Whether you are in the United Kingdom, a British expat, or just enjoy having unrestricted access to English culture and television, you have many good reasons to use a VPN for the UK.
Britain is arguably the most extreme surveillance state in the western world. Data collection is legal, and internet service providers (ISPs) are mandated to monitor and log all online activities. If you’re in the UK and not using a VPN, that means your online activities.
Besides collecting data, British ISPs also censor the internet. Did you know that there are nearly 800,000 websites to which access is blocked from inside the country? VPNs can get you around those restrictions.
Then there is the UK’s draconian approach to file sharing and recent laws which can land you in hot water the moment you visit, even accidentally, a website containing terrorist propaganda (whatever classifies as that). If you use a VPN, you’re safe.
And what if you’re outside the UK? Have you tried streaming any British television, like the BBC iPlayer? You can’t, and only the very best VPN for the UK can get you access.
A VPN will give you online privacy and anonymity, uncensored and safe access to the internet, and let you view geo-blocked UK content like the iPlayer when abroad. With the same VPN, you’ll even be able to watch the full US Netflix catalog, if you so desire.
There are many reasons to use a UK VPN indeed.
Overview of the Best VPNs for the UK
If the list of the best UK VPNs is all you’re interested in, I’ll cut straight to the chase. Here is a quick overview of the top providers for both inside the UK and abroad.
Best VPN for the UK. A VPN service that does it all. NordVPN has a large and very fast server network, no logging, excellent privacy, and an intuitive app with plenty of features. It offers rock-solid access to UK streaming services too.
A Newer VPN, Surfshark comes with all the features a VPN for the UK should have for a low price no other provider can beat. It offers top-notch security and privacy, a simple to use client, excellent streaming support, and unlimited connections.
CyberGhost runs specialized servers for watching geo-blocked UK content, doesn’t keep logs and offers many great privacy features. It’s an inexpensive service that comes with a long 45-day money-back guarantee.
An established provider, PureVPN delivers reliable UK and foreign content streaming via dedicated servers. It has a huge network, with speedy servers in 131 countries, including tons in the UK.
A well-known and respected provider, ExpressVPN has quick and secure servers, zero logging, and a super polished client app. It comes with arguable the best customer support in the industry and a generous 30-day money back guarantee.
What to Look for in a UK VPN
There are plenty of VPN providers to choose from, but, of course, not all are created equals. When trying to pick a good VPN for the UK, here are the most important things to consider.
To access UK content from abroad or for online privacy and security while in Britain, you’ll want a VPN provider with plenty of servers in the country. The more, the better.
Servers spread across multiple UK locations are preferred too – though secondary to their sheer number. Again, the more, the better. This will give you the best possible connection speeds and overall online experience.
Speaking of connection speeds and online experience, you’ll want a VPN that’s fast. Period. A VPN will always slow down your internet a bit, but some do a much better job of maintaining performance than others.
If you end up with a slow service, even simple things like browsing the web may become painful. And video streaming? It’s just not going to happen.
Works With UK Streaming Services
If you intend on watching from abroad the BBC iPlayer or other British content providers, not every VPN service will work. The BBC detects and blocks VPNs with ruthless efficiency, and more so than ever, only the top providers can give you consistent access.
Large Global Network
When in the UK, you may want to use your VPN to connect to other countries. Maybe you’d like to access another country’s Netflix library or TV streaming services. Or perhaps you want to torrent or use file-sharing software.
A VPN with an extensive, diverse server network will let you do all of the above.
On the subject of torrenting and file sharing, if that’s something you would like to do, make sure your VPN service supports it. Don’t assume it does. Plenty of VPNs don’t allow it.
Minimal Logging and Good Jurisdiction
No VPN service will ever log which websites you visit, but some still keep tabs on things like connection times or data transfer amounts. For maximum privacy and anonymity, opt for a no log VPN – one which stores absolutely nothing.
This way, even if authorities come knocking warrant in hand, the VPN provider simply has no data to hand over.
It’s also a good idea to pick a VPN based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, one where data collection is not mandated. Good choices are the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Romania, and Switzerland.
Definitely avoid VPNs based out of the UK. Just like ISPs, they too have to monitor, log, and share online activities when asked to do so.
Good Encryption and Privacy Features
To be sure your privacy and anonymity are secure at all times, choose a provider offering 256-bit encryption using a state-of-the-art protocol like OpenVPN. It’s an unbreakable combination.
Other privacy features like DNS leak protection or an internet kill switch are also great to have. They’ll ensure you’ll never accidentally expose your online activities through network misconfiguration or because of an accidental VPN disconnect.
The Best VPN for the UK
We now know which features are worth paying particular attention to when picking a VPN for the UK. So, without further ado, here are the top five providers that best fit the bill.
A leader in the number of UK servers, NordVPN currently runs 421 of them. That count goes up regularly too.
When it comes to privacy, NordVPN is up there with the best of them. They don’t log a thing. They also operate out of Panama, a country with no data retention laws, completely unrestricted internet access, and zero government surveillance.
DNS leak protection and a kill switch are, of course, present and accounted for. But, NordVPN also offers several anonymity features which other providers don’t, like a double VPN, Tor over VPN, and obfuscated servers.
NordVPN is also an excellent provider for consistent access to all UK streaming services including, of course, the BBC iPlayer (UK server #1797 is what I have been using lately for anyone interested).
- Excellent download and upload speeds
- Large ever-expanding server network
- Great privacy with independently verified no logging policy
- Specialty servers (including double VPN, obfuscated, and Tor over VPN)
- Clean, easy to use client
- Works with Netflix and other streaming services
- Allows torrenting and P2P
- Offers dedicated IP addresses
- No split tunneling feature
- A bit pricey on shorter-term plans
BEST VPN FOR THE UK: If you’re looking for a VPN for the UK that does everything and does it well, look no further than NordVPN. You get an easy to use app, streaming access, high connection speeds, and excellent security – all at a very affordable price.
It all starts with a strict no-logging policy and a base of operation out of the British Virgin Islands, both of which secure your online privacy as well as any competitor.
Surfshark runs over 1700 servers in 66 countries, including several locations in the United Kingdom. And those servers sure are fast, perfect for streaming video and P2P (which is, of course, allowed).
Unblocking UK streaming sites and services is a breeze with Surfshark. The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Netflix all work beautifully from abroad.
Surfshark’s client has a clean, modern, and intuitive design. It offers excellent encryption and protocol options, privacy features like double VPN and a kill switch, and even lets you use your own DNS servers.
And did I mention Surfshark is the only provider to give you unlimited simultaneous connections? Plus it’s the least expensive option on this list too – no other provider gives you so much for so little.
- Excellent privacy and security with no logging
- Great server performance
- Unblocks Netflix, BBC, and many others
- Easy to use client
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Torrenting support network-wide
- Very inexpensive
- Inconsistent speeds at a few locations
- Fairly slow customer support
TOP VALUE VPN FOR THE UK: Not only does Surfshark offer every feature you’ll need, but they also have excellent around the clock support, a 30-day money back guarantee, and the least expensive subscription plan around – especially if you take advantage of their sales. It all makes for one great UK VPN experience.
With 528 UK servers in three locations, no other VPN runs more UK hardware than CyberGhost. They also have excellent coverage in the rest of the world, with over 6300 servers in 90 countries.
As shown by my speed tests, all of CyberGhost’s servers can more than hold their own too.
Operating out of Romania, a country which likes its online privacy, CyberGhost is a strict no logging VPN. Their client app also includes many privacy-oriented features, including DNS leak protection and a kill switch.
Accessing the BBC iPlayer and other similar British services is a breeze with CyberGhost. They offer specialized streaming servers for this purpose that work very consistently.
The same is true of streaming services elsewhere in the world, including US Netflix. If you want to watch geo-blocked content, CyberGhost delivers.
- Zero logging for maximum privacy
- Excellent server distribution with over 6300 servers in 90 countries
- Very fast connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Allows P2P torrenting
- Long 45-day money-back guarantee
- Parent company with a questionable reputation
- Convoluted manual OpenVPN setup
- Doesn't work from China
A VPN THAT DOES IT ALL: CyberGhost has everything you expect a top-tier VPN service to have. It’s one of the most affordable providers too, and even gives you an industry-best 45-day money back guarantee. For UK VPN users, CyberGhost is the complete package.
PureVPN runs 168 UK servers at four locations. Access to the rest of the world is second to none with 2058 servers in 130 countries. Based on my tests, PureVPN’s server speeds are also blazingly fast.
Privacy-wise, PureVPN does do a bit of logging for network management purposes, but it’s all done anonymously, never putting you at risk. All privacy related client features you expect are there as are some nice extras like an ad blocker and virus protection.
For access to UK streaming services, PureVPN’s app includes special service specific stream modes. The BBC, ITV, and Channel 5 are there, as are several dozen other channels from around the world. And they all work very, very well.
- Huge server network (130 countries)
- Fast speeds
- Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, and over 70 other streaming services
- Compatible with over 50 devices and platforms
- Independently verified zero log VPN provider
- Dedicated IP option
- Great value
- Apps could use a bit more polish
- Some intermittent connection problems
EXCELLENT STREAMING OPTIONS: PureVPN is a great provider for UK and foreign media streaming. It comes with an easy to use and well-supported app, a massive high-performance server network, and a price tag that makes it one of the best deals around.
ExpressVPN’s client is as clean and easy to use as it gets. It’s very secure and, for more advanced users, offers useful features like split tunneling to help better manage traffic control.
Unblocking the BBC iPlayer and other UK streaming sites work quite consistently with ExpressVPN, and if you ever run into any issues, their customer support is generally recognized as the best in the industry.
As I touch on in my full review, the one downside of ExpressVPN is the relatively high price. That said, you really do get your money’s worth, plus ExpressVPN tends to offers special discount deals from time to time too.
And with a 30-day money back guarantee, there’s absolutely no risk in giving them a try.
- A feature-rich and intuitive client
- Strong back-end technology
- Plenty of servers and server locations
- Fast and consistent connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix
- Top-notch customer support
- Some aggregated logging
- Not the cheapest
GREAT REPUTATION: If you’re looking for a VPN that offers top anonymity and online privacy, is trusted by millions, and has excellent 24/7 support, don’t ignore ExpressVPN. Despite the slightly higher cost, they’re well worth it.
Free VPN Use in the UK
All the providers I listed above as the best VPNs for the UK are paid services. Though there are plenty of free VPN options, I don’t believe using one is ever a great idea (and personally I never would).
There are many differences between paid and free VPNs which heavily tip the scales in the former’s favor. The gist of it is that when you go free, instead of paying for the service with money, you end paying with your privacy, personal data, time, or all three.
Free UK VPN providers are known for any number of shenanigans, from injecting ads into your browser, to selling your personal information and online habits. All those things generate money for them at your expense.
With a free VPN, you also have pretty slim odds of being able to watch the likes of the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, or UK Netflix. They’re an easy target for those streaming services and rarely fix access once it has been blocked.
Why Use a VPN in the UK
As briefly mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are many reasons you may want to consider using a VPN in the UK. They boil down to the following:
- Online monitoring and logging
- Internet censorship
- Legal issues when torrenting, file sharing, and streaming certain material
- Accessing foreign geo-blocked content
If you’re in the United Kingdom, here is what each of these means for you.
UK ISP Online Monitoring and Activity Logging
Thanks to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (appropriately nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter), British law enforcement and intelligence agencies can legally obtain and analyze all forms of communications and communications data, including, of course, your internet activities.
One of the act’s provisions states that UK ISPs must keep internet connection records, including which websites you have visited, for an entire year. All that information is accessible and reviewable by the authorities at any time without a warrant.
Even if you have nothing to hide, this idea shouldn’t sit well with you.
More troubling still is a UK law passed in 2019, which makes it illegal to watch terrorist propaganda on the internet. Such an act is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
There are a couple of significant problems with this law. What qualifies as terrorist propaganda is not necessarily well defined. And, it’s one strike, and you’re out legislation.
In other words, even if you accidentally end up on a site which has terrorist propaganda or watch something you don’t think even remotely resembles it, but UK law enforcement does, you may be in serious legal trouble.
By using a VPN anytime you’re connected to a UK ISP, you are effectively hiding from them all websites you visit and online services you use. You are keeping your only habits to yourself (as it should be) and protecting yourself from potential accidental legal peril.
UK Internet Censorship
Through mandates to ISPs, the UK blocks access to a considerable number of websites. Probably the best-known case of this is the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, though there are many others – over 700,000 to be precise.
Blocked websites in the UK include anything from adult content and gaming, to file sharing and streaming sites. If anyone tells you that the internet in the United Kingdom is open and free, they’re wrong.
I agree that some websites can be a problem, but I don’t believe arbitrary internet censorship is the answer.
Though there are other ways to unblock a website and side-step these censorship attempts, the most reliable method is to use a VPN.
All you need to do is connect your device to a VPN server in a censorship-free country close to the UK (this helps ensure good performance), and you’ll be able to access any site. The Netherlands or Iceland are great choices.
Torrenting, File Sharing, and Kodi Streaming in the UK
The UK has some very harsh punishment for copyright violation. Downloading or sharing even part of any copyrighted material can lead to huge fines and jail terms of up to 10 years.
Nearly every BitTorrent has a built-in encryption option but, unfortunately, that does little to protect you. Yes, your UK ISP won’t be able to see the content of what you’re sharing, but your IP will still be completely exposed.
Based on your IP, anyone who cares (like media companies or copyright trolls) can quickly figure out exactly what material you’re downloading or uploading and act accordingly.
The same UK copyright laws apply to streaming platforms like Kodi. Even though, technically, you’re not downloading anything, streaming copyrighted material can get you in just as much trouble.
A VPN not only encrypts your connection, keeping your ISP in the dark but also hides your IP address, protecting you on the content source end of things. Using a VPN will keep you both anonymous and safe.
Watching US Netflix and Other Content in the UK
While in the UK, you may want to use an online service in another country. It could be the streaming player of a foreign TV channel, the US version of Netflix (and their more extensive library), or anything in between.
Any such content will most likely be geo-blocked from the UK and not accessible unless you’re physically located in the country of its origin. And a VPN can fix that.
By connecting to a server in the country the content is coming from, your device will be seen as actually being there. Whether you’re in the United Kingdom or anywhere else in the world, whatever was blocked will now be available.
VPN for UK Expats
If you don’t live in the United Kingdom or spend significant time abroad, there is still at least one excellent reason to invest in a top VPN for the UK and get yourself a British IP: streaming content and getting around geo-blocking.
Streaming UK TV
The number one reason anyone outside the UK would want to get a UK VPN is to access the country’s excellent streaming services like the BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s All 4, or the ITV Hub – a VPN is by far the best way to watch British TV abroad.
If that is indeed your goal, you should be aware that all those companies do their absolute best to stop you in your tracks (especially the BBC). Because of this, many (and maybe even most) VPNs won’t work for this purpose.
Every VPN will, sooner or later, be identified as such and blocked by the BBC and others. There’s no way around that.
What distinguishes the best UK VPNs for lesser providers is how quickly they get back up and running.
Once they realize they’re blocked, top providers can fix access to UK streaming services in a day or two. Other VPNs do it at a much slower pace (assuming they do it at all), putting your British TV watching habits on ice for weeks at a time.
Incidentally, every UK VPN I mention on this page makes access to the BBC iPlayer and other video providers one of their priorities, and when blocked, typically gets things going again very quickly.
The Bottom Line
It doesn’t matter if you live in the UK or spend most of your time abroad. A VPN is an excellent tool to have in your arsenal. It can help you stay anonymous online, use file-sharing services safely, and help you satisfy your British TV cravings.
Whatever your goals are, any provider of this list of the best VPNs for the UK will make an excellent choice and serve you very well indeed.