A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a necessary tool anywhere in the world. Even in South Africa, where the online environment is generally quite healthy, there is a definite need to protect your information from hackers or government surveillance.
The way a VPN becomes useful in such situations is by connecting you to a remote server and then encrypting that channel so it cannot be traced or observed. It helps to restore privacy, security, and anonymity in an online environment where those rights are quickly vanishing.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of five VPN providers that would be especially great for restoring those rights to internet users in South Africa.
Our VPN ranking system
We’ve chosen these options based on the following criteria:
- VPN security
- Entertainment (effectiveness against geo-blocking, torrenting capabilities)
- Reliability against firewalls and censorship
- Ease of use and customer support
So, without much ado, let’s see who made the Top 5.
1. NordVPN ‣
The best VPN for South Africa
- Pros: great security, great speeds, massive server list, torrenting, 24/7 support
- Cons: slower than the fastest VPN on this list
- Price: starts at $3.49
- VPNpro rating: 9.5
Even if you’ve never really looked into VPN providers before, there’s a good chance you may have heard of NordVPN. It’s one of the most popular providers on the market, and because the VPN industry is an industry of trust, that also suggests it’s one of the best.
First off, NordVPN uses AES-256-bit encryption to keep your information safe. This level of protection cannot be brute-forced by hackers nor observed by surveillance teams and is the gold standard for cybersecurity in 2019.
NordVPN also takes further steps to ensure your privacy is never compromised. It’s registered in Panama, which is outside the jurisdiction of the Fourteen Eyes alliance. Panama also has very permissive data laws, and its government has no power to inspect the servers hosted in the country.
Of course, that all changes if they have a warrant. Thankfully, NordVPN logs none of your activity on its servers, so if the Panamanian authorities did get a look, there’d be a total lack of relevant data in general.
Finally, NordVPN has possibly the largest server fleet on the market: over 5,700 spread across 60 countries. That it offers all this firepower for such a low price is a major reason why it’s one of the best VPN for South Africa.
2. TorGuard ‣
Great for torrenting and more
- Pros: great security, torrent support, massive server list
- Cons: based in the US
- Price: starts at $4.99
- VPNpro rating: 8.8
TorGuard is a VPN provider that, as indicated by its name, is expressly designed to satisfy users who habitually torrent.
TorGuard’s paid packages offer great speeds, lots of servers, and airtight encryption in order to keep users safe while torrenting. Even in its most basic package, it at least offers an Anonymous Proxy service, which shows a clear dedication to those who torrent on a regular basis.
However, it is slightly alarming to note that TorGuard is registered in the US, which is one of the original members of the Five Eyes alliance.
This means that the US has the legal authority to send data requests to TorGuard – on behalf of itself or any of the other 5/9/14 Eyes member states – and TorGuard has no choice but to comply with these requests.
As such, TorGuard may not be the most well-rounded provider on this list, but from the viewpoint of torrenting alone, it’s easily one of the best VPN for South Africa.
3. ExpressVPN ‣
The premium choice
- Pros: great security, great protocols, large server list, torrenting, live chat support
- Cons: expensive
- Price: starts at $8.32
- VPNpro rating: 9.6
No matter the region we’re focusing on, we cannot go long without mentioning ExpressVPN. It’s another market leader that has earned a great reputation through earning its customers’ trust throughout its ten years of existence.
If it’s so expensive, though, how can it be one of the best VPN for South Africa?
Admittedly, brand recognition is part of it. ExpressVPN has earned the right to charge the prices it does because it’s known to be bulletproof (check its AES-256-CBC cipher, BVI registry, and no-logs if you aren’t sure).
It’s also one of the most accessible options on the market. ExpressVPN offers custom apps for every major operating system and custom extensions for every major browser, even the ones that usually go forgotten, i.e. Safari.
Moreover, its overall server count may not quite match what Nord offers (2,000 to Nord’s 5,300), but Express’ servers are actually spread over a wider range of countries (90 to Nord’s 65).
Most VPN providers focus their server base in North America and Europe, so a wider base of servers means that regions that don’t usually have enough support – such as Sub-Saharan Africa – can enjoy the same reliable connections as Europeans and Americans.
4. ProtonVPN ‣
The best free option
- Pros: great security, geo-unblocking, user-friendliness, support, great free version
- Cons: average speeds
- Price: starts at $4.00 (there’s also a free version)
- VPNpro rating: 8.0
ProtonVPN is one of the best VPN for South Africa if you don’t mind paying mid-range prices, and it’s also a great choice if you’re strapped for cash.
What do we mean by this? Well, ProtonVPN exists in two guises: a free version that gives you all the VPN basics, or a paid version that gives you that extra oomph with Tor servers or multi-hop VPN.
Most free VPN providers are usually terrible, but then again, most free VPN providers weren’t developed by nuclear physicists. ProtonVPN, which comes from the CERN in Switzerland (another privacy haven), is a true exception to the rule.
Aside from the AES-256-bit encryption and reliable no-logs policy, the free version of ProtonVPN is unlike any other free options because it offers unlimited downloads, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited server switches.
Really, the only reason you’d need the paid option is if you really want to tighten up your security credentials (though that’s still a good idea). Even if you’re just seeing how VPN works, however, ProtonVPN is the most reliable free option on the market today.
The F1 of VPNs
- Pros: great security, fantastic speeds, torrenting, geo-unblocking, live chat support
- Cons: expensive
- Price: starts at $8.33
- VPNpro rating: 8.9
Astrill VPN is another of the more expensive options we’re including here. On the plus side, though, it’s also one of the fastest.
Every VPN provider we’ve mentioned thus far generally supports torrenting, and each one is reliable in terms of bypassing geo-restrictions such as the ones imposed by Netflix. Owing to its strong performances, however, Astrill is by far the best at these practices.
While there may actually be even faster VPN providers out there, none combine their great performances with Astrill’s security credentials. Not only does it secure your server connections with AES-256-bit encryption, but it’s also registered in Seychelles, a territory without invasive data retention laws or legal jurisdiction to freely survey server information.
Astrill isn’t exactly a specialist VPN provider, but its capabilities make it great for users who require the strongest possible server connections while remaining totally private, secure, and anonymous online.
Whichever way you look at it, then, Astrill VPN is clearly one of the best VPN for South Africa.
Is it safe to use a VPN in South Africa?
With certain developments in the South African judiciary system, furthermore, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that internet freedom in the country is about to take a nosedive.
For instance, South Africa refused to back the 2016 UN resolution for “the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet”, instead choosing to side with repressive countries such as Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia.
Worse still, a new cybercrimes law introduced in 2015 has been criticized for its potential to limit freedom of expression. In 2017, a publication named Black Opinion was also taken down for ‘inciting racial hatred’ (for what it’s worth, the main complaint was that the site was criticizing the fact that SA’s capital is largely white-controlled).
If you’re in South Africa, which of these VPNs have you used before? Did we miss any great VPNs for South Africa? Let us know in the comments below.