The establishment of the modern French nation-state was predicated on the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) – ideals institutionalized by the Third Republic towards the end of the 19th century.
The French have always valued privacy and security in their personal lives – a fact that extends into cyberspace as well. French regulators imposed a fine of US$166,777 on Facebook earlier this month purportedly because of concerns over the way it tracks user data “without legal cover.” Authorities added that the social media leviathan didn’t offer users sufficient warning about the methods it uses to extract information about their browsing habits.
We’ll get into details on the best VPNs for France further in this post, but here is a quick summary of our top picks:
- ExpressVPN Our #1 choice for France. Servers optimized for speed. Tough security and no traffic logs, thus great for P2P. Unblocks most major streaming sites like Netflix. 30-day money-back guarantee.
- IPVanish Perfect for Kodi users who need a lightweight, remote-control friendly solution. Strong security and decent speed. Can be hit-and-miss with Netflix.
- CyberGhost Aside from being fast, it is cheap, secure and works with most streaming services.
- NordVPN Easy-to-use option with fast servers. Unblocks Netflix and other popular streaming sites.
- VyprVPN Fast, secure, user-friendly. Not the cheapest on this list.
- PureVPN Strong security, decent speeds, and good mobile apps.
Despite the official commitment to privacy, there are still myriad reasons to consider using a VPN to browse the web safely and securely in France.
Using a VPN will also unlock a host of geo-restricted content on sites like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. For French residents traveling abroad, using a VPN is also an excellent option if you wish to continue streaming local premium services such as Eurosport, Canal+, and Play TV.
The Best VPNs for France
We have used the following criteria to select VPNs:
- Strong encryption parameters
- Speed and stability
- No usage logs
- Ability to unblock geo-restricted content such as Netflix
- Suitable for torrenting and P2P
Here is our list of the best VPNs for France:
ExpressVPN has a stated policy of not storing any user logs except for “dates (not times) when connected to our service, choice of server location, and the total amount of data transferred per day.”
Its encryption standards raise the bar when it comes to industry standards – using OpenVPN connections encrypted with 256-bit AES-CBC as default. 4,096-bit DHE-RSA certificates are identified by SHA-512 hashing algorithm. The service uses both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy.
In our in-depth review of ExpressVPN we noticed that it streamed 1080p video seamlessly and exhibited zero lag when it came to online gaming. Its servers are optimized for speed and stability, making it the top VPNs on our list.
ExpressVPN is an excellent choice if you wish to use it for torrents and despite the Netflix ban, remains one of the few VPNs that’s able to circumvent it.
- Works extremely well in France and for unblocking French content while abroad
- Optimized for high-speed connections which is great for streaming and downloading
- Best in class security and privacy
- Unblocks most major streaming sites including Netflix France, ZDF, Canal+ and France.tv and more
- Live chat available 24/7
- More expensive than other providers
BEST VPN FOR FRANCE:ExpressVPN is our #1 Choice. Optimized for high-speed connections. Excels at unblocking French streaming channels. Hard to beat on privacy and security. There is a 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
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IPVanish is one of the few VPN providers that physically owns the entirety of its server network (unlike others that also rent), making it a valuable ally in the quest to maintain anonymity on the web.
It keeps no records or logs about user browsing history except when people register for the first time. IPVanish uses 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication and a DHE-RSE 2048 key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. DNS leak protection and a VPN kill switch is embedded within the system architecture.
IPVanish isn’t a great choice for unlocking geo-restricted content on Netflix – you can click here to see which VPNs we recommend for that – but it does offer impressive speeds so streaming video from YouTube or other platforms won’t be a hassle at all. Torrenting is definitely part of the package, and it also makes our list of the best VPNs for this specific purpose.
- Preferred by Kodi and Firestick TV for its remote-friendly apps
- Impressive 4K streaming speeds achieved during testing
- Operates in over 60 countries, great for unblocking geo-restricted content
- Strong encryption makes apps secure
- Customer support can be a little slow
BEST BUDGET VPN:IPVanish offers strong privacy and security with a huge number of IPs and servers plus additional protection against DNS leaks. Also popular with Kodi and torrent users. 7-day money back guarantee.
Read our full review of IPVanish here.
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CyberGhost, which is based in Romania, has improved its service considerably following a management shuffle last year. It offers robust encryption, coupled with fast speeds and excellent customer support.
At the time of writing, it provides access to 3,089 servers in 61 countries. France hosts 250 of them so you shouldn’t face any problems when trying to acquire a local IP address. CyberGhost works very well with geo-restricted streaming services and the client app will guide you through the process with a step-by-step tutorial. Some of the sites it works with are Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.
This provider secures all web traffic with 256-bit encryption, perfect forward secrecy, an internet kill switch, and DNS leak protection. It will not store user data of any nature, including IP addresses. Additional security features include an ad blocker, anti-malware defense, and anti-tracking.
You can access the service on Android, iOS, Windows, or MacOS. A single subscription allows for seven devices to connect concurrently.
- Operates over 320 servers in France, great for accessing local content while abroad
- Impressed by their server speeds during testing
- Apps are very easy to install and use
- Good value provider
- Can struggle to unblock some streaming sites
BEGINNERS' CHOICE:CyberGhost has a simple set up. Works well in France and for unblocking French content. Good option if you are looking for a fast, reliable connection and an easy-to-use interface. Can struggle with unblocking some popular international streaming sites. 45-day money back guarantee.
Read our full user review of CyberGhost.
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NordVPN has a true zero logs policy – it retains no data on the site’s users visit when connected to its servers, or the time, date, and duration of each session. Its servers have been confiscated, in at least one case, but there was no stored data that authorities could use to pinpoint users.
The default protocol that NordVPN uses is OpenVPN over TCP. It also has servers optimized for things like double VPN, Tor over VPN, anti-DDos, and video streaming. DNS leak protection and an internet kill switch are both included – making it one of the most robust VPNs when it comes to encryption parameters.
The VPN provider has been in the business for over a decade, and as our comprehensive review shows, it is capable of streaming HD video without any lag while also permitting online games with low latency and fast downloads. Unlimited torrenting is permitted.
- Operates over 180 servers in France, great for unblocking geo-restricted content
- Budget provider with over a decade of experience in the industry
- Default security settings and privacy considerations are above standard
- Mobile apps and set-top devices seem to perform better than the desktop app
- Can select city location of servers, but not specific servers
AFFORDABLE CHOICE:NordVPN is easy to set up. A great value option which works reliably with torrenting. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. App doesn’t offer server switching choice. 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full NordVPN review.
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VyprVPN is viewed as a premium service – given the fact that it owns its own servers rather than rent from a third-party – so it’s optimized for things like speed and stability of connection.
However, it does retain data on user behavior which might be troubling for some users. The company says it records “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.”
The company is incorporated in Switzerland, which means it’s out of the reach of pesky government agencies from the US and UK. It uses the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication.
If you subscribe for the service, you’ll see that DNS servers are included with DNS leak protection built-in. There’s also a kill switch embedded, meaning that VyprVPN will temporarily halt all traffic if the connection drops.
Vypr isn’t a great choice for torrenting – the company doesn’t permit this activity on its servers – but it does unblock geo-restricted content on services like Netflix and Hulu.
- No logs policy nullifies France’s 1-year data retention law
- Fast speeds are perfect for streaming
- Class-leading security and privacy features
- Other VPNs have more options for advanced configuration
- Two-tier pricing structure can be confusing
UNLIMITED DATA USAGE:VyprVPN is user friendly. Good speeds and uptime as all servers are owned by VyprVPN. Great Privacy and security. Unblocks popular French channels. Not the cheapest option. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
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PureVPN doesn’t retain any data on user browsing history except for a timestamp and total amount of bandwidth used when connected to a server. The company is headquartered in Hong Kong which has no mandatory data retention laws – meaning it’s out of the reach of government agencies.
Torrenting is allowed on most servers but the service isn’t able to skirt around Netflix VPN restrictions. It uses 256-bit AES encrypted L2TP/IPSec protocol along with DNS leak protection and a VPN kill switch.
- Unblocks geo-restricted services
- Large server network
- Easy-to-use interface with plenty of customization options
- Getting connected occasionally took up to a minute during testing
- Speeds are sometimes unpredictable
- Overcoming the stigma of earlier bad press surrounding privacy
EASY TO USE:PureVPN has a great app. Offers strong security and the ability to unblock popular French channels. It pegs some fast speeds but can have some connection issues. 7-day money back guarantee.
Read our full PureVPN review.
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VPNs to avoid
In some cases, VPN providers have been caught handing over user data to authorities or illegally mining browsing history to sell to 3rd party advertisers. Here are some we recommend you avoid:
Hide My Ass
In 2011 London-based Hide My Ass allegedly cooperated with US and UK authorities and handed over login data of 23-year-old Cody Kretsinger – accused of hacking Sony Pictures.
The incident pointed to a twisted philosophy at the company. It claimed to not record and store any user data – except for log-on and log-off time – but subsequent actions proved otherwise. You can read our Hide my Ass review here.
Israel-based Hola, which had developed a browser plugin designed to circumvent geo-restricted content, was caught engaging in a bunch of spurious activity – including selling your data to anyone willing to cough up the cash for it, diverting traffic through your personal internet connection, and continually monitoring browsing history.
Betternet comes up as a result if you search for a free VPN option and, from the outset, looks like a decent option given that it allows several simultaneous connections and is relatively fast. But it’s not a charity by any means – all the money it pays to rent server space and maintain a technical team is earned back via an ad platform it runs.
This ad platform accesses your cookies to bombard you with advertisements, suggested app installs, and other migraine-inducing content.
There’s always the option of finding a free VPN service – they’re hiding in plain sight and a casual search on Google or Reddit will definitely do the job. Technically such services don’t charge you any money for usage but that doesn’t mean they’re free by any yardstick.
Our recommendation is to avoid such options like the plague. They’re businesses too – meaning they need to make money in order to stay afloat – so they’ll bombard you with all sorts of nasty advertisements and sell your data to third-party companies for monetary compensation.
Contracting a malware infection is a definite possibility and forget about getting the same speed or customer service that paid VPN options offer. In the long run, you’re better off spending a few dollars and getting exemplary service – trust us, it’s worth it.
How to get a French IP address
If you’re a French resident that’s planning on living abroad for a bit, it’s likely that a bunch of local content will remain inaccessible if you log in from a foreign country. One way to circumvent this issue is by connecting to a VPN recommended above – all you have to do is select a French server before opening your internet browser and you should be good to go.
The advantages of getting a French IP address also go beyond accessing geo-restricted content. Your search engine will assume you’re in France – so it’ll show you the results most relevant to you and in your local language, if you prefer. Some French banking and financial institutions also require a local IP before allowing access to online services.
What is the future of French internet?
Emergency powers put in place by President Hollande in 2015 gave authorities sweeping powers to conduct house arrests, raids, and searches of electronic devices such as laptops, PCs, smartphones, and tablets without any warrants.
The same year, the French Constitutional Council approved most provisions of a new law that forces internet service providers to monitor the online behavior of suspicious users and relay that information back to intelligence agencies.
There are concerns that this law can be abused to establish a far-reaching surveillance apparatus which will directly impact the lives of all French residents, whether they like it or not.
These troubling developments make a compelling argument for using a VPN when browsing the web in France. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a remote server, thereby shielding its content and destination from internet service providers, hackers, and government agencies like the NSA.
Even the United Nations committee for human rights has warned against the tenets of the law – saying it “grants overly broad powers for very intrusive surveillance on the basis of vast and broadly defined objectives.” It added that French authorities must balance the subsequent interference in private life according to defined principles of legality, proportionality, and necessity.
Not only does the law allow electronic monitoring of mobile devices, it also gives intelligence agencies the right to install secret cameras and recording devices in people’s homes. It’s also possible to install keylogger devices and metadata can be stored for up to five years.
Other advocacy bodies, such as Privacy International and La Quadrature du Net, also sharply criticised the developments, saying the poorly-drafted bill makes no provision for judicial authorisation and that the French parliament had “endorsed a fundamental decline in human rights.”
Watching French television when abroad
The use of a VPN can also unlock French television. This means French residents traveling abroad can obfuscate their location by signing up for a VPN (we recommend one of the paid ones on this list), selecting a server in France, clearing the cookies in their web browser, and then accessing the individual streaming links.
The following channels allow free access to anyone with a French IP address. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and more may be added:
- TV5 Monde
- BFM TV
How do I watch Ligue 1 from outside France?
The French football league, also known as Ligue 1, is massively popular with French residents. Naturally, this translates into an eagerness to watch the matches live as they’re broadcasted. We recommend using a VPN to change your IP address to French and logging into channels like Eurosport who show the games live. You might need to register and sign up for the service with a French credit card beforehand, please consult with individual broadcasters before proceeding.
- 1 The Best VPNs for France
- 2 1. ExpressVPN
- 3 Special Offer - get 3 months extra FREE
- 4 2. IPVanish
- 5 Comparitech Exclusive - save 60% on the 1 year plan
- 6 3. CyberGhost
- 7 Flash Sale - save 79% on the 3 year plan
- 8 4. NordVPN
- 9 Save 75% with this limited deal on 3 year plans
- 10 5. VyprVPN
- 11 Save 69% on the 2 year plan
- 12 6. PureVPN
- 13 Save 74% on the 2 year plan
- 14 VPNs to avoid
- 15 How to get a French IP address
- 16 What is the future of French internet?
- 17 Watching French television when abroad
- 18 How do I watch Ligue 1 from outside France?