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The best UK VPN in 2021

best UK VPN
(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

The best VPN should always work well as a UK VPN, but no matter which you pick, it'll be your first line of defence if you want to maintain true online privacy. With 2016's Investigatory Powers Act – charmingly nicknamed the Snoopers' Charter – still alive and kicking, Brits wishing to stay anonymous online will need the assistance of a quality UK VPN.

While we won't delve into the politics behind any legislation, it's clear that the UK government has some of the most intrusive online powers in Europe, and a VPN is a great tool for staying safe and anonymous. However, that's not all a UK VPN is good for.

Getting access to BBC iPlayer anywhere in the world is super useful for watching exclusive British TV shows like Line of Duty, and a UK VPN is also perfect for accessing ITV and Channel 4, too – staying secure while you do it is the cherry on top.

  • An iPlayer VPN will also work great in and outside the UK

What makes a great UK VPN?

You'll want to seek out a UK VPN that's got hard-as-nails security alongside great streaming performance and swift connection speeds. List-topper ExpressVPN (read our full ExpressVPN review for more) ticks all the boxes above, and combines that with simple yet powerful apps that make it a doddle to stay protected on pretty much any device you own.

Having good security means that your ISP – and therefore anyone it divulges information to – will have no idea what you're accessing online. Plus, a VPN for the UK with proven no-logging status won't be able to spill the beans to any law enforcement should they want to investigate, because they'll have nothing about you stored.

Great connection speeds and streaming power go hand in hand – there's no point in being able to access overseas Netflix if it's buffering every five seconds. Also, for Brits abroad, it's definitely worth going for a service with a good selection of servers and locations to ensure you'll have a backup or two, should one not perform as expected.

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1. ExpressVPN – Unrivalled overall performance
ExpressVPN can do it all – streaming, location spoofing, torrenting and keeping you anonymous online, but what makes it truly great is that it pulls together that power in a simple, intuitive package. Now available with three free months, it's the only UK VPN you need.View Deal

2. NordVPN – The biggest name works very well in the UK
You might recognise NordVPN from its TV ads and sports sponsorships, but it's not all mouth and no trousers. With excellent encryption and features like Onion over VPN, it's one of the very best ways to secure yourself online. View Deal

3. Surfshark – A premium service for a bargain price
It might be priced like it, but Surfshark is no Poundland VPN. In fact, even without its tempting price tag it'd be one to consider, with unlimited connections on one plan, excellent speeds, and top-class content unblocking. The sub-£2-a-month cost is just the icing on the cake.View Deal

The best UK VPNs today

ExpressVPN best uk VPN

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

User friendly and excellent privacy

Specifications
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average UK speeds on 75Mbps line: 70Mbps
Simultaneous connections: 5
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Number of servers: 3,000+
Server locations: 160
Reasons to buy
+Excellent UK connections+Reliable servers across the globe+Stellar support
Reasons to avoid
-Maximum of five devices

ExpressVPN is the best UK VPN because it provides everything you need in a tidy package. You'll have access to slick mobile apps as well as options for Windows PCs and Macs, and there's excellent 24/7 support in case anything doesn't work as it should

Privacy is a major priority for ExpressVPN, and with any plan you'll be covered by military-grade 256-bit encryption. You'll also have a fine selection of protocols to choose from, meaning you can choose to prioritise speed or security.

ExpressVPN is able to access just about any streaming service you can think of, ranging from BBC iPlayer Netflix, and just about everything else in between. No matter where you are in the world, you won't have to miss out on a thing.

Backing all that up are excellent connection speeds. Connections are virtually unaffected when using UK servers, and remain swift even when connected to farther-flung ones. That's great if you're looking to stream in HD.

Although ExpressVPN might be marginally more expensive than others, it more than makes up for that by offering the most well-rounded UK VPN service on the market. With great apps, excellent speeds and top-class support for when anything goes wrong plus an audited privacy policy, it's the perfect option for anyone looking for a UK VPN.

Get 49% off plus 3 free months of the best UK VPN
ExpressVPN is currently offering Tom's Guide readers three free months – that's 15 months for the price of 12. And, in the rare event that it's not for you, you'll also have a 30-day money-back guarantee keeping you safe. Not bad for the best UK VPN.
View Deal

NordVPN best UK VPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

Great security-focused UK VPN

Specifications
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average UK speeds on 1Gbps line: 250-325Mbps
Simultaneous connections: 6
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Number of servers: 5,200+
Server locations: 80+
Reasons to buy
+Great for streaming+Excellent UK speeds+Hot on security
Reasons to avoid
-Apps can be awkward

Possibly the biggest name on the scene, NordVPN is a great choice for those looking for a security-focused UK VPN. Recently independently audited for the second time by PwC, the provider has again proved itself to be reliably secure – you can read the full NordVPN review for more info.

Usability is good too, as Nord unblocks most streaming services, most importantly BBC iPlayer. Alongside that, you'll also have over 5,500 servers worldwide to choose from, so no matter where you are – or where you want to appear to be – you'll be able to find a good connection.

On desktop Nord's apps are attractive and easy to use, and you'll be able to change a number of settings to tailor your experience. For example, you'll have a choice of protocols and a kill switch to protect you if your VPN connection drops. 

Mobile apps are functional too, but the interface is a little clunky. While the map-based location picker works well on the larger screen of a computer, on mobile it can leave even the deftest swiper feeling fat-fingered. In practice, though, that's not a huge issue, as you'll usually just set and forget.

For those who want to both ensure their data is as safe as can be and have access to the world's streaming media, NordVPN is a great choice as a UK VPN.

Head over to the NordVPN website to sign up

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Surfshark best UK VPN

3. Surfshark

Super cheap and great for streaming

Specifications
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average UK speeds on 1Gbps line: 165-170Mbps
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Number of servers: 3,200+
Server locations: 100+
Reasons to buy
+Super value+Useful apps and clients+Unblocks iPlayer and the rest
Reasons to avoid
-Privacy policy is a little flimsy

In our Surfshark review, we found it to be a seriously good-value proposition for those seeking a good balance of price and performance, and available for less than £2 a month, it delivers unbeatable value for money while providing a fully-featured UK VPN service.

What stands out about Surfshark is its great streaming power. Unblocking BBC iPlayer along with Netflix and the rest, it performs better than a number of more expensive services. Also, this unlocking ability is clearly advertised on its website, meaning as a business Surfshark should be committed to maintaining users' access to content.

Surfshark's clients are also well thought out, with apps across all devices sharing a similar, stable interface that makes it easy to select your server. It's also easy to find and change settings, which include different protocols and features like 'Double Hop', which routes your traffic through two servers to further obfuscate your location.

A small niggle we have with Surfshark, though, is its lightweight privacy policy. While it's in no way worrying, the last audit it undertook was by Cure53 in 2018 – and even then that was only of its browser extensions. We'd love to see a more detailed privacy policy, and more frequent audits.

However, for the price it's hard not to recommend Surfshark as a cheap VPN – especially if you're after a UK VPN to help you stream what you want when you're abroad. 

Head over to the Surfshark website to sign up

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Hotspot Shield best UK VPN

4. Hotspot Shield

Seriously fast UK VPN

Specifications
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Simultaneous connections: 5
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video
Number of servers: 1,800+
Server locations: 130+
Reasons to buy
+Excellent speeds+Long 45-day trial+Useful free option
Reasons to avoid
-Poor device support

If you're after the absolute fastest UK VPN, Hotspot Shield is a great option. In our testing for our Hotspot Shield review, on our 600Mb UK line it delivered 210Mbps. However, tested on our US line it delivered a staggering 410Mbps – so, no matter where you are and what ISP you're using, Hotspot Shield can keep up.

We'll also note the Hotspot Shield offers a free VPN, but that comes with restrictions such as 500MB a day usage allowance and a 2Mbps speed limit. Compared with the figures above, that's going to seem pretty useless.

However, while it's unbelievably fast, Hotspot Shield does come with a couple of downsides. You won't be able to cover any games consoles or Chromebooks, as device support is limited to Windows PC, Macs, Linux and mobile devices, plus a Chrome extension.

Also, while they're fairly stable and easy to use, Hotspot Shield's apps don't offer much configuration. You're only able to use the proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol, which is the reason for both the immense speeds and the limited device support, but unless you desperately want a VPN on your Xbox, that's probably not much of a problem.

As a UK VPN for streaming and keeping you secure, Hotspot Shield is one of the fastest options available – just make sure you can live with its limitations

Head over to the Hotspot Shield website to sign up

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Cyberghost best UK VPN

5. CyberGhost

Streaming-focused UK VPN

Specifications
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Simultaneous connections: 7
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Number of servers: 6,200+
Server locations: 110+
Reasons to buy
+Loads of servers+Optimised for streaming & torrenting+Great speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Interface can be troublesome -iPlayer support has been lost

For streaming and torrenting fans, CyberGhost offers a specialised UK VPN that's very useful, and is used by over 10 million people worldwide.

As you'll discover in our CyberGhost VPN review, the Romania-based provider has a huge range of servers worldwide, virtually guaranteeing users a decent connection wherever they are.

However, one of our favourite features is CyberGhost's filtering system. If you're looking for a server that's best suited to, say, streaming Netflix, you can filter servers to only display those that will deliver the best Netflix experience. Unfortunately, though, in our last round of testing CyberGhost failed to get access to iPlayer, which does make it less ideal for the UK that those above.

CyberGhost's privacy policy appears to be very positive, claiming not to log any identifying information about any of its users – but while that's all well and good, we'd love to see it undertake an independent audit to prove this. 

Also, CyberGhost's support system isn't nearly as good as ExpressVPN's, and while you won't be left in the lurch if something goes wrong, it's possible it'll take a little longer for any problems to be rectified.

All in all, though, CyberGhost is a great value UK VPN that's good for streaming and only has a couple of minor downsides – it's certainly one to keep in mind.

Head over to the CyberGhost website to sign up

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UK VPN FAQs

Why do I need a UK VPN?

There are a few reasons you might want a UK VPN. Firstly, if you're in the UK, you're probably aware that our government can be a little nosy to say the least. If you want to keep your search history and online activity private, a VPN is an essential tool.

Other Brits might just want to have access to overseas streaming media. While we've got iPlayer and the UK library on Netflix, having a VPN can give you access to the world's media, including foreign Netflix and even services like Hulu if you've got a subscription.

Finally, if you're abroad, you might want to hop onto iPlayer, but you'll find that you'll be unable to access it. iPlayer also has some of the strictest VPN blocking tech in the streaming industry, so only the best can bypass this and get you watching abroad. Thankfully, every VPN on this list can do that for you. Now you just have to pick which one to go with.

Can I get a free UK VPN?

Free services can be double-edged swords – while they can offer some of the benefits of a paid-for VPN, they're never the whole package.

One of the best is Hotspot Shield's free version which, as mentioned above. is nothing compared to the full edition.

While useful for very infrequent use, they're no good for streaming and torrenting, and you'll soon find yourself on the hunt for the best UK VPN – even if it'll cost you a couple of quid a month.

How do UK VPNs unblock Netflix?

Netflix has different libraries for many countries around the world, and these libraries are only accessible to those in that country. This is a problem for holidaymakers, and many others just want to watch shows they’re not ‘allowed’ to.

A Netflix VPN can relocate you to any country you want, and the best will do this in a way that’s undetectable by the streaming service. Once you’ve done that, you’re free to watch whatever you want.

Should I use a UK-based VPN?

Seeing as the UK has some of the nosiest online laws in the world – and is a member of the notorious Five Eyes alliance – true privacy nuts are likely to avoid VPNs based in the UK.

While there's not a huge amount anyway, the most well-known UK-based VPN is HideMyAss. HMA doesn't often feature on our roundups of top VPN services, but that's because the competition is just so strong. However, while it's UK-based, it does have a fairly robust no-logging policy, which means that even if the UK government decided to stick their oar in and demand information, HMA wouldn't have anything to hand over.

A no logging policy is especially important for a VPN based in country with stricter data laws – the UK being one of them – so when you're making your decision that should be factored in.

VPN disclaimer - UK VPN

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.