6 Best UK VPN Services in 2021 – Avoid Creeping Censorship and Say ‘No’ to the Snoopers’ Charter!

There are several reasons why you might need a UK VPN service (outside the usual security benefits of a VPN):

  • You want access to exclusive streaming sites and libraries from abroad, such as Hulu, HBO Max, US Netflix, and so on. Or maybe YouTube videos which are unavailable in the UK – usually music videos or clips from TV shows.
  • You’re against the worrying trend of censorship by the UK government, as well as their continuous attacks on free speech. Not to mention its sophisticated mass surveillance system, which means you never truly have time “to yourself.”
  • You’re an expat trying to watch content from back home, such as shows on BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, and many others.

No matter the reason, you need a capable VPN. More specifically, you need a VPN that provides plenty of value for its price and which comes with a wide server network across the United Kingdom and internationally. All the following options have their own strong suits and will help you obtain a UK IP address if you’re outside the country – so let’s dive right in.

Here Are the 6 Best UK VPN Services for Your Privacy and Content Needs

When it comes to VPNs for the UK, these next six candidates can’t be beaten. Great for streaming, safe torrenting, gaming – and all things network-related. Moreover, none of them keep any logs of your browsing activity (as UK ISPs do, thanks to the Investigatory Powers Act), so your private affairs are truly private this time around.

1. ExpressVPN – Industry-Leading VPN for the UK

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If you need a complete solution to preserve your online privacy, ExpressVPN is your best bet. This is an incredibly capable VPN that is powered by the strongest available type of encryption and a whole array of industry-leading protocols.

It’s also one of the rare VPNs that continuously update their service to keep up with new cybersecurity challenges. Take their TrustedServer technology, for example, which removes the need for hard drives on their servers. In the event of a potential government seizure, any minimal data that was present is deleted as soon as the servers are powered off.

When it comes to encrypting your incoming and outgoing traffic, ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption. It’s the same standard used by banks and financial institutions, which certainly tells you a lot about its security. You won’t have to worry about data leaks or having any of your personal data recorded by anyone online.

You can also use this VPN to unblock just about any website, including popular media streaming services. You should have no trouble accessing your favorite content, whether you want to watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK or check out streaming options from across the pond.

We recommend reading our in-depth ExpressVPN review for all the details about the provider and their service. Speed tests, company details, policy info, anything you need to make a well-informed decision.

  • Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; AES-256; Lightway, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2/IPSec, PPTP.
  • Servers Located in the UK: 4 locations; Hundreds of servers.
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.

2. CyberGhost VPN – User-Centric UK VPN With a Bubbly Personality

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CyberGhost VPN have risen through the ranks thanks to their company transparency, cheerful mascot, and bubbly social media presence. Naturally, their service also has the quality you’d expect from a top tier UK VPN.

As one of the more user-friendly VPNs out there, CyberGhost VPN allows you to connect up to seven devices at the same time using a single subscription – a great deal if you find yourself switching between devices while watching your favorite shows.

Speaking of which, their website and VPN app feature the option to choose a VPN server optimized for the type of activity you’re interested in. Regular browsing, torrenting, streaming – you name it. This is expanded upon through options fit for different streaming sites, including Netflix US, FR, DE, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and even YouTube.

Want to dive a bit deeper into this VPN’s capabilities? If so, here’s our CyberGhost VPN review where you’ll find everything you need.

  • Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, IKEv2, Wireguard, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP.
  • Servers Located in the UK: 3 locations; 690+ servers.
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 14 days (for 1-month plans); 45 days (6+ month plans).

3. NordVPN – Security-Driven VPN for the UK

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Despite the negative publicity NordVPN got from being hacked back in 2018, they’ve doubled their efforts to make their service as secure as possible. As a note, the “hack” in question was due to a data center NordVPN was working with at the time, and no actual information has been compromised – apart from some expired TLS keys. Nothing that affected their users’ security in any way, at least.

In any case, if privacy is essential to you, NordVPN’s double VPN feature is the perfect solution to eliminate any trace of your online whereabouts. However, keep in mind that their double-routing feature will greatly affect your online speeds. Then again, speed is a small price to pay if you’re in the high-stakes world of journalism, a whistleblower, or just don’t want to attract Big Brother’s attention with “thoughtcrimes.”

Naturally, NordVPN also aces its tests when it comes to unblocking services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer abroad, and more. Their fast servers will also ensure a smooth streaming experience – check out our NordVPN review and convince yourself through the speed tests we’ve conducted.

  • Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, NordLynx.
  • Servers Located in the UK: 1 location; 440+ servers.
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.

4. IPVanish – Works on Your Old Phone!

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Even though it has a few quirks (mostly regarding its not very elegant user interface), it’s definitely one of the best UK VPN services out there. What’s interesting to note about IPVanish is its broad support for a wide variety of platforms.

Since it’s been around for quite a while, it manages to cover a whole slate of different platforms and devices. Aside from the currently popular options (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.), IPVanish also works on Windows Phone, Blackberry, and more – most of which have been abandoned by other VPN providers. Got an old phone you’re holding on to? IPVanish might just work on it.

It also comes with a capable feature set, including IPv6 leak protection, a kill-switch, and granular control over its capabilities. However, it does have a big drawback for all streaming fans out there, as it can only unblock a limited number of content websites. See which ones in our IPVanish review, alongside other info regarding their service.

  • Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP.
  • Servers Located in the UK: 5 locations; 110+ servers.
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.

5. Surfshark – Unlimited VPN Connections in a Single Subscription

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Got plenty of gadgets, a large family and/or group of friends? Then Surfshark might be the best pick for you. It comes with support for unlimited simultaneous connections, which is extremely rare when it comes to VPNs.

On top of that, it can unblock most streaming sites from anywhere in the world, including the BBC’s iPlayer if you’re watching from abroad. It doesn’t have the widest server network among our top UK VPN picks, but it’s getting there – and its current offering is nothing to scoff at, either.

Their plans are also pretty affordable considering you can use their app on an unlimited number of devices. With all this in mind, it’s not surprising that Surfshark has been consistently popping up in top VPN lists, in its just three short years of activity.

Want a more detailed look at Surfshark? You know the drill – check out our in-depth Surfshark review.

  • Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, IKEv2.
  • Servers Located in the UK: 3 locations; Dozens of servers.
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.

6. Ivacy – Cheapest UK VPN Alternative (For Longer Plans)

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To start, we should mention that Ivacy is based in Singapore, a member of the 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. This raises some red flags if you value your privacy above the entertainment value a VPN can offer. Still, the provider keeps no activity logs and certainly hasn’t given any indication to the contrary.

If you’re just looking for a cheap UK VPN option that allows you to watch all your favorite content from abroad, then Ivacy is a great choice. It works with all the big names out there, including Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.

As always, check out our Ivacy review for the full specs and further details about the service.

  • Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2
  • Servers Located in the UK: 2 locations, 50+ servers.
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 7 days (for 1-month plans), 30 days (all other plans).

Which Websites Are Blocked in the UK and Why?

The UK is widely known for overblocking of online content, and we’re not just referring to pirate sites (which were an obvious target).

In an attempt to filter content not suitable for children, UK ISPs have imposed filters that sometimes affected completely safe and unrelated websites. Why? Well, certain keywords on these websites (related to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.) triggered the automatic filtering system.

In some cases, the pages affected were aimed at helping young people cope with problems associated with these topics. Charities and businesses alike have had their websites not appear for subscribers of various UK ISPs, like Sky, Virgin Media, and several others. Because yes, these filtering rules aren’t even consistent across multiple operators.

More importantly, the UK government has put Ofcom in charge of regulating the Internet. These regulations involve the removal of vaguely defined “abusive, harmful, and illegal content” – especially on social media, which civil rights advocates worry will be used to crack down on freedom of speech online.

Aside from the wide variety of websites censored by these Internet operators, UK users can’t use regionally exclusive streaming websites like Hulu, HBO Max, and the like. The websites may not be blocked, but their services are unavailable to people outside the US.

Then there are a host of US news websites blocked in Europe, thanks to the lingering effects of the EU GDPR. Most of these have since been resolved, but a few smaller papers and business websites remain unreachable outside the US. This may affect expats from the US who want to follow local news from back home. Not to mention businesses looking to expand in the area.

Can I Get Around the UK Porn Ban With a VPN?

The UK government has tried (unsuccessfully, so far) to implement an AgeID system to watch porn online in the UK. While the idea has been shot down a few times, it’s still on the table since more and more countries start to implement age verification systems of their own.

Despite the good intentions behind the bill (preventing children from accessing pornography), people were not particularly happy about having to give their personal information to a porn site. Not to mention the possibility of having their viewing habits stored in the cloud, with the potential to be leaked online. And who would?

Fortunately, if such a law does pass anytime soon, you can always use a UK VPN and connect to a country where age verification isn’t required. It’s a good idea to use VPN anyway, as your browsing habits can’t be recorded and stored by your UK ISP.

How to Use a UK VPN in 4 Easy Steps

Fortunately, using a VPN will easily let you unblock any content unavailable in the UK. Here’s how to use one for those of you new to the topic:

  • Sign up for one of our top UK VPN recommendations. Can’t decide? Try ExpressVPN, for starters.
  • Download and install the VPN app from the provider’s website. Do so on all your supported devices to prevent UK Internet providers from snooping on your browsing activity and keep your data safe from hackers.
  • Launch the app and input your account details to log in.
  • Choose a VPN server from your provider’s network. Alternatively, click on their recommended server (where available).

That’s it! Enjoy a freer and more private Internet experience.

Why a Free UK VPN Is a Horrible Idea

It’s natural to jump at anything with a “free” tag, but here’s why that isn’t a good idea when it comes to VPNs.

  • Free VPNs still require money to operate – and like most free services out there, they log and sell your personal data to advertising companies and other shady third parties.
  • Considering the “price” of using a free VPN, you won’t be happy to hear they offer few servers and poor performance on top of it all.
  • Nearly 40% of all Android VPNs contain malware or other forms of malicious code. Apple users shouldn’t rejoice, as almost 80% of the top 20 free iOS VPNs don’t comply with Apple’s guidelines for security. See more on the topic here.
  • Not worried about security? Well, free VPNs aren’t great for entertainment either. On top of having small data caps most of the time, they seldom work with any of the major streaming platforms.

Not really worth putting your privacy and security at risk for an underperforming piece of software. At least, not when all of our top UK VPN choices have 30 to 45 money-back guarantees, so you can try them out without limitations.

FAQ

New to the world of VPNs? Here are the answers to the most frequent questions people have on the topic.

Do You Need a VPN in the UK?

Yes – you absolutely need a VPN if you’re connecting to the Web from the United Kingdom. That’s because your data is being collected and processed by your ISP and numerous third parties. What’s especially concerning is the UK’s surveillance programs.

Some time ago, a highly intrusive digital surveillance law came into action. The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) – also nicknamed the “Snoopers’ Charter” – is a law that has been widely accused of being one of the most stringent in the world. As The Guardian reported, Edward Snowed characterized IPA as the most extreme surveillance method, at least when it comes to Western democracies.

Are VPNs Legal in the UK?

Considering how strict the UK’s surveillance laws are, you might be wondering if it’s legal to use a VPN. Well, there’s nothing to worry about on that end – at least for the time being. As of 2021, VPNs are perfectly legal in the United Kingdom.

How to Unblock Netflix US From the UK?

The UK version of Netflix has tons of amazing content. However, despite having a slightly larger Netflix library than the US, there are still a few shows only available overseas – and vice-versa. Already a paying customer of Netflix? Then it’s time to expand your library by accessing US Netflix with a VPN.

To watch American Netflix, simply launch your VPN (we recommend ExpressVPN for the job) and connect to a US server. Keep in mind that you’ll lose access to Netflix UK shows while connected, which is easily reverted by turning off your VPN.

How to Watch British TV Channels and Movies From Anywhere?

British TV networks produce an unbelievable amount of amazing content. However, this content is restricted to those living in the UK. By connecting to a VPN server located in the United Kingdom, you can watch BBC iPlayer and other British programming without a hitch. If you’re looking for recommendations, here are some of the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer.

What’s the Best Free UK VPN?

We’ve already explained why you should absolutely keep away from free VPNs – but here’s the TL;DR version. For one, they come with serious limitations (in terms of speed and bandwidth), and they often leak your private data. Many free VPNs don’t hide the fact that they work with advertisers and track your Web browsing habits – that is, when their apps are not busy harvesting data on your devices through malicious code.

As you can see, the best UK VPNs will help you keep your private life to yourself, on top of getting around ever-increasing censorship by the British government. If there’s anything we haven’t covered on the topic, shoot us a question in the comments, and we’ll be glad to help.

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