Best NordVPN alternatives

NordVPN logo on a blue gradient background with the word 'alternatives' below it.
(Image credit: Future)

NordVPN came out as the best VPN overall in my most recent NordVPN review, impressing in almost every way. It's fast, offers excellent privacy features, it's easy to use, and it's not too expensive. No other VPN can match it in terms of all-round performance

However, there are tons of NordVPN alternatives out there, and you might find that one of them suits you better. Of these, I think ExpressVPN and Surfshark are the best NordVPN alternatives—ExpressVPN is perfect for beginners, while Surfshark is the best cheap VPN around.

On this page I'll be taking some of the best-reviewed VPNs and comparing them with NordVPN, focusing on five key areas: privacy, price, streaming, speed, and ease of use. Then you can weigh up the pros and cons, and go with the VPN that suits you best.

NordVPN: the best VPN overall

NordVPN: the best VPN overall
After reviewing dozens of VPNs, the results show that NordVPN is the most well-rounded of them all. It's fast, secure, makes staying safe online easy, and can unblock everything I've tested it with.

It costs about $3.50 per month—less if you catch a bargain deal—and there's a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it out for a month and get a full refund if you don't enjoy it.

Best NordVPN alternatives in brief

ExpressVPN: best VPN for beginners

ExpressVPN: best VPN for beginners
ExpressVPN is an excellent privacy-focused VPN that makes it very easy to stay more protected online. The apps are intuitive, and just like NordVPN, it's great for unblocking streaming content.

It's a little more expensive at $6.67 per month, but if you're looking for a simpler alternative to NordVPN, it's worth it. You'll also get a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try before you buy.

Surfshark: the best cheap VPN

Surfshark: the best cheap VPN
Surfshark is perfect if NordVPN is out of budget but you don't want to sacrifice privacy or features. It's owned by NordVPN, so you can trust it's held to the same high standard, and it's also great for streaming. 

Starting at less than $2.50 per month, it's cheaper than NordVPN, and you can upgrade your subscription to add more privacy and security tools if you need them. Again, you're covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

NordVPN alternative 1: ExpressVPN

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Header Cell - Column 0 NordVPNExpressVPN
Number of servers:6,000+3,000+
Server countries:140 locations in 111 countries160 locations in 105 countries
Maximum simultaneous connections:108
MAximum connection speed950+ Mbps410 Mbps
Money back guarantee:30 days30 days
Lowest monthly cost:Less than $3.50 (varies)$6.67

ExpressVPN is NordVPN's biggest rival, and when comparing ExpressVPN vs NordVPN, the two are hard to separate. 

On the surface, NordVPN seems like the better deal—it's faster, cheaper, and has more servers. However, while NordVPN performs very well across the board, ExpressVPN does hold the advantage in some key areas.

Detailed comparison


NordVPN and ExpressVPN are evenly matched in terms of privacy. As two of the leading providers when it comes to protecting you from threats online, either one is a good choice if this is your only concern. 

Both have audited no-logs policies, and use robust encryption protocols like Lightway, WireGuard, and OpenVPN. You don't get featured at the top my guides for nothing, and I consider both of these to be top of the pile privacy-wise.

NordVPN on a Mac

(Image credit: Future)


When it comes to price, NordVPN easily beats ExpressVPN. Starting at less than $3.50 per month—and often dropping near or below the $3 per month mark—it's priced toward the low end in the grand scheme.

Compared with ExpressVPN's lowest monthly price of $6.67, which includes a special deal that adds three months free for new subscribers, Nord's an absolute bargain.

A basic subscription to NordVPN will get you the VPN and the extra features included in the app like Onion over VPN, and Meshnet—which is free to non-subscribers, too.

Sign up to higher tiers and you'll also get malware protection, a data breach scanner, a tracker and ad blocker, a password manager, secure cloud storage, and cyber insurance up to $1M. The full package costs $5.99 per month—still less than ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN doesn't have any higher tiers, and a subscription includes a password manager—which remains free even if you cancel—an adblocker, and an app tracker blocker. That's all you'll get, and at $6.67 it starts to look pretty steep.


This will be a quick one—both NordVPN and ExpressVPN work extremely well as streaming and Netflix VPNs. I test a range of Netflix libraries, all of which both providers could access, as well as services like BBC iPlayer, Peacock, 10Play, ITVX, Channel 4, RaiPlay, and lots more. 

There's nothing between the two VPNs here.

ExpressVPN on a Mac

(Image credit: Future)


In our speed testing, NordVPN has consistently been one of, if not the, fastest VPN available. When using our 1 Gbps line, I've seen reliable speeds of over 950+ Mbps with the WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol.

ExpressVPN, on the other hand, topped out at around 410 Mbps when using Lightway. This isn't bad, but certainly can't compete with Nord's blazing speeds.

When using OpenVPN, ExpressVPN did pull ahead at 210 Mbps, which is very good for the old-school privacy-first protocol. NordVPN topped out at 110 which is pretty average.

If you're looking for searing everyday speeds, NordVPN is the clear winner here, but for those who know they'll be using OpenVPN, ExpressVPN is the better choice.

Ease of use

NordVPN isn't difficult to use, but some people find its apps a little tricky to get used to. For example, the map-based interface is quite nifty on the large screen of a laptop, but on a handheld device it can prove to be a bit awkward and cluttered. The home screen of the app is also quite busy too, which doesn't help beginners.

ExpressVPN is the opposite. Open the app on any device and all you'll see is the on/off button. If you just want to connect, you can tap that and close the app, not having to think about anything else.

There are plenty of features hidden in the settings for those who want to configure their connection too, and ExpressVPN easily takes this one.

NordVPN or ExpressVPN?

If I'm honest, you can't go wrong with either of these. However, if you're looking for a whole suite of privacy tools at a very reasonable price, you should go for NordVPN.

If you're a total newbie who has no interest in fiddling with settings and just wants a VPN to do its job, and do it quietly, go for ExpressVPN.

NordVPN alternative 2: Surfshark

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Header Cell - Column 0 NordVPNSurfshark
Number of servers:6,000+3,200+
Server countries:140 locations in 111 countries142 locations in 100 countries
Maximum simultaneous connections:10Unlimited
MAximum connection speed950+ Mbps950+ Mbps
Money back guarantee:30 days30 days
Lowest monthly cost:Less than $3.50 (varies)Less than $2.50 (varies)

Surfshark is owned by Nord Security, and while it is a separate entity, it does share a lot of NordVPN abilities and features—which is a good thing.

It's not "NordVPN Lite", either. It's a fully-fledged privacy suite that not only matches NordVPN is a lot of areas, but offers more in some. It's also an absolute bargain, so it's definitely worth considering.

Detailed comparison


Surfshark and NordVPN are on fairly level pegging when it comes to privacy. Both favor WireGuard-based protocols as their default options, both offer obfuscation (the process of hiding the fact you're using a VPN at all), and both offer kill switches and verified no-logs policies.

However, in my testing, I was able to break Surfshark's kill switch. While you're unlikely to be fiddling with root processes and actively trying to break things yourself, it's telling that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN withstood the same test. 

Considering that, if privacy is your main concern, NordVPN is the better choice.

NordVPN on a Mac and iPhone

(Image credit: Future)


If price is your biggest decision maker, though, you should definitely consider Surfshark. I've seen it as low as $2.05 per month, and never more than $2.49 per month. It's significantly cheaper than NordVPN, which very rarely drops below $3 per month.

In fact, I rate Surfshark as the best cheap VPN, and it's definitely the best service in its price range.


NordVPN and Surfshark are both excellent streaming VPNs, unblocking everything I tested them with in my last round of reviews. This is perhaps unsurprising, considering Surfshark's Nord Security ownership and tech sharing, but if you're looking for a NordVPN alternative that can hold its own when it comes to streaming, Surfshark could be it.

Surfshark on a Mac and iPhone

(Image credit: Future)


Both NordVPN and Surfshark maxed out my 1 Gbps test connection when using WireGuard or NordLynx, and both provide very reliable connections that very rarely, if ever, drop out.

However, if you're an OpenVPN user, Surfshark is the better choice. NordVPN delivered around 110 Mbps using it, while Surfshark sped ahead at a massive 640 Mbps. This is the fastest connection I've ever seen from a VPN using OpenVPN.

If you're interested in why, this is because Surfshark uses something called Data Channel Offload (DCO). DCO sacrifices some of OpenVPN's capacity for obfuscation in return for much faster speeds. If you're seeking obfuscation, Surfshark does still offer this, and automatically detects when you need it.

For the average person, NordVPN and Surfshark are more than fast enough. If you know you'll need OpenVPN—perhaps for a router VPN—Surfshark is the better choice.

Ease of use

Just like ExpressVPN, Surfshark is tailored towards those who prefer a simpler experience, while NordVPN is quite a lot more complex. If ease of use is a priority, Surfshark is a better choice—although it's a fine margin.

NordVPN or Surfshark?

Again, as a whole package, NordVPN is the better VPN. However, if you're looking for a simple, cheap alternative, Surfshark is a very reliable service that offers very similar performance at a lower price.

► Other NordVPN alternatives

I think one of NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or Surfshark will be the best choice for the vast majority of people—they feature prominently in many of my detailed VPN guides because they're all such well-rounded products.

However, there are a few more VPNs that offer very good products that may suit you better. Below, I've quickly outlined their key features, and why they might be the right NordVPN alternative for you.

Private Internet Access: cheap and great for experts

Private Internet Access: cheap and great for experts
If you know what you're doing when it comes to VPNs, Private Internet Access offers tons of customizable features you'll enjoy. You can configure things like port forwarding and encryption level, and there's also a command line tool to automate your connections.

It's cheaper than Surfshark at around $2.20 per month, but newbies should make note that it's a little more complex to use than NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or Surfshark. However, I rate it a the best torrenting VPN, so if you're often sharing P2P, it's your best bet.

Speeds are decent at around 330 Mbps when using WireGuard, but that's significantly slower than my top three. It's excellent for streaming, though, and unblocked everything I tested it with. 

Well worth considering, especially if you're on a budget.

Proton VPN: Swiss security with a wide suite of extras

Proton VPN: Swiss security with a wide suite of extras
Proton VPN is another one for the techies, although from personal experience I find it easier to use than PIA. Proton's USP lies in its extra privacy tools. Features like its Secure Core servers will put the paranoid at rest, while the rest of the suite—Mail, Drive, Pass, and Calendar—allow you to protect just almost every facet of your online life.

Prices start at $4.99 per month, although those who click the link above will get an exclusive discount, dropping it to $3.59 per month. That's still not especially cheap, but it's a fair price. Proton also offers a quality free plan.

Interestingly, Proton is the first truly independent provider I've featured here. NordVPN and Surfshark are owned by the same parent company (Nord Security), as are ExpressVPN and PIA (Kape Technologies). If that's important to you, it's a big green flag.

PrivadoVPN: the best free provider I've tested

PrivadoVPN: the best free provider I've tested
PrivadoVPN is somewhat of a newcomer, and like ExpressVPN, it targets people looking for a simple, effective VPN. However, the standout offering is its freemium model, which I rate as the best free VPN.

While it's limited to 10 GB of data, it's the only free service that can reliably unblock a number of streaming services, and it's quick too, topping out at around 900 Mbps.

Privacy advocates won't be impressed with the fact its no-logs policy hasn't been audited—although this is reportedly in the works—but in my testing I haven't found anything to suggest the service isn't safe to use.


We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Mo Harber-Lamond
VPN Editor

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.