5 Best Tor VPNs 2019 - Stay secure with VPN over onion

A VPN and Tor are very different beasts, but they are both privacy technologies with a great deal of overlap in function. This means that it is possible to use a VPN and Tor together. In this guide, we make recommend the best Tor VPNs and give you information and some helpful tips on using a Tor VPN. 

 

We assume that you are familiar with what Tor and VPN services, however, if you are not, take a look at the guides below:

  • Beginner's Guide to VPNs - If you want to know more about VPN services and how they work, then take a look at our what is a VPN guide for information about this.
  • Everything you need to know about Tor - If you have questions like "is Tor a VPN" or want to learn about how Tor works and how it keeps your data safe, then take a look at our ultimate guide to Tor.
  • The difference between Tor and VPNs - If you want to understand the differences between Tor and VPN technology, then check out our Tor vs VPN guide.
  • How to use them together - If you want a guide to using Tor and VPN, check out our guide on how to use Tor and a VPN together.

 

The Best Tor VPNs

We have listed the best Tor VPN services below. These services have been chosen as they all offer a high level of security, have great no logs policies and have fast servers. If you want more information about the providers listed below, scroll on for our detailed summaries for each provider or click through to the website.

  1. AirVPN - has fantastic privacy and security features, supports Linux with a GUI, and has detailed guides on how to combine AirVPN with Tor
  2. NordVPN - is a secure VPN with a great no logs policy and you can pay with bitcoin
  3. ProtonVPN - is a secure service that supports Tor through its GUI client
  4. PrivateVPN - is a cheap, but, very secure VPN service that provides instructions on how to use it with Tor
  5. Mullvad - is a secure service that cares about your anonymity, they even accept cash payments sent by post

5 best VPN over onion services - Comparison

We have gone into more detail about each Tor VPN service below by calling out what makes each service a great option for Tor users. If you need more information about the services, click through to the provider's website or take a look at our in-depth VPN reviews.

1. AirVPN

AirVPN is the best Tor VPN service - it has excellent security features, a lot of servers and is very private

  • Pricing

    From $4.64 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • Linux
    • iOS

AirVPN is the best VPN service for Tor browser. 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 is a strong choice for privacy enthusiasts

In keeping with its usual technical excellence, AirVPN is one of the few VPN providers to offer OpenVPN through Tor. Indeed, it is the only service to support this feature through its open-source GUI “Eddie” client. In top of this, it also provides instructions for combining Tor and VPN using the Tor Browser VPN method. The main problem with AirVPN is that its service is definitely aimed at techies.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is a very secure service, they have a great no logs policy and accepts anonymous payment methods

  • Pricing

    From $3.22 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • iOS
  • Features

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

NordVPN has a “no logs at all” policy, uses strong encryption, and accepts anonymous payment using Bitcoin. Users can connect up to six devices at once and ask for a refund up to 30 days after purchase. 

NordVPN offers a variety of privacy and security tools, including Xor obfuscation and “CyberSec,” a feature which blocks DNS requests based on a real-time blocklist of harmful websites that may host malware. Dubbed “Onion over VPN,” NordVPN also supports Tor through VPN via special OpenVPN configuration files which can be easily selected in its GUI client. 

3. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is a secure service that offers Tor support through its GUI client

  • Pricing

    From $8.00 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • Linux
    • iOS

ProtonVPN is a Swiss-based VPN service lives up to the good name enjoyed by its older sister-service, ProtonMail. Depending on which plan you buy, ProtonVPN allows up to 10 simultaneous connections and runs servers in 33 countries around the world.

It also has an excellent free plan which will be good enough to serve as a full VPN service for many users. If you sign up for the free plan, you are also offered a 7-day free trial of the service. ProtonVPN supports Tor through VPN via its GUI client (paying customers only).

4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is a very secure service and it costs less than $2 per month

  • Pricing

    From $1.89 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • Linux
    • iOS
  • Features

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

PrivareVPN is a Swedish basedno logs VPN. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, offers helpful and friendly 24/7 live chat support, and permits up to six simultaneous connections.

Thanks to its tactic of issuing new dedicated IP addresses as required, PrivateVPN also has a strong reputation for unblocking almost every streaming service on the internet. 

PrivateVPN supports OpenVPN through Tor. This does require you to download the Tor Browser bundle and manually edit your OpenVPN configuration file, but full instructions are available. 

5. Mullvad

Mullvad is a secure service, loved by techies, it even accepts cash payments sent by post

  • Pricing

    From $5.50 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • iPlayer

Mullvad is a service for techies which cares strongly about its users’ privacy. Hell, it even accepts payment in cash sent by post! It allows up to a rather measly five simultaneous connections and offers three-hour free trial. We like the fact that its GUI desktop client is one of only two we know of to fully support routing through IPv6.

Like PrivateVPN, Mullvad supports manual configuration of OpenVPN through Tor by downloading the Tor Bundle and editing the OpenVPN config files Instructions are available.

Methods for using a Tor VPN

There are several ways you can use a VPN and Tor together and so we have listed them below, along with the pros and cons of each method.

Tor through VPN (using a transparent proxy)

This is by far the most common Tor VPN method. You connect to a special “Tor VPN server” operated by your VPN provider. This server then transparently routes your internet connection through the Tor network so that the endpoint connected to the internet is a Tor exit node.


computer - VPN - Tor - Internet

Your ISP sees that you have connected to a VPN server. Websites and anyone else on the internet see the IP address of the Tor exit node.

Pros:

  • Your entire internet connection is routed through both the VPN and the Tor network.
  • Your VPN provider cannot see which websites you visit on the internet
  • You can access Tor hidden services (.onion websites) using your regular browser.
  • Your ISP cannot see that you are using Tor (although it can know that you are using a VPN)
  • To identify your real IP address from the internet would require compromising both the Tor network and your VPN provider. 

Cons:

  • You lose the true anonymity afforded by Tor because your VPN provider can see your real IP address (and may know payment details, although this can be avoided using properly anonymized cryptocurrencies).
  • The VPN provider can see the contents of your data (if not protected by HTTPS).
  • The Tor exit node can see the contents of your data (if not protected by HTTPS), and which websites you visit on the internet.
  • Public Tor exit nodes are openly published and are therefore easy to block. This is a problem with Tor in general, but regular Tor users can use Tor bridges to bypass such blocks in a way that Tor through VPN users cannot.
  • Speed hit is that of Tor and the VPN combined.

VPN through Tor

This method works in reverse to the previous Tor through VPN one. You connect to the VPN server via the Tor network. The endpoint connection to the internet is the VPN server.

Your computer -> encrypt with VPN -> Tor -> VPN server -> internet

Your ISP sees that you have connected to the Tor network. Websites and anyone else on the internet see the IP address of the VPN server.

Pros:

  • Your VPN provider cannot know your real IP address. If combined with an anonymous payment method then this allows true anonymity when using the VPN.
  • The Tor exit node cannot spy on you because your data is secured using the VPN encryption, and what you do on the internet is blocked by the VPN server.
  • The endpoint is the VPN server, so blocks on Tor exit nodes are ineffective.
  • Al internet traffic is routed through both the Tor and VPN networks.
  • You can choose any VPN server location supported by your VPN provider.
  • If care is taken to pay anonymously and only connect to the VPN and the VPN website using Tor, then this method allows true anonymity.
  • To identify your real IP address from the internet would require compromising both your VPN provider and the Tor network. 

Cons:

  • The VPN provider can see everything a VPN provider can usually see. This is pretty much everything, but if you have been careful to pay anonymously and only connect via the Tor network, then it will not know who you are. 
  • Unlike using Tor on its own, the VPN is a fixed point in the chain. It would theoretically be possible for an adversary to exploit this by compromising the VPN service so that over time it could perform an end-to-end timing or other de-anonymization attacks. Any such attack would be very hard to perform, and if the provider keeps logs it cannot be performed retrospectively. But the risk is still there.
  • Speed hit is that of Tor and the VPN combined.

Tor Browser VPN

Technically speaking, this is a version of Tor through VPN. It has some important differences, however, to let your VPN provider transparently route your internet connection from its servers.

In this method, you simply connect to a VPN server and then access the internet using the Tor Browser. You can connect to the VPN using any VPN software or via a VPN router.  Note that this method can be achieved using Whonix instead of the Tor Browser, but for ease, we’ll just refer to the Tor Browser. 

Your computer -> encrypt inside Tor Browser -> VPN -> Tor -> internet

Your ISP sees that you have connected to a VPN server. Websites and anyone else on the internet see the IP address of the Tor exit node. 

Pros:

  • Your VPN provider cannot see which websites you visit on the internet
  • It also cannot see the contents of your data because it is encrypted inside the Tor browser
  • You can access Tor hidden services (.onion websites) , but only using the Tor Browser
  • Your ISP cannot see that you are using Tor (although it can know that you are using a VPN)
  • To identify your real IP address from the internet would require compromising both the Tor network and your VPN service.
  • The Tor Browser is a version of Firefox been “hardened” for improved privacy security. It is also the best defence against browser fingerprinting techniques. For more details on this please see our Tor Review.

Cons:

  • You lose the true anonymity afforded by Tor because your VPN provider can see your real IP address (and may know payment details, although this can be avoided using properly anonymized cryptocurrencies).
  • The Tor exit node can see the contents of your data (if not protected by HTTPS), and which websites you visit on the internet.
  • Public Tor exit nodes are openly published and are therefore easy to block. Because you are using the Tor browser, however, you can use Tor bridges to mitigate against this problem. 
  • Speed hit is that of Tor and the VPN combined.
  • Only your Tor Browser session is protected by Tor. Everything else is protected by your VPN only.

Analysis

Here are some of our thoughts on the matter. 

  • Adding an extra “layer” of protection does introduce meaningful benefits, but the jury is out over whether these offset the disadvantages. 
  • We do not consider Tor through VPN using a transparent proxy to be very secure. Being able to access Tor hidden services using your regular browser is very convenient, however, so it all depends on your threat model and what you hope to achieve.
  • Tor through VPN using the Tor Browser VPN method achieves a similar end and is much more secure. If you are doing anything that requires real anonymity we recommend doing this over the convenience of Tor through VPN using a transparent proxy.
  • In both the above methods, though, you lose the true anonymity afforded by Tor. 
  • The VPN through Tor method basically allows you to use a VPN anonymously, but this requires great care to do effectively.
  • Tor on its own also provides true anonymity without introducing a fixed point of weakness.
  • But having a VPN server, rather than a Tor exit node, as the endpoint does offer some real advantages.

End-to-end timing (e2e) attacks

This is a technique used to de-anonymize VPN and Tor users by correlating the time they were connected to the timing of otherwise anonymous behavior on the internet.

On a global scale, pulling off a successful e2e attack against a Tor user would be a monumental undertaking. But possibly not impossible for the likes of the NSA, who are suspected of running a high percentage of all the world public Tor exit nodes.

If such an attack (or another de-anonymization tactic) is made against you while using Tor, then using a VPN as well will provide an additional layer of security.

Should you use a Tor VPN?

The issue is far from clear cut and is often hotly debated. Using a VPN and Tor together is an interesting thought exercise. Just thinking through the implications of various setups can improve your understanding of how both systems work, and therefore lead to better operational security.

Despite superficial similarities, VPNs and Tor are useful for different things. VPNs provide a high day-to-day level of privacy with minimal impact on your internet experience. Tor provides true anonymity but impacts your internet experience too much to be useful for day-to-day use. 

In our view, most people are far better off simply picking the right tool for the right job. Use a VPN on its own to protect your privacy when doing ordinary browsing, then switch to Tor when true anonymity is required or when accessing Tor hidden services. 

We do think there are viable real-world uses for combining Tor and VPN, especially in VPN through Tor configuration. But we urge anyone planning to do this in earnest to consider carefully what they hope to achieve by it, and to understand the security implications of taking this route before doing so.

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.

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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