Best VPNs for South Africa in 2018 and some to avoid

Published by on September 20, 2017 in VPN & Privacy

Which is the best VPN for South Africa? We take a look at some of the top options that will allow you to access content without restrictions and protect your privacy when online.

South Africa boasts one of the highest internet penetration rates in the region with over 52 percent of its 55 million strong population enjoying the fruits of the world wide web. The online environment is considered to be ‘free and open’ by internet advocacy body Freedom House with the government doing all it can to get more South Africans online.

If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, here’s our list of the best VPNs for South Africa:

Currently, there isn’t any strict censorship of content on the web in South Africa and the country enjoys its freedom to engage in vibrant digital activism. But last year the government did vote against a UN bill designed to support greater internet freedoms globally, tarnishing its image somewhat. It’s possible that domestic freedoms might be under threat.

For these reasons, we recommend you use a VPN while browsing the web. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the internet traffic flowing to and from your device and routing it via an intermediary server. It helps maintain privacy and anonymity on the internet and makes it difficult for hackers and government agencies to spy on your activity.

A VPN is also an excellent choice for foreign expatriates living in South Africa as well as local residents traveling abroad as it allows them to unlock content such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, HuluESPNBeIN Sports, MTN, and Super Sports.

Our ranking of the best VPNs for South Africa is based on the following factors:

  1. Speed and reliability of service
  2. Strong encryption parameters
  3. No usage logs
  4. Unblocks geo-restricted content with ease
  5. Servers in South Africa for local residents traveling abroad
  6. Number of simultaneous connections
  7. Large number of servers across the world for foreign expatriates living in South Africa
  8. Apps for Android and iOS

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN 3 months free

ExpressVPN is at the top of this list simply because it’s one of the best VPNs out there. Not only does it offer fast speeds, it combines that with military-grade encryption protocols and a rustic design. It’s easy to install and works just right.

The company operates over 1,500 servers spread across 94 countries including a few in South Africa. Hence local residents traveling abroad can use these servers to access local content like MTN and Super Sports.

If you’re worried about privacy and anonymity then ExpressVPN’s policy of not storing any user logs should ease your concerns. The only minimal information the company stores is metadata pertaining to the “date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used”. Your individual IP address will never be logged.

As for encryption parameters, ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES-CBC protocols as well as HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. There’s an internet kill switch included, which the company calls a ‘network lock’. This feature means all web traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops unexpectedly. That’s an additional layer of security – ensuring there are no momentary open doors for prying eyes to enter.

ExpressVPN is able to unlock geo-restricted content on Netflix. It’s also compatible with both Hulu and BBC iPlayer and supports torrenting. It’s a little stingy when it comes to simultaneous connections – one account can only support three devices which is less than most other paid VPN services – but the fluidity of service makes it difficult to beat.

There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop clients for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Here’s our in-depth review of ExpressVPN.

TRY IT RISK-FREE: Get 3 months free with ExpressVPN’s annual plan. The deal includes a 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee so you’ll receive a full refund if unsatisfied.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN 3 year plan

NordVPN has a stellar reputation in the VPN business because it’s been around for over a decade and offers a product that packs a punch. It’s fast, doesn’t store any data, allows multiple connections, and has a robust selection of servers.

NordVPN is similar to IPVanish in the sense that it simply declines to hold any data about its users. This means there’s no metadata about browsing habits, timestamps, or choice of servers. The policy has thwarted attempts by authorities to force Nord to hand over customer data. The company is also based in Panama – which means it doesn’t fall under the purview of Western agencies and has no mandatory data retention laws to comply with.

NordVPN operates 1086 servers in 61 countries – with options to connect depending on your specific requirement – such as downloading, P2P file sharing, video streaming, or anonymity. There are five servers in South Africa.

The service works with Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer without any problems. It’s quite generous when allowing for multiple connections – a total of six devices can connect at any one time. This means it’s an ideal choice to share with friends and family and save on costs by splitting the bill.

All internet traffic is secured by 256-bit AES encryption, which comes as standard. It’s coupled with 2,048-bit SSL keys and DNS leak protection.

There’s support for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

Here’s our full review of NordVPN.

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3. IPVanish

IPVanish is another supremely reliable VPN service that prioritizes strong encryption, stringent privacy, and blazing speeds. It’s a completely logless VPN which means there’s absolutely no data retention of any kind.

To secure web traffic, IPVanish uses 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048-bit key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The lattermost feature means that your past data will remain encrypted even in the unlikely scenario of a hacker gleaning access to your account.

There’s an internet kill switch embedded within the system architecture – similar to ExpressVPN. The company allows five devices to connect simultaneously with one account.

Servers are spread out all over the world and don’t compromise on any aspects of the web experience. Currently, there’s an option to connect to over 850 possible choices, including six servers present in South Africa.

IPVanish isn’t a good choice for people looking to access Netflix or Hulu. However, it does work very well with BBC iPlayer.

There are apps for both iOS and Android as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.

IPVanish is popular with Kodi users 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 full review of IPVanish.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Save up to 60% on IPVanish plans here.

DEAL: Save 77% on NordVPN’s three-year deal here. It works out to be $2.75/month.

4. Cyberghost

cyberghost homepage

Cyberghost Pro will appeal to beginner users because it’s relatively inexpensive, offers decent speeds and strong encryption, and is easy to set up.

The company is headquartered in Romania and privacy advocates will be pleased with the fact that it has a stated policy of not storing any user data. Having said that, there was a bit of management shuffle recently – Cyberghost Pro was acquired by an Israeli firm headquartered in the UK. There’s a slight chance this could change the logging policy so we’ll keep our readers updated on this front.

Let’s come back to service standards. The company has been adding new server locations at a voracious speed – right now there are 1000+ servers online as compared to 850 just a week or so ago. They’re spread across 27 countries – unfortunately, South Africa isn’t on the list yet but it’s a fair assumption to make that there might be one in the future. This is, of course, based on anecdotal evidence and not via some insider tip that the company has given us.

Cyberghost Pro won’t unblock Netflix, unfortunately, but it does work with BBC iPlayer.

Encryption standards are robust – the company deploys 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. These are considered to be top-tier standards. An internet kill switch is also included.

Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS. One paid account allows for five devices to connect at a single time.

Read our full review of Cyberghost Pro.

DISCOUNTED OFFER: Save over 70% on Cyberghost’s 2-year deal here.

5. VyprVPN

VyprVPN rounds out our list because it’s a favorite with people who prefer navigating the web with some of the toughest encryption protocols out there. There’s a large network of servers, an initial free trial, and excellent speeds.

VyprVPN’s proprietary tech uses the OpenVPN protocol by default, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. There’s also an option of upgrading to a premium version – this allows access to the Chameleon ™ protocol, which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it. An internet kill switch is included with all packages.

All this focus on building a top-tier software stack has paid off. VyprVPN is one of the few companies that’s able to bypass China’s Great Firewall. This means it’s able to outmuscle thousands of state-appointed engineers who work around the clock to ensure content remains blocked in the country. That’s impressive.

The company also owns and manages entire data centers – as opposed to other services that deploy a hybrid combination of renting and outsourcing servers. The policy means it’s in total control of all web traffic – helping it guard against attacks and ensuring minimal downtime.

But there is a slight downside. VyprVPN does choose to retain data – specifically “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.” Some people might not like that.

The company does say that all such data is only kept on servers for 30 days and is used for improving service quality. There’s no way of determining exact details of web traffic.

There are over 700 servers spread across the world but no options for South Africa just yet.

Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS. Premium subscribers can connect up to five devices at a time.

VyprVPN can unlock content on US Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.

Read our full review of VyprVPN.

TRY IT: You can try VyprVPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee here.

Should I use a free VPN?

People who don’t think VPNs are worth the money might opt for a free VPN service. But it’s better to know the full truth before embarking on an option you might regret later.

The fact is that several free VPN providers have been caught mining and selling user data (more about this in the next section). An additional point to consider is that there will definitely be download caps, bandwidth throttling, and an extremely poor selection of servers. Such services aren’t out there to zealously guard your privacy either, so don’t expect world-class standards.

Free VPN companies have to monetize too. You’ll definitely be bombarded with invasive advertisements and migraine-inducing popup windows. This means you’re the product now. Our recommendation is to stay safe on the internet and cough up a few dollars each month – otherwise, you might just incur thousands of dollars in losses if your device contracts a malware infection or your data is exposed.

Some VPNs to avoid in South Africa

One of the principal caveats of opting to use a VPN to browse the web is an implicit understanding that the service will do all it takes to protect your privacy and anonymity. After all, that’s why they were designed in the first place. The recommended VPNs in this list have no documented cases of handing over customer data but there are a few that don’t value this commitment as much. We recommend you avoid them. Here are three such cases:

 

1. HolaVPN

Israel-based Hola once had a gigantic user base of almost 50 million – with people attracted to its free VPN extension for the Chrome browser. Unfortunately, it chose to leverage this for illegal activities and turned it into a huge botnet army.

Hola users saw a part of their bandwidth bifurcated for attacks on other websites, distribution of pornography, and other notorious activities. And it all happened without their consent. We firmly believe it’s best if you avoid Hola or uninstall it if already downloaded.

2. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is a well-known name in the free VPN industry and people trusted it with their data. But some things are too good to be true.

Last month, a privacy advocacy group filed a motion against the company, alleging that it forcefully inserted tracking cookies into user accounts and sold the data for advertising purposes. The complaint added that Hotspot Shield redirected e-commerce traffic to partnering domains. This means that legitimate HTTP requests like macys.com were navigated to affiliate sites instead so the company could earn a profit from such sales. That’s cringeworthy.

The jury is still out on Hotspot Shield but the matter does follow a familiar trend. We think you should avoid using the service until and unless it’s able to prove its innocence.

At Comparitech we don’t condone using VPNs to commit illegal activity in the hope that privacy will be maintained. But providers need to be completely open and transparent about logging policies – when it claims one thing and does another then that’s a massive red flag.

How do I use a VPN in South Africa?

In this section, we’ll take you through two use cases. Follow these steps if you’re a foreign expatriate and would like to obtain a non-South African IP address while physically located in the country:

  1. Browse through our recommended list of VPN services and decide on a plan that works for you
  2. Register and pay for the service
  3. Once that’s done, download the companion apps (for your phone) or software (for PC or MacOS)
  4. Clear your cookies and cache in all web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer) to remove old location identifiers
  5. Restart your device
  6. Open the VPN companion software and log in
  7. Select a server from the country you’re trying to obtain an IP address – such as the US or Great Britain
  8. Allow a few seconds for the connection to be established. Once that’s done there should be a green notification icon in the taskbar
  9. Browse the web like you normally would.

You’ll notice that host websites will assume your location is in the country you’re currently connected to. This will open up things like streaming media content and local online banking services

The other use case is for South African residents that are traveling abroad and need a local IP address. This could be for streaming content, accessing online banking, or simply cheaper airline deals. Follow these steps:

  1. Browse through our recommendations and settle for an option that has servers in South Africa
  2. Register and pay for the service – select either a monthly or annual plan depending on how frequently you’d like to use a VPN
  3. Once that’s done, download the companion apps (for your phone) or software (for PC or MacOS)
  4. Clear your cookies in all web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer) to remove old location identifiers
  5. Restart your device
  6. Open the VPN companion software and log in
  7. Select a server in South Africa and click connect
  8. Allow a few seconds for the connection to be established. Once that’s done there should be a green notification icon in the taskbar
  9. Browse the web like you normally would

South African flag, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa” by flowcomm licensed under CC BY 2.0

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