Best Free VPN: 5 great ways to protect your privacy

We've tested all the best VPNs available, ranking all those offering a free trial in terms of speed, usage limits and effectiveness for streaming and general web use.

Many VPN providers offer a free VPN service, either on a try-before-you-buy for a limited time basis, or on a capped data plan, in which case you’ll be asked to start paying once you exceed a (usually low) bandwidth limit. So which free VPN offer is the best?

That depends on what you’re looking for. Free VPN offers are few and far between, since most of the providers we’ve reviewed in our Best VPN roundup don’t offer a free service.

Here, we round up up the best free VPN offers available, ranking them in terms of data allowances, suitability for streaming, and, if you are prepared to fork out some money for access, some of the more generously priced alternatives.

Related: Best VPN

A screengrab of the Windscribe desktop client running on Windows 10.

1. Windscribe

Best Free VPN for streaming

Pros:

Chicken Widget

Best Game of Thrones Deal

Now TV – 3 Month Entertainment Pass (UK Deal)

Giving you just enough time to catch up on previous episodes of Game of Thrones and to dive into the eighth and final season, this discounted three-month pass is perfect for the casual watcher.

HBO on Amazon Prime Channels – 7-Day Free Trial (US Deal)

Residents in the US can get access to all of HBO's fantastic content (including Game of Thrones) through Amazon Prime Channels, with a 7-day free trial available for new customers.

  • Generous free tier
  • Clear data security policy
  • Wide range of endpoint countries
  • Provides international access to Netflix and iPlayer

Cons:

  • Extremely variable connection speeds

If you’re looking for a free VPN offer mainly for accessing streaming services when abroad, then Windscribe is by far your best bet. Not only did it give us international access to BBC iPlayer and Netflix in our last round of tests, but it also demonstrated good (if inconsistent) HTTPS speeds from UK, US and Dutch endpoints, so you shouldn’t be spending most of your time staring at a buffering wheel.

Perhaps most important is the 10GB data allowance you get with the free version. That’s a pretty generous cap, which equates to roughly 10 hours of standard-definition streams, or three and a half hours of HD streams.

A close-up of the Nord VPN Windows 10 client, showing off Onion Over VPN, P2P, Double VPN options and a selection of endpoint destinations, including Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, and Azerbaijan.

2. NordVPN

Best limited-time free VPN offer

Pros:

  • Large number of servers
  • Wide range of privacy and security features
  • Wide range of endpoint countries
  • Clear no-logging policy
  • Typically fast performance in transfer speed tests
  • Provides international access to Netflix and iPlayer

Cons:

  • More expensive than some rivals

NordVPN is an interesting choice for anyone looking to stream abroad. You get a large number of endpoints to choose from, connection speeds are super-fast, and we were able to access Netflix and BBC iPlayer unimpeded in our last round of tests.

However, the free trial offers just seven days worth of streaming fun before you’re asked to cough up £5.32 a month (or less, depending on which offer you sign up for). 

This makes NordVPN a good one-shot choice for a holiday – if your plans are caught short thanks to poor weather, or you’re stuck in an airport due to grounded flights, you should be able to find something to stream online to keep you occupied. NordVPN will protect your devices when you’re using public Wi-Fi hotspots, so you can stream in relative safety, too.

Just keep an eye on that time limit if you truly are cash-strapped, as you’re required to enter credit card details on sign-up.

 

A screenshot of the VPNHub client for Windows 10 sitting on the desktop.

3. VPNHub Premium

Alternative limited-time free VPN offer

Pros:

  • Wide range of endpoint countries
  • Typically fast performance

Cons:

  • More expensive than most rivals
  • Doesn’t support less common devices and operating systems
  • Failed to stream BBC iPlayer

If you’re tight for cash and you fancy chain-smoking free VPN deals, then lighting up VPNHub’s free offer once the NordVPN trial expires is a good option.

You get seven days of free, unfettered use – but if money really is an issue, keep an eye on that time limit, because you’ll be automatically billed once the trial period is over.

We’re placing this second to NordVPN in the “best free VPN” stakes: in out last round of testing, we were unable to access BBC iPlayer, so in that sense, VPNHub is less good for TV-starved Brits abroad.

The VPNHub free trial – once only available for iOS and Android users – is now available for Windows and macOS users, too.

Again, credit card details are required to activate this free trial, meaning if you can’t afford to pay, be mindful of that time limit. 

A screenshot of the TunnelBear Windows 10 client, showing off various European endpoint destinations, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, Romania, Italy, and Spain.

4. TunnelBear

Free option with no time limit, but not ideal for streaming

Pros:

  • Free version available
  • Clear no-logging policy
  • Wide range of privacy and security features

Cons:

  • Poor FTP performance from UK endpoints
  • More expensive than many rivals

TunnelBear is a good VPN that offers a number of features for the privacy-conscious user. Sadly, though, the free offering with its rather, uh, bearish 500MB a day to burn through doesn’t make this the best option for streaming. You’ll rinse that data allowance in a matter of minutes, especially if you stream something in HD.

That may be academic anyway: in our last round of testing, TunnelBear failed to give us access to the US Netflix library or BBC iPlayer from outside the UK.

For checking emails and general web browsing, this could be a good solution for anyone working abroad who doesn’t fancy taking a chance with a public Wi-Fi hotspot – the kill-switch feature that automatically disables your connection if the VPN drops will ensure that your traffic is always protected.

We’ve historically recorded good browsing and file transfer speeds with TunnelBear, and would recommend this for pretty much anything you’d want to do online – besides accessing geo-locked content libraries.

Screenshot of Kaspersky Secure Connection running on Windows 10.

5. Kaspersky Secure Connection

Another free option with a small daily allowance

Pros:

  • Generous free tier
  • Blisteringly fast performance in transfer test speeds
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Limited device support, configuration and privacy options
  • Failed to stream US Netflix or BBC iPlayer

If TunnelBear isn’t working out for you for whatever reason, then try Kaspersky Secure Connection, which affords freebie users a (very) small 200MB daily usage cap.

Again, this isn’t really very generous at all, especially compared to the 10GB you get with Windscribe. However, compared with the paid versions, Kaspersky is actually kinder to your wallet than Windscribe, and has consistently achieved good download speeds in our tests.

The lack of an automatic kill-switch means we’d be wary about using this for quickly checking sensitive things on the go if you’re on holiday.

How we test each VPN

It isn’t possible to carry out exhaustive speed testing on VPN services, due to the wide range of factors that can affect the speeds users see at home – local network contention, traffic-shaping policies, for example. However, we still carry out speed tests to get a feel for how each service performs. We test all services using their clients default settings. In addition:

  • We run tests from a London-based connection that typically sees speeds of over 10MB/sec (equivalent to 80Mbps). We test multiple endpoints from each provider in three locations: the UK, the Netherlands, and the USA.
  • Our tables show the best results we can obtain by carrying out large-file downloads via both FTP and thorough a web browser using HTTP. However, its important to note that these figures are a snapshot of performance at a single point in time, rather than being fully representative.
  • While UK and Dutch endpoints typically have only a moderate impact on speed with most providers, connection speeds to the USA were universally poor, with most VPNs clocking download speeds of less than 3MB/sec (24Mbps). A handful of services with highly optimised networks actually improve on our VPN-free reference speeds.
  • We also test whether we’re able to view region-locked streaming video content from three key providers: Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer. Once again, this isnt fully representative as, with the exception of YouTube, streaming video services work hard to identify and block IP addresses associated with VPN endpoints.

Following a change to EU law that requires streaming media services to make European users home content available to them when they travel anywhere else in the EU, it’s no longer possible to access other European Netflix services, so we have ceased testing European Netflix support.