5 Best Dark Web VPNs & How to Access it

The dark web, or darknet, has a bad name for itself, often associated with several illegal activities kept apart from your general search engine. Despite this, it isn't the platform that's inherently bad, but simply how it's used.

Accessing the dark web requires special anonymous browsers, like Tor, I2P, and Freenet, but it is critically important to make sure you safeguard your privacy when doing so - which is why we also recommend using a virtual private network.

We list the best VPNs for the dark web and show you how to use a VPN on the dark web.

Features a VPN needs for the dark web

5 Best VPNs for the Dark Web

Below is a list of our experts' top picks for the best dark web VPNs available today. If you need more information about any of the services below, click through to the providers website or take a look at our informative VPN reviews.

1. AirVPN

AirVPN offers a comprehensive list of features that work great with Tor

  • Pricing

    From $4.64 - $8.05
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux

AirVPN is an excellent, incredibly secure VPN provider based in Italy. AES 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, Tor network integration, and a kill switch make AirVPN a solid choice for anyone needing to access the dark web. On top of that, AirVPN collects no logs and accepts a wide array of cryptocurrencies for payment. Adding to the overall privacy of the platform, no personal information whatsoever, not even a real email address, is required to create an account.


The AirVPN client is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and routers. The only drawback for beginners is that AirVPN is made by techies, and geared more towards the techie crowd. That’s not to say though that beginners won’t be able to get the hang of it and use it properly, it’s just that it may not be as straightforward or simply “plug-and-play” right from the get-go for novices. In any case, AirVPN offers a no-strings-attached 3-day free trial, so you can test it out to see how it works for you.  

2. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN's kill switch and DNS leak protection make searching the dark web easy

  • Pricing

    From $3.29 - $5.00
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

ProtonVPN is a super secure and super fast VPN provider based out of Switzerland, home to some of the world’s most stringent privacy protections and safely out of the jurisdiction of the fourteen eyes network. ProtonVPN supports Tor integration, keeps no logs, and offers excellent encryption standards to secure users’ connections. Additional security features include DNS leak protection and a kill switch.


What’s more, to bolster the security of ProtonVPN’s network even more, the company houses its Secure Core servers in a Swiss military fallout shelter located a full kilometer underground. ProtonVPN also houses servers in a former Icelandic military facility and in a Swedish underground data center. You can also sign up anonymously with a ProtonMail email address. The ProtonVPN client works flawlessly across all major operating systems and allows you to connect up to 10 devices simultaneously.

3. NordVPN

NordVPN is bursting with features and additions that secure your experience

  • Pricing

    From $3.49 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

NordVPN is a superb all-round VPN service that happens to also be a top choice for dark web users. Alongside being incredibly simple to use, NordVPN offers airtight security features including AES 256-bit encryption, automatic kill switch, and CyberSec technology that blocks potentially harmful websites that could host malware. Those security features, coupled with world-class connection speeds, a strict no-logs policy, and Tor compatibility make NordVPN one of the best when it comes to surfing the dark web.


With NordVPN, you get access to 55,000 servers spread out across 59 different countries. You can also pay for your subscription anonymously using Bitcoin. NordVPN offers a great all-around product that’s highly secure and works well on each of the major operating systems, all at a very reasonable price point. If you want to see if NordVPN is the right service for your dark web browsing, feel free to give it a shot risk-free thanks to its generous 30-day money-back guarantee.  

4. Mullvad

Mullvad lets you sign up with absolutely no personal information, ideal for privacy

  • Pricing

    From $5.50 - $5.60
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • iPlayer

Mullvad is simply one of the best VPNs when it comes to protecting your privacy and anonymity, which is obviously a good thing if you’re keen to surf the dark web. You can sign up for an account without divulging a single blip of personal information, and the company encourages users to pay anonymously via cryptocurrency or even cash. They also offer low cost monthly plans that don't require you to sing up to a long term contract.


Mullvad keeps no logs and offers Tor integration on top of airtight security, robust encryption protocols, and blazing fast server speeds. The client software is exceptionally easy to use and available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. If you’re looking for a top-class VPN provider that’s really focused on security for your dark web needs, you really can’t go wrong with Mullvad.

5. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN offers one of the largest selection of servers in 94 countries

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

ExpressVPN consistently ranks amongst the top VPN providers across many of the various categories we analyze here at ProPrivacy.com. It’s certainly no different here, as ExpressVPN is one of the best when it comes to protecting users on the dark web as well. ExpressVPN offers a special network of “stealth” servers specifically designed to outwit China’s “Great Firewall” and allow users to evade government censorship efforts. On top of that, Express VPN is extraordinarily easy to use, and employs a strict no-logs policy and offers robust security features including a kill switch, AES 256-bit encryption, and DNS leak protection.


You won’t have trouble finding lighting fast servers close by either since ExpressVPN offers one of the largest and most comprehensive networks of VPN servers available, consisting of 160 server locations spread out over 94 different countries worldwide. You can pay for your subscription via BitCoin, and you can even sign up completely anonymously through Tor on ExpressVPN’s dark web mirror site.


Though ExpressVPN is admittedly one of the pricier options on the market today, with all the security features and privacy protections you get, it’s worth it. And as a special bonus, if you spring for the yearly plan you’ll get an additional three months tacked on for free.

How to access the dark web with a VPN and Tor together

Although browsing the dark web requires some vigilance and at least a basic understanding of the risks taken, protecting your privacy is incredible simple. You just need to:

  1. Download the Tor browser.
  2. Subscribe to a VPN (preferably using one of the providers listed in this article), log in, and make sure that the kill switch is enabled.
  3. Connect to a server. Remember, servers closer to you are usually faster than those in other countries or continents.
  4. Launch the Tor browser.
  5. Surf the dark web. Connecting to the dark web this way will ensure that no one will be able to detect that you’re using Tor or accessing the dark web since your internet connection will be fully encrypted by your VPN.
  6. Make sure to always end your Tor session first, prior to disconnecting from the VPN server.

What is the dark web?

The dark web can be a scary place. It has acquired a reputation for being filled with underground marketplaces specializing in selling stolen personal data, hacked accounts, illicit drugs, weapons, and counterfeit goods. Many dark web marketplaces even deal in things like child pornography, human trafficking, and hitman services.

On the other hand, despite its shadowy reputation, the dark web can also be a legitimate and necessary venue for dissidents, whistleblowers, journalists, human rights investigators, or for anyone that simply wants to evade censorship or maintain optimum anonymity online.

Essentially, the dark web represents a small portion of the much larger deep web, a part of the internet that is not indexed by the search engines like Google. The dark web is an intentionally hidden area of the deep web that can only be accessed by using software like Tor, which routes your internet connection through various servers run by volunteers around the world, changing the IP address and re-encrypting your traffic each time it passes through a node, making it virtually impossible to trace your online activity back to you.

While using Tor is essential for accessing the dark web and remaining anonymous when doing so, using a VPN for the dark web can have added benefits for your overall privacy as a VPN can help conceal your Tor usage from your internet service provider or government entities.

For a more in-depth explanation, check out our complete guide to the dark web guide.

Deep web vs. dark web

Many people often confuse the terms “deep web” and “dark web” as being interchangeable. There is, however, an important distinction between the two.

The deep web refers to any part of the internet that is not indexed or searchable by the search engines you use on a daily basis. This includes, but is not limited to, any part of the internet that is password-protected, such as personal bank accounts, email accounts, medical records, private databases, Amazon accounts, Facebook accounts, and so on. I couldn’t, for instance, search Google for access to Anne’s personal Netflix account or to check Larry’s PayPal account balance. That’s because all that information resides appropriately secured on the deep web. In fact, it is very likely that you access the deep web on a daily basis.

The dark web, on the other hand, represents a minuscule fraction of the deep web that is intentionally hidden from search engines and requires special anonymization software like Tor to access. Anyone that requires the ability to bypass censorship, exercise free speech, or needing complete online anonymity for any other reason can achieve it on the dark web.

Basically, all of the dark web is part of the deep web, but not all of the deep web is part of the dark web.

Why using a dark web VPN is beneficial

There are several reasons why it can be very beneficial to use a VPN to access the dark web. For one, Tor is often blocked, or at least partially blocked in places like China, Iran, Turkey, and Venezuela - areas of the world that aren’t exactly privacy-friendly. If you are located in such an area, you can use a VPN to route your connection through a different country to access Tor, and ultimately the dark web. 

On top of that, by using a VPN, you are effectively hiding the fact that you are using Tor from any government authority who may be interested in snooping on what you are up to online. And this is not just pertinent for users under the watch of authoritarian regimes like China; using Tor can reportedly even land you on the NSA’s watch list from the United States and elsewhere.

Using a dark web VPN will also hide your Tor connection from any other third party that may be monitoring your online activity, including your internet service provider (ISP). You’d do well to conceal the fact that you’re using Tor from your ISP because most, if not all, ISPs record, collect, and store your online activity, and are in some corners of the globe notorious for selling that data to advertisers and other interested parties.

While Tor keeps you anonymous while accessing the dark web, using a VPN on top of that will add an extra, much-needed layer of privacy. 

For more information, check out our Tor Vs VPNs guide.

FAQs

Below, you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the dark web in general and using a VPN to access the dark web.

Written by: Attila Tomaschek

Attila is a Hungarian-American currently living in Budapest. Being in the VPN game for over 5 years, along with his acute understanding of the digital privacy space enables him to share his expertise with ProPrivacy readers. Attila has been featured as a privacy expert in press outlets such as Security Week, Silicon Angle, Fox News, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Examiner, Techopedia, Disruptor Daily, DZone, and more. He has also contributed bylines for several online publications like SC Magazine UK, Legal Reader, ITProPortal, BetaNews, and Verdict.

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