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5 Best VPNs for the UK / England

Despite being the birthplace of modern liberal democracy, the United Kingdom now leads the so-call free Western world when it comes to censorship and mass surveillance (both online href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/10172298/One-surveillance-camera-for-every-11-people-in-Britain-says-CCTV-survey.html">and offline.)

Our look at the 5 Best VPNs for the UK will, therefore, concentrate on how to evade these twin evils. The general gist of the article being that, if you have even a passing regard for your privacy, then stay the hell away from UK servers, UK technology products, and UK companies!

That said, the UK is a very popular place for VPN companies to locate VPN servers, thanks to its excellent media streaming services, most notably the free BBC iPlayer and 4oD TV catch-up websites.

I will discuss all of these issues later in the article, but let’s first look at the best providers for the UK.

5 Best England and UK VPN Services Summary

[top5table ExpressVPN TotalVPN Buffered BolehVPN VPNArea ratings="4.9,4.5,4.4,4.1,3.6" ExpressVPN="/goto/expressvpn_uk" TotalVPN="/goto/totalvpn_uk" Buffered="/goto/buffered_uk" BolehVPN="/goto/bolehvpn_uk" VPNArea="/goto/vpnarea_uk"]

 
Editors Choice

Winner

ExpressVPN

[vpnbest value="4.9"] 4.9/5

_IMAGE1_ ">

  • ProsPROS
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • Slick iOS and Android apps
  • Excellent customer service
  • No usage logs
  • P2P: ok
  • ConsCONS
  • Some connection logs
  • A bit pricey
 

ExpressVPN is an excellent all-round choice, as it offers a balanced range of services perfect for the mainstream VPN user. It keeps no usage logs (although some connection logs are kept,) has outstanding speed performance, and has a simple but highly functional Windows and OSX client. It also has nifty apps for Android and iOS devices, perfect for protecting your internet connection on the move, with the Android app in particular deserving praise for its elegant Home screen widget. With a very generous 30 day no quibble money back guarantee, there is little reason not to give ExpressVPN a try.

Get the Best VPN for UK Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day money-back guaranatee

2nd place

TotalVPN

[vpnbest value="4.5"] 4.5/5

 

_IMAGE4_ ">

  • ProsPROS
  • Excellent UK based support
  • Great service
  • OpenVPN by default
  • Lot of UK VPN servers
  • ConsCONS
  • Upgrade system slightly confusing
  • UK based
  • Some logs kept
 

TotalVPN is a relatively new VPN company based in the United Kingdom. So it is no surprise that they rank as one of the best VPNs for UK and England. Of course, the service isn't perfect, but they do a very good job. Their UK based support will help you any time of day, they provide a reliable OpenVPN encryption by default and plenty of speeds for all your streaming needs.

Since they are based in the UK, they do keep some connection logs and could be under the eyes of the GCHQ. Therefore, if you're looking to use a VPN for full privacy and not just for streaming BBC iPlayer and other UK TV channels, we'd recommend choosing one of the other providers on the list.

Visit TotalVPN »

3rd place

Buffered

[vpnbest value="4.4"] 4.4/5

 

_IMAGE7_ ">

  • ProsPROS
  • Fast speeds
  • No usage logs
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • P2P: yes
  • Based in Hungary
  • Three simultaneous connections
  • ConsCONS
  • A bit pricey
  • Some connection logs
 

This Hungarian provider impressed us with it’s no usage logs policy (although some connection logs are kept), high connection speeds, a no quibble 30-day money back guarantee, and servers in 25 countries.

The Windows client is easy to use, and the organisation seems to have a privacy-focused attitude. Their price is medium level. Sadly, it does not accept anonymous payments via Bitcoins. One of the major benefits of being based in Hungary, however, is that Buffered is outside the jurisdiction of UK, USA, and other over-reaching governments.

Also of unique value, the Buffered software client has an inspired feature called ‘port discovery’ that searches for open ports on password protected networks (such as in hotels and airports) allowing you to bypass the login stage (a code you often pick up from reception).

For a monthly fee of $9.99, Buffered customers not only get a high quality and secure VPN but the benefit of fantastic high speeds – perfect for streaming Netflix. Check them out for yourself and let us know what you think!

Visit Buffered »

4th place

BolehVPN

[vpnbest value="4.1"] 4.1/5

 

_IMAGE10_ ">

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • SmartDNS included
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • DNS leak protection
  • P2P: yes
  • Two simultaneous connections
  • ConsCONS
    • Not much
 

Based offshore somewhere in Malaysia, BolehVPN is one of SE Asia’s most popular VPN providers, but thanks to the fact that it keeps no logs and now uses excellent encryption, it makes a great choice for UK users. BolehVPN runs servers from the UK and many European countries (of course,) is fast, and allows P2P downloading. Like AirVPN, it offers VPN over Tor, allowing for true anonymity. It also has a funky Windows and OSX Mac client with built-in VPN switch and DNS leak protection. The fact that BolehVPN throws in a SmartDNS services free is great, and is a real bonus for those wanting to access BBC iPlayer from abroad.

Visit BolehVPN »

5th place

VPNArea

[vpnbest value="3.6"] 3.6/5

 

_IMAGE13_ ">

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at al
  • Five simultaneous devices
  • Good speeds
  • Great Windows client
  • 7-day money back guarantee
  • P2P: yes
  • ConsCONS
  • Some teething issues (but it has been a while since we last checked)
 

VPNArea is a (somewhat) new and small Bulgarian company. It has a very well designed client (based on Viscosity, and featuring DNS leak protection, a per-app kill switch, auto-IP changer, server statistics, and more), and its customer support is among the friendliest and most informed I have come across. It also has lots of servers all over the place, a 7-day free trial, and fantastic connection speeds. The fairly minor issues we did encounter are largely due to it being a new service, but we remain impressed (and these issues may have been resolved, as it is while since wi fully reviewed VPNArea.)

Visit VPNArea »

VPNs for UK Considerations

Government Surveillance

"It's not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight. They [GCHQ] are worse than the US."

Edward Snowden to the Guardian

Thanks to Mr. Edward Snowden, we now know that the NSA’s sidekick, UK intelligence and security organization GCHQ, has since at least 2001 gone to quite extraordinary lengths to spy on the private communications of every UK citizen.

To this end it has hacked billions mobile phone SIM cards, harvesting millions of text messages and phone conversations (for when companies don’t just hand over customers data,) infected tens of thousands of computers with malware, collected millions of private (and often explicit) images from citizens webcams,) subverted anti-virus software, and much more.

British citizens can safely assume that every phone call, text message, email, and website they have ever sent, received, or visited, has somehow been recorded and logged by GCHQ.

In fact, it is not only UK citizens should worry about mass surveillance by GCHQ. The agency has leveraged the UK’s position as the main terminus for trans-Atlantic communications to monitor all internet traffic that passes through the international fiber-optic trunk cables that pass through the UK.

Unlike in the US, where the government and the NSA have been on the defensive in trying to justify untargeted mass surveillance of the entire population, the British government has just introduced new proposals that will significantly expand its surveillance powers (actually legalizing what has been going on in the shadows for years.)

At the same time, the new proposals grant the government the right to demand that companies introduce "backdoors” into encryption products while at the time making it a criminal offense for anyone involved to reveal the existence of those backdoors, under any circumstances!

This Draft Investigatory Powers Bill constitutes a full-frontal assault of the liberty and privacy (a basic requirement for liberty) of every single UK citizen. Despite this, however, public discourse over the issue has so far been muted…

The only silver lining to this frankly shocking attack on privacy and personal freedom is that is difficult to conceive international tech firms complying with such ridiculous over-reach. Given that companies such as Apple and Google have robustly resisted similar demands by their own government, it seems very unlikely that they will just roll over to the UK government.

UK Censorship Issues

In addition to leading the way when it comes to ubiquitous Orwellian surveillance, Brits also enjoy some of the most restricted internet access in the Western world.

In large part this is due to government willingness to bend over to an extremely well-funded (.pdf)) pro-copyright lobby, using the blunt tools of domain takedowns and IP blocks to censor what now amounts to hundreds of allegedly "pirate” websites.

In its zeal to tackle copyright infringement, the police have even targeted censorship circumvention tools such as Immunicity, simply because they may be used by pirates (and probably are, but that is the nature of tools… should we ban hammers because they are occasionally used to murder someone?)

The UK’s newly introduced ISP-run "porn filters” have worsened the situation. The government requires that these be opt-out only, so the bill-payer has the potential embarrassment of needing to actively tell their ISP that they want to access "porn” if they do not wish their internet to be censored.

It also means that the decision rests entirely in the hands of the bill-payer, which is made even more dangerous by the fact that the filters block much more than porn, including websites that deal with suicide issues, drug and alcohol problems, anorexia, sexual abuse, and more.

Not only is this chilling mission creep that demonstrates a desire to "soften up” the public for greater censorship in the future, but it prevents vulnerable individuals (such as teens who do not pay their own internet bills) from being able to access the advice and resources they desperately need.

Copyright Enforcement

In addition to censoring hundreds of websites regarded (rightly or wrongly) as facilitating copyright piracy, the UK government has been pushing for ISPs to crack-down on customers who infringe copyright.

Fortunately, this is one area that has seen push-back by ISPs. The eventually agreed Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (Vcap) is very mild, with the maximum penalty for infringers being a stern "educational” letter.

It is, however, possible that ISPs will agree to forward DMCA notices, which would pave the way for US-style speculative invoicing (.pdf, aka copyright sharking,) in which copyright holders (or legal firms who specialize in representing them) demand fines from those accused of piracy, backed up by threats of very costly legal action.

How using a VPN can help

VPN is a very effective tool for evading blanket government surveillance, bypassing censorship of all kinds, and protecting yourself while downloading or streaming via Popcorn Time because:

  1. You connect to the internet via a VPN server. A long as that server is located outside the UK then UK censorship measures are not in force. Additionally, your true IP is hidden by the VPN server, so your internet actively (such as downloading via BitTorrent) is difficult to trace.

VPN providers based outside the UK are not subject to UK government demands to hand over data relating to their customers, and as many are based in countries that do require VPN providers to log customers data, many do not have anything to hand over anyway. For more information on this please see 5 Best Logless VPNs and Data retention, VPN logging and internet surveillance in Europe.

  1. All data passing between your computer/smart phone/tablet etc. and the VPN server is encrypted. This means that your ISP (and therefore the government) cannot see what you get up to on the internet (including watching porn or downloading stuff.)

Please note that while using a good VPN service does provide a high level of privacy and protection from blanket surveillance, it does not provide true anonymity. If the government or police etc. are interested enough in you as an individual, you should not rely on VPN to protect you (Tor is better at this, but nothing can ever be regarded as 100 percent secure.)

Unblock UK TV

The UK is justly famous for its high-quality TV, and the fact that its top TV stations offer free catch-up services to UK residents, makes geo-spoofing to a UK location a very popular use of VPN. Because of this, all the services listed above offer UK servers (except Mullvad.)

BBC iPayer, however, has recently started to block IP ranges known to be used by VPN providers, making the service unavailable to many VPN users. At the time of writing all providers on the list work fine.

Channel 4 On Demand (was 4oD), ITV Player, and other UK streaming services still work fine as long as you have a UK IP. It may be easier to access iPlayer via a href="https://smartdns.com/">SmartDNS service instead of VPN.

UK VPNs Conclusion

As arguably the most surveilled and censored country in "the West” (and likely to get even more so in the very near future), there are many reasons why Brits really should use VPN.

Be aware that no UK VPN company permits P2P downloading, all of them are required by law to keep extensive logs (despite an EU ruling making such a requirement illegal,) and they will hand over these logs to the police or government if required to do so.

You should therefore always use VPN services not based in the UK (and preferably not in Five Eyes partner countries either,) and select non-UK servers (Luxemburg, Netherlands, Romania, and Switzerland are usually considered good choices, as they do not require VPN providers to log data.)

Those wanting to access UK streaming services might be better off using href="https://smartdns.com/">SmartDNS instead, but if you want to use VPN then I still strongly recommend choosing a non-UK company (with servers in the UK, which is just about all of them.)

5 Best UK and England VPN Services Summary

[top5table ExpressVPN TotalVPN Buffered BolehVPN VPNArea ratings="4.9,4.5,4.4,4.1,3.6" ExpressVPN="/goto/expressvpn_uk" TotalVPN="/goto/totalvpn_uk" Buffered="/goto/buffered_uk" BolehVPN="/goto/bolehvpn_uk" VPNArea="/goto/vpnarea_uk"]

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at ProPrivacy.com. Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.

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