Best Cheap VPN (UK) in 2021
After reviewing thirty VPN services, we compared their prices. Here are the best-value VPN deals for UK citizens.
As Business Insider wrote about not too long ago, with someone's IP address a cybercriminal can interact with you.
A VPN (virtual private network) bridges you and your internet service provider (ISP).
This secure ‘tunnel’ shields your browsing activities from prying eyes, including your ISP.
It beats ‘geoblocks’ too: in terms of the best VPN for Netflix, those on this list are mostly suitable choices as, with them, only you will know where you’re located.
If not, a skilled hacker can interfere with your browsing activities, and set blocks. In rare instances, users may be targeted with DDoS attacks, which can lead to identity theft, sabotage and misinformation.
Is It Worth Paying for a VPN?
In truth, DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks aren’t likely for most users. Many people seek online privacy and protection, while going about online activities, in order to not be tracked by the government.
Oftentimes, there’s collaboration between your ISP and government. This can lead to very productive things like ISPs removing internet data caps during the Covid-19. These governments also tend to sneak in extra surveillance measures, to add to those already in place.
Presently, there are reports of the UK—one of the most heavily surveilled countries in the world—increasing bodies who can grab data communications from UK mobiles and phones, as well as ISPs, under the Investigatory Powers Act or IPAct.
Plus, if you want to access geoblocked content (e.g. Hulu or US Netflix), a VPN comes in very handy.
The Cheapest VPNs UK in 2021
- Surfshark = cheapest at $2.49
- NordVPN = fastest cheap VPN / best VPN for streaming Netflix at £3.17
- Private Internet Access = best for mobile VPN at £2.44
- Cyberghost = best VPN for torrenting UK at £2.50
- ExpressVPN = best VPN for beating censorship at £6.06
Note: prices are for the cheapest monthly plans, some of which are 3 year contracts. Some are converted to GBP from USD and might be off by a few pennies.]
1. SurfShark - Best Cheap VPN UK
This is the overall best for cheapness and security around town.
Special need for speed? With any VPN, there will be some speed decline: it has to set security protocols in place in real-time, to protect you. NordVPN is likely the fastest VPN the UK has, but Surfshark (Surfshark review) holds up strongly (scroll down for it).
Each VPN on our list won’t give you the lags that less trustworthy ones give users (no need to wonder why YouTube’s taking two minutes to load for no reason). Lower the speed drop by choosing a server nearest to your location. You will find 3 servers for the UK: Glasgow, Manchester and London.
If you’re in the UK, any of these will probably do, no matter where you're located. But you can switch, to test what gives you the best response. Surfshark estimates about a 20 to 30% drop in internet speeds.
For those with a strong connection, this won't be a problem for gaming/HD Netflix.
AES 256-Bit Encryption (Very Secure at Upper level)
Grab the above with 2048-bit RSA authentication and 160-bit SHA1 hash algorithm. This provider uses the gold standard in security protocols.
The development team is also very active, keeping the client updated. Not too long ago, they added in two-factor authentication. Servers are constantly updated with new ones becoming available.
They have a ‘no logs’ policy (your browsing info won’t be saved on servers or even tracked), although there is some speculation on whether their declaration of being independently audited was no little more than a PR stunt.
That said, they have a strong reputation and we have no reason to believe anything suspect, though we would like to see a more in-depth audit in the future.
Could Be the Best VPN For Streaming…
We have a lot of strong contenders on this list so this is really splitting hairs.
If you’re enticed by the ability to unblock geoblocked streams such as US Netflix or Hulu, you’ll have no problem with this client...
Just remember that we don't recommend this if you're looking to beat censors in China.
Don't forget that a VPN can pump up your online privacy and security! Give it a go for 30 days and, if unsure, ask for a full refund.
2. NordVPN - Fastest Cheap VPN in the UK
While reviewing NordVPN we realized it would have been number one if this wasn't a guide tackling the cheapest VPN around.
You’ll get all of the best security protocols, from OpenVPN to Open Tor. On top of that is Nord’s very own CyberSec.
This firewall system handles adware and malicious websites, which can be a God-send: no need to buy a firewall on top of your VPN, unless you’re doing something particularly risky online. It’ll also stop you from being tracked with cookies and such.
Automated Leak Tests
We’ve said it before: go for one of the hundreds of free VPNs via Android stores and you’ll be putting yourself possibly in greater risk.
Nevertheless, once getting any provider, always test your VPN to make sure it’s not ‘leaking’ (there, we also explain why not leaking is important).
NordVPN automates many of these (and employs a ‘kill switch’ in the event of a leak):
- IPv6 and IPv4
- DNS requests
Super handy, but still run tests, to make sure.
No quibbling: try this for free, with a refund guarantee. If you’re not sold, you'll get your money back as long as you cancel inside of 30-days. Grab this by logging in first. Look for Automatic Payments and cancel. Even faster, ask a live chat rep.
3. Private Internet Access: Best Cheap VPN in the UK for Mobiles
The Terminal List—a thriller written by a Navy SEAL—got a fair amount of press on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and will be turned into a movie starring Chris Pratt.
In the book, a vengeful father of a murdered wife and child seeks justice. He has to go incognito from the powers-that-be who are hunting him (the very country that he sacrificed to protect, up to the Vice President.)
In the book, the main character uses Private Internet Access as a means of going incognito from his spying eyes tracking him digitally.
Even a real war veteran, one very aware of just how much governments track their citizens, recommends Private Internet Access for on-the-go protection. (If you’re into thrillers, give the book a go too. It’s awesome).
Trusted and Safe to Use
Fortunately, the company does not charge a great deal for their service, despite having proven in court that they do not keep any logs.
What does that mean? Even in the event of surveillance agencies requesting data for reasons of national security, there'll be nothing for them to hand over... All of that, and you only need a tiny 26MB of free space to install this app on your phone or whatever device.
If you want to keep things completely incognito, pay for the VPN using cryptocurrency. It also has its own automated data-leak protection measures in place. A very comprehensive provider especially suited for stealth on-the-go purposes… (be it a cafe with public WiFi or handling sensitive emails).
If you're looking to do some real online shopping, you can choose a protocol like OpenVPN (inside Private Internet Access), which offers the highest level encryption possible, without noticeable drops in speed.
Quickly shift to Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), whenever you want to do high-def Netflix or gaming, as there’s not much in the way of secure information that needs to be protected.
Lots of flexibility is why this is one of the best UK VPNs around… You also get to imagine yourself as a rogue Navy SEAL agent on the run from corrupt, high-ranking government officials.
Expected speed drops of around 15% on average, but this will obviously depend on what security protocol you choose.
4. CyberGhost: Best Cheap VPN in the UK for Torrenting
Cyberghost has a reputation for ease-of-use due to the custom smart features it employs.
Among them (we’ll talk about torrenting later) is the Best Location feature, which lets you find the optimal server for your specific location.
Simply use the ‘Completely Automatically’ function and it will choose the best country and server combination based on its own internal load balancing system. If you need to give it a nudge, narrow the search down to a specific country. Or do a manual search for one you specifically want to use.
Unblocks Popular Streams
Cyberghost gets a strong customer rating on independent review sites. It's a comprehensive VPN provider that can really do it all.
Among this is the ability to unlock US Netflix libraries, or whatever country you want to access—all without a much noticeable drop in internet speeds.
No matter what country you are accessing from, watch popular streams—ranging from YouTube TV, BBC iPlayer, Disney plus, Netflix, HBO, ESPN, and Netflix. A very solid choice for those who want to do online television streaming.
Best VPN for Torrenting UK
Cyberghost is actually unique in this area. There is no other popular VPN that is specifically designed to carry-out optimized P2P sharing (peer-to-peer downloading).
If you want to download torrents at top speeds, there really is no other VPN we could recommend … even NordVPN—while being reputably fast—does not have optimized servers that give you a clear sense of what will work best for torrenting.
Long Money-Back Guarantee
Along with a completely free 24-hour trial, you will still be able to get a full refund after 45 days of purchasing the VPN
This is a full half-month longer than any other popular VPN. And even though they are giving a generous money-back guarantee, you can still expect all of the cutting-edge features of a top VPN, such as split-tunneling.
5. ExpressVPN: Best VPN UK for Censored States
We've only 6% drops in speeds and a Smart Location tool, ExpressVPN is one of the most popular on the market for a good reason.
Now, we have to mention that this isn't a cheap VPN relatively speaking. It's almost twice as expensive as NordVPN, for example. However, you will find that it gives you a top-to-bottom experience.
With this fast VPN, you can do everything (with one or two exceptions like blocking ads): from locating the optimal server for your location with a single mouse click, to accessing censored sites in highly-censored states (we've written in the past about the work still to do with censorship).
Uses ‘Stealth Servers’ and ‘Symmetrical Encryption’
Symmetric encryption is an extra level of security for your transmitted data. Essentially it means that, to retrieve your data, hackers would need the same key that was used to encrypt your data. It's an almost impossible feat.
Things get even more juicy when you see how effective ExpressVPN is with a list of highly censored states.
ExpressVPN has shown itself to be able to get through China's Great Firewall. It manages this by using something called ‘stealth servers’. Sometimes, VPNs that have this feature are referred to as ‘stealth VPNs’.
By using a stealth VPN, any traffic that is passing through your provider is disguised as normal web traffic. It doesn't matter if network admins and firewalls see your traffic, it will still appear to be everyday data.
ExpressVPN can bypass the admins of some of the most censored countries in the world, including:
- The UAE
If you’ve not heard of this feature before, it essentially means you can use your VPN connections for a specific portion of your browsing activity.
You could, say, use a VPN to watch US YouTube while not having it connected for when you are doing online banking (we talk more about using VPNs for online banking in the FAQ Section, as there may be difficulties).
If you've ever used a VPN extension, you may have experienced something similar to split tunnelling. VPN extensions may allow you to connect to the VPN in individual tabs on a browser. But you can leave other tabs unconnected.
Another benefit of this is that you do not drain the bandwidth of your VPN, instead distributing it between your ISP and VPN strategically.
Buying Guide 💳
Best Cheap VPN in the UK for 2021 = Surfshark
Surfshark offers the full menu, despite being a relatively new provider. You’ll get solid speeds and strong uptimes. A while ago, there were issues with device compatibility. We’re happy that the VPN now supports all of the popular platforms. You’ll also have unlimited simultaneous connections (any number of devices with a single account).
Best Cheap VPN UK for Streaming Netflix = NordVPN
NordVPN unblocks all major Netflix libraries around the world. They’ll even provide dedicated apps compatible with all sorts of streaming devices, including Android TV boxes, Smart TVs, FireStick and Fire TV.
Surfshark officially unblocks 10 Netflix libraries: Canada, US, UK, Australia, Singapore, Italy, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and Norway. It may also work with other Netflix regions.
Which is better: NordVPN or ExpressVPN? = [Depends]
A common question online. In short: ExpressVPN offers better functionality; NordVPN offers better value. You’ll save almost 50% with NordVPN and all are fast, safe, and full-featured. Both give you great speeds, unrestricted access to blocked content, plus military-grade security.
What is the fastest VPN? [ExpressVPN and NordVPN]
- NordVPN – you’ll get just a 2% speed drop. It’s the fastest VPN on this list.
- ExpressVPN – is a hair’s breadth away with a 3% speed drop.
- Private Internet Access – is the third-closes with a 22% speed drop.
The only way to know is to try it out and always remember that each VPN gives you a money-back guarantee. Try it out no-risk and see if you get any buffering issues while using your favorite online streams.
VPNs Explained (Technical Section) ⚙️
VPNs Secure ‘Endpoints’ For You
VPNs are a type of business or personal ‘endpoint’ security (see the technical section of this guide, for more). Endpoint security is more important ever and increasingly so.
VPNs carry out this function through a kind of endpoint ‘tunnel’ that encrypts data as you access it. For certain types of IoT devices, it's an extra layer of protection, reducing the threat pathways that a cyber criminal might exploit.
In layman's terms, there are more cyber risks. Commercial VPN services are more in-demand because people realize even everyday internet use should be better encrypted, whether you are using an encrypted or unencrypted internet port.
VPN Tunnelling Explained (How a VPN Tunnel Usually Works):
#1 First, the VPN creates a data access point between the VPN network and your client machine. At the VPN point, data is encrypted and sent into cyberspace.
#2 There's a second point in the VPN network that decrypts that data so that it can be sent to the relevant Internet resource, which could be a web server, company intranet, email server.
#3 The internet resource sends its own data back to an access point in your VPN network, where it is encrypted.
#4 That encrypted info is tunneled through the internet, to a second point in the VPN network where the data is decrypted and sent to your client device. By this back and forth encryption / decryption at different access points or ‘endpoints’, you can talk with the Internet indirectly.
Types of VPNs (VPN Security Protocols)
Different VPNs may offer different encryption technologies, protocols and standards.
Keep in mind that the point-to-point tunneling is not recommended if you want any real level of security (as opposed to just something that fixes Netflix geo-blocking, for instance). If you need security, don’t choose a VPN if it only uses PPTP.
Point-to-Point Tunneling (PPTP): A standard data encryption protocol around since the mid-nineties. While it doesn't actually encrypt, it does data packet tunneling and uses a GRE protocol for encapsulation.
It's one of the fastest protocols, but the lack of encryptions makes it relatively insecure. Bruce Schneier is one such security expert who has come to that conclusion
Internet Protocol Security (IPSec): A superior option compared to PPTP. IPSec is an amalgamation of separate protocols and capabilities. It does packet encapsulation using the ESP protocol. You have the option to choose AES-CBC, AES-GCM, 3DES-CBC, or SHA1/SHA2 for the encryption. The security level amounts to military-grade.
Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP): Can be used in conjunction with IPSec, to bolster your security. This is relatively quite a fast protocol.
Secure Shell (SSH): Can manage both encryption and tunneling processes in a VPN network.
Is it Illegal to Have a VPN?
There are some exceptions (like Iran), but otherwise, VPNs are legal everywhere in the world. It’s a perfectly acceptable way to protect your identity while you’re browsing.
As long as you don’t get up to anything illegal, you’re okay. Though a VPN may cover your tracks, keeping your activities anonymous, torrenting copyright material isn’t legal.
Can You Be Tracked if You Use a VPN?
If you have a DNS leak, your activities may be discoverable. An IP leak (which is also known as a DNS leak) is only a glitch in the Window operating system. For any who use Mac OS or Linux, DNS leaks won’t occur.
IP stands for “Internet Provider” and DNS for “Domain Name System.” A DNS processes the URL address you’re visiting and translates this into a numerical IP address.
For example, Youtube.com is converted into a numerical IP address that looks like the following: 184.108.40.206. Likewise, most browsers will reveal your DNS information, but a VPN will hide it for you.
Sometimes, this might not work (on the Windows OS): the DNS request could still be sent to your ISP rather than routing through your VPN’s secure tunnel. In other words, it’s “leaked” the true address of sites you are visiting and possibly your own.
Make sure you test your VPN to see if it’s secure.
Is Using a VPN Dangerous?
We wrote an article about why free VPNs are dangerous not too long ago.
It’s an ironic article, as VPNs really have a singular purpose of shielding you against hackers and surveillance.
Surprisingly, a ton of free VPNs were embedded with malware (this is the biggest threat), while others contained adware and trackers.
You might be wondering why. One study of 283 VPNs showed that many of the free providers had malware (38% actually)—and this included SuperVPN, Betternet and CrossVPN.
Free VPNs go to the length of installing adware and trackers on your device because they need to make money. You are better off finding one that has data limitations, otherwise they'll make money off of selling your private information.
The safest option you have is a premium VPN with inbuilt malware and ad blockers. Many of these also offer unlimited bandwidth but they are making money from your subscription, rather than your private information.
The same study showed that 72% of free VPNs also installed third-party trackers in their software. This is obviously the opposite of what they advertise.
Are VPNs Safe for Online Banking...?
You should use a VPN if you are dealing with sensitive data or handling online transactions.
A VPN reduces your chances of your bank account being compromised. It puts an extra level of protection between you and any hackers who may be trying to steal your money or identity.
As said in the introduction, VPNs work by encrypting your browsing activities. In other words, people cannot see what traffic you are accessing. This also means that your transactions are taken away from the prying eyes of cyber criminals.
Be Careful of Private Internet Access
NordVPN is probably the strongest choice on this list for having a ‘no logs’ policy. They do not track your activities or IP address (some VPNs do), so hackers and surveillance agencies will not be able to access your history of online browsing.
They’ve also gone further than most providers by running independent audits proving that they have a strict no logs policy.
(Although Private Internet Access has shown in court that they have a no logs policy, they have a history of helping the government dox suspects of crimes. This suggests they are not what they seem.)
Public WiFi Protection
Using public Wi-Fi especially puts you at a higher risk (particularly so if there is no password needed).
Hackers sometimes use these open networks to hack into devices. Some of the smarter ones create fake Wi-Fi networks in public places that look like free airport Wi-Fi for example.
Really it's a fake network, giving the hacker a gateway to your machine.
If you are a digital nomad or someone who travels to other countries frequently, you may have experienced annoying difficulties from your bank suspecting you of suspicious activities.
Generally, banks do not like to see money transfers happening from many different locations under one account. They treat this as signs of fraud (a phone call and note added to your file may help). Sometimes, your card will be blocked and they will request further verification before you can continue making transactions.
One way to get around this is to connect your VPN to your country of origin, or wherever your bank account is located. This way, you’ll be able to get protection from hackers as well as minimizing any nuisances from your bank.
You should never replace general security with a VPN. Always ensure you have an updated antivirus system in place. Keep your operating system updated. And always use strong passwords.
Related Read: Best Free Antivirus Software
As a quick summary:
- Surfshark is the best cheapest VPN in the UK.
- NordVPN is the fastest cheap VPN (UK).
- Private Internet Access is the best for on-the-go stuff e.g. mobiles, public WiFi.
If you are still unsure of what provider to choose, keep in mind every provider offers a money-back guarantee.