Best VPN for India: Surf safely and freely while you’re in India
Privacy, censorship, security and surveillance are just four of many reasons why Internet users in India might reach for a VPN. Connecting to the Internet through a secure VPN link to the provider’s server can help you access blocked sites and services, hide your activities from surveillance and conceal your identity when there’s good reason to be cautious. What’s more, with a VPN you can appear to be using the Internet in another country, enabling you to access US services that are normally blocked to non-US residents, or access news and information from free, uncensored sources.
Choosing the best VPN for India
Up to a point, users in India have the same VPN requirements as users elsewhere in the world, with privacy and security features balanced against affordability and the need for good connection speeds. However, users also need easy access to an IP address in a nearby country free from Internet restrictions, as one of the priorities is to evade India’s restrictive, often sudden blocks. In the past, state or local authorities have shut down or restricted Internet access in response to protests, and while Facebook and Twitter have never been banned, the authorities have criticised both for spreading incendiary messages. Recent years have seen an increase in arrests related to content shared over services like Facebook and WhatsApp. All this means that a robust VPN is a sensible safeguard against future censorship and free speech restrictions.
What’s more, there are other good reasons to use a VPN. India has high penalties for the illegal downloading or sharing of copyright materials, while there’s a hunger for US and UK video streaming services that are off the menu outside their home territories. There’s also a real need for enhanced security while using public wireless networks, as identity theft and fraud are growing problems in the country’s high-tech cities and many Indian websites are being hit with targeted attacks. As a result, it’s worth looking for services with strong, easily-accessible anti-censorship and anti-blocking features, robust privacy and security features and good connection speeds. As the effects of losing anonymity and privacy through a dropped VPN connection can be severe, a killswitch, which cuts all connections if the VPN stops, is a must, while features that prevent DNS leaks giving you away are a definite plus.
The best VPNs for India
1. TunnelBear: The best VPN for privacy protection
Price: $9.99 (£7.63) per month, $4.99 (£3.81) per month with annual contract
One of several great things about TunnelBear is that you can use it gratis, provided you keep your VPN traffic below 500GB per month. Yet this is also a service worth paying for, with good privacy and security features and one of the most user-friendly interfaces around. Tunnelbear has over 900 servers in over 20 countries, and it’s speeds are pretty good. We saw a reasonable 33% reduction in speed over a short-hop connection, though using a server in Singapore from the UK pushed that up to an 87% drop – still not terrible by VPN standards.
TunnelBear is based in Canada – part of the five eyes network – but makes up for it with clear privacy policies, terms and conditions that make it clear what the service logs and how it will respond to requests for customer information. The service also has two options – VigilantBear and GhostBear. The first acts as a killswitch, while the second traffic passing through the VPN to make it look like normal, unencrypted traffic. This can help with circumventing government blocks and firewalls.
2. IPVanish: The best VPN for expert users with multiple devices
Price: $7.50 (£5.73) per month, $4.87 (£3.72) per month with annual contract
IPVanish has a strong presence in India, with 18 of its 850 worldwide servers based in Hyderabad, New Delhi and Mumbai. It also has apps for the iOS and Android, plus a Chrome extension for protected browsing, so it’s a good choice for those wanting privacy or anonymity across multiple devices. The company claims to have a strict no logging policy, and you can use Bitcoin for anonymous payments.
IPVanish’s big selling point is control. The Windows app is more sophisticated than most, and while you can just pick a country and let the app do the rest, you can go more in-depth.
Your traffic is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, and there’s a killswitch to drop all connections immediately should your VPN fail. You can also set IPVanish to switch IP addresses every 45 minutes. It is a US-based service, which might put off anyone with concerns about five eyes surveillance, while it’s long-haul speeds are on the slow side, with a 72.5% drop in connection speed over a UK-to-US VPN. Over shorter distances, though, it’s a great service that should help you sneak past the censors and block.
3. Buffered VPN: The easy-to-use, log-free VPN
Price: $12.99 (£9.92) per month, $6.60 (£5.00) per month with annual contract
Buffered VPN doesn’t cover as many locations as some rivals, but India is one of 44 countries where it has a presence, and with servers in the US and UK it’s good for unblocking streaming services, like the BBC’s iPlayer, Netflix or UK and US news. Connecting couldn’t be much quicker or easier, and Buffered VPN is pretty speedy, with one of the best results for connections to the US and only a 23% to 33% drop in speed for short-hop connections.
Privacy features are solid, though Buffered does put a foot wrong by having no killswitch feature available. The company is located in Hungary, putting it outside of the fourteen eyes network and the reach of Indian state authorities, while the company keeps no logs. All your traffic is protected in transit by 256-bit Blowfish encryption. The lack of a killswitch puts us off recommending Buffered as a serious safeguard for privacy and anonymity, but if you’re main concern is reaching blocked or censored content, it’s an excellent VPN.
4. Nord VPN: The best VPN for privacy
Price: $11.95 (£9.13) per month, $5.75 (£4.39) per month with annual contract
Nord VPN is hard to beat on global reach, with over 1400 servers in 61 countries, including six spread across India. 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 killswitch can be set to close specific apps immediately should your VPN disconnect.
Nord VPN is based in Panama, which isn’t part of the fourteen eyes network and has no mandatory data retention laws, though Nord VPN claims a strict no logging policy in any case. It’s not the fastest service, but performance is solid; even with a UK to Singapore VPN connection speeds only dropped 67.9% against the average of 83%. A good, secure VPN at a reasonable price.
5. CyberGhost: A great VPN for unblocking, privacy and P2P
Price: €10.99 (£9.74) per month, €4.99 (£4.42) per month with annual contract
CyberGhost is a growing VPN provider, with 1114 servers covering 43 countries around the world, with four recently added to handle India. The app is well-designed and easy to work with, with instantly accessible modes designed specifically to counter censorship or unblock streaming websites, though you can also do things manually, selecting your location from a list. What’s more, the server map gives an anonymization score for each server, based on the number of users online. If the server is busy and being used by more users, it’s harder to trace who’s been up to what online.
CyberGhost also has some other benefits. It’s not particularly fast – connection speeds are merely average – but it has strong DNS and IP leak protection plus an automatic killswitch. CyberGhost also promises unlimited bandwidth, and while P2P traffic isn’t allowed on certain servers for legal issues, it’s tolerated on many others, making CyberGhost one of a shrinking number of VPN providers that doesn’t do its best to block torrents. It’s based in the US, which is bad news from a five eyes point of view, but has a strict no-logging policy. A great VPN for those who don’t want any more restrictions.