5 Best VPNs for Ubuntu 2019 - The Best Ubuntu VPN Clients Reviewed

By switching from Windows or macOS to Ubuntu you have taken a major step towards improving your digital privacy. The next step is to improve your security and online with an Ubuntu VPN.

5 Best Ubuntu VPNs

Below we list the best VPNs for Ubuntu all of which offer dedicated Ubuntu-compatible clients. Some of these include a VPN GUI client for Ubuntu and all are easy to set up.

  1. AirVPN
  2. Mullvad
  3. ExpressVPN
  4. NordVPN
  5. CyberGhost

Along with Mint (which is forked from Ubuntu anyway), Ubuntu is widely regarded as the most newbie-friendly Linux distro available. It is also very popular, to the point that most Linux developers and Linux guides assume Ubuntu as the “default” version of Linux. This is great for Ubuntu users, as it means they enjoy unparalleled levels of support (for the Linux world!), including from VPN services.  

Most VPN services offer manual setup guides for Linux which focus specifically on Ubuntu. But an increasing number, including all the VPNs we recommend below, now offer their own custom Linux/Ubuntu software.

Best VPN for Ubuntu: Summary

All the custom Ubuntu VPN clients discussed below use OpenVPN, which is our recommended VPN protocol. We go into a lot more detail about their features in the summaries below, see the VPN reviews or the providers website for more details.

1. AirVPN

  • Pricing

    From $4.64 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting

AirVPN is the best VPN for Ubuntu users. This Italian based service has a strong techie focus that our research shows put many users off. But hey, you’re a hardcore Linux user, so this shouldn’t be a problem for you! And, indeed, it really shouldn’t. AirVPN is a very privacy-orientated provider, and its open-source “Eddie” client is the same deal in Windows, macOS, and Linux. 

This means that Ubuntu users can enjoy a fully-featured GUI VPN client with a kill switch and full IPv4 and IPv6 leak protection. The client is also effective at mitigating against WebRTC leaks and allows port forwarding.

You also gain full access to AirVPN’s VPN through SSH or SSL tunnel obfuscation features and the ability to use to connect to its VPN servers via the Tor network for true anonymity when using the service (assuming you also pay anonymously, of course).  Port forwarding is available via the web interface. 

Users can connect up to five devices at once. No logs at all are kept (they are sent to a dev/null file), and torrenting is permitted on all servers. Eddie is available precompiled for a wide away of Linux distros and is easily installed in Ubuntu using a standard executable DEB file. 

2. Mullvad

  • Pricing

    From $5.5 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Mac
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Money-back Guarantee

MullVad is a no-logs Swedish VPN service that shares a great deal in common with AirVPN, including a strong focus on techy stuff and privacy. And like AirVPN, it offers Ubuntu users the same fully-featured open-source GUI client enjoyed by your Windows and Mac-owning peers. 

Mullvad’s client features a kill switch, and in addition to providing full DNS leak protection and WebRTC mitigation, is one only clients for any platform to actually route IPv6 connections properly rather than simply blocking them to prevent leaks. It also features port forwarding. 

VPN through Tor is supported, although this requires manual configuration. Mullvad accepts payment in cash sent by post, allows up to five simultaneous connections, has servers all over the place, and is a regular in our top five speed test winners.

Precompiled versions of its Linux app are available for Fedora and Ubuntu/Debian (via a regular DEB file).

3. ExpressVPN

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Netflix
    • Livechat
    • Money-back Guarantee

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, it is one of the most respected figures in the VPN industry. We are particularly impressed by its move to 100% RAM-only servers which ensures data cannot persist between reboots and improves security since all servers always boot from read-only disks with identical configurations. 

In addition to manual Linux support for various VPN protocols, ExpressVPN now offers a command-line (CLI) Linux client with DNS leak protection. It comes precompiled for various versions of Linux, with both 32-bit and 64-bit DEB file available for Ubuntu users.

ExpressVPN users enjoy 24/7 live chat support, a 30-day no-quibble guarantee, and can now use up to five devices at once. 

4. NordVPN

  • Pricing

    From $3.49 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Netflix
    • Livechat
    • Money-back Guarantee

NordVPN is based in NSA-free Panama. It has a strong reputation for unblocking streaming services such as US Netflix and BBC iPlayer and even throws in a full Smart DNS service as a backup (which is also useful for accessing these services on smart TV sets and games consoles).

NordVPN focuses on privacy and security, keeping no logs and offering obfuscated XOR servers.  CyberSec is a feature which uses DNS blocklists to block unwanted web ads, malware, and other security threats. It is not available on Ubuntu, unfortunately, but it is available in most of its apps so most people will still find it useful on a second device. 

NordVPN’s CLI Linux client is a fairly simple affair but is does offer the choice between UDP and TCP OpenVPN connections, and comes pre-configured for NordVPNs server locations. It also offers an autofill feature to make entering commands in Terminal easier. The app is available as a DEB package for Ubuntu (an RPM is also available) and is installed using the command line. 

Up to six simultaneous connections are allowed, 24/7 live chat support is on hand, and a 30-day money-back guarantee brings peace of mind.

5. CyberGhost

  • Pricing

    From $2.75 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Netflix
    • Livechat
    • Money-back Guarantee

CyberGhost VPN is a no-logs VPN service is based in privacy-friendly Romania (although it is very proud of the fact that’s software is developed in Germany). Its GUI apps for other platforms include features such as split-tunneling, WiFi protection, ad-blocking, and tracking protection.

Its CLI Linux client is really just a front-end for the open-source OpenVPN app for Linux, but it works well and having server locations preconfigured is handy. Unusually, separate versions of the app are available for Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 18.04, and Ubuntu 19.04 (plus Fedora 29 & 30). We are not really quite sure why this is, but presume they are optimized for your version of Ubuntu. 

CyberGhost offers 24/7 live chat support (including specialist Ubuntu support), allows up to seven devices at once, permits torrenting on all servers, and offers an industry-beating 45-day money-back guarantee (plus 7-day card-free trial).

Why do I need a VPN for Ubuntu?

You need a VPN for Ubuntu for exactly the same reasons you need a VPN on any computer. If you don’t know what a VPN is or how one can help you, then please check out our Beginner's Guide to Virtual Private Networks. As a quick refresher, though:

  • A VPN prevents websites you visit from seeing your real IP address, which also helps to prevent them from tracking you across the internet
  • A VPN prevents your internet provider (ISP) from knowing what you do on the internet because all it knows is that you have connected to a VPN server
  • A VPN also prevents your ISP from seeing your data because the data is encrypted between your Ubuntu PC and the VPN server
  • And what your ISP doesn’t know, your government won’t either (unless it’s targeting you very specifically, of course)
  • The encryption used to connect to a VPN server protects you when a public WiFi hotspot
  • A VPN lets you watch shows on services such as BBC iPlayer and US Netflix which would normally be blocked to you
  • And a VPN allows you to torrent to your heart’s content without the need to look over your shoulder

So as a privacy tool, a VPN makes a perfect companion to Ubuntu!

Using a VPN for Ubuntu

Using a VPN for Ubuntu is pretty much the same as using a VPN for any other operating system. Mainly because Ubuntu is less popular, and therefore less supported than its commercial rivals, however, there are one or two quirks you should be aware of. 

Custom GUI software is very rare on the ground

In fact, only AirVPN and Mullvad offer fully-featured custom GUI clients for Linux (including Ubuntu, of course). Some VPN services now offer custom Command Line (CLI) clients, but other than coming pre-configured to connect to their own servers, these don’t usually offer anything over and above configuring OpenVPN manually.

Most VPN services support Linux via manual CLI and/or NetworkManager setup guides. These are fine as far as they go, but…

No DNS leak protection

Basic manual VPN setup in Ubuntu and most custom CLI clients does not push DNS requests to the VPN provider’s DNS servers. DNS leaks can be resolved, however, by modifying resolvconf to push DNS to your VPN’s DNS servers.

Alternatively, you can manually configure the iptables firewall to ensure all traffic (including DNS requests) must go via the VPN server. IVPN has written a superb guide on how to do this.

No kill switch

Again, neither manual VPN setup nor any Linux CLI client we know of offers a kill switch designed to prevent your IP address leaking in the event of a VPN dropout or while the VPN is reconnecting. Configuring iptables as above, however, also works as a kill switch. 

It should be noted that the GUI Linux clients from AirVPN and Mullvad both include full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection and kill switches. They also feature all the other bells and whistles available to their Windows and macOS customers. 

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and Ubuntu 19.04 GNOME privacy issues

With the release of Ubuntu 17.10, Canonical dropped its homegrown Unity desktop as the default shell for GNOME 3. Thankfully, privacy controversies such as sending search queries entered into unified Unity’s Dash search bar to Amazon are now but a distant memory.

The Amazon button

Some may not like, however, at the fact that Ubuntu 18.04 LTS GNOME and Ubuntu 19.04 GNOME (the latest stable distros when this article was written) continue to feature a special Amazon button in the quick-launch bar. Clicking on it opens a new browser tab with a referral code which ensures that Canonical receives a small fee for each purchase you make.

Ubuntu Amazon

You can, of course, simply opt not to click on this button if it bothers you. But if it does, then you can get rid of it. To simply hide it, right-click on the icon -> Remove from Favorites. To remove it entirely from your computer, open Terminal and enter:

sudo apt purge ubuntu-web-launchers

Voila! No more Amazon button! 

Error reporting

Ubuntu Unity came with some quite scary third-party privacy policies that amounted to you sharing a great deal of personal information with the likes of Facebook, the BBC, eBay, Google (via YouTube), and more.

Again, the switch to GMOME seems to address this as at heart Ubuntu GNOME is a fairly stock version of GMOME 3. Which does not share personal information with anybody. It does, however, send anonymized error reports to Canonical.

If you like, you can disable this by going to Show Applications (the grid icon at the bottom left of the screen) -> Settings -> Privacy -> Problem Reporting -> Send error reports to Canonical -> Off.

Ubuntu VPN Setup

For a detailed look at how to set up an Ubuntu VPN using OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP, please see How to install a VPN in Linux. Like most such guides, ours focuses on how to install a VPN in Ubuntu. 

Ubuntu VPNs: Final thoughts

Ubuntu’s recent seismic shift away from the Unity desktop to GNOME has fixed most of the privacy issues which have plagued Canonicals’ popular Linux distro for years. Most VPN providers’ support, however, remains firmly focused on Unity.

Linux is Linux however, so all apps will continue to work just fine in Ubuntu GNOME. And thanks to Canonicals’ heavy skinning of the GNOME 3 interface to give it a very Unity-like feel, most VPN setup guides will still be close enough to follow.

It is also worth noting that almost any app designed for Ubuntu (including those from all providers listed in this article) will work just as well in other Debian/Ubuntu-based distros, such as Debian itself, Mint, Kali Linux, and more. Most, indeed, can be re-compiled to work in any flavor of Linux you choose!

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.

7 Comments

  1. sue audett

    on December 27, 2016
    Reply

    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. Douglas Crawford replied to sue audett

      on December 27, 2016
      Reply

      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.

  2. poop

    on September 8, 2016
    Reply

    None of these are free

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to poop

      on September 8, 2016
      Reply

      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.

  3. Don G

    on June 23, 2016
    Reply

    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. wanna vpn replied to Don G

      on December 6, 2016
      Reply

      How odd then that it is rated #1?!?! The title of this page is "best vpn for ubuntu"

      1. Douglas Crawford replied to wanna vpn

        on December 6, 2016
        Reply

        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 ProPrivacy.com 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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