Skip to main content

The best streaming VPN in 2021

best streaming VPN
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you love sports, TV, or movies, a streaming VPN is the perfect tool for getting access to more content. You can use the best VPN to access regional services like BBC iPlayer and Peacock overseas, get the best price on pay-per-view sporting events, and even use sites you pay for like Hulu outside of your home country.

For example, it's quite possible that you pay for a Netflix subscription. However, while you'll have a decent selection off the bat, there's always more that's not available in your country. A good example is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is available on Netflix In the UK, but is a Hulu exclusive in the US. A streaming VPN can change your location, allowing you to watch the show on Netflix.

The opposite is also true. If you're abroad, you won't be able to watch services like Hulu, ESPN, or BBC iPlayer outside your home country. A streaming VPN can make it seem like you're right back at home, no matter where you've traveled to.

What makes a great streaming VPN?

When looking for a streaming VPN, you need to look for three things – reliable access to plenty of streaming sites, plenty of servers, and excellent speeds. Our top pick ExpressVPN combines all these with a clean, polished interface that makes streaming overseas content super simple, all alongside excellent privacy.

Not all VPNs have that combination. There are a number of streaming sites that have cracked down on VPN use, and many lesser VPNs simply can't access them. BBC iPlayer is one of these, and it proves to be a stumbling block for many VPNs – even those that can crack Netflix.

Also, it's worth noting that while we've never heard of it actually happening, many streaming providers forbid the use of VPNs, under that threat of account termination. If you want to go on, though, alongside NordVPN there are a number of other excellent options that fill out this list. So, read on to discover which streaming VPN is the right one for you.

THE BEST STREAMING VPN

1. ExpressVPN – the best streaming VPN today
Whether you're on holiday and want to watch what you're used to or want to explore content from around the world from home, ExpressVPN can unblock Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, Peacock, Prime and plenty more – plus you can now claim three free months.View Deal

2. NordVPN – plenty of servers and great performance
If you want the security that comes with a big name as well as stellar streaming VPN performance, NordVPN is an excellent choice. And, at just $3.71 a month, it's great value.View Deal

3. Surfshark – bargain VPN that's great for streaming
Surfshark is an excellent option for anyone on a budget that's also looking to access the world's content. You'll get access to loads of Netflix libraries plus iPlayer, Amazon Prime and more, and its current deal is also offering a great price – just $2.49 a month.View Deal

The best streaming VPN today

ExpressVPN streaming VPN

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

A great VPN for streaming – and everything else

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Server locations: 160 in 94 countries | Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Maximum devices supported: 5

Super streaming speeds
Excellent 24/7 customer support
Stream on any device
Top-quality apps
Only five connections

From our testing, ExpressVPN is our #1-ranked VPN on the market. However, one if its standout features is its excellent capabilities as a streaming VPN, as it offers the triple whammy of speed, security and excellent international coverage.

That all means you can get access to over 3,000 servers across 94 countries, so no matter where you are it should be possible to get stuck into streaming media from back home. Connection speeds are reliably fast, so even streaming in 4K and HDR shouldn't be an issue. 

Unlike many other VPNs, Express unlocks Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, YouTube and more – all the more impressive when you know these streaming services are constantly trying to actively block VPNs. It's worth noting, however that ExpressVPN struggled with iPlayer near the end of 2020. While it's now working perfectly again, it's good to keep in mind.

If you do run into any snags then excellent the 24/7 live-chat customer support is always there to get you going again. It's staffed by knowledgeable and genuinely helpful people that want – and know how – to get you what you need. 

While streaming might be a priority, security is also paramount and ExpressVPN sports enterprise-level encryption along with a selection of protocols. That means you're guaranteed online anonymity, letting you stream in peace without the threat of third-parties potentially invading your privacy. 

All that, and you also get a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning it's essentially free to try for a month to make sure it suits you perfectly.

Tom's Guide readers get three months free of ExpressVPN
Sign up for a full 12 months on ExpressVPN and you'll end up with 49% off the normal monthly price and three months additional coverage absolutely FREE. And don't forget, if you just want to give it a try with no obligation, there's a 30-day money back guarantee that you can rely upon without any quibbles.
View Deal

NordVPN streaming VPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

Streaming VPN that's hot on security

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Server locations: 80+ in 59 countries | Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Maximum devices supported: 6

Double VPN encryption
Excellent streaming performance
Functional kill switch
Serious speeds
You may need to use the browser extension

NordVPN is built for security, and it's a great streaming VPN to use if you're concerned about anyone else watching with you. The fact that it offers more than 5,500 servers in 59 countries is just a bonus which ensures great speeds no matter where you end up. 

On top of excellent encryption there is a handy SmartPlay feature. This encrypts you data in a more streamlined fashion, allowing you to eke out every last drop of performance from your connection. Especially useful for streaming in HD, Nord's SmartPlay also sidesteps streaming services' VPN blocking tools, meaning you're guaranteed to have access to anything you want to watch.

In our testing we did have some very minor issues accessing BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime. Just using the desktop client didn't get us access, and after following Nord's instructions we got it working through the browser extension. So, while you can get access, it's a bit of a faff sometimes.

NordVPN's mobile apps are fully featured and provide much the same experience as the desktop clients. However, one thing we wish it had changed is the map-based interface – on a handheld screen it makes selecting servers a hassle, and we'd like to see a regular list from the start.

Other than minor issues with the apps, however, NordVPN is an excellent streaming VPN that almost always performs reliably.

Sign up now on the NordVPN website

Surfshark streaming VPN

(Image credit: Surfshark)

3. Surfshark

Great speeds for high-quality streaming

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Server locations: 100 in 65 countries | Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited

Superb 4K and HDR streaming speeds
Live chat support
Affordable options
Privacy policy short on detail

Surfshark provides as excellent mix of speed and value, but doesn't scrimp on security. As such, it's an ideal streaming VPN for use with Netflix, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and more. Something that really does inspire confidence is that Surfshark even lists the countries it can access Netflix in – there's no guesswork here.

Another bonus is that Surfshark works well as a Fire Stick VPN, so it's a great option for getting geo-blocked media streaming on your big TV. It's simple to use, which is perfect for beginners, but there's a fair number of settings to tweak, too.

Compared to some other further up the list there's not a huge amount of configuration on offer – but if all you're interested in is getting access to overseas Netflix then that's probably not a problem, and the unlimited simultaneous connections mean you can protect every device you own.

With a seriously tempting price and a 30-day guarantee, Surfshark's an excellent streaming VPN that should be on your list.

Sign up now on the Surfshark website

Hotspot Shield streaming vpn

4. Hotspot Shield

The fastest streaming VPN on the market

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Server locations: 80+ countries | Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Maximum devices supported: 5

Such blistering speeds
Decent free option
Good price
Clients lack true power

Much like Surfshark above, Hotspot Shield is a back-to-basics streaming VPN that's reliable and can get you access to just about every service you could imagine.

Hotspot Shield's standout feature is its Catapult Hydra protocol which allows its to reach the heady heights of over 400Mbps (on a suitable base connection, of course). That's almost twice the speed any other VPN can hit, but with it do come a couple of problems.

Thanks to the fact Hotspot Shield only uses Catapult Hydra, you can't use the VPN with anything other than the bundled apps. That's not going to trouble a lot of users, but it's worth bearing in mind.

The apps are also fairly lightweight. Again, for casual users this could be more of a positive than a negative – with very few options, they 'just work' – but you won't find a huge amount of configuration on offer, even if you start digging for it.

Overall, though, if you're just after a fast, effective streaming VPN, Hotspot Shield is a real contender.

Sign up now on Hotspot Shield's website

cyberghost streaming vpn

(Image credit: CyberGhost)

5. CyberGhost

Feature-packed streaming VPN

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Server locations: 110+ in 90 countries | Streaming services unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Maximum devices supported: 7

Auto connection
Dedicated streaming service unblocking
Excellent filtering system
Greater support needed
No BBC iPlayer

CyberGhost is a standout streaming VPN that's built for the task. Unlike other VPNs where you might have to guess which servers unblock what, CyberGhost saves you any trial and error and has listed which can give you access to what. Pick which service you want to use from the smart filtering system, and CyberGhost will set you up automatically.

With almost 7,000 servers across over 90 countries, CyberGhost offers high-speed connections wherever you might find yourself. There's also a handy optional data compression tool which allows you to limit the amount of data coming through your device – perfect for watching Netflix or YouTube on a phone using 4G.

While CyberGhost has evidently focused on making its service work as a streaming VPN, there are a few small issues with the interface that slightly let it down – notably lack of support for iPlayer. However, it does offer an unusually long 45-day money-back guarantee, so if you really can't get to grips with the apps, you won't be out of pocket.

Even though it's not quite as polished as some competitors, CyberGhost's powerful streaming specialisation earns itself its place on this list.

Sing up now on the CyberGhost website

Streaming VPN FAQs

What is the best streaming VPN?

We rate ExpressVPN as the best streaming VPN on the market. It delivers excellent speeds, unrivalled content unblocking performance, and has servers in just about every country you could ask for. What's more, you'll get a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test the service risk-free for a month.

How does a streaming VPN work?

Every VPN works in the same way – it diverts your device's connection away from your internet provider's and instead uses one its own servers. Doing this means your ISP can't see what you're viewing, and an added bonus is that VPN server traffic is much more encrypted than the naked connection from your router.

A streaming VPN can get you access to overseas content by rerouting your connection through one its servers in a foreign country. By doing that, to any website it seems like you're in that country, and subsequently you'll be able to access any and all content that's usually only available if you're physically in that area.

What can I use a streaming VPN for?

There are two basic cases for using a streaming VPN – you're either abroad and want to watch familiar but now geo-blocked content form back home, or you're at home and want to watch geo-blocked content from abroad.

Whatever your reasons, there's a huge amount of content on offer that you can only get with a streaming VPN. Netflix has a vast amount of content that's only available in certain areas, and services like Hulu and BBC iPlayer are only available in one country.

However, there's more to be had if you're a sports fan. If you're away from home and don't want to miss a game that's being shown on domestic TV, you can access that through a streaming VPN. The same goes if you're a paying customer of a sports streaming service – just turn on your streaming VPN, log in to your streaming service and watch.

What are the best TV streaming services?

There are more video services to pick from these days than there were big chain video rental stores in the nineties. We've come a long way. But some practices still seem outdated, like geo-restrictions to keep certain content for particular locations. All the best services have these in place, but many don't seem too concerned about VPNs which get around the issue.

From Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in 4K and HDR to BBC iPlayer, Hulu and YouTube and Disney+ – there are lots of streaming services to pick from and enjoy anywhere using a VPN. Want to find the best one for you? Check out our best video streaming services guide.