Internet freedoms have declined drastically in the Southeast Asian country thanks to a series of new laws that censor content and increase surveillance powers for local authorities. Advocacy body Freedom House emphatically states that the country’s cyber landscape is ranked as “not free” with the arrest of bloggers and content blockage pointed as the main concerns.
For these reasons, we recommend you use a VPN while browsing the web in Thailand. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the internet traffic flowing to and from your device and routes it via a server outside your current location. It’s a handy tool to 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 Thailand as it allows them to view content from their homeland via BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, or BeIN Sports.
Our ranking of the best VPNs for Thailand is based on the following factors:
- Speed and reliability of service
- Strong encryption parameters
- No usage logs
- Unblocks geo-restricted content with ease
- Servers in Thailand for Thai residents traveling abroad
- Apps for Android and iOS
ExpressVPN is a sturdy VPN that offers military-grade encryption protocols coupled with a neat design and fast speeds. It’s a worthy choice for people who don’t want a ton of customizable options and just something that works instantly.
The company operates over 1,500 servers spread across 94 countries including a few in Thailand. That means if you’re a Thai resident traveling abroad it’ll be possible to access local television such as Truevision. All you have to do is select a server based in the country.
As mentioned earlier, some people may want to use a VPN in Thailand in order to maintain anonymity. ExpressVPN ranks well from this angle as it has a stated policy of not storing any user logs. The only information it does extract is metadata pertaining to the “date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used”. The company says it’s for troubleshooting and improving service levels. There are no logs of individual IP addresses.
Encryption standards are also quite strong. ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES-CBC protocols as well as HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. There’s an internet kill switch included, referred to as a ‘network lock’, which means it’ll freeze all traffic if the connection drops, keeping it secure.
The service evades the Netflix war on VPNs without breaking a sweat. It’s similarly compatible with both Hulu and BBC iPlayer and supports torrenting.
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.
3 months free: Comparitech readers can get 3 months free here if they sign up for the ExpressVPN annual plan. This includes the standard 30 day, no quibbles money-back guarantee. You will receive a full refund if left unsatisfied.
IPVanish offers incredibly fast speeds with a similar commitment to maintaining encryption standards and privacy. It’s one of the few VPN providers out there which are completely logless, so there’s no retention of any user data at all. Privacy advocates should be relieved.
Encryption protocols are tough. The company leverages 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048-bit key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. Hence even if hackers gain control of your account it still won’t be possible for them to dig into past session data and unearth your browsing history.
IPVanish includes an internet kill switch, which means traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops out of the blue. Servers are optimized for speed, stability, and security – with over 850 of them spread across 60 countries. Unfortunately, there aren’t any present in Thailand which may cause consternation for locals when traveling abroad, but such users will still find IPVanish a worthy choice due to its impeccable service.
The provider isn’t able to escape the Netflix ban or unlock Hulu but does work splendidly 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.
Special discount: Our readers can save up to 60 percent on IPVanish plans here.
NordVPN has been around for over a decade which has helped the company fine tune its product and deliver a service that works seamlessly.
It’s another company that declines to hold any data about its users – hence there’s no information about browsing habits, timestamps, or choice of servers. This policy has served it well in the past – NordVPN says it’s received multiple requests for information from government authorities but there wasn’t anything on its servers that could identify users. The fact that it’s based in Panama – out of the reach of Western agencies and not subject to data retention laws – helps greatly.
NordVPN operates 976 servers in 56 countries – with options to connect depending on your exact requirements. These could be stringent privacy, video streaming, anonymity, or dedicated IP.
There’s one server present in Thailand so local residents can connect to that while abroad if they’d like.
The service works with Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer without any problems.
Encryption standards are amongst the best in the business – NordVPN uses the 256-bit AES protocol encryption standard by default coupled with 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is enabled.
There’s support for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Here’s our full review of NordVPN.
Cheap offer: There’s a whopping 72% off if you sign up for Nord’s two-year plan here. It works out to be roughly $3.29/month.
Cyberghost Pro is a relatively cheap VPN service that will appeal to beginner users because of fluid service and an easy-to-use interface.
It’s headquartered in Romania and has a policy of not logging any user behavior or similar information. However, there were a few changes at the company recently – including its buyout by an Israeli firm registered in the UK. This may or may not change the logging policy but we’ll keep you updated on any further developments.
Cyberghost Pro offers a choice of over 850 servers spread across the globe. There isn’t an option for Thailand just yet but the company does say they’re constantly adding new locations so there could very well be one in the future.
The service doesn’t unblock Netflix but does work with BBC iPlayer.
When it comes to encryption standards, the company does use some of the toughest out there. Specifically, it leverages 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.
There’s also an internet kill switch included, which means web traffic will be halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Read our full review of Cyberghost Pro.
Discounted deal: Our readers enjoy 72 percent off if they sign up for a 2-year deal.
VyprVPN is also a relative veteran in the space after having been in operation for over seven years. Some users might be troubled by its data retention policy, specifically the decision to 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.”
But the company maintains that all data is stored only for a period of 30 days and is used for improving service quality standards. There’s no way of determining exact details of web traffic. Privacy advocates should feel at ease – after all VyprVPN is one of the few services that is able to circumvent China’s Great Firewall and has proprietary VPN tech that’s world-class.
VyprVPN owns and manages entire data centers. That’s a fairly unique thing in the VPN world as most other services opt for a combination of renting and outsourcing to 3rd-party operators. This decision means it’s in control of all the traffic flowing through its servers which help guard against attacks and ensure a speedy and stable connection.
Internet traffic is secured by the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication.
VyprVPN includes an internet kill switch by default which means internet traffic will be halted temporarily if the connection drops.
A premium version of the package allows access to the Chameleon™ protocol, which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it. This is a valuable feature for users that are mainly interested in securing their privacy at all costs.
There are over 700 servers, including a few in Thailand.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
VyprVPN can unlock content on US Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
Stress-free: There are no charges for the first three days and Comparitech readers get 50% off the first month when they sign up.
Should I use a free VPN?
Cash-strapped users or those who don’t think VPNs are worth the money might opt for a free VPN service. There’s a few of them present on the interwebs and seem like a tempting option because very rarely do they ask for credit card details.
However, several free VPN providers have been caught mining and selling user data. Even if that doesn’t happen to you, be prepared for download caps, bandwidth throttling, and a poor selection of servers. Encryption protocols are far from ideal so if you use a free VPN for too long you run the risk of being exposed.
And it’s important to understand that such services aren’t charities. They’re looking to monetize too – and they’ll do so by making you the product. Our recommendation is to stay safe on the internet and cough up a few dollars each month rather than run a huge risk. The choice, of course, is yours.
Some VPNs to avoid in Thailand
We’ve discussed how privacy and anonymity are important factors to consider while browsing the web in Thailand. Of course, the caveat here is that the VPN provider you sign up for values this commitment too. The VPNs we’ve mentioned in this list have upheld this principle dearly but there are others who don’t consider it as important. We recommend that you leave them alone.
Here are three such cases:
Recent media reports have revealed that well-known paid VPN company PureVPN was culpable in the arrest of one of its users.
PureVPN and the FBI teamed up to identify and incarcerate Ryan Lin, accused of online blackmail and attempted extortion of an unnamed 24-year-old woman.
Ryan used the VPN service thinking it would cover his tracks. PureVPN, at the time, had a ‘no-logs’ policy in place which theoretically meant that it wouldn’t track Ryan’s online activity. Yet the provider had no qualms about complying with the FBI’s data request in order to fork over personal details.
Israel-based Hola, which operated a VPN extension for Chrome and once boasted a user base of over 50 million, illegally flexed its muscle to turn it into a huge botnet army.
Hola users saw their bandwidth scuppered for things like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks and distribution of copyrighted content. And they had no idea. We think it’s best if you avoid Hola or uninstall it if already downloaded.
3. Hotspot Shield
Last month, a privacy advocacy group filed a comprehensive complaint against popular free VPN provider Hotspot Shield. The complaint alleges that the company inserts tracking cookies in user data and sells it for advertising purposes. It adds that Hotspot Shield “redirects e-commerce traffic to partnering domains”, meaning it’ll forcefully navigate people to wrong sites – largely, partner online advertising companies.
The advocacy group maintains these are “unfair and deceptive trade practices”, precisely because Hotspot Shield claims it protects user privacy and anonymity at all costs.
While it is too early to judge whether the allegations are true or not – the matter hasn’t been decided by the Federal Trade Commission as yet – the complaint does follow a certain trend highlighted by free VPNs. Our recommendation is to avoid Hotspot Shield until they are able to prove their innocence.
We don’t condone the use of VPNs to commit acts expressly forbidden by a country’s laws. By the looks of it, that’s exactly what both Cody Kretsinger and Chris Dupuy were accused of doing. However, we do believe that VPN providers need to be open and transparent with users. If it says there aren’t any data logs then it’s ethically wrong to do so otherwise.
How do I access porn in Thailand?
Both pornography and gambling are explicitly forbidden under Thai law with the country’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology especially concerned about blocking pornographic websites.
Having said that, like most places these laws aren’t enforced very regularly. There haven’t been any documented cases of people being arrested and jailed for accessing porn that we know of. To remain on the safe side, you could use a VPN to access said material whilst sitting in Thailand. We do, however, recommend our readers exercise caution and fully understand what they’re getting into before deciding to embark on a course of action.
How do I blog anonymously in Thailand?
Criticism of the royal family is harshly forbidden under Thai law, with the government taking a stern stance against anyone who partakes in such discussions – both online and offline. Media luminaries like the BBC have faced troubles in the past and even Facebook is complicit in censoring content on behalf of the Thai government.
Notable dissidents have been arrested for daring to speak out. One way to overcome this problem is by using a VPN that’ll help maintain your privacy. We’ve put together a guide on how to do this best if that’s what you’re looking to access the internet for.
Please note that this should not be construed as legal advice. At Comparitech we don’t condone carrying out illegal acts and masking the activity via a VPN. Remain guarded at all times and understand what you’re getting into before proceeding. If you’re unsure, it’s best to speak with a lawyer who can provide expert guidance.
What’s the future of the internet in Thailand?
2016 saw the arrest of social media users for controversial posts and harsh sentences handed down to bloggers for things like insulting the government and public officials. A newly inducted law recommended 10-year prison sentences for vague offenses like “influencing voters”, which was used to silence online discussion for proposed constitutional changes.
Freedom House notes that the history of military coups in the country has something to do with this crackdown. Since the last coup, journalists, academics, and other activists have been subjected to greater surveillance and hundreds of people have been harshly interrogated. The government has also attempted to procure sophisticated surveillance tech and tried to develop plans for a single national internet gateway similar to China’s Great Firewall.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that new changes to cybercrime laws in Thailand are ambiguous, vague, and lack accountability. There’s a real attempt to stifle freedom of expression, especially on digital platforms, and to maintain control of Thai society.
For these reasons, we recommend you use a VPN to surf the web safely in Thailand.