We take a look at the best VPNs for Kodi in 2018 that will protect your privacy and security without slowing down speeds and spoiling your streaming experience. We’ll run through which VPNs have apps for which devices so you can be sure to find a good fit for your preferred device. The VPNs on this list should help you enjoy Kodi safe in the knowledge your ISP or hackers are not spying on your activity. Importantly, we have excluded VPNs which keep logs of user activity or don’t offer suitable privacy and security protection to stop your real IP address from leaking.
Kodi, the multi-platform home theater software formerly called XBMC, can be customized with a range of content repositories, tools, and programs for a tailored entertainment experience. It overlays any computer, Android device, and even Raspberry Pis with an easy-to-use interface compatible with remote controls and gamepads.
The real allure of Kodi lies in addons that extend Kodi’s capabilities. Namely, video addons allow Kodi users to stream video from a wide range of sources. These include popular streaming services like BBC iPlayer and third-party addons that primarily offer pirated content. Most Kodi users employ a VPN to hide their activity from their ISP when viewing pirated content, however there are many legitimate reasons everyone should use one.
Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all of your Kodi device’s internet traffic and routes it through an intermediary server in a location of your choosing. This allows you to unblock geographically restricted content, such as BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. It also protects users from certain types of attacks and vulnerabilities common in third-party addons while keeping your activity private.
Many VPNs are available, but we’ve narrowed down a list of six we believe to be the best VPNs for Kodi users. We’ll make a note as to what types of devices each VPN is compatible with, including Android and OpenELEC. If you’re not sure which to choose, check out our guide on how to set up a Kodi VPN.
Best VPNs for Kodi XBMC
We chose the best VPNs for Kodi based on the following criteria:
- Compatibility with a range of Kodi devices
- Speed and reliability
- Security and logging policy
- Ease of setup and use
Here is our 2018 list of the best VPNs for Kodi:
IPVanish is our top recommendation for Android-based Kodi devices, including the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. For users without access to Google Play, IPVanish allows you to simply download the APK file from its website and install it directly onto your device without the need to go through an app store. IPVanish now lists its app on the Fire TV app store via Amazon, and as of time of writing it’s the only one on this list to do so. Linux users, however, will have to manually configure the VPN.
The Fire TV version is optimized to be used with the Fire Stick remote, making it easy to get set up and connected to your server of choice. Over 1,000 servers are available to choose from, with fast and reliable service to the vast majority of locations around the world. You’ll also get solid security thanks to 256-bit encryption and a no-logs policy.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Fire TV.
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Read our full IPVanish review.
ExpressVPN is a great all-around choice for Kodi users, promising fast speeds and reliable service. A Linux version of the app with a command-line interface is available, although we haven’t yet tested this with OpenELEC. A Fire TV-optimized version is available on Amazon’s app store. One downside for users with Android-based Kodi devices is they can’t easily download the APK from the website without first authorizing their account. That means devices that lack Google Play and a traditional web browser will have to sideload the app from a second Android device. ExpressVPN also has a tutorial for getting set up with Nvidia Shield on its website.
ExpressVPN is a reliable unblocker of geo-locked services, including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and HBO Go. It boasts best-in-class security standards, 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy among them.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux (command-line), and certain wifi routers. If your Kodi device doesn’t support VPNs at all, ExpressVPN’s pre-flashed wifi routers with the company’s bespoke firmware might be just what you’re looking for.
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Read our full ExpressVPN review.
CyberGhost categorizes its servers not just by location, but by which video streaming service the user wants to access. This is useful for users who use Kodi to stream from official sources like BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, there’s no Linux app and the Android version is only available from Google Play. That means devices that run on OpenELEC or a version of Android that doesn’t have Google Play will have to manually configure CyberGhost servers.
On the plus side, CyberGhost has gotten pretty good at unblocking streaming channels as of late, and it’s added a whole slew of servers to its ever-expanding network. Speeds are solid and security is tight.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
NordVPN offers a network of more than 1,100 servers in over 60 countries. Many of those can unblock geo-locked streaming services like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Netflix. Android users without Google Play can get the APK file directly from the NordVPN website. Unfortunately, there’s no Linux version of the app, but NordVPN can be manually configured using a range of different protocols.
The company uses 256-bit encryption and adheres to a strict zero-logs policy. Speeds are decent and connections are reliable. The default map interface might not be suitable for users who operate Kodi with a remote control, but you can switch to view the available servers in list form as well.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Read our full NordVPN review.
PrivateVPN is a small provider making a big splash thanks to its ability to unblock pretty much everything you can throw at it, including BBC iPlayer and Netflix. A relative newcomer, it doesn’t have a huge amount of servers, but those it does have are spread over a good range of countries and offer blazing fast speeds. Security and logging policies are what you would expect from a much larger provider, so you can rest easy knowing your ISP and hackers won’t be able to snoop on your activity.
Android users can get the APK file directly from PrivateVPN’s website. There’s no app for Linux yet, but manual configuration is an option.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
Private Internet Access is a solid option for both Android- and Linux-based Kodi devices. The Linux version is tested and proven to work on OpenELEC, a popular Linux distro for low-power Kodi devices like Raspberry Pi. The apps are lightweight and the price is cheap, so this is a good overall choice for Kodi users on a budget. The APK file is available for direct download from the PIA website if your Android device doesn’t have Google Play.
Despite its small footprint, PIA doesn’t compromise on security or performance. Speeds are decent and you get a decent range of server locations. Encryption standards are adjustable with 256-bit and 128-bit encryption available; the latter might be preferable lower-end Kodi devices. PIA sticks to a strict no-logs policy.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux.
Read our full Private Internet Access review.
Don’t use APK files from third parties
If your Kodi device runs on Android but doesn’t have Google Play, getting the VPN app you want onto it can be a challenge. The next best option is often downloading the APK file and allowing your device to install apps from unknown sources. However, we caution against downloading APK files from anyone other than the VPN provider itself.
A bit of Googling will no doubt turn up several third party APK hosting websites. These are best avoided. Those APKs were not put there by the people who made them, so there’s a substantial risk that the app could have been modified to contain malware. Even if it’s safe, these APKs are often out of date, which means they could be missing key features or contain unpatched security vulnerabilities.
Whenever possible, download APKs directly from the VPN provider’s website. Another option is to “sideload” the app from a second Android device that does have Google Play.
How to use a VPN with Kodi
On smartphones and PCs, the easiest way to use a VPN with Kodi is to install the VPN provider’s app. To do so, you will need to minimize Kodi and install it on the underlying operating system. Just download the app from the provider website, log in with your account credentials, select a location, and hit the connect button. Once the connection is established, open Kodi back up and use it as you normally would. All your device traffic will be tunneled through the VPN.
VPN router setup for Kodi on Roku, Chromecast, FireTV, etc
If you’re using Kodi XBMC on a device that doesn’t support VPNs, you can still take advantage of a VPN subscription by setting it up manually on your wifi router. This process differs based on the particular router’s firmware, so we recommend you Google a setup tutorial to learn how. Once set up, all the internet traffic coming and going from the router will travel through the VPN server.
You may need to replace the router’s firmware if the stock version does not support VPN connections. This process is called “flashing”, and it should be done with great care. If you do not flash the new firmware properly or flash the incorrect firmware version for your router model, it can permanently damage, or “brick”, the router. Some of the most popular router firmware that support VPNs include:
If you have a PC or Mac laptop available, a safer and easier solution is to install the VPN on that and create a wifi hotspot. This is called a virtual router, and most modern laptops are capable of creating one. By connecting to the VPN on your laptop and broadcasting a wifi network from it, you can connect your Kodi device so that all streams go through the VPN. You can find PC instructions on how to create a VPN-enabled virtual router, and Mac instructions here. We’ve also got our Fire TV Stick VPN setup instructions for 2nd generation Amazon Fire TV Sticks and later.
See also: What are the best VPNs for Fire Stick and Amazon Fire TV?
Is Kodi legal?
Kodi is perfectly legal open-source software created by a nonprofit organization. You are fully within your rights to download and install Kodi from the official website and use any of the officially sanctioned add-ons.
It is not illegal to buy or sell devices with Kodi pre-installed, so long as they do not contain third-party add-ons that stream from illegal sources. We recommend the boxes sold by WeTek, which come with a clean install of Kodi without any third-party add-ons and run on the OpenELEC Linux distro.
Kodi users run into legal issues when they extend Kodi’s range of streaming sources using unsanctioned, third-party add-ons, or when they buy “Kodi boxes” from third party retailers that come with these add-ons pre-installed. These sources can include pirated IPTV streams, torrents, and websites hosting content without the copyright owner’s permission.
It might not be completely clear to users which add-ons stream from legal sources and which don’t. This is especially true for pre-configured Kodi boxes. In one case, a UK man was fined £250,000 for selling Kodi devices loaded with several add-ons that streamed content from illegal sources, despite his claim that the boxes were “100 percent legal.”
So how do you stay on the right side of the law?
First off, know that the XBMC Foundation, which created and maintains the Kodi software, is not involved in any way with the sale of Kodi boxes. In fact, Team Kodi has said the boxes commonly sold on eBay and by Youtubers, which come loaded with third-party add-ons, are “killing Kodi”. But because Kodi is open source, XBMC cannot control who installs it on what.
We discourage purchasing any device with Kodi and third-party add-ons pre-installed. Not only could doing so get you in trouble for copyright infringement, it could also infect your device with malware installed on the system before purchase. If you bought an Amazon Fire Stick or other device with a “fully loaded” Kodi installation, we recommend a clean wipe of the entire system and starting from scratch.
Secondly, the legality of streaming from third-party sources varies by country. Some might be legal but require you watch from a specific country or region. Others might exist in a legal grey area. For these reasons, we always recommend checking your local laws and regulations and using a VPN to hide your activity from your ISP and other entities.
Choosing a Kodi box
While you can install and run Kodi on a desktop operating system like Windows or MacOS, most Kodi users prefer to use a separate device to use as a home media center. These are often referred to as Kodi “boxes”, and they come in two main flavors: Android and Linux.
Most of the VPNs listed here make Android apps with downloadable APK files that you can install directly onto your device without the need for Google Play. While not all versions of Android are the same, most should run these VPN apps just fine.
Popular Android-based Kodi boxes include:
- Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
- Nvidia Shield
- Gem Box
- Razer Forge TV
- Matricom G-Box
Many Linux distributions can run Kodi, but the most popular for small, low-powered devices like these is OpenELEC. OpenELEC is a Linux distro tailor-made for Kodi boxes. Some VPNs make Linux apps that might run on OpenELEC, but a more universal option is to configure the VPN manually. OpenELEC Kodi users can even connect to a VPN from within a Kodi add-on like VPN Manager for OpenVPN or OpenVPN for Kodi. Ask your VPN provider for the necessary configuration files to get up and running.
Popular devices that run Kodi with OpenELEC include:
- Wetek Play, Play 2, and Core
- Raspberry Pi 3
There are many more, but beware of devices that are sold with non-stock editions of Kodi. Many vendors will sell pre-configured “piracy boxes” with special builds that come with tons of add-ons already installed. This is especially prevalent among third-party vendors selling Amazon Fire TV sticks with Kodi. While these can seem like a good deal at first because they don’t require you to install Kodi on your own, they often come with malware, botnets, and other nasty stuff that risks your security and internet bandwidth.
If a device doesn’t come with the stock version of Kodi, just install it yourself. You can find a tutorial on how to install Kodi on Fire TV here, and how to install a VPN on Fire TV here. These instructions should work similarly for other Android-based devices as well.
Comparitech does not condone or encourage any violation of copyright restrictions, including illegal streaming through Kodi. Kodi can be used for many excellent, legal online streaming purposes. Please consider the law, victims, and risks of piracy before downloading or streaming copyrighted material without permission.