A good UK VPN is one the most important tools if you want to maintain true internet privacy in good old Blighty. With 2016's Investigatory Powers Act – charmingly nicknamed the Snoopers' Charter – still in effect, Brits wishing to stay anonymous online will need the assistance of a quality VPN for the UK.
While we won't delve into the politics behind any legislation, it's quite 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.
If you're a bona fide couch potato you'll know that there's a whole host of shows and even entire streaming services unavailable to those in the UK. For example, Hulu is one of the USA's most popular subscription services, but it's blocked in Britain. With a VPN you'll be able to make an account and watch TV as if you were across the pond.
Brits who travel will also know that BBC iPlayer, All 4, ITV Hub and more are totally blocked overseas, and some Netflix classics won't be available either – that means, depending on where you are, there'll be no Love Island, Peep Show or Horrible Histories.
What makes a great UK VPN?
Those in the UK will want to seek out a UK VPN that's got hard-as-nails security alongside great streaming performance and top connection speeds. Topping our list is ExpressVPN – it 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. Also, 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.
The best UK VPNs today
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.
For many VPNs, BBC iPlayer can prove a problem, as the British streaming service uses some of the most advanced VPN detecting software around. However, ExpressVPN sidesteps it with ease and you'll be able to watch anything you want – whether you're in Hull or Honolulu.
Netflix performance is excellent too, and with Express you'll be able to browse the UK library abroad, or explore the world's content form your sofa back home.
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.
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.
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 a reliably secure VPN.
Usability is good too, as Nord unblocks most streaming services, most importantly BBC iPlayer. Alongside that, you'll also have almost 5,000 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
For streaming and torrenting fans, CyberGhost offers a specialised UK VPN that's very useful, and is used by over 10 million people worldwide.
With an incredible number of servers worldwide, users are virtually guaranteed to get a decent connection wherever they are, but one of our favourite features is CyberGhost's filtering system. If you're looking for a server that's best suited to, say, streaming iPlayer, you can filter servers to only display those that will deliver the best Netflix experience.
As well as that, the Smart Rules panel of the app gives you a huge amount of control over how the VPN functions – for example, you can set CyberGhost to auto-launch when you open another app (perhaps your torrenting client), which is great if you're the kind to forget to turn it on.
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, CyberGhost is a great value UK VPN that's brilliant for streaming and only has a couple of minor downsides – it's certainly one to keep in mind.
For those on a tight budget, Surfshark is an excellent UK VPN. Available for well under $2/£2 a month, it delivers unbeatable value for money while providing a fully-featured VPN service.
What stands out about Surfshark is its great streaming power. Unlocking 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.
However, for the price it's hard not to recommend Surfshark as a cheap VPN – especially if you're only after a UK VPN to help you stream what you want when you're abroad.
Head over to the Surfshark website to sign up
If you're after the absolute fastest UK VPN, Hotspot Shield is a great option. Tested on our 75Mb UK line, it delivered 71Mb. However, tested on our 600Mb US line it delivered up to 547Mb – that pretty much means that no matter how fast your connection is, 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 2Mb 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.
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
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 VPNs 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 VPN for Netflix 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.