Unfortunately, internet censorship is rife in many Middle Eastern countries, and the government isn’t the only entity that can monitor your online activities. There’s a chance that your employer, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or hackers are also keeping tabs on you. Luckily there’s an easy way to ensure your privacy and safety while online, and that’s to use a VPN.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) encrypt your traffic and route it through a server in a different location, ensuring it can’t be read by any outside observer. Aside from privacy, this process has another major benefit: it assigns you a temporary IP address which allows you to appear as though you’re in another country. This can allow you to access geographically restricted sites and services – such as your online banking or home streaming libraries – while traveling in the Middle East.
Some countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, block traffic from all but a few government-approved VPNs. This means that the majority of VPNs won’t work in these locations. However, some still do, and below, we’ve listed the best VPNs that work anywhere in the Middle East. We’ll go more in-depth with each of our top picks later, but if you just want to see our recommendations, here’s a quick summary:
The best VPNs for the Middle East:
- NordVPN: Top recommended VPN for the Middle East. This superfast and highly secure service works easily in countries with strict online censorship. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark: Low-cost, security-conscious service with high speeds, servers in multiple Middle Eastern countries, and no connection limit.
- ExpressVPN: A fast, reliable VPN with servers in Egypt, Israel, and over 90 other countries. Strong unblocking ability.
- PrivateVPN: A fast, reliable way to safely browse the internet in the Middle East.
- Private Internet Access: Servers in 80+ countries. Good, unthrottled speeds. Secure unlimited devices at once. No-logs policy included.
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How to browse safely with a VPN in the Middle East
The good news is that with a VPN, it’s fairly simple to protect yourself when using the internet in the Middle East. Just follow these simple steps to get connected.
Here’s how to use a VPN in the Middle East:
- First, you’ll need to sign up for a reliable VPN service (we recommend NordVPN).
- Download and install the appropriate version for your device.
- Connect to a server in the country of the site or service you’d like to unblock, this will give you the country-specific IP address you need to access the site. For example, connect to a server in the UAE if you want a UAE IP address.
- Try loading the desired website. If it doesn’t load immediately, you might have to clear your browser’s cookies and cache. Once you reload the page, it should work correctly.
Best VPNs for the Middle East: at a glance
We’ve compared the most important features for the top VPNs here. Prefer to read the in-depth reviews? Start with NordVPN – our #1 choice VPN for the Middle East.
|No value||NordVPN||Surfshark||ExpressVPN||PrivateVPN||Private Internet Access|
|Website||NordVPN.com||Surfshark.com||ExpressVPN.com||PrivateVPN.com||PrivateInternetAccess.com||Ranking for the Middle East:||1||2||3||4||5||Servers in the Middle East||Streaming Services||Netflix|
|Total number of servers||5,700+||3,200||Undisclosed||200+||Undisclosed||Avg Speed (Mbps)||100+ Mbps||100+ Mbps||100+ Mbps||39 Mbps||117 Mbps||Simultaneous Connections||6||Unlimited||5||10||Unlimited|
|Best deal (per month)||$3.19|
SAVE 61% + 3 months FREE
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 85% on the three year plan
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan + 3 months free
Best VPNs for the Middle East
There are plenty of VPNs on the market, but they do not all provide the same level of service, and very few of them will work in the Middle East. To identify the best VPNs for the Middle East, we only considered services meeting all of the criteria laid out below:
- Has a wide network, with servers in several Middle Eastern countries
- Offers reliable, high-speed connections
- Uses powerful encryption and includes various other security features
- Includes apps for the most popular operating systems
- Logs no personally identifiable information and ideally keeps no logs whatsoever
This is just an overview, but you can read more about how we test the VPNs we recommend in our methodology section below. For now, let’s take a closer look at the ones that made the list.
Here’s our list of the best VPNs for the Middle East:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is our first choice VPN for the Middle East. It’s one of the fastest VPNs we’ve seen and has a huge network of more than 5,400 servers spread throughout around 60 countries, including Turkey, Israel, and the UAE. This VPN is able to reliably unblock even the most stubborn geo-blocked services with ease and even offers specialized obfuscated servers designed for bypassing governmental blocking. With up to six simultaneous connections allowed, you’re able to protect most, if not all, of your devices at the same time.
This provider shows a strong commitment to your privacy. There’s 256-bit encryption, a customizable kill switch, an ad-blocker, and a malware scanner, as well as DNS, IPv6, port forwarding, and WebRTC leak protection. Users can access Tor over VPN or use two VPNs at the same time. NordVPN has a no-logs policy and allows you to sign up anonymously. Live chat is available 24/7 in case of any problems.
NordVPN apps are available for macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux. It can be manually installed on wireless routers.
- Servers in 60+ countries, including several locations in the Middle East
- Blazing fast speeds
- Highly-customizable security
- Reliable connections
- Servers designed for browsing in countries with heavy censorship
- Stellar customer support
- Has the occasional slow server
BEST VPN FOR THE MIDDLE EAST:NordVPN is our top pick. It offers comprehensive protection, excellent unblocking, and decent speeds at a very affordable price. There’s even a 30-day money-back guarantee making it a risk-free deal.
To find out more, read our full NordVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark is a great budget option that doesn’t compromise on service. It has around 3,200 servers covering 100+ countries, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. It has very good speeds and can reliably access stubborn platforms like Netflix abroad, but two things really set it apart from the competition. The first is that you can connect as many devices as you like. The second is the sheer number of security features on offer.
256-bit encryption is enabled by default, as is DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leak protection. You can also use Surfshark’s kill switch, choose to use dual VPNs, obfuscate your traffic, or let some apps through the VPN. There’s even automatic ad and malware blocking. Surfshark doesn’t log any personally identifiable information, and support is available 24/7 via live chat.
Surfshark has apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire Stick. In certain countries, you may have to manually configure the service on macOS and iOS devices. It can be manually installed on Linux and select routers.
- Servers in 100+ countries, including locations in the Middle East
- Solid multi-platform support
- Lots of security extras
- No logs policy
- Allows unlimited connections
- Sometimes slow to connect to a server on desktop
BEST BUDGET CHOICE:Surfshark is a fast, security conscious VPN that offers great value for money. Connect all your devices at once. Servers in 100+ countries. Plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Surfshark review for more information.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN is capable of accessing a huge range of services, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, as well as bypassing government-imposed restrictions. It offers unlimited bandwidth, access to more than 3,000 servers across 94 countries (including Egypt and Israel), and speeds that are high enough to stream live HD video without any noticeable buffering.
This VPN ensures your privacy with 256-bit AES encryption (which is effectively military-grade encryption), perfect forward secrecy, and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. Its desktop apps include a kill switch that automatically stops all traffic if you disconnect unexpectedly, which is especially useful in countries where the internet is monitored. ExpressVPN doesn’t log any personally identifiable information, plus you can pay with Bitcoin for added peace of mind. Customer support is available 24/7 over live chat.
ExpressVPN offers apps for Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and Linux. There’s also custom firmware to make installing the service on a router easier.
- Strong security features
- Fast speeds
- Large server network
- Unblocks popular streaming services
- 24/7 customer support
- Priced higher than some rivals
- Limited advanced features in apps for power-users
PRIVACY-ORIENTED:ExpressVPN is fast and private, reliably works in the Middle East, and can access VoIP services such as Skype. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Check out our full ExpressVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN offers higher speeds than many of its rivals but has a smaller network, with only around 200 servers. However, it’s still well worth your consideration since those servers are spread across 60+ countries, including Israel, Turkey, the UAE, and Cyprus. It’s highly secure, works in countries with strict censorship, and as a bonus, it can even access tricky platforms like Netflix abroad. Ten connections are allowed at once, so you can stream from whichever device you prefer.
This VPN keeps your activities private with 256-bit encryption, a kill switch (Windows only), and WebRTC, DNS, and IPv6 leak protection. While PrivateVPN has a strict no-logging policy, it allows you to sign up anonymously using a throwaway email address and Bitcoin. Having difficulty getting set up? No problem – customer support can configure and install the software for you remotely with your permission.
PrivateVPN offers apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Manual configuration is required for Linux-based systems or network routers.
- Very high speeds
- Great security features
- Able to unblock popular streaming services
- Servers in the Middle East
- No live chat support
- Fairly small network
FAST, SECURE BROWSING:PrivateVPN is a reliable, high-speed service It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, great unblocking capability, and the option to register anonymously.
Interested? check out our full PrivateVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Private Internet Access can help you bypass restrictions in the Middle East, whether they’re due to copyright or censorship. That’s because it has an expansive server network covering more than 80 countries, including Qatar, The UAE, and Saudi Arabia. PIA did well in our speed tests, and when you combine this with its unlimited bandwidth, you’ve got a VPN that’s fast enough for streaming as well as online gaming. This VPN also stands out for its unlimited connection allowance.
The Middle East contains many countries with restricted internet freedom, so it’s important that PIA doesn’t keep any logs such as your IP address or timestamps. All of your internet traffic is routed through a 256-bit AES encrypted tunnel, while there’s also DNS leak protection and a kill switch to keep you safe online.
Private Internet Access provides apps for the following: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, and Amazon Fire TV. You can also find browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. PIA can work with compatible routers but requires manual configuration.
- Keeps no identifying logs
- Unlimited connection allowance
- Servers in 80+ countries, including several in the Middle East
- App design is somewhat lacking
- Struggles with some popular streaming services
SERVERS IN 80+ COUNTRIES:Private Internet Access offers unlimited bandwidth, and provides servers in more than 80 countries. Secure unlimited devices simultaneously. All connections are 256-bit AES encrypted. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Private Internet Access review.
Finding the best VPNs for the Middle East: our testing methodology
There are hundreds of VPN providers all vying for your business, but many of them are unsuitable for day-to-day browsing, let alone bypassing strict online censorship. To keep your online activities private in the Middle East, you’ll need a first-rate VPN, which is why we examined each potential recommendation on the following criteria:
- Server selection: There are 18 Middle Eastern countries, and ideally, we’d like there to be a network of servers in as many of these locations as possible. Of course, there must also be servers in countries without digital censorship too, and the more, the better.
- Network speeds: Every VPN will slow your speeds somewhat, but we test candidates to ensure we only recommend VPNs fast enough for tasks like torrenting, streaming, and browsing.
- Security: Considering governmental surveillance is a real problem in the Middle East, your security is of paramount importance. All of the VPNs above include effectively uncrackable encryption, IP leak protection, and a kill switch at a minimum. This means they can protect your online privacy and keep your internet traffic anonymous. Of course, more security tools are never a bad thing.
- Privacy: We will not recommend a VPN that logs personally identifiable data. This means that our top VPNs can’t reveal what you do online, even if they’re threatened with legal action.
- Unblocking capabilities: Travelers may not be able to keep in touch with friends and family as they travel, so regaining access to your usual home services is very important. We run dozens of tests to see how well these VPNs fare against geo-blocking. We prefer providers that offer a stealth mode for getting around these kinds of restrictions.
- Ease of use: VPNs should be simple and straightforward for anyone to use. We like to see additional quality-of-life features, like unlimited connections and 24/7 support as well.
- Value: Some less scrupulous providers try to get away with charging more than they’re worth. However, we examine what they offer compared to similarly-priced competitors to make sure you never pay more than you should. We also take any available discounts, free trials, and money-back guarantees into account.
This is actually only one small part of the testing that we do. Interested in learning more? Why not read about our full VPN testing process?
Internet censorship in the Middle East
Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates have some of the most pervasive internet censorship in the world. There are numerous documented cases of citizens being prosecuted for speaking ill of the government or expressing opinions contrary to the status quo. These countries restrict access to huge swathes of content, and these blocks often include popular social media platforms, messaging apps, and news websites, severely restricting the flow of unbiased information.
This table shows you the current status of internet censorship and VPN regulations throughout the Middle East.
|Bahrain||Pervasive censorship and a history of threatening activists.||Unregulated|
|Cyprus||Foreign gambling sites blocked, otherwise unrestricted.||Unregulated|
|Egypt||News, anti-censorship, and encrypted communications platforms blocked. Heavy surveillance on social media.||Unregulated, but most websites blocked|
|Iran||Widespread blocking including news, social media, and encrypted messaging apps.||Government-approved VPNs only|
|Iraq||Recurrent social media blocking, possible government surveillance.||Banned outright|
|Israel||Non-Israeli gambling sites blocked.||Unregulated|
|Jordan||Politically sensitive issues and LGBT content censored. History of internet surveillance and arresting journalists.||Unregulated|
|Kuwait||All sexual content (including LGBT support) and anti-monarchy, anti-establishment, or anti-religious content blocked.||Unregulated|
|Lebanon||Inconsistent blocking of gambling and pornography sites.||Unregulated|
|Oman||Extensive surveillance and censorship of material relating to sex, anti-Islam, anti-government, or anti-censorship sentiment.||Unregulated, but many VPN sites blocked|
|Palestine||Selective censorship of news and pornography.||Unregulated|
|Qatar||State-owned ISP can allegedly intercept other ISP’s traffic. Dating, pornography, anti-government, privacy, VoIP services blocked.||Unregulated|
|Saudi Arabia||History of arresting or assassinating journalists. Material relating to encryption, VPNs, sexual topics, or religious conversion is blocked, as is news coverage that portrays the government unfavorably.||Unregulated but many VPN sites blocked|
|Syria||Extensive blocking and surveillance of anti-government and news sites. Has a history of journalist assassination and pro-government cyber-warfare campaigns.||Unregulated|
|Turkey||Widespread blocks on pornography, file-sharing, news, social media, gambling, cloud storage, free information, and streaming sites.||Unregulated but popular VPN websites blocked|
|United Arab Emirates||Blocks content relating to dating, pornography, gambling, social media, VoIP services, bypassing censorship, and anything deemed politically-sensitive.||Unregulated, but using a VPN for anything illegal is a crime in and of itself|
|Yemen||Censors anti-Islam material, gambling, sexual, anti-establishment, or “offensive” content. Has been known to throttle websites that aren’t banned, including Facebook.||Unregulated|
VPNs for the Middle East: FAQs
Can I use a free VPN in the Middle East?
Although free VPNs are often appealing at first glance, we advise against using one. Firstly, despite their huge user bases, they usually have fairly small networks. As a result, you can expect very slow speeds, which in turn, lead to choppy video and long pauses while your content buffers. Additionally, these VPNs usually can’t unblock the most popular geo-blocked streaming services, meaning they’re highly unlikely to be able to bypass government-imposed restrictions.
Free VPNs aren’t charities; they’re designed to make money just like any other business. However, as they don’t bill the user directly, they have to find other ways to make a profit. This usually means they’ll include large ads on sites you visit, but some services even use tracking cookies to harvest valuable user data. Once enough has been collected, it can be sold to third parties without your knowledge or express consent.
Finally, but most importantly, there’s no guarantee you’ll even choose a safe service. A 2016 survey showed that of 283 tested apps, over 38% included malware. Assuming you find one that doesn’t, 18% let the user browse with no encryption at all, and 84% leaked personal information over IPv6. Even well-known free VPNs come with their own risks, as we discovered when Hola was caught selling idle user bandwidth to help run botnets.
Can I watch Middle Eastern TV abroad with a VPN?
For all intents and purposes, once you’ve connected to a server in a particular country, you’re able to access services from that region as though you were physically there. This means that, yes, you can use a VPN to watch Middle Eastern TV from abroad. For instance, you could stream Cinemoz, Starzplay, or Shahid from outside of the Middle East or access Hulu, Netflix, or BBC iPlayer from inside the Middle East, depending on which server you use.
It’s important to note that some platforms prevent foreign users from accessing their services in other ways. For example, you might be asked to use a payment method that’s only available in a particular country or might have to verify that you actually have a Middle Eastern address or phone number. Some services, including Netflix, allow you to pay with gift cards. These are ideal since they’re fairly simple to acquire and don’t require you to enter any personal information.
Why don’t all VPNs work in the Middle East?
There are several Middle Eastern governments that restrict access to certain types of online content. Now, because VPNs can help users bypass these restrictions, online censorship is often coupled with a crackdown on VPN providers.
Essentially, while an ISP can’t see what you do while connected to a VPN, there are traffic patterns that indicate you’re using one. The largest and most successful VPNs have the resources to repeatedly find workarounds, often by scrambling your traffic or using their own protocols, but smaller services usually don’t. This is why there are only a handful of VPNs that can reliably keep your traffic safe in the Middle East.
Can I get in trouble for using a VPN in the Middle East?
Really, it depends on which country you’re in and what you’re using a VPN for. The Middle East is a huge region made up of countries with their own rules and regulations. Check the table above for each Middle Eastern country, the status of its internet, and any VPN restrictions it might have.
Note: while we’ve attempted to be as thorough as possible while researching for this article, we are not legal experts. Comparitech does not condone using a VPN for illegal purposes and recommends our readers research a country’s relevant legislation for themselves before traveling.
Can I use these Middle East VPNs on my mobile device?
Anybody wanting to download those mobile VPN apps should do so using the regular Google Play or Apple app store. Following that, log in using your credentials from signing up on the VPN provider’s website.
You can use the links in this article to take out a subscription with your favorite VPN for the Middle East. Our links will automatically apply a coupon code to get you the VPN at the best possible cost.
Is torrenting legal in the Middle East?
Torrenting is legal in most countries worldwide, and this includes the Middle East. However, the legality of a torrent depends on the content itself. If you’re torrenting unauthorized copyrighted material, this is almost certainly illegal. Furthermore, while a VPN provides you with a layer of security and anonymity, it does not make illegal online activities legal. Follow the steps laid out in this article to torrent safely.