5 Best VPNs for the Dark Web in 2020 (+How to Access It)
The dark web is associated with illegal criminal activity. Today, it’s recognized as an important tool for online privacy and political activists fighting against oppression and censorship.
Unfortunately, this recognition has led to intense countermeasures from some governments. Both China and Iran have succeeded in blocking or partially blocking Tor, while Russia and France have both expressed an interest in banning the network.
Even in countries where accessing the dark web is not technically illegal, usage of the Tor browser is recognized as suspicious and could be held against you.
To access the dark web safely and anonymously, you need to use a VPN. Not only will a VPN allow you to unblock Tor in countries where it has been banned, but it will also prevent your ISP, government agencies, or other third parties from monitoring or tracking your Tor usage.
How to Use a VPN to Access the Dark Web: Quick Guide
- Choose a secure VPN that keeps no logs. ExpressVPN is our top recommendation.
- Install and connect to your chosen VPN client.
- Install and open Tor browser.
- Browse the dark web anonymously and safely.
Why You Need a VPN to Access the Dark Web
A VPN is necessary for accessing the dark web for two reasons. Firstly, if you live in a country where Tor or similar browsers have been banned or blocked. And secondly, to prevent your ISP or anyone else from detecting that you’re using Tor.
Currently, China’s Great Firewall is successfully blocking Tor, both via the network’s public and secret entry relays. To get around a geoblock this substantial, you need a VPN that is powerful enough to unblock censored content.
VPNs can unblock censored content by masking your IP address and rerouting your traffic through a server in a different country. In other words, a country where Tor is not banned.
Only the strongest VPNs with the biggest networks are capable of bypassing geo-restrictions like those imposed by the Great Firewall.
Even if you live in a country where dark web browsers are not blocked, it’s still a good idea to use a VPN.
Browsing the dark web itself is not illegal. However, since the dark web is so strongly associated with criminal activity, just accessing it can be viewed as suspicious.
In fact, in 2016, the US government declared that usage of the Tor browser was enough to warrant search and seizure of your device.
While Tor encrypts your data as you browse the dark web, it cannot hide from your ISP or other third parties. All of your online behavior while using Tor will be hidden but the fact that you’re using Tor will still be visible.
Using a VPN to access the dark web will hide the fact that you’re using Tor from your ISP, government agencies, or any other third parties who are tracking and monitoring your activity.
To ensure your privacy while accessing the dark web, your chosen VPN should have the following features:
- An HQ outside the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance for trustworthy privacy.
- Secure encryption protocols to protect your data.
- Leak protection to safeguard your security even in the event of a dropped connection.
- A strict no logs policy to ensure none of your information is being recorded.
The Best VPNs for Accessing the Dark Web
ExpressVPN may not be the cheapest VPN on the market but it’s worth paying for if you value your privacy. It’s also one of the most powerful VPNs for unblocking and offers the fastest speeds of any service we’ve tested.
ExpressVPN protects all traffic with military-grade AES 256-bit encryption as well as a kill switch and DNS leak protection. The HQ is in the British Virgin Islands so you can trust ExpressVPN’s strict no logs policy. Just in case though, the service also utilizes TrustedServer technology to wipe all servers every time they are powered off and on.
All of ExpressVPN’s apps are Tor compatible and you’ll be able to connect up to 5 devices under one license. Try this trusted VPN out now with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN can unblock:
- Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, Sling TV, DAZN, and BBC iPlayer.
- Yes, all servers support P2P activity.
ExpressVPN works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox. It also offers an app for use with certain routers.
Based in privacy-friendly Panama, NordVPN’s no logs policy is watertight and backed up with military-grade encryption, an automatic kill switch, and DNS leak protection.
An impressive network of 5,500+ servers in 60 countries makes NordVPN fast enough and powerful enough to bypass even the strongest censorship. Innovative CyberSec software will also guard you against malware and adware as you browse.
Best of all, NordVPN’s special Onion Over VPN servers are specially designed to protect you while you browse the dark web. Read real user reviews or try it out for yourself on up to 6 devices with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN can unblock:
- Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Sling TV.
- Yes, P2P specialty servers available.
NordVPN works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox. It’s also compatible with routers.
As the name suggests, PrivateVPN is uniquely designed to protect your privacy while you browse. This makes it especially great for use with Tor.
Highly rated for its extremely user-friendly apps, PrivatVPN is also a fantastic budget option for beginners looking for a quick, easy, and safe way to access the dark web. Don’t let its simplicity fool you, though. PrivateVPN boasts military-grade encryption, an automatic kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection — all as default settings.
PrivateVPN is based in Sweden but does have a strict no logs policy. If you’re unsure, you can read what our users have to say or try it out with a 7-day free trial or a 30-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN can unblock:
- Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer.
- Yes, all servers support P2P activity; list of P2P-optimized servers available through the app.
PrivateVPN works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
If you’re looking for a good blend of affordability with formidable security, CyberGhost is bound to impress. Based in Romania, the VPN’s strict no logs policy is sound and backed up by military-grade encryption, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch.
CyberGhost also offers an additional NoSpy server package that is perfect if you want to hide your Tor usage from your ISP. All CyberGhost apps are compatible with Tor browser and you’ll be able to connect 7 devices simultaneously.
Real customers rate CyberGhost for its impressive network and intuitive apps. See for yourself with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost can unblock:
- Dedicated streaming profile with servers optimized for: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, Hulu, Comedy Central, Eurosport, ESPN, and others.
- Yes; dedicated profile shows countries and number of users.
CyberGhost works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV, Linux, and Chrome.
Despite being relatively new to the VPN market and having a smaller network than most, Surfshark nevertheless boasts impressive unblocking capabilities — including being able to bypass China’s Great Firewall.
Surfshark also offers plenty of unique features that make it a superb option for accessing the dark web. Its No Borders mode is specifically designed to get around censorship while Camouflage Mode will hide your Tor usage from your ISP. MultiHop will also give you an additional layer of protection by routing your traffic through two separate servers instead of one.
According to our users, the basics are all there too. Surfshark offers a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a strict no logs policy, which you can trust since the VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. Try it now with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark can unblock:
- Netflix, Hulu, CBS, ESPN, Amazon Prime Video, and others.
- Yes, all servers support P2P activity.
Surfshark works on these devices:
- Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, FireTV, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox.
Summary and Further Reading
Accessing the dark web comes with all sorts of risks, including being monitored and tracked by your ISP, government agencies, or malicious third parties. It makes sense to use a VPN to mitigate this risk — as long as you choose the right VPN.
Once you’ve made your choice, you can head over to our list of the best VPN deals and coupon codes to make sure you’re getting the most value for your money.
For more information on using Tor safely, check out our guide to the best VPNs for Tor browser.
Interested in total privacy? Learn about how you can make your VPN undetectable.