The best VPN for Russia in 2018

As you may have seen late last year, legislation has been implemented in Russia which aims to severely clamp down on VPNs. The new rules force VPN providers to censor sites and content blacklisted by the authorities. Those VPNs who don’t agree to block their users from government-censored content will be shut down.

Clearly, this is 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 one of the best VPNs in the country as things stand right now…

Best VPN for Russia in 2018

1. NordVPN

Best all-round VPN

Number of servers: 4587 | Server locations: 62 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6

Great local coverage
Strong security
Pricey monthly plan

NordVPN has 22 servers on Russian soil (some 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 says that it 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. All plans come with a 30-day no-hassle money-back guarantee and the best bet is the three-year plan which comes at a really affordable price. The packages available are:

2. VyprVPN

Fastest VPN

Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 3-5

Incredibly fast
Free 3-day trial
Some session logging (IPs, connection times)
No refunds

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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. There is some session logging, though, such as connection times and IP addresses.

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:

3. Buffered VPN

Best VPN for desktop PCs

Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 45 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5

Speedy performance
Generous refund policy
One of the pricier VPNs

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.

As an added bonus, the provider now has a native iOS and Android client, which will surely make mobile users happy.

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:

4. Ivacy

Best balance of price and performance

Number of servers: 450+ | Server locations: 100+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5

Fast performance
Low-cost 2-year plan
Basic mobile offering
Some refund restrictions

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.

On the security front, OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, and IKEv2 security protocols are supported, alongside 256-bit encryption. Additional goodies include split tunneling, a kill switch, and Secure DNS. The privacy policy is favorable stating that there are ‘absolutely no logs whatsoever’.

The service is relatively affordable and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee (monthly plan comes with a 7-day money-back guarantee). However, if you paid with Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, you won't be eligible for a refund.

The two-year plan is the best option here, and it’s excellent value for money. The packages available are:

5. ZenMate

Best VPN for novice users

Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 30+ | IP addresses: 3000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5

Super easy-to-use
Free plan
Software has very few settings
Average performance

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 three 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 30-day money-back guarantee, with the yearly subscription being our favorite as the most cost-effective. The packages available are:

How to choose the best VPN service for Russia

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.