligations with the videos' copyright holders. Those contracts limit the right of the streaming service to only showing entertainment in a specific country.

Beating Regional Restrictions with a VPN

A VPN can get you around these regional restrictions. It presents your request for a video on your behalf, from its own location. Streaming services detect the source of a request by looking at its return address. As such, if you select a VPN server in the country that the streaming service allows access from, you'll get to watch the video. The VPN server forwards the video stream to you once it has gained access.

One further problem is that streaming services examine requests to detect and block VPN traffic. This means you need a VPN that can disguise its identity. As the Indonesian government now seems to be trying to block VPNs, the ability of your chosen VPN to cloak its identity is hugely important.

Best VPNs for Indonesia: Conclusion

As you can see from the explanations above, the work of a VPN is becoming increasingly complicated. Only the best VPNs, which want to stay in the market over the long term, invest enough time, effort, and money into keeping ahead of VPN detection systems. All of the VPNs in our list have their own DNS servers and can evade detection by Netflix and by the Indonesian authorities. They will all give you unrestricted web access. However, still be careful what comments you post online, because a VPN cannot mask text that you make publicly available on social media sites, comments sections, or in political news and blog sites.

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9 Comments

  1. Dave
    on December 5, 2017
    Reply

    Hi, Really interesting and helpful article as I'm looking for a VPN. I'm in Indonesia and just started using an IPTV streaming service. Not sure where its servers are based but since I started using it 24 hours ago I have been experiencing quite a lot of buffering. My Internet speed is constantly above 20mbps and the administrator feels that the buffering is caused by the long hops to Indonesia. He says that using a VPN could help resolve the issue but suggests I select a server in Europe. Is he correct? Can using a VPN help overcome the long hops? And should I be choosing a server based in Europe as he suggests or one close to or in Indonesia? Thanks

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Dave
      on December 5, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Dave, - Distance between you and the content will always slow down how fast you can stream it. If you are streaming from servers in Europe or the US (for example), then a 20mbps connection in Indonesia is likely to struggle whatever you do. - In most situations, a VPN will slow down your connection, as the encryption requires processing power, and the data is doing an extra leg to its journey. This slowdown can be minimized by connecting to a VPN server located somewhere as close as possible (Indonesia ideally for you, but Hong Kong with its uncensored internet is always a popular choice in SE Asia). Connecting to a VPN server in Europe from Indonesia is a terrible idea in terms of improving your connection speeds. - Using a VPN may speed up your connection if your ISP is deliberately throttling your streaming traffic, as it will hide what this traffic is. To be honest, this probably isn't happening, but it could be. - So 1) If possible, try to connect to IPTV servers located as close to Indonesia as possible, and 2) by all means go ahead and try a fast VPN service. But connect to servers as close to Indonesia as possible, and take advantage of any free trials and/or money guarantees to test if does what you want before handing over your hard earned cash.

  2. Ross
    on October 15, 2017
    Reply

    I want to be able to use a VPN. To a lay person the volume of articles written on VPNs is virtually overwhelming. I finally selected NordVPN because it showed servers in Indonesia. And had a UK PCWorld recommendation. Yesterday 14/10/17, when I signed up, it showed Indonesian Server 1 & Server 2 Within 12 hours Server 1 had vanished and Server 3 appeared. Speeds seem to be very low. Your comments on Indonesian regulatory structure or very knowledgeable. May I ask why NordVPN did not appear in your VPN comparison ? Kind Regards.. I look forward to your reply

    1. Stephen Cooper replied to Ross
      on October 18, 2017
      Reply

      Hi, Ross, Thank you for your comments. NordVPN is a very good VPN service, and is one of the top ten in the world, in my opinion. The company had big issues with speed in the past and we often criticized them for it, but over the last few months, we have seen a huge improvement in their performance. Maybe their system upgrades haven't yet rolled out to Indonesia. When selecting the five best for Indonesia, I took account of the government's interest in the systems of internet control used by China. China is the most repressive country in the world for internet access, so users in Indonesia need to know about VPNs that already work well in China so that they can be protected as the government there introduces more sophisticated controls. The five I ended up with are all excellent services for China and they pushed NordVPN out of the top five. Indonesia is an exceptional country in many ways. It's landmasses are scattered over a very large area of the globe and so the country has an unusual Internet infrastructure. Each area has better connections to the internet through neighboring countries than across country. So, when I looked at the best VPNs for Indonesia, I focused on companies that had servers in surrounding countries. In some parts of Indonesia you will get a better connection if you route through a VPN in the Philippines, and in other areas, you would be better off routing through Malaysia or Singapore. If you want a VPN to get into Indonesia to get access to their TV, then you are a little stuck, because the performance of your connection will depend on the route that gets you to the VPN server.

  3. Campbell S.
    on March 16, 2017
    Reply

    Anyone who used Astrill in Indonesia? It is part of my Asean tour on December so I am wondering if anyone has tried it. Thanks in advance.

  4. Salman
    on May 5, 2016
    Reply

    What do you think about TunnelBear? I'm in Indonesia and currently using it because it offers 500 mb per month for free. It has servers in Singapore and Hongkong and Japan too.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Salman
      on May 6, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Salman, Please check out our TunnelBear Review.

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