Best VPNs for Tor

Tor and a VPN are both tools that use a combination of proxies and encryption to make it difficult for snoopers to track you. While they share some similarities, the key difference is that Tor is for anonymity, and a VPN is for privacy. The two can be used in tandem to further bolster both privacy and anonymity. This article will cover the best VPNs for Tor and explain how to use a Tor VPN.

We get into a lot of detail below, so if you only have time for a summary, here is our list of the best VPNs for Tor:

  1. ExpressVPN Best VPN for Tor. Fastest VPN for Tor. Military-grade encryption. Accepts Bitcoin and has an onion site.
  2. NordVPN Budget VPN. No logs, huge server network, strong security. Includes 30-day money-back guarantee.
  3. Surfshark This privacy-conscious VPN comes packed with security features and allows you to pay in three different cryptocurrencies.
  4. CyberGhost Excellent security, fast connection speeds, and zero logs. Our preferred budget VPN for Tor.
  5. PrivateVPN Simple to use, fast servers, and no logs. Also works well with streaming sites.
  6. IPVanish Advanced security, zero logs, and fast. Also popular with Kodi and torrent users.
  7. Hotspot Shield Unblocks a huge range of content. Has very high speeds and a strong focus on security.

Related: What is Tor? How to use it safely

How to use Tor with a VPN

We’ll use Tor Browser as an example, though there are several ways to connect to Tor. With the Tor Browser installed:

Here’s how to use a VPN with Tor:

  1. Sign up with a VPN. Our top recommendation is ExpressVPN.
  2. Download and install the VPN app.
  3. Run the app and select a VPN server.
  4. Hit the Connect button and wait for the app to confirm the connection.
  5. Open the Tor Browser and surf the web.

This setup sends your internet traffic first through the VPN server, and then through the Tor network. That means your data goes through two phases of encryption before it ever leaves your device: once by Tor and then again by the VPN. Your internet service provider can’t see what’s in the VPN’s encrypted tunnel, and therefore cannot detect that Tor is being used.

Best VPNs for Tor and the dark web

We’ve evaluated the best VPNs for Tor-based on the following criteria:

  • Features designed specifically for Tor users
  • No logs policy
  • Strong encryption
  • Anonymous payment methods
  • Fast connection speeds

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Aug 2020 Works with TorTested Aug 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN recently launched a .onion version of its website for users who want to anonymously make an account. The British Virgin Islands-based company accepts Bitcoin and sticks to a strict no-logs policy. Some non-identifying information is logged such as dates (not times), choice of server location, and total amount of data transferred each day. Cutting-edge encryption is used by default including 256-bit AES encryption, 4,096-bit DHE-RSA keys with perfect forward secrecy, and SHA512 authentication.

ExpressVPN is highly rated, fast, user-friendly and has apps available for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux (command line).

Pros:

  • Fast and reliable
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • Has a .onion site
  • Leading security
  • No identifying logs

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST FOR TOR:ExpressVPN is our #1 pick for TOR fast, secure, and able to unblock a huge range of streaming services. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN Coupon
Special Offer - get 3 months extra FREE
GET DEAL
Coupon applied automatically

2. NordVPN

NordVPN Works with TorTested Aug 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN gives users access to specialized servers pre-configured with Tor over VPN, which means all traffic is first sent through the VPN and then automatically redirected through the Tor network. This is great if you have apps other than an internet browser that you’d like to use with Tor. A double-VPN option is also available, which could be used with the Tor browser for a total of two VPNs and the Tor network, if you can tolerate the speed hit. NordVPN also boasts a strict zero logs policy and 256-bit AES encryption. The company accepts Bitcoin.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

Note that some experts object to Tor over VPN servers because NordVPN could hypothetically see what users are doing with their Tor connection by analyzing traffic before Tor encrypts it. NordVPN says it keeps zero logs, but if this is a concern, we recommend setting up Tor and the VPN independently.

Pros:

  • Onion servers
  • No logs
  • Strong security
  • Accepts bitcoin

Cons:

  • A few servers didn’t work

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST BUDGET VPN:NordVPN is great for those on a budget High internet connection speeds and exceptional unblocking ability with plenty of advanced options. Includes a 30 day money back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.

Read our full NordVPN review.

NordVPN Coupon
Final sale: 3-year deal with 70% off
GET DEAL
Discount applied automatically

3. Surfshark

SurfShark VPN Works with TorTested Aug 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark has 1,000+ servers in more than 60 countries, so you should be able to get a fast connection regardless of where you are in the world. Surfshark has a no-logging policy and secures your traffic with 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.

This service also has a couple of more advanced features. For instance, you can connect to multi-hop servers for even greater anonymity or speed up your other apps by using the split tunneling feature. Surfshark accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple payments, allowing you to sign up almost completely anonymously. Support is available 24/7 over live chat.

Surfshark offers iOS, Android, Linux, MacOS, and Windows apps. It also works with supported routers but must be configured manually.

Pros:

  • Puts major emphasis on user security and privacy
  • Has no connection limit
  • Good speeds

Cons:

  • Some slow servers
  • Relatively limited network

Our score:

4 out of 5

NO-LOGS VPN:Surfshark takes your security seriously, keeps no logs, and can unblock plenty of geo-restricted services from abroad. Better still, it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Surfshark review.

Surfshark Coupon
Special Deal - save 83% + 3 Months FREE
GET DEAL
Discount applied automatically

4. CyberGhost

Cyberghost Works with TorTested Aug 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost doesn’t have any Tor-specific features, but it is the only VPN to earn a perfect score in our 2018 security and privacy assessment. For this reason, it pairs well with the Tor Browser. CyberGhost assigns each user a unique anonymous ID, and the email address you use to sign up is encrypted. This prevents third parties from connecting a users’ email address to their CyberGhost account. CyberGhost stores no identifying logs.

The company is based in Romania, which has no mandatory data retention laws. Strong encryption, leak protection, a kill switch, and perfect forward secrecy are all included in the apps, even on mobile. Internet connection speeds are plenty fast enough to handle Tor traffic.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. You may connect up to seven devices at a time.

Pros:

  • Advanced security
  • Zero logs
  • Bitcoin accepted
  • Fast

Cons:

  • No Tor-specific features

Our score:

4 out of 5

FAST SPEEDS:With comprehensive protection and one-click unblocking enabled by default, as well as high download speeds and a low cost, CyberGhost is ideal for those new to VPNs. This comes with a 45 day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

CyberGhost Coupon
Get 6 EXTRA FREE months on the 1-year plan! SAVE 79%
GET DEAL
Discount applied automatically

5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN Works with TorTested Aug 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.PrivateVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

PrivateVPN’s website has a helpful guide on how to alter the OpenVPN configuration files included in the app so that outgoing internet traffic first passes through the Tor network, and then through the VPN—a setup known as “VPN over Tor”. If you want to use Tor to access sites on the clear web that don’t normally allow Tor connections, your IP address will be that of the VPN server, and the site won’t block you. Note that if you don’t want your ISP to see that you’re using Tor, it’s better to use a standard VPN connection with the Tor browser.

PrivateVPN offers great speeds and advanced security, plus a strict no-logs policy. You can connect six devices simultaneously.

Pros:

  • Zero logs
  • Fast servers
  • Strong encryption
  • Supports Tor-over-VPN

Cons:

  • Smaller server network

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

UP AND COMER:PrivateVPN is a newer provider that earns its place among the veteran players. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full PrivateVPN review.

PrivateVPN Coupon
Special Deal - save 83% on the 2 year plan
GET DEAL
Discount applied automatically

6. IPVanish

IPVanish Works with TorTested Aug 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish is a speedy VPNs that doesn’t sacrifice privacy or security. A subscription gets you strong leak protection, unbreakable encryption,  and a strict no-logs policy. IPVanish allows up to 10 simultaneous connections — more than any other provider on this list. IPVanish apps come with an obfuscation feature that disguises the encrypted VPN tunnel as normal internet traffic. You can opt to periodically change your assigned IP address at certain intervals, making you harder to track. It doesn’t accept bitcoin, though, so if you want to make an anonymous purchase, look elsewhere.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

Pros:

  • Fast speeds
  • Security is solid
  • No logs

Cons:

  • Bitcoin not accepted

Our score:

4 out of 5

FAST & SECURE:IPVanish offers a great combination of speed and security, plus a 7-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full IPVanish review.

IPVanish Coupon
Save 57% on the annual plan!
GET DEAL
Discount applied automatically

7. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield Works with TorTested Aug 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Hotspotshield.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

Hotspot Shield operates around 3,000 servers in 70+ countries. This service is extremely fast, which is ideal as Tor tends to slow you down. Your traffic is secured at all times using a combination of 256-bit encryption, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and a kill switch. Hotspot Shield doesn’t log any identifiable data beyond the duration of your session. You can connect up to five devices at once.

Hotspot Shield provides apps for iOS, Windows, Android, and MacOS.

Pros:

  • Bypasses country-wide blocking with ease
  • Wide range of security features
  • Consistently high speeds

Cons:

  • No Linux app
  • Spotty privacy record

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

SIMPLE YET SECURE:Hotspot Shield is a fast and secure service that offers user-friendly apps for all major platforms. With excellent unblocking ability and a 45-day money-back guarantee, this VPN is well worthy of your attention.

Read our full Hotspot Shield review.

Hotspot Shield Coupon
Special Deal - save 77% on the 3 year plan
GET DEAL
Discount applied automatically

VPNs that Tor users should avoid

HideMyAss

Due to poor logging policies that have led to the arrest of at least one user in the past and more invasive data retention laws recently passed in the UK, England-based VPN provider HideMyAss should be avoided by anyone who values privacy and anonymity.

PureVPN

A man accused of cyber stalking was recently arrested by the FBI thanks in part to records provided by Hong Kong-based VPN provider PureVPN. The individual used PureVPN in an attempt to hide his identity, but the provider handed over logs that ultimately led to his arrest. PureVPN has since updated its privacy policy to state that it keeps absolutely no logs, but Tor users should probably still steer clear.

Tor over VPN vs VPN over Tor

Should you use VPN over Tor or Tor over VPN? Both have their advantages when it comes to both security and usability. We’ll outline the advantages and disadvantages here.

Tor over VPN

VPN THEN TOR

You can use Tor over VPN simply by connecting to a VPN and accessing the internet through the Tor browser. Your traffic is encrypted by both Tor and the VPN before leaving your device. The traffic flow looks like this:

My device –> Encrypted by VPN and Tor –> VPN server –> Tor Network –> Internet

Pros:

  • ISP cannot see you are using Tor
  • Neither ISP nor VPN can see your traffic*
  • Easy to set up. Just connect to VPN and turn on Tor browser
  • Access to .onion websites
  • Flexibility to use VPN by itself with a normal browser for non-critical tasks
  • Tor entry node cannot see real IP address

Cons:

  • Websites can block traffic from Tor exit nodes
  • VPN can see (and potentially log) your real IP address
  • Exposes traffic to compromised Tor exit nodes

*Note that NordVPN and BolehVPN could hypothetically analyze your traffic before it’s encrypted by the Tor network when using their Tor-over-VPN-enabled servers. The trade off is that all traffic can be routed through Tor without configuring individual apps to be used with Tor.

VPN over Tor

VPN over Tor is more difficult to set up because it requires configuration on the VPN server. As far as we know, only AirVPN offers this capability. The traffic flow looks like this:

My device –> Encrypted by VPN and Tor –> Tor network –> VPN server –> Internet

Pros:

  • Neither ISP nor VPN can see your traffic
  • Access to websites and apps that normally block traffic from Tor exit nodes
  • VPN cannot see your true IP address
  • Not vulnerable to compromised Tor exit nodes
  • All traffic routed through Tor without individual configuration
  • No packet discrimination by Tor exit nodes

Cons:

  • ISPs can see you are using Tor
  • Difficult setup, requires VPN provider’s assistance
  • No access to .onion websites
  • Tor entry node sees your real IP address
  • Not application-specific, so unable to run P2P or other programs outside of Tor network without disconnecting from the VPN

See also: Tor vs VPN – What’s the difference?

VPNs for Tor FAQ

Why use a VPN with Tor?

A VPN encrypts all of a device's traffic and routes it through a remote server in a location of your choosing. This assigns the user a new IP address--a string of numbers and decimals unique to a device that can be used to pinpoint the user's location. The encryption prevents internet service providers from being able to monitor your activity.

While most good VPN providers offer a "no logs" policy, VPNs still require a degree of trust that the provider won't record user traffic or give in to corporations, hackers, and governments that demand user information. Your activity is private, but not necessarily anonymous.

Tor encrypts the user's traffic and routes it through several nodes run by volunteers, known as the Tor network. Every time a new website request is sent, the route changes, making it next to impossible for anyone to trace the user. Unlike a VPN service, there's no central authority that controls the traffic flow, so trust is not necessary.

These entry and exit nodes are well documented, however, so both your ISP and the destination server can easily find out if you're using Tor. Some ISPs, websites, apps, and governments will block traffic to and from Tor entry and exit nodes altogether. In some countries, simply accessing the Tor network will get your name added to an ISP's naughty list. That means your activity is anonymous, but not entirely private.

VPNs are faster and thus more suitable for streaming video, torrenting, and other download-intensive tasks. Tor is more suitable for anonymous web browsing and accessing .onion websites on the DarkNet.

For extra protection and more flexibility, Tor and a VPN can be combined. Traffic can be encrypted by both and then channeled first through the Tor network and then over a VPN (VPN over Tor) or vice versa (Tor over VPN). We'll discuss the pros and cons of both configurations further down, but first let's talk about which VPNs are most suitable for Tor users. Note that while combining Tor with a VPN will improve anonymity and privacy, it will have a heavier impact on connection speed and latency than using either one on its own.

Can I use a free VPN with Tor?

Yes, but you might be doing more harm than good. Technically, nothing is stopping you from connecting to a free VPN service and firing up the Tor browser.

Be wary of free VPNs. They look enticing on the surface, but in reality, they often use substandard encryption, poor logging policies, force users to wait in queues to connect and impose data or bandwidth caps on users. They often have fewer servers and IP addresses, which makes it easier to trace individual users. Many inject advertisements and tracking cookies into users' browsers, sacrificing their privacy rather than bolstering it.

Is Tor a free VPN?

Tor is free but it's not a VPN. Both Tor and VPN are types of encrypted proxies, but there's a few key differences.

Standard Tor connections are encrypted several times over and pass through several volunteer Tor network nodes in a randomized sequence. Tor can also be used to access .onion sites on the dark web.

A standard VPN encrypts your connection once and routes it through a single server. That server is operated by the VPN company and the user has a greater degree of control over that server's location. It can't be used to access onion sites on the dark web.

Can I be tracked if I use Tor?

Tor has its vulnerabilities and is not immune to attacks that could be used to track users. Most of these attacks involve compromising an exit node---the last server relay in the sequence.

However, such attacks tend to be costly, targeted, and would require a well-resourced adversary to pull off. Tor's anonymity and security is more than adequate for the vast majority of users.

Bear in mind, users can also be a threat to their own privacy if they're not careful. Tor can't prevent tracking if you log in to a website with your real email address and password, for example.

Which is the best free VPN for browsing deep web?

Don't trust free VPNs with your privacy. It's better to try a paid VPN and cancel before the guarantee runs out if you don't want to spend money.