Best VPN for Australia: The best options for streaming and surfing safely down under
Australians and visitors to Australia enjoy a high degree of Internet freedom, but even here a VPN can be a must-have. New laws have increased capacity for surveillance and given companies new responsibilities to retain your data, while other legislation restricts access to some services and websites. Meanwhile, Australians have many other reasons to use a VPN, including the avoidance of corporate snooping, increased security on public networks and gaining access to video streaming services in the UK and US.
Choosing the best VPN for Australia
While Australians don’t face much in the way of censorship or surveillance, there are still good reasons for some Internet users and political activists to be concerned. Recent laws have given security and law enforcement services more powers to snoop on Internet activity, while data retention laws have been beefed up so that ISPs have a legal obligation to collect and store metadata for up to two years, and make it available to national security on request. There are also new punishments for whistleblowers who publish classified information, along with laws that restrict access to many torrent and streaming websites. Using a VPN gives users a level of anonymity, protection from surveillance and a means of circumventing content blocks.
There are also many other practical reasons to use a VPN. Australian residents and visitors may want to access US streaming services, including the US version of Netflix, HBO Now and Hulu, which are blocked to users outside of the US. They may also want to access Australian broadcasts and services while travelling abroad. A VPN can help on both counts. It also be a sensible precaution for using public WiFi services, giving an extra layer of protection against snooping, identity theft and fraud.
You’ll find general advice on choosing a VPN in How to buy the best VPN [URL here], but in Australia your priorities are likely to be privacy, security and capabilities to work around website-blocking. As a result, we’ve focused in on VPN providers that offer additional levels of protection, that don’t log your activities and that can work their way around website blocks. We’ve also looked for providers who allow P2P traffic, or that take payment through an anonymous currency, like Bitcoin.
The best VPNs for Australia
1. TunnelBear: The best VPN for privacy protection
Price: $9.99 (£7.63) per month, $4.99 (£3.81) per month with annual contract
TunnelBear is a great VPN service, combining low prices, strong privacy features and a likeable Bear-flavoured UI. The company has servers in Australia, not to mention over 20 other countries around the world, and it’s one of the fastest services we’ve tested, both for local speeds and longer distance VPN links.
While it’s based in Canada – another five eyes country – TunnelBear has a lot to offer those who feel concerned about their privacy. It doesn’t log activities and it has some of the clearest privacy and information policies in the business. While Canada is part of the five eyes network, TunnelBear specifies how it will deal with any requests from government or law enforcement, putting customer privacy first. TunnelBear also goes above and beyond normal protection, with a Vigilant mode that kills all connections if the VPN connection is disrupted, plus a GhostBear function that scrambles VPN communications, making them harder to spot and block. And who couldn’t love a PC app that shows bears tunnelling around the globe every time you connect a VPN?
2. Buffered VPN: The best easy-to-use VPN
Price: $12.99 (£9.92) per month, $6.60 (£5.00) per month with annual contract
It’s hard to make connecting to a VPN much easier than it is with Buffered VPN. Within seconds of launching the app, you can pick a country from the list of 44 and get browsing with your real location and identifying IP address concealed. Buffered has servers in Australia, not to mention New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia, so you’re not short of nearby connections to get around blocks. Meanwhile, servers in the UK and North America are ideal for circumventing blocks on the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Hulu.
Buffered VPN is based in Hungary – outside of the fourteen eyes network though still inside the EU – and the company maintains no logs. All your traffic is protected in transit by 256-bit Blowfish encryption, and the service passed our DNS leak tests with flying colours. Our biggest concerns are that it doesn’t take anonymous payment via Bitcoin, and that it doesn’t have a killswitch feature, potentially leaving your real IP address visible should the VPN disconnect. Buffer’s speeds are competitive, with a 23% to 33% speed hit on short-range VPN connections, though it’s not quite so fast when connecting from, say, Europe to Asia. That aside, Buffer VPN is a brilliant, hassle-free option.
3. IPVanish: A great VPN for use in Australia
Price: $7.50 (£5.73) per month, $4.87 (£3.72) per month with annual contract
IPVanish has a particularly good presence in Australia, with 60 servers in the territory based in Sydney and Melbourne. The company also has nine servers in New Zealand along with servers in Malaysia, giving you options if you want a near but non-Australian IP. While there’s an optional, simplified interface for less-expert users, the service’s big selling point is control. The big, map-based interface is great for quickly choosing a location, though you can just pick a country and let the app choose the optimal server. If you want to go in-depth, IPVanish has the technical options and diagnostic tools you’re looking for.
It’s a good service for privacy as well. It’s based in the US, so not ideal if you’re keen to avoid a service based in one of the core five eyes countries, but the company claims to have a strict no-logging policy, while you can use Bitcoin to avoid leaving a credit card trail. Your traffic is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, and there’s a killswitch to drop all connections immediately if the VPN drops. You can also set IPVanish to switch IP addresses every 45 minutes to help you cover your tracks.
4. Nord VPN: The best VPN for security
Price: $11.95 (£9.13) per month, $5.75 (£4.39) per month with an annual contract
Nord VPN is hard to beat on global reach, with over 1400 servers in 61 countries, including 48 in Australia. It’s a slick, feature-packed service with an intuitive UI, and some particularly useful features if you’re concerned about surveillance or feel your privacy is under threat. These include optional double encryption and a dual-hop VPN, which disguises your IP address not just once but twice to throw anyone snooping off your trail. You can also route traffic via the TOR network using an Onion over VPN server, further covering your tracks. Look to the Advanced Settings for an Obfuscated Server option, designed for use in heavily restricted countries, while the kill switch can be set to close specific apps immediately should your VPN disconnect.
Nord VPN isn’t the fastest VPN for local access, but it’s one of the fastest we’ve seen for long-hop VPNs, connecting back to Asia from Europe with speeds in excess of 10Mbps. What’s more, as Nord VPN is based in Panama, you don’t need to worry about fourteen eyes surveillance or mandatory data retention laws. Add a strict no logging policy and it’s a tempting option where privacy is concerned.
5. PureVPN: The best VPN for P2P
Price: $11.95 (£9.13) per month, $10.95 (£8.36) per month with annual contract
Based in Hong Kong, Pure VPN is well-equipped to cover Australia, with 26 servers spread around Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, plus more in Auckland if you want a close but non-Australian IP. There’s a lot to like about its purpose-based approach, where you can ask for the optimal configuration for streaming, file-sharing or circumventing censorship, and it has an easy-to-use, feature-packed PC app. This includes a killswitch and split tunnelling, enabling you to configure the VPN so that some applications use it, while others work outside it at higher speeds.
PureVPN claims it doesn’t log activities and Hong Kong isn’t a member of the fourteen eyes network, though it is within China’s sphere of influence. It’s also one of the fastest VPNs out there, particularly for short hop VPNs. Pure is also one of the few VPNs that’s P2P-friendly, with unlimited bandwidth and a torrent-friendly attitude on most of its servers, though not in Australia itself.