Saudi Arabia is probably second only to China in terms of the restrictions that it places on internet traffic that is going in and out of the country. This means that many websites are blocked entirely and traffic to and from many foreign websites can be deliberately slowed to a crawl in order to make the experience of using them as difficult as possible. For the many contractors who move to Saudi Arabia from other countries and are used to the free and fast internet that is available in most of the Western world and in the majority of Asia, their first encounter with the Saudi internet can be a serious surprise.
This is where virtual private networks, better known as VPNs come in. They allow you to create a secure connection to the internet via another server, allowing you to circumvent the restrictions on VPNs that are put in place by your ISP or the Saudi Arabian government. It also allows you to make your internet connection appear as if it originates in another country. This is very useful if you want to watch streamed content that is geoblocked to particular parts of the world. If you’ve moved to Saudi Arabia from the UK for instance and want to restore your access to the BBC iPlayer for instance, this is the best way of doing it.
Finally, using a VPN will also encrypt your connection so it is much harder for anyone to intersect it and see what websites you are visiting. This is very important in countries such as Saudi Arabia where free speech is very limited and there have been some instances of people being questioned by the police based on their internet browsing activity. All in all, browsing the internet with a VPN in Saudi Arabia could mean a huge improvement to your experience and the way in which you are able to use the internet. Most of the VPNs we cover on this page are based in jurisdictions with strong privacy laws where the Saudi government would struggle to get information about the browsing histories of their client. In addition, the majority of them have a ‘no logs’ policy, which means that they do not keep information about the servers that their customers connect to or the websites that they look at while they are connected. This means that even if your ISP or the government went digging for the information, it simply isn’t there to be handed over to them.
Before we continue to our selection of the best VPNs for use in Saudi Arabia, a quick word of warning. Under Saudi law, the use of VPN connections in the country is not permitted in most circumstances. There is little history of this law actively being enforced, particularity against foreign contractors who are using VPN services to get a browsing experience more akin to the one they were used to at home. It appears that huge parts of the Saudi Arabian population use VPNs on a day to day basis without encountering any problems and have done for years. Nevertheless, it’s worth being aware of exactly what the legal situation is around VPNs before you decide to start using one. Any use you make of a VPN mentioned on this page is entirely at your own risk.
The government enforces its clampdown on VPN services by banning access to their websites and making it difficult to download the relevant apps in the country. Therefore, if you are travelling to Saudi Arabia and wish to make use of a VPN service while you are there, it is highly recommended that you sign up to your chosen VPN and download the relevant apps before you travel to the kingdom.
Everyone who uses a VPN service has different requirements and there is no single best VPN that is the best choice for everyone. Some of the options that we will be looking at excel on price, others have great speeds and customer service, whereas others excel from a security point of view. In order to find out whether the VPN is right for you, take a look at the detailed review and note the features that you are most interested in. Because of the unique situation in Saudi Arabia, we have prioritised security over other features more than we otherwise would have. Nevertheless, as the ability to access content from countries around the world is still a major priority for many users, we have taken that into account as well.
This software is in many ways the gold standard of VPN services. The only downside to this is that it is priced accordingly. ExpressVPN generally runs in the range of $12.95 per month, although big discounts are available if you commit to and pay for 12 or more months of service in advance. Depending on the offer that is available when you sign up, you could save 50% or more of the overall cost through one of these promotions.
The best thing about ExpressVPN is how easy it is to set up and start using, even for the novice user that has never made use of this type of service before. There are apps available for all of the major operating systems that you might want to use it on including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS.
If you’re a more advanced user, you also have the option of installing ExpressVPN directly onto the router that you use to connect to the internet. This approach gives you the advantage of knowing that all of the traffic that enters or leaves your local network will be protected by the ExpressVPN software. This is important if you want to use ExpressVPN on a piece of technology such as a SmartTV or basic tablet that does not allow you to install the software that is necessary to set up a VPN connection. If you buy one of the routers offered by ExpressVPN for this precise purpose. then you’ll also have access to a simple to use interface that makes it easy to switch between VPN servers. This is a major advantage of the ExpressVPN approach as some other VPN services force you to hard-set your router to one particular VPN server when you set up router access.
If your main reason for looking at a VPN service is access to content from other countries, then ExpressVPN will also have you well covered. The service has the largest range of server locations that we have ever come across. There are over 1,000 servers located in almost 100 countries. This means that you will almost certainly be able to find a server that allows you to access the content you are looking for. Fairly niche markets such as Portugal and South Korea are well covered and the plethora of servers means that there is always a way of connecting to services such as Netflix USA and BBC iPlayer, which have a reputation for blocking servers that are known to belong to VPN services.
The speed offered by ExpressVPN is also fairly impressive. During our testing, we were able to achieve speeds of between 20 and 25 megabits per second. This should be more than enough for you to stream most types of available video on the internet although there is a slight chance that you will struggle when it comes to 4k content but apart from that, streaming media should be a breeze using the ExpressVPN service. The service has also moved beyond what was once one of its biggest drawbacks by upping the maximum number of simultaneous device connections from three to five. This should be enough to keep the majority of people and households browsing happily.
Finally, we come to the matter of security. ExpressVPN has most of the features common to high-end VPN services. Its Virgin Islands location means that it is generally beyond the reach of most regulatory authorities. This means that it would be legally incredibly difficult for the Saudi or American governments for instance to request information on the activities of ExpressVPN and its users. Furthermore, it has a ‘no logs’ policy. This means that not does not keep information about which servers its users connect to and how much data they send backwards and forwards while they are connected. This should give any user extra reassurance as it means that even if a government or other organisation did try to request their logs, they simply don’t exist.
The main security downside is that ExpressVPN leases space on some of its servers from other companies rather than owning them outright. For most users, this won’t be a concern but if security is your only reason for signing up, you may wish to look elsewhere as there are VPN companies out there that own all of the servers that their connections are sent through (check out other reviews on this page for an example).
ExpressVPN also has all of the security you would expect to help protect its users from man in the middle attacks and other forms of data interception. To this end, all connections to one of the ExpressVPN servers are secured using high-grade 256-bit security. There’s also 24-hour live support available through a live chat system in case you have any issues with using the service or getting it set up.
As you’ve probably concluded in this review, ExpressVPN is one of the most full-featured VPN services out there. The old adage says that you get what you pay for and this is probably the case with ExpressVPN. If you think you will take advantage of all the features that are on offer then ExpressVPN still represents value, especially if you can find a promo code when you sign up. On the other hand, if you only want to use a VPN for a very specific purpose, then it’s probably worth saving a little of your money and selecting one of the other options that we cover on this page.
NordVPN is a good choice if all of the features of ExpressVPN sound appealing to you but the cost is the thing that is putting you off. Subscription prices tend to be a little lower than ExpressVPN and NordVPN also has a lot more sales and special offers that make it possible to buy long periods of access to the service for a relatively low monthly cost. At the time of writing, an offer to save 75% when buying three years of the service is running and promotions like this tend to come up fairly often.
NordVPN is best described as a slightly cut down version of ExpressVPN. This means that it is still more than powerful enough for the vast majority of users but that those who want the absolute best of everything may feel a little bit disappointed. For instance, it has a huge range of server locations at over 80 but this is lower than ExpressVPN’s 94. We have heard some reports of it taking a little longer than would be ideal to connect to one of the ExpressVPN servers but once you have managed to get that connection established, data transfer speeds are generally pretty high.
Security is also a major priority for NordVPN. It was one of the first VPN providers to adopt the ‘no logs’ policy that has now become common. If you’re worried about your chosen VPN company creating a log of your browsing activity that could later be handed over to the Saudi authorities or another government then NordVPN can put your mind at rest. This is because this type of file simply isn’t created by NordVPN for auditing, billing or any other purpose. The only major drawback of the service from a security point of view is that it does not own all of the servers that it uses directly. While this does allow it to start up new servers more quickly than some of its rivals, it does create a slight security risk as NordVPN does not own the entire path that your data will be passing through.
The ability to install the NordVPN software on your router is also available. You can follow one of two approaches here. IF you are a tech-savvy user who is comfortable mucking around with their router software then you can flash your existing router with the NordVPN software. If this terminology is new to you then it’s important to keep in mind that this type of activity can cause damage to your router if you are not completely sure what you are doing. If you don’t consider yourself to be a technophile then we’d suggest purchasing one of the routers that has this software pre-loaded or getting a tech savvy friend to help you out.
NordVPN prides itself on the ease with which its users can connect to some of the most popular streaming services around the world. In recent years, a number of the most popular services, particularly those which are free at the point of use, but which are blocked to users in a certain country, have started to block users who they believe are accessing the service via a VPN. NordVPN’s sheer number of servers and the speed at which they can start up new ones if an existing key server is blocked by one of the content providers, helps them to get around this issue.
If you are having problems connecting to your streaming service of choice or you require any other help, then NordVPN has the kind of 24/7 support that you would expect from one of the big paid-for VPN companies. The support team can be easily contacted via a live chat service or via email. The only downside is that there is no telephone support option as is available with some other VPN companies. On the other hand, we haven’t heard of any users having problems resolving their issues quickly using one of the two available options.
Overall, NordVPN is an easy to use and secure VPN choice. It may not be quite as fully featured as ExpressVPN but if you are able to get a good offer at the point of signing up, then the savings could more than justify this. Just make sure you spend a little bit of time looking for offer codes before you commit to a long period of service. You also have the option of a free trial with NordVPN if you want to take a little time to ensure it is right for your needs before you commit to one of the longer subscription periods.
One drawback of the two VPN services that we have looked at so far is that they do not own all of the servers that their data is passed through. This shouldn’t be a problem thanks to the secure connections and other technology that the companies use to protect the data of their users. However, if security is a major concern to you, then you may want to consider VyprVPN.
What makes VyprVPN different is that it owns all of the servers that it allows users to connect to. This comes with the significant drawback that there are fewer servers available in fewer countries than some of the other services that we have covered, simply because the cost of establishing and running each server is significantly higher. If you want to be sure that the VPN operator has complete control over everything that happens on their network though, this could be the way to go.
There are also a number of more advanced security features that are not offered by the more consumer focused VPN options that we have covered so far. This include OpenDNS technology which allows you to disguise your VPN activity as a regular internet connection. This is not only helpful if you want to avoid tracking and monitoring by certain organisations but is also a great way to get around streaming services that have banned VPN servers from their networks. You also have access to the standard oil-switch technology which can help to ensure that no traffic between your network and the internet is allowed to be transmitted without passing through the security of the VPN.
The one place where anonymity falls down for VyprVPN however is when it comes to payment options. The service does not allow you to pay through an anonymous means such as a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. This means that the majority of users will have to pay for the service using a credit card or an online payment portal. This creates the type of paper trail that many users of VPN service are very keen to avoid. On the other hand, the trail would only how that you have made use of a VPN service and not which websites you visited or even what servers you connected to and at what times.
Setting up VyprVPN is relatively easy for such a professional focused service. There are apps available for all of the platforms you would expect including Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. You also have the option of putting software onto your router to manage the VyprVPN connection if you are feeling brave or tech-savvy enough.
You get what you pay for however and VyprVPN is one of the more expensive VPN options that we have covered on this page. If the Saudi government’s approach to the internet has made you more security conscious than you would otherwise be though, it could still be a great option to consider. With servers located in over 80 countries, you’re not sacrificing a great deal of flexibility in order to benefit from the higher security standards of VyprVPN.
The United States may not feel like the obvious place to turn to when you are looking for a secure VPN service but this provider believes it has found the balance between the peace of mind and stronger consumer protection laws that come from using a VPN service that is based in a strong jurisdiction and the type of protection that users can benefit from if they use a VPN based offshore.
StrongVPN has many of the security features that we have mentioned previously. The most notable is OpenDNS scrambling. This makes it difficult for the server hosting the website that you are using to tell that your traffic is being pushed through a VPN service. This means that it’s harder for websites to block you for using a VPN service if they are trying to prevent foreign users from accessing their streaming content. It also means that it’s harder for any website owner to identify where you traffic is coming from.
The network also benefits from more standard security features such as a kill switch, ipV6 leak protection and the military grade security that you would expect from a VPN service with this name.
The main drawback of StrongVPN, as a relative newcomer to the industry, is that its VPN network is not nearly as well developed as some other players in the market. At the time of writing, the network had servers located in 23 countries around the world. This may be enough to cover your need if most of the content that you are trying to access comes from major markets. However, it pales in comparison to the 80, 90 or more locations that are offered by some of the other VPN companies that we have looked at in this article. On the plus side, the list is growing quickly and StrongVPN is working to close the gaps.
The other downside of StrongVPN from a security point of view is the lack of a cryptocurrency payment option that allows transaction to be anonymous. Again, this shouldn’t be a problem for the majority of users, but it is quite a surprising omission from a newcomer to the industry that is clearly working hard to differentiate itself from most of its rivals. This may however just be an oversight that has been caused by the rush to market so it’s worth keeping an eye on the service to see if this problem is overcome in the future.
Hopefully, one of the VPN options that owe have covered in this article will be suitable for your needs. Using the internet in Saudi Arabia without access to a VPN service can be a very frustrating experience. The ability to install VPN software directly onto your router for instance and avoid the slowness that can be caused by having VPN software running constantly in the background could make a real difference to your internet browsing experience.
Many of the services that we have covered on this page offer free trials. So, if you’re not sure which is right for you and you don’t want to commit to a longer period of use, we suggest that you take advantage of one of these options to evaluate the service and make sure you know what you’re getting before you commit.
Head of content