5 Best VPNs for the Dark Web (+How to Access It)
The dark web is a part of the internet that is hidden from the everyday internet user. You cannot access it using search engines on the internet. As a result, you need specific configurations or browsers. The primary way to take a journey to the dark web is via the Tor browser. While the Tor browser provides some layer of security and anonymity, using a VPN ensures you have an extra layer of security and privacy.
This is because malicious entities and spying government agencies are constantly increasing their activities on the dark web. It has become imperative that you stand behind a solid security perimeter to prevent anyone from infiltrating your network or monitoring your connection. This article suggests the best paid and free VPNs you can use for the dark web.
Best Paid VPNs for the Dark Web
Paying for a VPN service you can trust is essential in your journey to the dark web. Below, we suggest some reputable VPN services that will give you value for your money.
Overall best in our tests
- Super-fast servers
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Supports private protocol, Lightway
- Money-back guarantee
Top performer ExpressVPN is the right choice for anyone looking for double security and anonymity on the internet. While it does not have dedicated Tor over VPN servers, it certainly supports using the Tor browser. Using ExpressVPN while you comb through the dark web will hide your Tor connection from your local ISP. To solidify its support for users on the dark web, ExpressVPN has a .onion address.
ExpressVPN’s presence in over 94 countries gives you access to over 3000 servers. These servers are of high quality and will not significantly affect your speed as they are quick. In addition, they all support torrenting so that you can download torrent files without issues. However, downloading torrent files from the dark web can be a frustrating experience.
Security-wise, ExpressVPN boasts top-class security features, such as 256-bit encryption, to ensure unwanted parties do not have access to data in transit. As a result, your connection to the dark web is as solid as a rock. Additionally, ExpressVPN has built-in leak protection, a kill switch, and it uses the best VPN protocols: Lightway, IKEv2, and OpenVPN.
Furthermore, ExpressVPN ensures your privacy is as important as its reputation. With an airtight zero-log policy combined with its servers operating without long-term storage, you can trust this VPN to keep you anonymous.
ExpressVPN’s most popular subscription plan is its 12-month plan which you can get for $6.67 monthly. Surprisingly, you get an extra 3-months free! Additionally, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee, a five-device simultaneous connection limit, and support for several operating systems.
Best offer: $6.67/month (Save 49% + 3 months free)
Definitely the fastest in our tests
- Incredibly fast servers
- Great security features
- Verified no-logs policy
- Unblocks streaming platforms
NordVPN is another brilliant VPN service that is perfect for your activities on the dark web. Like ExpressVPN, NordVPN’s over 5400 servers spread across 59 nations are premium-grade ones. Reliable enough to keep anyone from spying on your connection, especially your ISP, NordVPN’s Onion over VPN servers ensure you have a pleasurable experience on the dark web.
Apart from special Onion over VPN servers, NordVPN also has servers for streaming, torrenting, and obfuscation. Using these optimized servers will prove to you that NordVPN can give ExpressVPN a run for the top spot. Additionally, NordVPN’s proprietary NordLynx protocol is easily one of the fastest VPN services. Despite the speed reduction that comes with combining a VPN with Tor to access the dark web, you will still enjoy using NordVPN.
NordLynx isn’t the only protocol available for NordVPN subscribers—you’ll have the option to select OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPSec. These protocols are equally sophisticated enough to you the best in terms of security and performance.
NordVPN uses high-grade encryption (AES-256) combined with Double VPN servers, CyberSec (malware prevention), split tunneling, and a no-nonsense kill switch to provide a tight security perimeter. Still, it has undergone security audits to prove that it’s truly a no-log VPN service provider; your data is truly safe in its hands.
Less expensive than ExpressVPN, NordVPN is affordable and feature-rich. Also, it supports different operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, iOS, macOS, and Android. NordVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can use it on six devices at the same time without incurring extra costs.
Best offer: $2.93/month (Save 68% + 3 months for free)
Best for connecting multiple devices
- Allows unlimited simultaneous connections
- Integrates Stealth mode
- Multihop feature available
- 3000+ servers
Surfshark, another prominent VPN service provider, is one with a few years of experience under its belt. Despite this, its sophisticated infrastructure has made it a VPN service to reckon with. Surfshark’s server network gives users the ability to visit over 60 countries virtually. It’s over 3000 servers allow users to go deep into the dark web without any fear of ISPs monitoring the connection.
Surfshark’s Tor over VPN feature supports its users’ quest into the dark web. The privacy-friendly VPN service also supports anonymous browsing and downloading of torrent files. Its P2P-optimized servers ensure that torrenting comes with ease. In addition, you’ll get a high-speed connection with Surfshark. However, note that using Surfshark with Tor to reach the dark web can negatively affect your speed significantly.
In terms of privacy, Surfshark’s Tor over VPN feature keeps you anonymous on the dark web. Despite having its headquarters in the Netherlands, a member of the 14 Eyes Alliance, Surfshark’s no-log policy ensures there is no long-term storage of your connection history. Also, its warrant canary feature notifies users when there is an attempt by law enforcement to seize its servers.
Surfshark’s security features include Double VPN, a kill switch, an ad blocker, and camouflage mode. In addition, it uses the impermeable AES-256 encryption and protocols such as WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. Finally, Surfshark is cross-platform compatible, affordable, has a 30-day refund policy, and does not limit the number of simultaneous connections users can have.
Best offer: $2.21/month (Save 81% + 3 months free)
Best Free VPNs for the Dark Web
Unlike paid VPN services, you can use free VPNs without paying a dime. Charitable organizations own some of them and genuinely want to provide free access to security tools. Below, we look at the best free VPNs you can use for the dark web.
Best VPN with a free version
- Free version available
- Strong security features
- Reliable no-logs policy
- Allows Perfect Forward Secrecy
ProtonVPN is the best free VPN you can use for the dark web. The Swiss-based VPN service has over a thousand servers you can use to access the dark web. Furthermore, it has a presence in over 55 countries. This means that with just a click, you can appear to be in any of those countries.
Unfortunately, ProtonVPN eliminates the prospects of free users exploring all those countries. As a result, free subscribers only have access to servers in three countries: the Netherlands, Japan, and the US. Still, that is enough to connect to the dark web without your ISP knowing.
Although ProtonVPN is not as fast as the premium VPNs above, it offers quick connections to the dark web. Additionally, it encrypts your data with AES-256 encryption; no computer in the world can crack this encryption cipher. Furthermore, it uses OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, perfect forward secrecy, Netshield (ad blocker), and a kill switch to keep your connection to the dark web secure.
In addition to keeping you secure, ProtonVPN also works hard to keep you anonymous. Its Secure Core servers provide obfuscation for users that want to stay hidden on the dark web. Plus, it abides by its no-log policy by keeping no record of your internet history.
ProtonVPN only uses open-source applications, and SEC Consult has verified they are secure. While ProtonVPN is compatible with several operating systems, free subscribers cannot have simultaneous connections. So, you can only protect a single device on the dark web with a free subscription.
Best offer: €8/month (Save 25%)
Arguably the cheapest VPN provider
- Advanced IP Leak protection available
- 1800+ servers in 72 countries
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Offers a completely free version
Hide.me is another VPN service you can use for free to keep you safe on the dark web. Its server network spans over 70 countries globally, with over 1800 servers spread across those countries. While it’s free version does not give access to all servers, free users can still use servers in four countries. These countries include Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and the US.
With Hide.me, you can navigate the dark web with little or no issues. It supports P2P file sharing, so you can download torrent files or use it for any P2P activity on the dark web. Additionally, Hide.me uses fast servers to keep users glued to their devices. However, the free version limits the amount of data you can use in a month to ten gigabytes.
Despite this drawback, Hide.me does not play when it comes to security. Military-grade 256-bit encryption protects your connection and prevents malicious entities from spying on your connection. In addition, protocols such as Softether, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec, and OpenVPN are available. Furthermore, Hide.me’s privacy-friendly approach is evident in its Malaysian headquarters, zero-log policy, and in-built leak protection.
You can use Hide.me on Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, Linux, and routers. Free subscribers can only use it on a single device at a time. However, configuring it on a router is a hack that will see you protecting your connection to the dark web on multiple devices.
Best offer: €4.99/month (Save 61%)
VPN with the best servers
- Super-fast server speed
- Remarkable unblocking ability
- Intuitive user interface
Hotspot Shield is another popular VPN service that offers a free plan. It has more than 1800 servers which are in about eighty countries. Hotspot Shield’s impressive server network will give you access to the dark web. Unfortunately, its free plan does not share the same capabilities as paid ones. As a result, you can only connect to servers in the US, and you have no choice in server selection.
Still, Hotspot Shield’s US servers, combined with the Tor browser, are enough to give you secure access to the dark web. Another major constraint is that Hotspot Shield places restrictions on speed and bandwidth. With a 500MB daily download limit and a 2Mbps speed limit, your connection to the dark web is likely to be slow.
However, when it comes to security, Hotspot Shield means business. It uses a sophisticated encryption cipher—AES-256—to ensure end-to-end encryption between your device and servers hosting the dark web content. In addition, it has multiple VPN protocols, such as a proprietary Hydra protocol, OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IPSec.
Hotspot Shield is a no-log VPN service, and you can use it on several devices. Unfortunately, free users cannot use more than a single device at a time to reach the dark web.
Best offer: $7.99/month (Save 38% + Free)
How to Access the Dark Web With a VPN
You need a special browser called Tor to access the dark web; you cannot take a journey to the dark web by searching for it on your regular browser. The Onion Router (Tor) is an open-source volunteer network that allows you to browse anonymously and access the dark web. Below, we will dive into how you can access the dark web with a VPN.
1. The first step is to subscribe to a VPN service. Fortunately, we have a good selection of VPN services above. So, visit the VPN service provider’s website and buy a subscription package. You don’t need to pay if you decide to use a free VPN, but we recommend using a premium package.
2. Afterward, download and install the VPN application on your device.
3. Next, you need to download and install the Tor browser on your device. You can get the browser from the official site.
4. After installing the Tor browser, you need to connect to a VPN server. Open your VPN application, enter your credentials if necessary, and connect to a server in a location that does not block Tor.
5. Afterward, open the Tor browser and type in the .onion address of the site you want to access. If you don’t know any .onion sites, you can visit the hidden wiki, which is a collection of .onion sites you can check out.
That’s all you need to access the dark web with a VPN. Now, because Tor can be dangerous for newcomers, you should be careful when navigating the dark web. Turning off your webcam, installing an antivirus, closing non-essential applications and unnecessary services, etc., are some security measures you can take to stay safe on the dark web.
Things to Consider Before Using a VPN for the Dark Web
Below, we look at things you need to examine in a VPN service before using it for the dark web.
Security is an essential aspect of any VPN service. This is because it determines if your data is safe as it moves through networks to reach the dark web. Always check that the VPN you select uses the minimum requirements for a secure network. Features such as end-to-end encryption, 256-bit encryption, and secure VPN protocols ensure ISPs or malicious actors on the dark web cannot infiltrate your network.
Privacy is as vital as security. VPNs employ practices such as zero-logging, DNS/IPv6/WebRTC leak protection, and placing their headquarters in a privacy-friendly country to keep you anonymous on the dark web. Additionally, a VPN that has its DNS servers will protect your privacy.
3. Server Network
While it doesn’t matter where you connect from when you access the dark web, the server network of the VPN service you use is important. The more extensive a server network is, the fewer issues you’re likely to encounter. This is because more servers give you more server switching options if you’re having any difficulty connecting to a server.
Connecting to the dark web via the Tor browser will significantly affect your speed. Now, imagine connecting to a slow VPN service before opening Tor. So, you should opt for the fastest VPN services available, or you’re in for a frustrating experience on the dark web.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Best (Paid and Free) VPNs for the Dark Web
Should I use a free VPN service for the dark web?
No, don’t use a free VPN for the dark web. While some free VPNs, like the ones above, can give you access to the dark web, we recommend sticking to reputable paid options. It is not news that free VPN services have many limitations. Even the ones above have limits on speed, bandwidth, servers, and features. So, to enjoy your experience on the dark web, use any of the paid services above. Fortunately, there are affordable options, and they offer a respectable refund policy so you can test their services risk-free.
Will a VPN affect the quality of my connection to the dark web?
Yes, a VPN will affect the quality of your connection to the dark web. Encryption takes a toll on VPN servers and thus affects the speed of your connection. Additionally, connection to an extra server also reduces speed. Furthermore, the Tor network encrypts your data multiple times and passes it across multiple Tor servers (or relay nodes). This is why we recommend using the fastest VPNs since there is nothing you can do to stop the speed reduction that comes with combining Tor and a VPN to access the dark web.
Is connecting to the dark web with a VPN illegal?
No, connecting to the dark web with a VPN is not illegal. Both the Tor network and VPN services are legal in several countries worldwide; you will have no issues accessing the dark web. However, certain countries prevent their residents from using a VPN or the Tor network. It will be difficult, but not impossible, to connect to the dark web with a VPN in such countries.
The dark web can be dangerous if you’re naive. You must maintain your anonymity and stay secure. This is why we encourage you to use a VPN alongside Tor to access the dark web. You can use paid and free VPNs for the dark web, but free VPNs can cost you more than the price tag associated with paid ones. We hope this article helps you stay safe in your journey to the dark web.