Whether you’re living in France or planning to travel there, it pays to install a VPN on your favorite devices beforehand. While the French government does well not to censor the Internet too much, a VPN will still help you remain anonymous against cybersurveillance while unblocking foreign content. We review the best VPNs for France below.
Censorship and digital surveillance are problems that face nearly every internet user today. Local service providers can log and even sell private data, governments can block websites, and content distributors can restrict videos based on a user’s location. The internet feels like it’s getting smaller and smaller by the day. Fortunately, there’s a way to fight back and keep the web free, open, and accessible to all.
Virtual private networks bring privacy and security back to the individual. Instead of sending personal details to every website you connect to, a VPN keeps you safe behind a wall of encryption. This opens up a wide array of other benefits, as well, including accessing BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube content that isn’t normally available in France.
How to choose the best VPN for you
There are hundreds of virtual private network services on the market today, and that number keeps growing. All of them promise fast downloads, great privacy features, a wide server network, and much more. But which VPNs actually deliver on those promises, and which is the best VPN for France?
We used the ranked criteria below to evaluate the most reliable and useful VPNs. Each one delivers an amazing online experience and is especially well-suited for regaining your privacy and unblocking websites in France.
- Logging policy – A VPN’s logging policy is always a top consideration. Data that passes through a VPNs server can be stored just like any other internet service provider. If a third party or government agency demands access to those logs, the VPN company will often have to comply. If no logs are kept, however, there’s nothing to share, keeping your data safe by virtue of it no longer existing.
- Speed – Using a VPN often comes with a small drop in speed, all thanks to the encryption process as well as the extra distance data must travel to a VPN’s worldwide server network. To offset this, good VPNs will customize their hardware and software to deliver fast connections, all without sacrificing privacy.
- Jurisdiction – A special consideration for VPNs in France is where the VPN’s company is registered. Local laws determine whether or not a VPN company is required to keep logs, regardless of the VPN’s policy on logging. If the company operates from the U.S., UK, Canada, or Australia, for example, they may be forced to log user activity and even deliver those logs to government agencies upon request. Other countries are more relaxed about these laws and let the privacy of the individual take priority.
- File and traffic restrictions – Some VPNs place a hard limit on which types of traffic or files you can download. It’s surprisingly common to find P2P networks and torrent files banned on a VPN, not to mention bandwidth caps and hidden speed restrictions. All of the VPN providers below offer unlimited downloads and completely unmonitored traffic. You can download torrents, files via P2P, and stream video from any source.
- Server distribution – It’s always good to have more options. The larger a VPN’s server network the more virtual locations you can choose from. A bigger network also means you’re more likely to find a reliable and fast connection from the country you’re connected to.
- App compatibility – VPNs are extremely useful for traveling. Public hotspots and other unknown networks can carry all sorts of dangers, especially if you stream movies or check private information while abroad. Good VPNs feature a variety of software so you can stay safe on tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, and more.
Fastest and most secure VPNs for use in France
Living or working in France, there are at least a few reasons why you should be signing up with a VPN as soon as possible. Below you’ll find our updated list with the best VPNs for France, and some to avoid.
ExpressVPN is the VPN of choice when it comes to speed. The service delivers amazing speed test results from around the world, including servers in both major and mid-sized towns. The network covers 3,000+ servers in 145 cities in 94 countries for plenty of location and IP address options, all of which are secured with strong encryption. ExpressVPN even offers a built-in speed test option for Windows, Mac, and Android versions of its software, ensuring you always have the fastest connection available.
Privacy is also high on ExpressVPN’s feature list. A strict zero traffic logging policy keeps your data invisible to third parties, even if official agency requests are made. On the usability side of things, ExpressVPN customers enjoy no speed caps, no bandwidth limits, and no file type restrictions.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other streaming services
- Super fast servers
- Supports ALL devices
- Strict no-logs policy for personal information
- 24/7 Chat Support.
- Slightly more expensive than some other options.
NordVPN takes privacy to an entirely new level. The company focuses on an incredibly secure double encryption process that wraps important data in unbreakable 2048-bit SSL encryption. According to them, that’s encryption so strong not even a supercomputer could break it. On top of that, the company’s privacy-friendly jurisdiction in Panama allows it to keep zero logs of any type, not even bandwidth or time stamps. This gives its users an incredible amount of privacy.
NordVPN delivers this high level of privacy without sacrificing speed or usability. The service’s network is 5,500+ servers in 58 countries, one of the largest in the market. Many of these servers are configured to handle specific types of transfers, as well. Downloading a torrent or using a P2P network? Your data likely passes through one of these nodes. All of this wouldn’t be as useful without unlimited bandwidth, complete lack of speed caps, and strict no-monitoring policy on all traffic.
Read our full NordVPN review.
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- Fast and stable connections
- Allows multiple connections (6 devices)
- No logs and encrypted connections for total privacy
- 24/7 Chat Support.
- Can't specify City or Province in App.
IPVanish was built to provide a faster, more secure, and more open internet. The company operates over 1,300 servers in 60 different countries, each of which uses 256-bit AES encryption to lock down your data. Access is unrestricted for all users, as well. Unlimited bandwidth, no speed caps, no limitations on P2P or torrent traffic, and no logs of any type, which is perfect for open internet access from anywhere in the world.
Pushing through to blocked websites and censored content is another one of IPVanish’s strong points. The service has over 40,000 shared IPs spread across its servers and is constantly working to bypass blocks from sites like Netflix. IPVanish also offers five simultaneous connections, meaning you can use a PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet, and gaming console all at the same time.
Read our full IPVanish review.
VyprVPN offers some of the most unique privacy features in the VPN market. The biggest selling point is the fact that VyprVPN owns its entire network of servers, over 700 spread across 70+ global locations. Data is never accessed by an outside company, which also allows VyprVPN to customize hardware and software for superior speed and encryption. Backing this amazing network is unlimited bandwidth, no file or traffic restrictions, and no stored traffic or DNS logs, ever.
The most useful practical feature of the VyprVPN experience is the company’s Chameleon Protocol. Chameleon was designed to keep access to the internet open no matter what corporate or government blocks are in place. Traveling to China and need private access? Chameleon can help. Netflix trying to block your activity? Chameleon helps there, too.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
What Can You Do with a VPN?
VPNs provide a host of useful features. Most are centered around privacy, allowing you to visit websites and download files without giving up your personal information. Others include the ability to change your virtual location, which helps increase anonymity as well as add options to watch videos from around the world.
Below are just a few of the extra features you’ll get when you use a VPN:
- Stop surveillance and tracking – Data sent from your computer or smartphone can be tracked, monitored, and stored by third parties, including your own ISP. With a VPN your activity is encrypted and decoupled from your location, making it extremely difficult to trace.
- Watch Netflix videos from other countries – Geo-locking streaming media is a common practice. Movie and television studios often restrict where a film or show can be viewed for a variety of reasons, even delaying or canceling the release without notice. One way around this is through a VPN. All you have to do is change your VPN server and you’ll get a new IP address that identifies your device as being from that country. Want to watch BBC iPlayer? Switch to a UK server and start streaming.
- Hide your IP address – IP addresses work like a mailing address for internet data. Every time your device connects to the internet it receives a unique IP from your local service provider. This string of numbers can be used to track your activity, even dictate what content you see, and find your location with surprising accuracy. A VPN removes this identifying marker and replaces it with an IP address owned by the VPN. Instead of broadcasting your location to the world, you simply show a foreign server address.
- Access blocked content – Censorship and blocked content is becoming more and more common. Media companies restrict where videos can be played, corporations block websites or video streaming services, and governments make entire sections of the internet simply disappear. With a VPN in place, you can sidestep almost all of these blockades with just a few clicks.
- Stay safe while traveling – An often overlooked benefit of using a VPN on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone is the security it brings when you’re on the road. When you travel you frequently access public hotspots, which puts your data at risk. You never know who might be snooping the connection or logging user details. To make sure your information stays secure, just open a VPN software and start browsing.
LEARN MORE: Best VPNs for Torrenting right now.
VPNs Don’t Make You Invincible
While VPNs do some amazing things, they won’t turn your device into a bulletproof internet machine. There are still some basic precautions you should take, as well as common sense practices that can help keep you safe online. Keep the following points in mind when using your VPN both at home and abroad.
- VPNs won’t protect you from malware – Viruses and other malicious files slip through most VPNs simply because a VPN isn’t designed to detect them. If you visit a lot of strange sites or download files from less than reputable sources, you should still have an active firewall and anti-virus software.
- Mobile devices can still be hacked – VPNs only protect data once it leaves your device. If you have a smartphone, for example, and are on a public network, it’s still possible for hackers to gain access to your device and steal your information. A good way to combat this is to encrypt your Android phone or encrypt your iPhone, which provides on-device protection at all times.
- You can’t circumvent all network blocks – One of the main uses of VPNs is bypassing website blocks put in place by countries or corporations. Most of the time this works like a charm, but occasionally the censorship blocks are too robust for a VPN to handle.
- VPNs won’t make you completely anonymous – Encryption and IP switching goes a long way towards providing anonymity, but VPNs still aren’t a perfect solution. Government agencies and hackers can find ways to track you even with a VPN active. If you’re planning to do something like access the deep web and dark web, for example, you’ll need more than just a VPN.
- Devices aren’t automatically protected – It’s a small drawback, but an important one. Running VPN software on your computer doesn’t protect the rest of your devices. Smartphones, tablets, even gaming consoles and e-readers will only gain the benefits of a VPN if you install and activate apps on each of those devices. You can work around this limitation by installing VPN software on your router, though it takes some time and some specific hardware to accomplish.
- Websites and countries can block VPNs – Countries like China and Turkey have a reputation for blocking entire VPN networks. If you live in or visit one of these places you won’t be able to use that VPN, plain and simple. Streaming video services such as Netflix can block VPNs, as well. Some VPNs have developed clever workarounds for both types of blocks, though it’s still a constant battle to stay accessible.
How to Make Your VPN Faster
One of the drawbacks of using a VPN is an inevitable drop in speed. Most users with a decent local connection can expect 10-20% slower downloads across the board, even when connected to a fast VPN server in a major city. This can be a huge problem for video streamers, gamers, and anyone who hates waiting for websites to load. The good news is there are some things you can do to speed up your VPN connection and fight slowdown.
Choose a reliable provider
The number one factor in a VPNs speed is the VPN provider itself. Some companies put a big emphasis on providing fast connections, while others don’t. The list above features VPNs that are consistently fast for users in France and around the world.
The actual server you’re connected to has a huge impact on speed. If the server is located far away, latency will be an issue. If it’s in a small town, if it’s experiencing a heavy load during peak hours, or if there’s some issue with the hardware itself, your connection will suffer. Most VPN software lets you rank servers according to speed and choose the fastest available. Refresh the list if your connection is lagging, then find a faster server that’s located closer to your home.
Decrease encryption levels
Encryption adds 20-50% to overall packet size, turning even ordinary browser requests into more substantive uploads. In general, the stronger the encryption the larger the packet becomes. A few VPNs allow you to switch encryption levels, which can make it easier to crack your data, but will almost always increase your upload and download speeds instantly.
Check your own connection
The VPN isn’t always at fault for slow speeds. Sometimes your local service provider is experiencing slowdown, and sometimes they actively throttle users who deploy a VPN. There are some ways around this, fortunately, most of which involve tweaking a few settings inside your VPN software. Check your provider’s support pages for specific details on how to beat ISP throttling using their custom apps and software.
FULL GUIDE: How to Unblock Netflix France from anywhere
Free VPNs Don’t Always Protect Your Privacy
One of the common misconceptions about VPNs is that they’re all essentially the same, even free services that advertise on website banners or app marketplaces. The truth of the matter is that no-cost VPNs can carry a host of drawbacks, often putting your privacy at risk instead of protecting it.
Running a VPN service costs money. Users aren’t providing that income, no matter how numerous they are, so the revenue has to be made up elsewhere. This usually comes in the form of injecting ads into the users’ browsers or selling information the VPN is supposed to keep safe. Free VPNs might be a quick and easy way to watch Netflix shows from abroad, but using them on a regular basis can be extremely detrimental to your privacy.
There are plenty of well-established and reliable VPNs to choose from, most of which offer all the features of a free VPN with a ton of extras and none of the drawbacks. The costs associated with a paid VPN are absolutely minimal and absolutely worth the investment.
RELATED READING: Are VPNs legal in France? Yes.
How Do VPNs Work?
The best way to explain VPNs is to think of them like a tunnel. At one end you have your computer, smartphone, or other device running VPN software. At the other, you have the website or the file you’re trying to download. When you use a VPN the service encrypts your data before it leaves your computer, then sends that information through your ISP, to the VPN’s servers, to the website you’re trying to access, and back. The entire process happens in an instant, but what happens during the transmission is extremely important.
While the data is moving it stays encrypted, making it unreadable to anyone without the right software keys. The data is also stripped free of your local ISP’s IP address. Instead of seeing packets of data from your home in France, it’s packets of encrypted information with a VPN’s worldwide IP address attached.
What is a Five Eyes Country?
With the rise of digital surveillance, privacy advocates started doing some research about how governments around the world handle their citizens’ security. The results were sobering to say the least. Documents leaked in the early 2000s uncovered an agreement between nations that both allowed and encouraged mutual spying and information sharing. This group was dubbed Five Eyes and includes the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
France isn’t part of the Five Eyes list, but it is part of the extended Nine Eyes group. Nine Eyes countries aren’t as loose with their citizens’ security as members of Five Eyes, though some information sharing does occur between nations. Nine Eyes are seen as a little safer than the other alternatives, but there are still some practices privacy advocates are concerned about.
If you live in one of the countries on the Eyes list, your privacy could be at risk. The best way to protect against online surveillance is to use a VPN. With data encryption and a non-local IP address, most of your internet activity will be safe from spying. For even stronger protection, choose a VPN whose jurisdiction isn’t on any of the Eyes lists.
Yes, even in France, you’re not entirely free to do as you please online. What’s more, government agencies are breathing down your neck with their mass surveillance programs. If you’re not content to be handled this way, take back your agency and boost your privacy online with a VPN. We’ve recommended the best providers you can get in France, each costing just a few dollars a month in exchange for the priceless gift of true Internet anonymity.
How do you feel about the way Internet freedoms are going in France? Have you ever used a VPN before? Leave us a comment below.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. ExpressVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.