Best VPNs for Istanbul

Looking for a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to use in Istanbul? Whether you are trying to stay safe online, stream shows from back home or access websites abroad a VPN can help. We reveal the best VPNs for Istanbul plus how to get set up, even if you have never used a VPN before.

If you’re visiting Turkey on vacation, you might notice that some of your usual services are inaccessible. That’s because the government blocks huge swaths of content, including sites that provide gambling services, adult content, or information that shows the government in an unfavorable light. Turkey also heavily censors social media, accounting for 10 percent of global Twitter takedown requests in the second half of 2020 and having blocked the service outright in the past.

Luckily, with the right VPN, staying safe online and regaining access to your usual services is quick and easy. First, these services will encrypt your traffic, preventing it from being read by snoopers like the government. Next, the data is sent through a server somewhere else in the world, which lets you bypass regional restrictions and browse the web unrestricted.

We’ll cover each of our top VPNs in more detail a little later but if you’re in a rush, you’ll find a brief overview of each below:

Best VPNs for Istanbul:

  1. NordVPN: Our first choice for browsing safely in Istanbul. Leads the pack on security and is among the fastest we’ve tested. Has specific servers for bypassing countrywide censorship in places like Turkey. Includes a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. Surfshark: The best low-cost VPN for Istanbul. With very high speeds, no connection limit, and a fantastic security toolkit, this budget provider makes it easy to browse safely in Istanbul.
  3. ExpressVPN: This provider boasts reliable, speedy connections and a solid commitment to user privacy. Not only that, but it has servers in 94 countries, far more than most of its rivals.
  4. PrivateVPN: A zero-logs VPN that puts your privacy first. Offers fast speeds, powerful security features, and a stealth mode for bypassing online censorship. Even works in China.
  5. Hotspot Shield: Blends easy-to-use apps with steady speeds and strong security to create an ideal service for anyone new to VPNs. Has no problems bypassing Turkish web-filtering.
  6. VyprVPN: Uses its own custom protocol to evade digital censorship. Decent speeds, but very strong on security. Doesn’t keep any logs and offers access to 700 servers worldwide.

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Because Turkey has far stricter online restrictions than most other countries, you can’t just use any old VPN to protect yourself during your visit. In fact, a great number of services just won’t work, since the government has blocked many of the most popular already. To ensure you get a service that’s suitable, reliable, and versatile, we looked for all of the things below:

  • The ability to bypass Turkish internet blocking and access the web freely in Istanbul
  • Reliable, high-speed servers located outside of Turkey
  • A strong set of security tools including effectively uncrackable encryption
  • A no-logs policy to ensure your activities can’t be revealed
  • Apps for all major operating systems

We explain our testing criteria further in the methodology below.

Best VPN for Istanbul

Let’s jump right in with a closer look at each of the best VPNs for Istanbul:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN Dec 2021

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN is our #1 VPN for anyone traveling in Istanbul. It has more than 5,000 servers to choose from, some of which are specially configured to beat countrywide internet restrictions. Additionally, this is one of the fastest providers we’ve tested, and while your base speeds will be a limiting factor, most people’s connections should still be fast enough for uninterrupted streaming, torrenting, and browsing. A maximum of six devices can be connected at once.

Users have plenty of security tools at their fingertips, from 256-bit encryption to a customizable kill switch. There’s also protection against WebRTC, DNS, and IPv6 leaks, a CyberSec feature that blocks ads and malware automatically, and NordLynx, this provider’s own proprietary protocol. NordVPN follows a strict zero-logs policy and recently switched to RAM-only servers to make doubly sure no user data is stored. Customer support is available 24/7 over email or live chat.

NordVPN has iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, and Linux apps. If you’d like to secure all of your devices simultaneously, you can manually install this service on a supported router instead.

Pros:

  • Has consistently delivered high speeds in our testing
  • Known for its excellent unblocking ability
  • Among the best for security and privacy
  • Proven no-logs policy
  • Free live chat-based support

Cons:

  • Obfuscated servers only work on OpenVPN connections

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST VPN FOR ISTANBUL:NordVPN is our first choice. It’s a fast, privacy-first service with easy-to-use apps and a stellar reputation. Works flawlessly in countries with strict online censorship like Turkey and China. Offers a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Interested? Why not check out our comprehensive NordVPN review?

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2. Surfshark

Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark is the best way to protect your privacy on a budget. In fact, with top-tier unblocking capabilities and an average speed of over 200 Mbps (per our latest tests), this low-cost provider towers above many of its pricier competitors. Further, this is one of the only major VPNs that allows users to connect any number of devices simultaneously, which makes it an obvious choice for families.

User traffic is kept hidden from snoopers using 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. What’s more, Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature blocks ads and trackers while its NoBorders mode is specifically designed to beat online censorship. This VPN doesn’t keep any logs and recently revamped its privacy policy to make it easier to understand. If you run into any problems, help is just a few seconds away over live chat.

Surfshark has its own Android, Windows, iOS, MacOS, and Linux apps. Of course, you’re free to manually configure it for use with supported routers if you’d prefer.

Pros:

  • Truly impressive speeds
  • NoBorders mode makes it easy to browse safely in Turkey
  • Punches well above its weight on security
  • Zero-logs provider
  • No connection limit

Cons:

  • Settings menu feels a little disorganized

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark is our top budget pick. It offers industry-leading security features and exceptionally high speeds at a very reasonable price, but if you’re still unsure, you can always take advantage of this provider’s 30-day money-back guarantee.

Find out more in our in-depth Surfshark review.

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3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN offers access to 3,000+ servers in a staggering 94 countries, Turkey included. This makes it a strong choice for keeping your online activities private and accessing your usual Turkish services while traveling abroad. Thanks to this VPN’s new Lightway protocol, its speeds are higher than ever, so you shouldn’t have any issues, even when watching live TV or making HD video calls. Best of all, you can protect up to five of your devices simultaneously.

This service comes packed with privacy and security tools, including DNS and IPv6 leak protection, a kill switch, and 256-bit encryption. Not only that, but it allows you to prevent other devices on the network from communicating with your device. ExpressVPN refuses to log any personally identifiable data but you could always pay in Bitcoin for extra peace of mind. There’s a 24/7 support desk (accessible over email and live chat) in case of any issues.

ExpressVPN apps are available for Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, and Android. This is the only provider in our list with its own router firmware, and this was recently overhauled to make it faster, more user-friendly, and more reliable than ever before.

Pros:

  • Quick and reliable connections
  • Lets you securely access the wider internet while in Turkey
  • Covers more countries than any other major provider
  • Solid security toolkit

Cons:

  • Costs slightly more than some others in this list

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

GREAT EVERYDAY VPN:ExpressVPN is security-conscious, novice-friendly, and extremely fast, making it perfect for just about any task. It has no issues beating Turkey’s online blocking and works with many popular streaming services. A 30-day money-back guarantee is included.

Check out the full ExpressVPN review.

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4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.PrivateVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

PrivateVPN has around 200 servers globally, which might not sound like a lot compared to some of the other services we’ve covered. However, it’s capable of delivering exceptionally high speeds and getting around even the strictest online blocking. Not only that, but PrivateVPN allows torrenting, provides unlimited bandwidth, and can secure up to six devices at a time.

This provider arguably leads the industry where privacy is concerned. Just recently, it began acting as its own ISP and server host, which effectively eliminates the chance of third-party interception of your data. Users can switch between 128-bit and 256-bit encryption, activate the app-specific kill switch, and enable a stealth mode that makes it easy to browse safely in Turkey. As PrivateVPN keeps no logs whatsoever, your browsing habits can’t be revealed under any circumstances. Support staff can be contacted most hours of the day over live chat.

PrivateVPN offers apps for MacOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. It works with Linux systems and supported routers too, but you’ll have to follow manual setup instructions.

Pros:

  • Speedy, self-owned (and hosted) servers in 60+ countries
  • Known for its strong unblocking abilities
  • Works well in Turkey, China, and other places with similar online restrictions
  • Strong focus on security and privacy

Cons:

  • Fairly small network
  • Doesn’t have 24/7 live chat

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

PUTS YOUR PRIVACY FIRST:PrivateVPN has it all: speed, security, and the ability to keep your online activities secure at all times. With self-owned servers, a no-logs policy, and a stealth mode, maintaining your privacy while traveling in Istanbul couldn’t be simpler. All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Questions? You’ll find answers in our full PrivateVPN review.

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5. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Hotspotshield.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.

Hotspot Shield has more than 1,800 servers in 80+ countries including Turkey. As such, it’s a solid choice for anyone hoping to regain access to their usual services during their travels in Istanbul. Notably, this provider has specific servers designed to provide access to streaming platforms and chat/social media services in places where they aren’t normally available. In other words, even if the Turkish government restricts access to social media again, you should still be able to stay in touch with those back home.

This VPN lets you browse the web securely and without restriction using a blend of 256-bit encryption, leak protection, a kill switch, and its own signature Catapult Hydra protocol. It also offers automatic wi-fi protection, which tells the app to connect automatically any time you use an unsecured network. Hotspot Shield deletes all identifiable info once your session is over and offers live chat-based assistance 24 hours per day.

Hotspot Shield apps are available for Linux, MacOS, Windows, Android, and iOS. Alternatively, you can bypass the five-connection limit by manually installing this VPN on a supported router.

Pros:

  • User-friendly apps with dedicated streaming servers
  • Offers a decent set of security tools
  • Catapult Hydra protocol makes it easy to bypass country-wide blocking

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support any anonymous payment options
  • Few configuration options

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

NO-FUSS PROTECTION:Hotspot Shield makes it as easy as possible to protect yourself online with simple, uncluttered apps and fast servers in over 80 countries. This novice-friendly VPN comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee in case you’d like to try it before committing.

Take a look at our complete Hotspot Shield review.

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6. VyprVPN

VyprVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.VyprVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

VyprVPN is a security-focused service with a great reputation and more than 700 servers worldwide. It’s able to bypass internet restrictions in places like Turkey, China, and the UAE, and doesn’t have any issues securely accessing platforms like Netflix or ATV abroad. Although this VPN’s speeds aren’t quite as high as some of its rivals, we had no issues streaming live TV while connected. Further, it’s possible to automatically connect to the fastest available server if you’re not concerned about the location.

Like many of our other recommendations, this provider has its own protocol (Chameleon) designed to beat online censorship. However, newer versions of the app also support WireGuard. Other security features include 256-bit encryption, leak protection, a kill switch, automatic wi-fi protection, and the option to use VyprVPN’s DNS instead of a third parties’. VyprVPN has a true no-logs policy and offers 24/7 support via email or live chat.

VyprVPN has its own apps for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS systems. It can also be installed directly onto DD-WRT, Tomato, AsusWRT, or OpenWRT routers.

Pros:

  • Chameleon protocol even works in China
  • Impressive security offering and a no-logs policy
  • Affordably priced, with 24/7 support

Cons:

  • Speeds could be better
  • Doesn’t accept Bitcoin

Our score:

4 out of 5

BROWSE SECURELY ANYWHERE:VyprVPN has all of the tools you need to keep your online activities private while traveling, whether it’s in Turkey or anywhere else. Further it allows you to securely access a huge range of services and includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Check out our full VyprVPN review.

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How to browse safely in Istanbul using a VPN

Don’t worry: VPNs might sound complicated at first but they’re really quite easy to get the hang of. Just follow the steps below and you’ll be browsing securely in no time, wherever you are.

Here’s how to set up a VPN for Istanbul:

  1. First of all, you’ll have to register with a suitable VPN provider. We recommend NordVPN but all of those mentioned above are good choices.
  2. Next, install the VPN app onto any device you use regularly. Note that most providers allow around five connections at a time, but there’s no limit on how many of your devices can have the app installed.
  3. Log into the app and check the settings menu to see if your provider has a stealth, cloaking, or obfuscated servers option. If so, activate it.
  4. Connect to a server outside of Turkey. This will change your IP address and allow you to access the same services you would back home. Alternatively, you could use a Turkish server to get a Turkish IP address when traveling in the other direction.
  5. Finally, try visiting a previously-inaccessible website. You should be able to view it without any problems. If not, we encourage you to try another server or contact your VPN’s support team for one-on-one assistance.

Not sure if you’ll be able to use your favorite service while on vacation in Istanbul? We’ve created a tool that lets you quickly check whether a website is blocked in Turkey.

Methodology: How we found the best VPNs for Istanbul

As we mentioned earlier, many VPNs just aren’t capable of getting around local internet restrictions in Istanbul. In fact, when it comes to bypassing extreme countrywide censorship, there are only a few providers that work reliably. To make sure that the services we recommend are really up to the task, we created a list of requirements that each must meet:

  • Unblocking ability: No surprises here: the VPN has to be able to beat internet restrictions in Turkey. Note that there may be short-term outages when the government improves its VPN-detection systems, but you should see the providers above back up and running in a matter of hours. Plus you should be able to watch your favorite channels from back home or Turkish TV when you travel abroad.
  • Security: At a bare minimum, we require our VPNs to offer 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. More advanced features, such as stealth modes, custom protocols, or split tunneling functionality are always welcome.
  • Privacy: Given that the Turkish government has previously jailed people for posting dissenting opinions on social media, your privacy is of utmost importance. None of our recommended VPNs keep any logs that could personally identify you, and many let you sign up anonymously using prepaid cards or cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
  • Speed: Even if your VPN isn’t blocked in Turkey, it’s no use if it’s too slow for day-to-day tasks. That’s why we test candidates to make sure they’re fast enough for streaming, general browsing, gaming, and torrenting.
  • Server selection: Ideally, a VPN would have servers in dozens of countries, but the number of available servers matters too. We prefer providers with larger networks since this makes it easier to find a low-load server during peak times.
  • Ease of use: To make our list, a service must be easy enough for a complete beginner to use. Ideally, it should just work in Turkey too, although in some cases, you’ll have to enable an option in the settings menu first.

This might seem like a fairly extensive set of requirements but it’s actually only one small part of our larger testing strategy. You can find out more in our full VPN test methodology post.

Will a free VPN protect my privacy?

We don’t generally advise using free VPNs for day-to-day tasks since their performance often leaves a lot to be desired. However, if you’re in a country like Turkey, where digital privacy is even more important, free VPNs are quite simply a terrible choice. To begin with, many just won’t work, having been blacklisted by the government. Additionally, those that do will likely have low monthly bandwidth caps, greatly limiting how often you can browse safely.

Choose poorly and there’s a chance you’ll be opening your device up to a whole slew of problems. Analysis of some of the most popular free VPNs has previously revealed that many providers mislead users about how secure they are, with vulnerabilities going unchecked and traffic often completely unencrypted. Price is an important factor when it comes to choosing a VPN, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you consider; we strongly recommend looking into a provider’s reputation, logging policy, and support for open-source protocols before deciding.

Using a VPN in Istanbul: FAQs

Are VPNs legal in Turkey?

In 2019, the German government warned travelers that using a VPN in Turkey could lead to unwanted attention from law enforcement. Despite this, VPNs aren’t actually illegal in Turkey, although the government has taken steps to restrict access to some of the most popular providers. 

Important: digital privacy legislation is extremely complex and can vary wildly from one country to another. If there’s any doubt about the legality of using a VPN while on vacation, we strongly recommend you read up on the relevant local laws before doing so. 

What is the state of the internet in Turkey?

Simply put, Turkey has some of the most repressive online surveillance in the world. According to Freedom House, the Turkish government and security services monitor and collect citizens’ online activities without the need for a warrant, and social media platforms are required to open local offices, putting them at greater risk of state interference. 

Not only that, but people have been jailed for vague crimes like dissent or insulting the country’s president. In fact, journalists have been harassed, imprisoned, and fined for criticizing the government. If you’re visiting Turkey on vacation, it might be a good idea to proceed with the assumption that your browsing habits are being scrutinized, and to refrain from posting anything risky on social media until you return.  

What websites are blocked in Turkey?

It’s difficult to say exactly what is blocked and what isn’t in Turkey, since restrictions are frequently imposed only to be removed shortly after. Additionally, the government has previously blocked entire CDNs, which can remove access to thousands of sites at a time. That said, recent reports estimate that around 470,000 websites have been blacklisted since 2006, with almost 60,000 of these being blocked in 2020 alone. 

There are a few types of sites that are more likely to be inaccessible, though. This includes any that offer unauthorized gambling, adult content, or the free and unbiased exchange of information. Notably, Turkey has previously banned Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube to name but a few high-profile platforms.