Zimbabwe has gone silent. Amidst mass protests against prices increases, which that are being violently repressed by the authorities, the Zimbabwe government has ordered a total shut down of the internet on Tuesday, January 15. It is reportedly back on today, after 30 hours of blackout. However, access to social media is still restricted and the authorities have now ordered all Zimbabwean ISPs to block access to VPN services. Such times call for a Best VPN for Zimbabwe list.
Following a national call to strike by the country’s unions on Monday, tensions between protesters and police forces quickly escalated to a bloody repression with hundreds wounded, say local NGOs. Reports of abusive arrests as well as nightly abductions and beatings of regime opponents in the streets of the capital, Harare, keep reaching news outlets around the world.
The protests were sparked when the Zimbabwe government announced an almost 145% increase in the price of fuel – making it one of the highest in the world, despite the country already being ridden by unemployment, food shortages and a plaguing inflation rate in the aftermath of 37 disastrous years of Robert Mugabe’s reign, as well as the 2017 military coup that saw him replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, “The Butcher” as some of its opponents call him.
In a sadly cynical attempt to calm the situation down, the president of Zimbabwe, while visiting Russia, issued a statement on Wednesday in which he declared that “everyone in Zimbabwe has the right to express themselves freely – to speak out, to criticise and to protest.” Unfortunately, actions did not follow words and the Twitter feeds of expat Zimbabweans are still telling a story of communication breakdown, trending under #ZimbabweShutdown or #SwitchBackOnZw.
Indeed, if the Internet seems to be back on today, the main social media and communication channels, such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp are still blocked. ISPs have received instructions to block access to VPN services. And it makes little doubt that there are no other reasons for it than the usual authoritarian attempt to restrict the people’s freedom and to cover potential state crimes.
There are a few ways for a government to block the use of a VPN, such as IP or Port blocking, DNS-level blocking, and DPI (Deep Packet Inspection). While these methods will succeed in blocking some VPNs on the market, the best ones have long worked their way around these blockage attempts and can still offer a secure and private connection to the internet, even in Zimbabwe. Let us round up the best of them here.
Best VPN services for Zimbabwe
1. NordVPN ‣
- Location: Panama
- Pricing: starts from $3.49/month
- Features: Market leading encryption and privacy protection, innovative Double VPN option and CyberSec protection, fast speeds, up to 6 devices covered, no-logs policy, Bitcoin payments allowed, great at geo-unblocking, extremely reliable
NordVPN generally ranks up there with the best in the sector, and this is also the case when it comes to the Best VPNs for Zimbabwe. It has servers in the neighbouring South Africa, which should result in very good speeds in Zimbabwe. Moreover, its impressive 5200+ server list worldwide makes it difficult to block for governments. Need proof? It works even in China, bypassing their Great Firewall somewhat easily. Security-wise NordVPN scores very well with its CyberSec malware shield, offers a 2048-bit handshake and 256-bit data encryption and additional security provided by the “double” setup.
You can try NordVPN, or its contender ExpressVPN, for up to 30 days before claiming your money back. So it’s often a good idea to try both and pick the most reliable. At $3.49/month, Nord is also one of the cheapest options among the premium VPNs out there. Besides, you may connect up to 6 devices under one account, meaning the whole family could benefit from a single VPN subscription.
And the downsides? Well, there aren’t many, but we must admit that although speeds are good, they do dip a little below what our number two option offers, due to their extra layers of security. One can’t have it all… So we docked a couple of points there. Other than that, NordVPN is an excellent choice and if you are looking for maximum security this still may be your preferred provider.
2. ExpressVPN ‣
- Location: British Virgin Islands
- Pricing: starts from $8.32/month
- Features: Wide range of protocols, excellent encryption, very fast speeds, supports numerous platforms, great at geo-unblocking, very reliable, no logs, BitCoin payments allowed.
ExpressVPN appears often as one of the top two finest Virtual Private Networks in the world, and it’s no surprise it appears as one of the best contenders in our Best VPN for Zimbabwe list as well. It also has servers in South Africa for good performances in the Southern parts of Africa. It didn’t rank as number one, but there is no doubt one can safely rely on ExpressVPN as an alternative to NordVPN.
ExpressVPN checks pretty much all the boxes of a very good VPN client. Being based in the BVI, it does not fall under the 14-Eyes data scrutiny. The global server network guarantees fast connections and allows to bypass geo-blocks easily. And in terms of security it is almost as advanced as NordVP.
ExpressVPN prioritizes customer privacy, and the Virtual Private Network keeps zero logs as a matter of course. Another bonus is the 30-day money back guarantee. If for any reason the VPN doesn’t work well in Zimbabwe, you can easily redeem this guarantee, and try something else.
3. ProtonVPN ‣
- Location: Switzerland
- Pricing: starts from $4.00/month but offers a free version
- Features: great security credentials, user-friendly, support, best free version on the market
Let us say this from the get-go: we are listing ProtonVPN among the five best VPNs for Zimbabwe because it offers a great free version, making it a great option for any kind of budget (including no budget). But while it lists a total of 347 servers across the world, the free version will only allow you to connect through servers in Japan, the Netherlands and the USA. Those servers being quite remote from Zimbabwe, this means you may experience slower speeds.
The free version will not limit your bandwidth (which all other free VPNs do… and when they don’t it means they cannot be trusted with what they do with your private data), it will not limit your number of server switches nor how much you can download. But some of its premium security features will not be available with the free version.
Don’t get us wrong, ProtonVPN will do the job quite well, and amongst the VPNs offering a free version, it is certainly the best. Its standard security protocols mean it will keep you safe and allow you to bypass the government blocking of VPNs in Zimbabwe. but it does not come close to our top two contenders or even to our next pick.
- Location: Seychelles
- Pricing: starts at $8.33/month
- Features: great security, great server list, good for torrenting, high download speeds, awesome support
When it comes to speed, you get exactly what you paid for with Astrill VPN, if not a little more. And this is the reason we placed it fourth on our list of the Best VPNs for Zimbabwe. Its main design is to allow fast and secure torrenting and it does that better than most of its competitors, and in particular free VPNs.
Astrill is so much more than just speedy, however. As with NordVPN, it’s practically impenetrable, relying on the same AES-256-bit encryption cipher and DNS leak protection that makes our top choice so perfect for safe surfing. Astrill’s country of registration, Seychelles, also has no data retention laws and resides far beyond the grasp of the Eyes alliances.
Unfortunately, this all comes at a price, and that is why Astrill ranks 4th in our Best VPN for Zimbabwe overview. It arguably may be worth paying a little extra for higher speeds with those hyper-secure VPN servers. It’s all down to your priorities and budget.
- Location: Canada
- Pricing: starts at $1.00/month, offers a free but limited version
- Features: good security, 480 servers on their list (some located in Africa), user friendly, integrated malware and ad-blocker, 1 device only
Fifth on our list of the best VPNs for Zimbabwe is Windscribe. Truth be told there are several reasons why we would rather recommend another VPN than Windscribe. For starters, they are registered in Canada, which is a member of the 5 Eyes alliance. And despite their no-logs policy, we cannot guarantee that your data is safe from curious governmental eyes while surfing with Windscribe.
While they have servers on the African continent that could create a faster connection from Zimbabwe (respectively in South Africa and Tunisia), none of those locations are available with the free version of this VPN. And the free version of Windscribe only allows one device at a time and sets a limit of 10GB of data per month. Not bad for a free VPN but still insufficient if you want to share videos with your friends or followers.
So why Windscribe? It offers good security, with the same level of encryption as some of the other VPN services on the list, and OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, which are the best you can find on the market nowadays. It has anti geo-blocking features that should allow you to stream content even from restricted countries (but keep in mind that 10GB of monthly data limit). Therefore, if you do not have the budget to buy a commercial VPN and for some reason do not find ProtonVPN good for your needs, as a free option, Windscribe is a good contender amongst the best VPNs for Zimbabwe.