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5 Best FREE VPNs for the Dark Web: Safe Tor Access in 2023

Most free VPNs won’t make it safer to use Tor. Since Tor is more secure than standard browsers, I can understand why you’d feel safe combining it with a free VPN. But your ISP knows when you connect to Tor, and it takes a quality VPN to hide this fact.

After testing 30+ free VPNs, I found a few that will cover Tor’s vulnerabilities. They use strong encryption that ensures no one knows when you’re on Tor. But all free VPNs come with limitations, like slow speeds and fewer features to protect your privacy.

While there are some decent free options, I recommend using ExpressVPN when you connect to Tor. No free VPN can match its combination of superfast speeds, a proven privacy policy, and strong security features. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, too, so if it isn't for you, you can easily get a full refund.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free

Short on Time? Here Are the Best Free VPNs for the Dark Web

  1. ExpressVPN – Comes with blazing-fast speeds, a strict no-logs policy, and a hidden.onion site that you can access on the dark web. Plus, you can try it out risk-free.
  2. CyberGhost – Offers NoSpy servers to protect your privacy, along with a proven privacy policy.
  3. Proton VPN – Free version with unlimited data, but significantly slower speeds.
  4. Avira Phantom VPN – Free VPN with unlimited simultaneous connections, but there’s no kill switch.
  5. hide.me – Free VPN with strong security features, but has a strict data cap.

Use ExpressVPN With Tor

5 Best Free VPNs for the Dark Web — Full Analysis (Updated 2023)

1. ExpressVPN — Superfast Speeds and the Best Privacy Features for Browsing the Dark Web

  • Unlimited data so you can use Tor as long as you want
  • 3,000 servers worldwide for fast speeds from anywhere
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
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ExpressVPN is much faster than every free VPN I tested. This is super important because Tor significantly reduces your speeds. But there weren’t any noticeable changes when I connected to ExpressVPN. When I tested the speeds across multiple US servers, I only had an 11% drop in speed. This was faster than any other VPN. Every VPN will slow you down at least a little, but ExpressVPN does the best job at maintaining your speeds.

It has a strict no-logs policy, so you can trust it with your data. The policy was audited and proven in court, so I’m confident it won’t record your information. I also like that ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. The BVI are outside of the 14-Eyes Alliance, an agreement between governments to share citizens’ data. So ExpressVPN won’t be forced to spy on you. Plus, it uses RAM-based servers (which it calls TrustedServer technology) that ensure it can't store any data.

Screenshot of leak test performed on ipleak.net while connected to ExpressVPN's New York serverI never experienced any leaks in several tests across multiple countries

ExpressVPN has 3,000 servers in 94 countries worldwide. The vast server network makes it easier to find a nearby location and keep your connection fast on Tor. The less distance your data has to travel, the better your speeds. Most free VPNs have small server networks, so this makes ExpressVPN stand out. I also appreciate that it has its own onion site on the dark web, which improves performance and prevents tracking via exit nodes.

ExpressVPN’s security features make sure no one knows you’re using Tor. These include AES 256-bit military-grade encryption, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch that blocks your connection if the VPN disconnects. I tested the kill switch by changing servers, and it blocked all internet traffic until a secure connection was established.

It also lets you choose between several security protocols, including OpenVPN and its own Lightway. Plus, you can use its Threat Manager feature to prevent downloading files with malware while you're on Tor.

Split tunneling lets you direct traffic from some apps and browsers through the VPN while leaving the rest of your traffic unencrypted. This can improve your connection speed since the VPN doesn't have to encrypt all of your data. It’s a nice feature that I didn’t find in any free VPNs.

ExpressVPN isn’t free, but it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can test all its features risk-free and easily get a refund if you're not satisfied. I put this to the test to see how easy it was. I used the 24/7 live chat feature to contact support, and it only took them 2 minutes to approve my request. They told me it would take 5-7 days, but I got all my money returned in 3.

Use ExpressVPN With Tor

2. CyberGhost — NoSpy Servers Protect Your Privacy While You Use Tor

  • No data restrictions, so you can browse the dark web without limits
  • 9,758 servers in 91 countries so you can maintain your speeds
  • 7 simultaneous connections
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
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CyberGhost's NoSpy servers are an excellent way to protect your privacy while browsing the dark web. They're located at the VPN's secure headquarters in Romania, making unauthorized access virtually impossible. Extra privacy features like this aren’t offered by any free VPN, so this is one of the main reasons why I recommend using CyberGhost with Tor instead.

Screenshot of CyberGhost's Windows app highlighting where to the find the NoSpy serversThese servers drop your speeds a bit, but it's worth it for the added peace of mind

It has a proven no-logs policy so it won’t store your data. On top of that, its home country of Romania is outside the 14-Eyes Alliance. I’m impressed with how open CyberGhost is about its policies, too. It publishes 4 transparency reports a year. This is more than any free VPN I tested and is further proof that it keeps no logs. Plus, it comes with a feature called ID Guard that alerts you if your email address shows up in a data breach.

CyberGhost secures your data with AES 256-bit encryption, which is the same standard that banks and governments use. This makes sure your ISP can’t see when you’re using Tor. Plus, it offers leak protection, multiple protocols (including OpenVPN and Wireguard), split tunneling (on Windows and Android), and an automatic kill switch. I tested the kill switch, and it always blocked my connection while I switched servers.

CyberGhost also offers superfast speeds and unlimited data. When I performed speed tests, I only had a 13% drop in speed. This didn’t make any difference in page loading times or downloads while I was using Tor. CyberGhost has 9,758 servers in 91 locations, which cuts down on overcrowding to keep your speeds fast.

It's important to note that CyberGhost isn't free. But it does offer the longest money-back guarantee period on the market – you can try it for up to 45 days with no risk. If you choose a shorter plan, you'll only get a 14-day guarantee. When I tested this policy, I was able to get my money back easily and quickly. I just contacted customer support via live chat and asked for a refund. I received the money in my bank account after 6 days.

Use CyberGhost With Tor

3. Proton VPN — Free Plan With Unlimited Data for Browsing the Dark Web

  • Unlimited data so you can browse the dark web without time restrictions
  • 3 free server locations you can use to access Tor
  • 1 device connection
  • Can unblock: Netflix Originals, YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, and Instagram

Proton VPN is one of the few free VPNs that does not restrict you with data limits. This allows you to browse the dark web as much as you want.

Proton VPN’s strict no-logs policy makes it one of the most trustworthy free VPNs. Plus, it’s based in Switzerland. This country is outside of the 14-Eyes Alliance and has strong online privacy laws.

You don’t have to worry about your sensitive information being compromised in the event of a data breach

With AES 256-bit encryption and leak protection, it’s one of the safest free VPNs. Plus, it passed all of my leak tests. This means you can use it to access Tor without your ISP being alerted. Proton VPN also comes with a kill switch that successfully blocked my connection any time I switched servers. I also like that it lets you use multiple protocols like OpenVPN and Wireguard.

There are only 3 locations accessible in the free version: the US, the Netherlands, and Japan. Since there aren’t many free servers, they tend to get crowded – which could seriously slow you down on Tor. While testing its US server location, I recorded speed reductions of over 52%. This was a much bigger drop than I got with ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. But it still works for browsing the dark web if you don’t mind slower speeds.

Free users have a few more limitations too. You can only use it on one device at a time, and there’s a “Tor over VPN” feature that’s unavailable. This routes all your traffic through Tor while the VPN is connected. It’s not a huge issue because you can still use free servers with Tor. You just have to access the Tor browser after you activate the VPN. Proton VPN’s integrated ad-blocker is also unavailable with the free plan.

Use Proton VPN With Tor

4. Avira Phantom VPN — Access Tor on Any Device With Unlimited Connections

  • Up to 1 GB of data per month to browse the dark web
  • 1,400 servers in 37 countries on mobile and 1 free server on desktop to connect to Tor
  • Unlimited simultaneous device connections
  • Can unblock: Netflix Originals, YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, and Instagram

Avira Phantom VPN is one of the only free services that lets you connect as many devices as you want. This way you can browse the dark web on most of your devices. I just wish it was compatible with Linux (there’s no Linux app for any tier).

It also gives you decent speeds. In my tests, I lost about 53% from my base speed. This wasn’t a big deal since I have a fast connection. But, if you have slow internet, this could make browsing on Tor difficult.

You get 500 MB of data per month, or 1 GB if you sign up with your email. This limits how long you can browse. You can also use all of its servers on mobile devices, but you can only access the nearest location on desktop.

It offers good security, but there’s no kill switch. On the positive side, Avira Phantom VPN passed all of my leak tests, so your data will be hidden on Tor as long as the VPN doesn’t disconnect. Plus, its strict no-logs policy lets you know it won’t record or sell your data.

Unfortunately, Avira Phantom VPN is based in Germany. This country is in the 14-Eyes Alliance, which makes me worry that Avira could be asked to change its privacy policy in the future. I’m also disappointed that you can’t access customer support without a premium plan.

Use Avira Phantom VPN With Tor

5. hide.me — Stealth Guard Ensures You Never Access Tor Without Encryption

  • 10 GB data limit per month for browsing on the dark web
  • 8 free server locations to access Tor
  • 1 device connection
  • Can unblock: Netflix Originals, YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, and Instagram

For browsing the dark web, hide.me’s greatest advantage is Stealth Guard: a free feature that lets you block Tor until your VPN is connected. It lets you pick any apps you want the VPN to block when it’s disconnected. I like this because sometimes I forget to turn on my VPN before I go online. Second, it offers 2 obfuscation protocols that allow the VPN to work in in countries that regulate or try to block VPN use. Even paid VPNs usually only offer 1 (if any), so I was impressed by this.

It’s not the fastest, but hide.me still gave me decent speeds for a free VPN. I got a 56% drop while testing its US East server. That’s a significant reduction, but it’s still good enough for browsing the dark web with some added delays.

You can only access servers in 8 countries with the free plan. These servers are in the US (East and West), the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, France, Singapore, and Germany. You’re further restricted with a 10 GB data limit per month.

One more good thing about hide.me is that you can contact its 24/7 live chat support even on the free plan. When I reached out to them, the support agent was friendly and promptly answered my questions. I also like that you don’t need to sign up to use hide.me; you can download the app and connect to a server without entering any personal information.

Use hide.me With Tor

Warning: Risks of Free VPNs

All free VPNs come with limitations; plus, many don't respect your privacy and can't keep you safe. That’s why the best way to stay safe on Tor is with a premium VPN. Here’s what you should look out for before downloading a random free VPN:

  • Free VPNs can keep logs and sell your personal data. Since free services need a way to earn revenue, they often run targeted advertisements. But some make money by recording your personal information and selling it to advertisers.
  • Free VPNs often have weaker security features. Some free VPNs can't hide your location or properly encrypt your data. This means that hackers, governments, and anyone else can find your identifiable information.
  • Free VPNs may come with malware or viruses. When free VPNs bundle malware and adware into their apps, it can slow down your device. Even worse, it can be used to steal your sensitive data.

Free VPNs to Avoid

These VPNs aren’t trustworthy and shouldn’t be used with Tor:

  • Hola Free VPN — This is actually a P2P network, not a VPN. This means it doesn’t encrypt your data, and it shares your IP with anyone on the network. Plus, its privacy policy states that it records your browsing history, IP address, and more.
  • Betternet VPN — When you install Betternet, you’ll add malware to your device. Its Android app is especially dangerous; it comes with over 10 tracking libraries used to harvest your data.
  • TouchVPN – This service has been known to record your browsing history and sell it to third parties for targeted ads. It’s also a proxy, so it can’t protect you the way a VPN does.

Use ExpressVPN With Tor

Tips on How to Choose the Best Free VPN for the Dark Web

These are the criteria I used to rank the VPNs on my list. I recommend considering these features before you choose your VPN:

  • Strong security features. I looked for VPNs that offer military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, which is virtually unbreakable. A kill switch is another necessary security feature that will block your connection if the VPN ever disconnects. You’ll also want leak protection to make sure your real location is kept hidden. The top 4 VPNs on my list come with these 3 essential features and much more.
  • No-logs policy. You need to trust your VPN to handle your data responsibly. A proven no-logs policy shows you that a VPN won’t store or sell your information. Every VPN on my list comes with a strict no-logs policy.
  • Fast speeds. Tor reroutes your traffic through several locations, which significantly slows down your connection. Every VPN will reduce your speeds too, so you want one that does it the least. The top 2 VPNs on my list barely lower your speeds at all.
  • Large server networks. This prevents slowdowns due to overcrowding, and you'll get the fastest speeds by using a server close to you. The top 2 VPNs in my list have huge networks, so there's a good chance you can find a fast server nearby.
  • Data allowance. Most free VPNs limit the amount of data you can use. The top VPNs on my list give you unlimited data, so you can browse the dark web as long as you want.

Use ExpressVPN With Tor

How to Use a VPN with Tor

  1. Sign up for a VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN because it’s the fastest and most secure, and it even has its own.onion site to prevent tracking.
  2. Download and install the VPN. Make sure it’s compatible with the device you use for Tor.
  3. Log in with your VPN account. If no login is required, skip this step.
  4. Connect to a server. I recommend finding a nearby server to minimize latency because Tor is quite slow.
  5. Download and install Tor browser. I suggest you download it from Tor’s official site to ensure you don’t get a version with malware.
  6. Open the Tor browser and click Connect to Tor. You’re now connected to a VPN as well as Tor.
  7. Enter a verified.onion URL in the address bar. You can find genuine.onion URLs on several indexes maintained by verified publishers, but make sure the list is up to date. Now you’re good to go, but you can find more tips about using Tor safely here.

Use ExpressVPN With Tor

FAQs About Free VPNs for the Dark Web

Is it safe to browse the dark web without a VPN?

No, it isn’t safe to browse the dark web without a VPN. While Tor encrypts your data, your ISP and the government can still see that you’re using Tor, which might draw suspicion or even get you in legal trouble. Plus, some Tor nodes can be compromised and track your data.

Using a VPN (even a free one) adds an extra layer of encryption, ensuring your privacy and security as you browse the dark web. My team and I don’t condone any illegal activities, so I recommend you read up on your local laws before deciding to use Tor.

Are free VPNs better than no VPNs for dark web access?

Yes, a free VPN is better than no VPN at all, but a premium VPN is your best option. All free VPNs have limitations, such as speed and data caps or small server networks. The worst ones can host malware and sell your data to advertisers. The top premium VPNs have no data limits, vast server networks, and optimal connection speeds, and can be trusted to keep your data private.

Is onion routing better than a VPN?

Both onion routing and VPNs have their advantages, but VPNs offer more comprehensive protection. I recommend you combine a VPN with Tor for maximum security. Tor reroutes your connection through multiple user-hosted servers, so no one can track your browsing history. But your ISP and government can still see that you’re connected to Tor.

A VPN encrypts your data and sends it through one of its own servers. This process is much faster than onion routing, and adds an extra level of security. VPNs are more suitable for day-to-day activities, while Tor is best when you need to access the dark web.

Should I use Tor over VPN or VPN over Tor?

You should use Tor over VPN in most cases, as it provides more reliable security. I recommend you use a quality premium VPN to protect your privacy during this process. To use Tor over VPN, first connect to a VPN server, and then connect to Tor. If you do this, no one will be able to see that you’re using Tor.

To use VPN over Tor, you need to connect to Tor before your VPN. In this case, your ISP and government can see that you’re using Tor, but they won’t be able to see the data encrypted by the VPN. But with this method, you can’t access the dark web. It’s only useful in rare situations where you want the anonymity of Tor while accessing the clear web.

Is the dark web legal?

Accessing the dark web via Tor is legal in most countries. Many people use the dark web for illegal activities, so I suggest connecting to a VPN to protect yourself. However, countries like China and Russia have banned Tor completely. My team and I do not condone any illegal activities. So I recommend reading up on your local laws to make sure accessing the dark web is legal where you live.

Use ExpressVPN With Tor

Get the Best Free VPN for the Dark Web Today

All free VPNs come with restrictions. While the free VPNs on my list are safe, they won’t let you browse the dark web as easily or securely as a premium VPN will.

I recommend using ExpressVPN to stay safe on Tor. No free VPN can match its combination of superfast speeds, unlimited data, and a verified privacy policy. You can also try it out with Tor risk-free. If it doesn’t work out for you, you can easily get a refund thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.

The best VPNs for the dark web with money-back guarantees are...

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About the Author

Anshul is a writer and cybersecurity enthusiast, with a keen interest in AI, Cryptocurrency, and DeFi. He focuses on navigating today's online world with complete security, privacy, and anonymity, and wants to help his readers do the same.

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