Oman’s citizens enjoy generous largesse from the ruling monarchy, but this is counterbalanced with a corresponding decline in individual freedoms & autonomy. The social contract between residents and the state does not allow for any kind of representative democracy or pluralistic liberty.
If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, here’s our list of the best VPNs for Oman:
According to the IMF, the GDP per capita of the Middle Eastern state is a tremendous US$46,000, which catapults it into the upper echelons of rich countries. For context, that’s just a notch below Denmark.
Advocacy body Freedom House says the freedom score of Oman is “not free”, with authorities clamping down on human rights activists, journalists, intellectuals, and even restricting the freedom of expression for ordinary citizens.
Using a VPN sits in a legal grey area in Oman, with the government requiring explicit permission for anyone to connect to an encrypted part of the internet. But this is a redundant law; mobile banking sites, chat apps, even Facebook Messenger requires users to consent to encryption before allowing access.
We haven’t found a case of anyone being incarcerated for forwarding a meme.
Why should I use a VPN in Oman?
Using a VPN keeps you safe, secure, and hidden on the internet. The advanced software guards your actual location by encrypting all the traffic to and from your device and routing it through an intermediary server. This makes it very difficult for hackers and surveillance agencies to determine what you’re doing online.
A VPN is also an excellent choice for foreign expatriates living in Oman who want to stay in touch with local content and programming from back home. This includes sites like BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, Sky Sports, or BeIN sports.
Our list of the best VPNs for Oman is based on the following factors:
- Speed and stability of service
- Large network of servers across the world for expatriates to unblock content
- Strong encryption parameters to maintain privacy and anonymity
- Ease of use
- Apps for Android and iOS
ExpressVPN is a consistent top performer. With an easy-to-use interface and the core service (ranked on speed & stability), it’s always been one of the highest ranking providers on our list. There’s no compromise on encryption protocols either, which are among the most rigorous in the industry.
When you log in, you’ll see an option to connect to a server manually from a drop-down list, or from a ‘smart location’ option that automatically selects a server near you. The server network is huge with over 1,500 spread across 94 countries including locations on each continent, except Antartica. Foreign expatriates living in Oman will notice that ExpressVPN gives them several options to stay in touch with local content from back home.
Privacy and anonymity are important factors while choosing a VPN in Oman. ExpressVPN has your back due to its policy of not storing any identifying data. The only data retained analyzes the dates (not times) users connect to the service, the servers they prefer, and total bandwidth utilized. Your individual IP address won’t be stored. The company says it engages in this practice to improve service levels, and so far we haven’t come across any complaints of privacy transgressions.
It’s also possible to register for the service via a burner email account and pay with Bitcoin if you want to reduce the risk of privacy invasion to a bare minimum.
As mentioned earlier, ExpressVPN’s encryption protocols are tough. It uses 256-bit AES-CBC with utilization of both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. An internet kill switch temporarily halts all web traffic if the connection drops unexpectedly, keeping your connection secure.
The service unblocks geo-restricted content on Netflix without breaking a sweat and is similarly compatible with both Hulu and BBC iPlayer. It supports torrents.
There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Read our review of ExpressVPN.
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IPVanish is another top performer because it delivers blazing speeds coupled with robust encryption. Prices are mid-range, which is another reason to opt for the service.
The company is registered in the US and has a stated policy of not storing any user data. This means all web activity is hidden and even inaccessible to system administrators, including session history, choice of servers, and bandwidth utilized.
Encryption standards leave nothing to worry about. IPVanish deploys 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048 key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The latter feature means, in the unlikely scenario that hackers gain access to your account, all your past sessions will remain encrypted and secure. It’s simply not possible to uncover the traffic to provide an overview of what you’ve been doing online.
IPVanish includes an internet kill switch, which adds an additional layer of security. This feature means traffic will be halted temporarily if the VPN connection drops.
Over 850 servers are spread across 60 countries, including a large variety in Asia, Europe, and North America.
IPVanish doesn’t unlock content on Netflix or Hulu, but does work with BBC iPlayer. It also permits torrenting on all servers.
There are apps for both iOS and Android as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Many people find IPVanish to be an excellent option for Kodi because it allows them to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse.
Read our review of IPVanish.
NordVPN has been around for over a decade and has used its deep understanding of the industry to grow a sizable community.
It’s another example of a service that employs a zero-logs policy. This means it simply does not have any information about user sessions, traffic, or timestamps.
The company has received official requests for user data by surveillance agencies. But this policy resulted in nil compliance. In one instance, servers were confiscated but authorities couldn’t extract anything from them. Privacy advocates should sleep easy.
NordVPN is also incorporated in Panama, out of the reach of any data retention laws, so the policy is unlikely to change.
The service operates 1081 servers in 61 countries, making it a handy option for the entire spectrum of web activity. It’s one of the few VPN providers that sorts servers for specific requirements such as anti-DDoS, video streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, or dedicated IP.
NordVPN supports most online streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. It allows torrenting.
The company encrypts internet traffic using the 256-bit AES protocol and 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is enabled. The specifications are considered to be within the top-tier of VPN standards.
Apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android are available.
Here’s our review of NordVPN.
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Cyberghost Pro will appeal to beginner users who want a plug-and-play option that won’t break the bank. Speeds are quick, encryption parameters are strong, and the company does its job well.
Cyberghost Pro is incorporated in Romania, which doesn’t impose any mandatory data retention laws. It adds that there’s an internal policy of not storing any user data anyway. However, it was acquired by an Israeli firm headquartered in the UK last year. So far this hasn’t changed the terms and conditions but we’ll keep our readers posted.
At the moment, almost 1300 servers are spread across 27 countries. Locations include Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America. The company constantly adds new servers. iI’s possible that the acquisition resulted in an inflow of further capital to continue to shore up the service.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
The company deploys 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. An internet kill switch is included, too.
Here’s our full review of Cyberghost.
VyprVPN is a favorite with people who value performance and security. The company itself has been around for over seven years, making it a mature service that sidesteps government blockades at will.
It openly states the fact that it has a logging policy. Specifically, it’ll store “the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and total number of bytes used.”
In order to ease concerns, the company does proclaim that all data is kept on servers for a period of 30 days and is solely leveraged for troubleshooting. The content of communications is not logged.
VyprVPN is extremely popular in China where it easily unblocks the Great Firewall, staying a step ahead of state-appointed government engineers that work to keep blocked content blocked. It should have no problem in Oman.
A premium version of the package will allow access to the Chameleon™ protocol. This feature scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it.
VyprVPN manages its own data centers. This in stark contrast to other services that mainly outsource to third parties or rent space. It’s in control of all the traffic flowing through the system, ensuring stringent privacy, minimal downtime, and great speeds.
As for encryption standards, it uses the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included. It unblocks Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
There are over 700 VyprVPN servers spread across the world.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as a desktop client for Windows and MacOS.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
What about a free VPN?
Our readers may have considered using a free VPN. Such options usually don’t ask for credit card information. Some might adopt a freemium model and ask you to submit such data if you prefer to upgrade to an enhanced package.
But this means you’ll probably be receiving a fraction of the same experience that paid services offer. Forget about enjoying the same speeds, encryption standards, or access to 24/7 customer service.
Free VPNs aren’t just going to hand this valuable service over without expecting anything in return. They’re trying to make money too; after all, there’s the small matter of paying for staff salaries, server maintenance, and other overheads.
In recent history, free VPNs have overstepped boundaries by stealing user data, selling it to 3rd-party advertisers, and bombarding users with invasive advertisements. There’s also the threat of a malware infection.
If you’re unsure about whether you need a VPN, check out our list of the best VPNs with a free trial. It’ll help you test out the service for a few days and analyze whether the software works for you or not.
Some VPNs to avoid
One of the reasons people opt for a VPN is so that their privacy and anonymity are guaranteed online. That’s part of the commitment VPN providers implicitly sign off too. When these ethics aren’t met, we believe that’s a red flag. In this section, we’ll outline three such examples:
Israel-based Hola once operated a popular VPN extension for the Chrome browser. Its popularity meant that the user base grew to a substantial 50 million. Unfortunately, this didn’t motivate the company to hone its goodwill. Instead, it unethically leveraged the user base by transforming them into unwitting pawns in a massive botnet army.
Hola users, without their knowledge or consent, had a part of their internet bandwidth siphoned off for coordinated attacks on other sites, illegal promotion of copyrighted content, and possible distribution of pornography.
2. Hotspot Shield
I’ve been aware of Hotspot Shield since I’ve been in my early 20s (and trust me I’m no spring chicken). The company has been around for eons, which means it kept delivering value for users (who kept it afloat).
A few months ago the VPN industry was rocked after a privacy advocacy group claimed Hotspot Shield forcefully inserted tracking cookies in user devices, scraped the data, and sold it to advertisers. It’s also been accused of deliberately diverting ecommerce traffic to partner domains. When HotSpot Shield users typed in requests for sites like macys.com, they were navigated to other ecommerce sites instead. This was done to earn affiliate profits.
We can’t confirm the veracity of these transgressions, but they do follow a similar tale when compared to other services. It’s best to avoid Hotspot Shield until the future is clearer.
Salacious news reports a few months ago unsheathed details about PureVPN apparently misrepresenting its logging policy.
Ryan Lin, a PureVPN user, logged on to the software in order to hide his digital footprint. His aim was to engage in online blackmail to score a large amount of cash from an unnamed 240-year-old woman.
The FBI was hauled in after an official complaint. They managed to trace the activity back to the VPN provider who promptly did the rest. PureVPN insists it just identified the user based on their time and didn’t record the exact nature of communications, but it could definitely have been more transparent.
Under no circumstances do we condone the use of VPNs to commit acts expressly forbidden by a country’s laws. But VPN providers do need to be open and transparent with users.
How do I blog anonymously in Oman?
We commented earlier about how Oman’s declining state of individual freedoms has extended to journalists, bloggers, and regular citizens.
Local law enforcement doesn’t tolerate any criticism of the ruling family or outspoken views on public life in the sultanate. Any supposed deviations from the Islamic way of life are also looked down upon. If you’re a blogger, we recommend you use a VPN at all times.
Read more in our article: How to blog anonymously, a guide for activists, whistleblowers, and journalists.
Please note that you should research the possible ramifications of your behavior before deciding to continue on this path. If necessary, consult a lawyer who might be able to provide in-depth advice.
How do I access Skype in Oman?
Skype is blocked in the Middle Eastern sultanate because the government believes that telecommunications company Omantel, which is partly state-owned, shouldn’t witness any decrease in profits.
VoIP services like Skype provide a workaround to international long distance calls and therefore eat away at a telecommunication company’s revenue.
If you would like to access Skype in Oman, then start by selecting one of the recommended VPNs on this list. Register and pay for the service, download the native software, and restart your device.
Once your account is set up and ready, click on the VPN provider app (for your phone) or desktop client (for your PC/Mac) and select a server preferably in North America or Europe. Even if you would prefer a server in the Middle East, we advise that you do not embark on that course of action. That’s because lots of countries in Oman’s vicinity block Skype so a server located in that country won’t be able to access Skype either.
Once a stable connection has been established, simply open Skype and use it like you normally would.
“Oman flag” by Wikipedia