As you may have seen with recent headlines, legislation has just been passed in Russia which aims to severely clamp down on VPNs, but this isn’t an outright ban on the services as some websites have reported.
The new rules go into effect as of November, essentially aiming to force VPN providers into censoring sites and content blacklisted by the authorities. Those VPNs who don’t agree to block their users from government-censored content could well be shut down, but everything is still rather up in the air regarding how the legislation will be enforced, and the practicalities of all this.
Still, this is clearly a very worrying development, with the freedom (and privacy) of internet users in Russia at an all-time high level of risk. But you can still use a VPN in the country right now – the new laws haven’t kicked in yet – and even after they do, some VPN services may still be available. We’ll just have to see how the land lies later this year…
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How to choose the best VPN service for Russia
At any rate, given Russia’s major tightening of censorship here, obviously any VPN ideally suited for the country should offer top-notch security and privacy for starters. Local server coverage is also important as using nearby servers gives a more reliable and speedier connection. Finally, you want simple and intuitive app support for both mobile devices and desktop PCs, as well as readily available customer support for swift troubleshooting.
With all that in mind, here are our top five picks for the best VPN service for Russia.
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Best all-round VPN
Number of servers: 1118 | Server locations: 61 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6
NordVPN has seven servers on Russian soil (all of them with P2P support), along with a few servers in the neighboring countries on the western side. In terms of performance, the service delivered very pleasing speeds, almost equaling our usual rates with the VPN turned off. There are some nicely designed native clients for both mobile and desktop devices that include a number of connection options and more advanced features.
This provider is one of the best in the business when it comes to security. NordVPN incorporates all the usual security protocols, along with the option for a dedicated IP, customizable kill switch, plus double data encryption (passing your traffic through two separate VPN servers) and Onion over VPN.
Additionally, NordVPN doesn’t monitor online activity so the user’s data is not logged or stored. Customer service is available 24/7 through live chat, email or a ticket system.
One obvious downside is the monthly plan which is rather expensive. Another not-so-obvious flaw is the 3-day free trial, mainly because it’s mysteriously hidden away on the website – grab it here. All plans come with a 30-day no-hassle money-back guarantee and the best bet is the two-year plan which comes at a really affordable price. The packages available are:
- [$11.95 a month] 1-month
- [$7.00 a month] 6-months - $42.00
- [$5.75 a month] 1-year - $69.00
- [$3.29 a month] 2-years - $79.00
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 3-5
Quite a few providers claim they are the fastest, but in the case of VyprVPN, this firm most certainly offers superb performance. The service provided us with download speeds which were two and a half times faster than we usually get with the VPN turned off. There is only one local server, located in Moscow, which you can access through a host of impressive clients for almost any device.
VyprVPN owns and manages all of its hardware, software, and network, which allows for end-to-end privacy. Speaking of privacy, this provider also promises that it doesn’t log any traffic, nor throttle your connection.
The security front is also impressive, offering OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and Chameleon security protocols – the latter is a proprietary technology designed to thwart deep packet inspection, and prevent the blocking of your VPN connection.
The service has a 3-day trial so you can easily test the performance for yourself. Be sure to make the most of this, as once you’ve signed up, there’s no option for a refund. There are two price plans with monthly and yearly billing. Monthly options are expensive, so the best choice is the annual Premium plan, as this offers all the additional features including the Chameleon protocol. The packages available are:
- Basic: $9.95 monthly or $5.00 per month billed annually
- Premium: $12.95 monthly or $6.67 per month billed annually
Best VPN for desktop PCs
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 37 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
Buffered VPN has a few servers in Russia, and it delivers on the performance front, providing an impressively responsive connection and very consistent speeds (particularly over longer distances) during our testing.
One downside, though, is that this provider doesn’t offer any native mobile clients, so those looking for VPN protection when out and about will need to set the service up manually on their device.
This Hungarian-based firm makes it clear that it doesn’t log any online activity, so your privacy will be well protected. Buffered VPN also offers round-the-clock customer service with live chat and a ticket system.
One of this provider’s strong points is a generous refund policy that’s valid for up to 10 hours of usage time, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth – whichever comes first. The refund policy is especially useful considering that Buffered VPN is far from cheap. Even the yearly subscription is pricier than most, but it’s the most affordable option here (as ever). The packages available are:
Best balance of price and performance
Number of servers: 250+ | Server locations: 100+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
Ivacy has two servers in Russia, both of which are located in Moscow. We were quite pleased with its performance in our testing, with the service delivering speeds that were very close to our regular (non-VPN) rates. Ivacy provides its own native apps, although the desktop offerings are way ahead of the mobile apps in terms of functionality and options. This provider supports torrents, so file-sharers will be well at home, particularly given the aforementioned impressive performance levels.
The service is relatively affordable and comes with a 7-day money-back guarantee. However, there are conditions attached to this guarantee, and if you connect more than 30 times or go through 7GB of bandwidth, then a refund won’t be issued.
The one-year plan is the best option here, and it’s excellent value for money, given that you get an extra year for free, so effectively it’s a two-year plan (this is a time-based offer active at the time of writing). The packages available are:
Best VPN for novice users
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 28+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: N/A
This German provider acquitted itself with acceptable results in our performance tests. Both upload and download speeds were around 85% of normal over short hops, and slightly over half of our regular speeds over long distances. Nothing special, but quite serviceable. ZenMate has decent local coverage with a few servers located in the west of the country.
The desktop clients are highly user-friendly, but they don’t have many options or settings. This simplicity won’t appeal to experts who want to tweak and hone their VPN connection, but it’s great for novices.
Being a German company, ZenMate is bound by strict data privacy laws and doesn’t track or log online activity, which is always good to hear. The company has a free plan which is only available as a browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, although note that it restricts speeds and choice of servers.
There are three paid-for plans that get you more server locations, no speed restrictions, along with extra benefits like malware blocking and tracking protection. Each includes a 14-day money-back guarantee, with the yearly subscription being our favorite as the most cost-effective. The packages available are: