There are many reasons to use a VPN in the United Kingdom. Perhaps you’re an international traveler looking to regain access to your usual services. You may just want to protect your internet activity from hackers, internet providers, advertisers or even snooping governments.
In November 2016 the British public woke up to the Investigatory Powers Act, which legalized surveillance of all residents with little oversight. This means your online activity is now subject to intense scrutiny by shadowy government agencies who can track anything and everything you do on the web. One more reason to use a VPN in Britain.
If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, here’s a summary of our recommended VPNs for the United Kingdom
7 Best VPNs for the UK:
- NordVPN Best VPN for the UK. Scores well for download speed, security and ability to unlock UK and international streaming sites. Provides a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark A wallet-friendly, security-focused provider, fast enough for lag-free streaming, and capable of unblocking some of the most popular British streaming services.
- ExpressVPN Great connection speeds and security features. Works with BBC iPlayer, Netflix, SkyGo and most other UK and international TV streaming services.
- CyberGhost A good all-rounder. Won’t let you down on download speed and online security. Works well for streaming.
- IPVanish A Kodi and Amazon Fire Stick user favorite, easy to use apps and keep no logs.
- VyprVPN Strong security, good internet connection speeds. Can unblock plenty of UK streaming content.
- Hotspot Shield This VPN easily unblocks popular British services abroad. More importantly, it also provides consistently high connection speeds and a wide range of security features.
For the above reasons, it’s best to use a VPN while accessing the internet in the UK. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the traffic flowing to and from your device by tunneling it via an intermediary server. This adds a layer of privacy and security – making it extremely difficult for eavesdroppers to tune in.
A VPN is also an excellent option for accessing local content while abroad. British expats and holidaymakers can use a VPN to watch channels like Sky, BBC, and BT Sport even if they’re physically present in Asia or Latin America. All they have to do is log in to their VPN service, select a server based in the UK, and click ‘connect’. Once the connection is established, the host website will assume you’re in Britain – thereby opening up content previously unavailable.
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Best VPNs for the UK
Our list of the best VPNs for the UK is based on the following factors
- Speed and reliability of service
- Strong encryption parameters
- Strict no-logs policy
- Unblocks geo-restricted content with ease
- Servers in Great Britain so you can connect to local content when abroad, such as BBC iPlayer
- Apps for Android and Phone / iOS
Based on the above criteria these are our top picks:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is another service that applies a true zero-logging policy – hence there’s no data retention of user sessions, traffic, or timestamps.
This decision has resulted in failed attempts by foreign agencies to extract user data from its servers. NordVPN has received requests for information in the past but it simply shrugged its shoulders, saying there was no possible way to comply. Authorities also confiscated servers in one instance but weren’t able to glean any valuable insights.
The company operates more than 5,700 servers in 60 countries making it a robust choice for whatever it is you want to do online – gaming, streaming video, or downloading. 650 of these servers are present in the UK so latching onto a suitable connection won’t be a problem.
It’s able to securely access Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
NordVPN uses the 256-bit AES protocol encryption standard by default coupled with 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is enabled. A single subscription grants access to six devices – with support for Linux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
- Operates 650+ servers in the UK
- Fastest speeds we’ve seen
- Works with most popular streaming sites
- Top-notch security and privacy protection
- Keeps no logs whatsoever
- Only able to select server locations, but not specific servers
BEST VPN FOR THE UK:NordVPN is our #1 choice for the UK. Works reliably with video streaming. Extremely high speeds. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. App doesn’t offer server switching choice. Has a risk-free 30-day money back guarantee.
Here’s our full NordVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark is a security and privacy-conscious VPN that’s based in the British Virgin Islands, a location with no mandatory data-retention laws. It secures your traffic using 256-bit encryption, protection against WebRTC, DNS, and IPv6 leaks, and a kill switch, but more importantly, Surfshark doesn’t log any information that could identify you. You can pay in one of three different cryptocurrencies for an additional layer of anonymity. 24/7 support is available over live chat.
This service offers access to more than 1,000 high-speed servers in 60+ countries including the UK. With no connection limit, unlimited bandwidth, and the ability to unblock major streaming platforms like BBC iPlayer and All 4, this service is ideal for anyone looking to stream, torrent, or browse safely while outside of the UK.
Surfshark offers apps for MacOS, iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux. Manual configuration is required for use with wireless routers.
- Strong security and privacy protections
- Unblocks major streaming platforms like BBC iPlayer
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Fewer servers than some of its rivals
- Some slow speeds
Read our full Surfshark review.
BEST BUDGET OPTION:Surfshark unblocks plenty of British streaming platforms and allows you to secure all of your devices at once, meaning you can watch what you want, where you want. Best of all, this VPN is very reasonably priced and includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
The company operates over 3,000 servers spread across 94 countries with quick and efficient connections times to all. There are five server locations in the UK – ideal for residents of the country traveling abroad and wishing to access local streaming content like BT Sports, Sky, and BBC iPlayer.
ExpressVPN does not store any traffic logs. It does, however, extract some minimal information such as the date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used. Your individual IP address is not logged under any circumstances so the service won’t be able to identify you.
Furthermore, the company is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands – out of the jurisdiction of British authorities. Hence your data is not at risk.
However, if you’re still uncomfortable about the metadata retention, then a reassuring factor is that the service will never log your individual IP address. Additionally, you can sign up via a burner email account and pay through Bitcoin – this way your privacy and anonymity is assured.
ExpressVPN utilizes 256-bit AES-CBC as its encryption standards as well as both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. There’s an internet kill switch included, referred to as a network lock, which means all web traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
The service is able to securely access Netflix seamlessly. It’s 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.
- Fast streaming speeds
- Leading privacy and security features
- Apps for all platforms that are a joy to use
- 24/7 chat support by knowledgeable staff is refreshing
- Not cheap, so use the coupon below for a discount
- Could offer more control over advanced functionality
STREAM SAFELY ON-THE-GO:ExpressVPN is fast, versatile, and secure. Unblocks all major streaming services including Amazon Prime, Sky Go and many more. Impressive security and privacy. Offers a 30-day money back guarantee.
Here’s our in-depth review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost is headquartered in Romania, which means it’s not subject to mandatory data retention laws. The firm adds that it doesn’t log user behavior or browsing habits at all. However, it was recently purchased by a UK-based firm so that could change things. We’ll update the article if we hear more on this front.
There are over 5,900 servers in 89+ countries with more than 700 of them in the UK alone. So British expatriates and tourists traveling abroad won’t find a problem accessing local content. Apps are available for both Android, Linux and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
The service works with most popular video streaming sites, including and BBC iPlayer.
Encryption standards are stringent. CyberGhost Pro uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. This means it’s in the top-tier of VPNs when based on sturdy encryption.
There’s also an internet kill switch included, which means web traffic will be halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
- Operates over 700 servers in the UK
- Good value choice with plenty of UK servers
- Impressive streaming video speeds
- Minimal configuration required and easy to use browser extensions
- Good security and they don’t store user activity logs
- Less advanced settings than some VPNs
- Less reliable in places like the UAE
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish is headquartered in the US and hence not subject to British data retention laws. Furthermore, it has a stated policy of not storing any internet traffic logs or metadata. The only time it retains information is when an account is registered for the first time. After that, your browsing history is kept hidden.
IPVanish incorporates robust encryption standards, which means prying eyes such as the NSA and hackers are kept at a distance. It 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.
There’s an internet kill switch embedded within the system architecture, which means traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops out of the blue. Their selection of servers are optimized for speed, stability, and security – with over 1,900 of them spread across 75 worldwide city locations, including 89 servers in the UK.
IPVanish is an excellent choice for Kodi because it allows users 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. It is also an easy VPN to install on Amazon’s Fire Stick.
- Operates 80+ servers in the UK, great for most popular UK shows
- Preferred by Kodi and Firestick TV for its remote-friendly apps
- No-logging policy and solid security
- Often struggles with Netflix and Hulu
- No true live chat support
CONNECT ALL OF YOUR DEVICES:IPVanish has a large server network. A favourite among Kodi and Amazon Fire Stick users that also hits the marks with BBC iPlayer. Uncongested network achieves good connection speeds. Great for families. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
VyprVPN states that it does store some user 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.”
However, it insists that all this information is kept on servers for 30 days and is only used to improve the quality of service. VyprVPN adds that there’s no way of determining exact details of web traffic or content of communications.
VyprVPN is a popular choice for British residents visiting China because it’s able to sidestep the Great Firewall. This means that thousands of government-appointed engineers working around the clock haven’t been able to block its operations. That’s definitely an achievement, which should propel it into the gold standard of VPNs.
The company owns and manages entire data centers, which optimize speed and stability of connections. All 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.
There are over 700 servers, including a few in London – although the company doesn’t say how many there are in total. Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
VyprVPN works with Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
- Operates servers in the UK
- Great unblocking capabilities, even works well in China
- Stable and speedy connections with secure apps
- Two-tier pricing structure can be confusing – cheaper options above
- Power users would prefer more configuration options
- We’d prefer less data retention
SOLID PERFORMER:VyprVPN is user friendly. Works well with BBC iPlayer and some other popular streaming services. Easy to use but a bit pricey. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our in-depth review of VyprVPN.
Hotspot Shield offers several powerful security features including 256-bit encryption, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and a kill switch. Users can also let certain websites bypass the VPN or configure the apps to connect automatically whenever you use an unsecured wifi network. This VPN doesn’t log any identifiable user data once your session is over. Customer support is on-hand 24/7 over live chat in case of any problems.
With over 3,000 servers spanning 70+ countries, Hotspot Shield makes it easy to access region-locked services abroad. In fact, it even works with notoriously stubborn streaming platforms like Netflix UK and BBC iPlayer. You won’t even have to worry about lag or buffering as Hotspot Shield’s speeds are fast enough to flawlessly stream live HD video.
Hotspot Shield has Windows, Android, iOS, and MacOS apps.
- Securely access platforms like BBC iPlayer
- High enough connection speeds for HD live streaming
- Strong online privacy features
- No Linux support
- Spotty record on privacy
VERSATILE AND SECURE:Hotspot Shield offers solid all-round performance, with fast, reliable connections, strong security features, and excellent unblocking ability. A 45-day money-back guarantee is included.
Read our full review of Hotspot Shield.
Can I use a free VPN for the UK?
There’s always the option of settling for a free VPN if you’re just looking for a quick fix.
But free VPN services definitely don’t grant the same experience as paid ones. There’s usually just one or two servers you can connect to. Encryption parameters are weak, so don’t assume your connection will be optimized for privacy and security. This is especially an issue if you’re abroad and likely to use public wi-fi. Plus there will most likely be a data cap which means your connection can terminate if you stream video for too long.
Our recommendation is to avoid such providers. There’s no such thing as a free lunch – free VPNs monetize by aggressively inserting tracking cookies, monitoring your browsing patterns, and selling the data to third-party advertisers. You run a real risk of a malware infection – which can lead to data loss and a painful procedure of recovering your device.
Are internet freedoms in the UK under threat?
Britain has had a history of left-leaning political activism, exemplified by the fact that the Labor Party is a dominant political force in the country, but recent legislation on privacy and surveillance is eerily Orwellian in nature.
In November 2016, the British Parliament enacted the Investigatory Powers Act, also known colloquially as the “Snoopers Charter”. It grants UK intelligence agencies and police far-reaching powers of surveillance – legalising methods of snooping that The Guardian says are “unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US”.
That’s a scary thought.
It’s been a long-held view that national security agencies in the US and the UK – NSA and GCHQ – have a history of collusion and intelligence sharing. So it’s likely that most, if not all, surveillance of residents in the UK will be shared with other western governments, too.
At the time, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies”.
The new act forces Internet Service Providers and telecommunication firms to store everyone’s web browsing history for a year and fork that data over to government agencies via a search engine known as the request filter.
Access to this search engine is at the discretion of the police and security agencies – with no judicial oversight of any sort. That means the government can target particular racial/ethnic groups and the activity will never become part of any public records or be subjected to scrutiny.
Other key elements of this bill are:
The GCHQ can utilize bulk data collection on the personal assets of people not accused of wrongdoing, but whose data was gathered from a large number of devices in a targeted area. Companies must decrypt data on demand. Companies must notify the government before new security features are launched. Intelligence agencies like the GCHQ may hack into the devices of citizens.
Former British home secretary Amber Rudd has praised the Snoopers’ Charter, saying that it’s a “world-leading legislation with unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection”.
But that’s not the only farcical matter. UK security agencies have been collecting data unlawfully for almost two decades prior to the enactment of this bill. The MI5, MI6, and GCHQ were severely rebuked by a British court for engaging in an “illegal regime” to track communications data such as phone and web use and other confidential information.
Basically, the Snoopers’ Charter simply legitimizes a process that’s been taking place since the late 90s, except that the powers granted to the agencies are far more extensive and wide-ranging than ever before.
It goes without saying that UK residents should be extremely wary of these developments. To secure yourself from snoopy intelligence agencies, we recommend you opt for a VPN to circumvent the Snoopers’ Charter.
Another concern that may manifest itself in the near future is the current Conservative government’s proposed regulations on the internet. The Snoopers’ Charter simply monitors your activity without placing any restrictions on what you may access or say online. The new bill will try to take this a step further by allowing the government to decide what can and what can’t be published on the web.
“Some people say that it is not for the government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet,” states the proposed manifesto. “We disagree”.
The legislation is part of an attempt to force tech companies to build backdoors into encrypted communication apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Ostensibly, this is to help the government in tracking down terrorist movements and communications – but will have the dual effect of compromising the privacy of law-abiding citizens, too.
Britain’s internet is currently ranked as free in the Freedom on the Net Report 2016 compiled by advocacy body Freedom House. But the long-term ramifications of the Snoopers’ Charter and new legislation are still unclear. It’s a strong possibility that we’ll see wilted internet freedom in the years to come, forcing a degradation of this status.
Watching British TV abroad with a VPN
To watch UK TV abroad you will need a VPN which can offer you a British IP address. Not all VPNs work with all streaming media services and Smart DNS and other non-VPN proxy services will hardly ever work. In our testing NordVPN works with all of the major UK TV services.
- How to watch BBC abroad with a VPN
- How to watch ITV abroad
- How to watch Channel 4 abroad
- How to watch Sky Go abroad
- How to watch Now TV abroad
VPN FAQ for the UK
Is using a VPN legal in the UK?
Broadly speaking, it is perfectly legal to use a VPN within the UK. There’s no specific legislation that prohibits it outright. However, you’re still breaking laws if you use a VPN to engage in illegal activities like selling drugs online or uploading child pornography.
Related: Is using a VPN legal and safe?
Where can I get a free US/UK VPN to unblock Spotify?
Free VPNs are ten-a-penny, but services that are fast and reliable are much harder to find. Generally, free VPNs have more users than paid services, which means they’re usually far slower. As you might expect, this can make streaming very difficult.
Instead of risking your security with a free VPN, why not take advantage of ExpressVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee? You will have to pay upfront, but you can try the service out risk-free and claim a full refund if it doesn’t meet your expectations.
How can I stream Top Gear from outside the UK?
Top Gear is actually available in quite a few countries, although not everywhere will have the most recent episodes. Take a look below to find out which networks are showing Top Gear where you are:
- Australia: Stan, 9Now
- Canada: BBC Canada
- China: bilibili
- New Zealand: TVNZ
- USA: BBC America, Hulu
Can I connect to iPlayer from India?
BBC iPlayer is usually only available in the UK (although some Asian countries have their own version). As such, if you try to access it from India, you’ll usually see the following error: “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.”
By connecting to a British VPN server, however, you can bypass BBC iPlayer’s geo-restrictions measures. This will allow you to stream your favorite shows from India, Pakistan, or anywhere else in the world.
Which is the best UK VPN app for mobile?
While there are plenty of VPNs on the market, not all provide high-quality apps. Of course, the question of which is the best UK VPN app for mobile is highly subjective. However, NordVPN is a highly popular VPN service with excellent apps for Android and iOS. The mobile apps of NordVPN are quick and easy to install and very user-friendly. In fact, it only takes a few seconds to connect to a server or adjust your preferences.
Is it legal to use a VPN to watch UK Netflix?
It’s perfectly legal to use a VPN in the UK. Furthermore, you’re not breaking any laws by using a VPN to watch UK Netflix even if you’re traveling abroad. However, it is technically against the terms of service of Netflix. This means that Netflix reserves the right to terminate or restrict your access. However, there is no record of the streaming service enforcing such a measure. As such, you can use a VPN to safely watch UK Netflix without worry.