One of the main reasons why VPNs are so popular is because of their ability to unblock geo-restricted access.
In other words, they let you access content that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach due to your location, such as getting the US Netflix service in the UK (with all its extra content). Some countries block Netflix completely, of course – for example, China – and again, you can use one of the best VPNs to get around this.
Bear in mind, though, that accessing content which shouldn’t be available in your region is something Netflix doesn’t want you to do. Indeed, it is expressly forbidden in Netflix’s terms and conditions of usage, and there’s a constant battle between the streaming service and VPNs which are circumventing its restrictions. Naturally, you travel down the avenue of VPN content unblocking entirely at your own risk…
How to choose the best VPN for Netflix
Many VPNs have given up on Netflix unblocking, leading to the infamous proxy error advising you to turn off your VPN when watching Netflix. Fortunately the few VPNs recommended below are regularly tested and confirmed to be still working for Netflix. While your options for Netflix-compatible VPN providers, there are still a few things to look out for.
Download speeds and server coverage should be your top priorities. Video streaming is an intensive activity, and you’ll need nippy performance levels to avoid suffering at the hands of stuttering footage, particularly when watching HD content (or indeed 4K). Having plenty of servers on offer will mean you’ll be more likely to be able to find that vital fast connection, as well (generally speaking).
- Check out the best VPN services of 2018
Privacy and security are important whatever you’re using a VPN for, of course, with a ‘no logs’ policy and good encryption being definite must-haves. Support for mobile devices, and hopefully native clients for iOS/Android, will obviously be handy for watching flicks on the move.
And another good idea is to plump for a service with a money-back guarantee – that will be useful if things change suddenly, as they can with Netflix, and the particular VPN you’ve gone for ends up getting the cold shoulder from the streaming service. At least if you can get a refund, you won’t have wasted money (and obviously enough, the longer the duration of the money-back guarantee, the better).
Bearing all that in mind, let’s look at the five best VPN services for watching Netflix.
Best all-round VPN for Netflix
Number of servers: 1500+ | Server locations: 148 | IP addresses: 30,000 | Maximum devices supported: 3
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This British Virgin Islands-based provider offers great speeds to enable streaming in HD, and they unblock Netflix across an impressive array of devices. ExpressVPN currently supports Netflix in the US, UK and Canada.
Another great feature is ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer DNS, which unblocks Netflix on devices that don’t support VPNs (like Apple TV, smart TVs and game consoles).
It also supports up to three additional devices for VPN access– which can be either PCs, tablets or phones – and doesn’t log traffic or browsing data. On the security front it boasts 256-bit encryption over OpenVPN, L2TP – IPSEC, PPTP, and SSTP protocols.
The service is a bit more expensive than many rivals, but that said, ExpressVPN does provide an excellent experience for Netflix users and a reassuring 30-day money-back guarantee is available (even if there isn’t a free trial).
Three price plans are on offer, with the 12-month plan providing the best savings. The packages available are:
- Exclusive deal [$6.67 a month], save 49%, 15-month - $99.95
- [$9.99 a month] 6-month - $59.95
- [$12.95 a month] 1-month - $12.95
Most secure VPN for Netflix
Number of servers: 2819 | Server locations: 59 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6
Known for its security-first approach, NordVPN is a great VPN for using Netflix. The service offers fast performance, and in testing it barely affected our download speeds compared to our non-VPN rates.
There's a free 3-day trial, and the service comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. With the monthly billing being quite expensive, the 2-year plan offers the best value for money, if you can make that commitment. The packages available are:
A good mix of speed and security
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 3-5
At the moment, VyprVPN only works for gaining access to Netflix US, but the company says Netflix might work in other countries as well (although when we spoke to the support team, they didn’t make it clear which countries, unfortunately – so you’ll just have to hope for the best outside of the US).
The service offers excellent speeds, particularly when it comes to download rates, which is obviously great for streaming. And efforts on the security front are also commendable, with multiple protocols supported including OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and Chameleon (VyprVPN’s own tailored solution). There’s a NAT Firewall for additional security, too. Privacy-wise, there is some logging with this provider: connection times and IP addresses are recorded, which won’t be ideal for everyone.
There is a free 3-day trial if you want to test the service, and that’s useful since there are no refunds given under any circumstances. The company offers two price plans with monthly and annual billing. The monthly option is somewhat pricier than most other services, so your best bet is the Premium plan which offers the most bang for your buck (and includes five simultaneous connections, the Chameleon protocol and more).
The packages available are:
- Basic: $9.95 monthly or $3.75 per month billed annually
- Premium: $12.95 monthly or $5.00 per month billed annually
Most reliable VPN
Number of servers: 688 | Server locations: 46 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
StrongVPN’s strong point (ahem) is its security, which includes broad protocol support (PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN and IPSec), 2048-bit encryption and the company's own StrongDNS service, which protects the user from DNS leaks.
The service is simple and based on the essentials. It boasts solid server coverage, support for all the major platforms – Windows, Mac, iOS and Android – with manual setup guides for the rest.
In our testing, performance proved to be fast, actually improving our download speeds on long-distance tests, meaning swift and reliable connections to Netflix in different countries such as the US, UK, Canada, and the Netherlands.
StrongVPN offer 24/7 live support which is a nice touch. The service however doesn’t have much variety when it comes to pricing plans – there are only three available with a short 5-day money-back guarantee (and StrongDNS service). Going monthly is expensive, but if you sign up for the full year, it’s more reasonably priced. The packages available are:
Best VPN for HD streaming
Number of servers: 2000 | Server locations: 25 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
While Hotspot Shield doesn’t have a great deal of server locations to choose from, the service makes up for it with excellent performance. Both upload and download speeds were marginally higher than our normal rates when we tested the VPN, which is obviously fantastic for streaming.
The service does offer a free plan, but this comes with certain limitations in terms of server selection, bandwidth and so on. For smooth streaming sessions, you’ll have to pony up some cash for the relatively expensive subscription plans. Unless you’re prepared to commit to the ‘Lifetime’ offering – which could work out extremely cheap in the long run – the 1-year plan is the best value. The packages available are:
- [$12.99 a month] 1-month
- [$8.99 a month] 6-months - $53.94
- [$5.99 a month] 1-year - $71.88
- Lifetime - $119.99
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services of 2018
Why Netflix has regional restrictions
The reason why Netflix catalogs differ country to country is simple: copyright law. Movie studios have different contracts in different countries, so it’s possible that one series may be available in one country but not in another.
And then you have to deal with local broadcasting rights, where some countries may have the rights to some shows and therefore don’t permit them to be accessed on Netflix. House of Cards in Hong Kong is a great example—because a local TV network has the rights to the Netflix show, it’s not available online.
It’s no surprise that America has the best Netflix library. With the majority of original content coming out of the States, it makes sense that more series would be available there. In fact, the U.S. Netflix library has nearly 1,000 more shows than its UK cousin. Again, great if you’re in the States, but not so much if you’re in the UK.
How to bypass the Netflix VPN proxy error
Netflix has invested big bucks in detecting and blocking VPNs, and users can attest that servers that work with Netflix one day may not work the next. You’ve likely seen the infamous “Streaming Error” message if you tried to access Netflix from outside the U.S. with a VPN:
Netflix has been systematically finding and blacklisting suspected VPN IP addresses. And while the past few years have been an ongoing battle between VPNs and Netflix restrictions, VPNs are now setting up specific server locations intended to be used with Netflix.
How some providers overcome the Netflix VPN ban
Every IP address is associated with a country code, which Netflix then uses to either reroute or block network access. As the majority of VPN providers have multiple servers in cities and countries around the world, hopping from location to location is essentially the only way to stream the U.S. Netflix library abroad. It’s a tab cumbersome, but it works.
Be aware that not every server will work – it’s best to contact the provider’s customer service to see which servers are working on a particular date. ExpressVPN, for example, has been one of the leading providers to stay one step ahead of the Netflix VPN ban.
The company (along with a handful of other VPN providers) has been working overtime to acquire new IP addresses, which they can then cycle out whenever an older address is no longer working. As soon as Netflix detects and subsequently blocks a specific IP, the VPN then switches to another IP and encourages customers to use that specific location to stream.
Is Netflix better than Amazon Prime Video? Watch our comparison video below