Among the strict censorship in Saudi Arabia is a number of harsh provisions on internet use. Although there are increasing rates of internet access in the country–particularly due to higher mobile broadband subscriptions–the control that the government has over the content accessible on the internet is considerable. All of the international internet traffic from the country is directed through a proxy farm at the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology, and there a content filter is applied. This filter blocks out content based on two lists: one of “immoral” content (including sites which are supportive of LGBT rights, which promote Shia ideology, or sites which host pornographic content), and one of sites which are deemed to be a security threat or are critical of the government.
This extreme filtering has lead to Saudi Arabia being rated “not free” in internet freedom by the Freedom House organisation, and the Saudi government was described as “relentless in its censorship of the Saudi media and the internet” by Reporters Without Borders.
To get around this strict filtering and to use the internet more freely and safely, many users in Saudi Arabia choose to use a VPN. Below we’ll explain how a VPN can benefit you and then share our recommendations for the best VPNs for Saudi Arabia.
- 1 Why A VPN Is Essential In Saudi Arabia
- 2 Factors In Selecting A VPN Provider
- 3 Recommended VPNs For Saudi Arabia
- 4 Conclusion
Why A VPN Is Essential In Saudi Arabia
The content filter in place across KSA not only blocks out political and sexual content, but also information sites about LGBT issues and women’s rights, popular websites like Wikipedia and Google Translate, certain blogs and social media sites, copyrighted content, gambling sites, and more. If anyone wants to access any of this content then they need a way to get around the content filtering, which a VPN provides.
Another issue of concern for internet users in Saudi Arabia is the persecution of individuals who write unflattering posts about the government on blogs or social media. Harsh punishments including long prison sentences and corporal punishment has been inflicted on bloggers who have spoken out about human rights violations and other issues in the country. If users intend to post opinions online then merely posting anonymously is not enough, as they can still be tracked by the government through their IP address. Posting content without using a VPN is a major risk to a user’s safety and wellbeing.
A VPN helps with both of these issues. It works by installing a piece of software onto a user’s device which then encrypts all of the data that they send over the internet. The encryption means that no one else can see what is in the data. Then the encrypted data is passed to a server in another country where it is decrypted and rejoins the internet. Because the decryption happens at this foreign server, the data appears to have originated from a country other than Saudi Arabia. Therefore, users can get around censorship by connecting to a server in a country with more liberal internet laws. In addition, the data will be assigned a new IP address at this other server, so the user’s real IP address is hidden and protected. By using a VPN the user can get around censorship and preserve their anonymity at the same time.
Factors In Selecting A VPN Provider
When it comes to choosing a VPN provider for Saudi Arabia, there are a variety of issues to be aware of. Firstly, you may be tempted to use a free VPN but we strongly recommend against this due to a history of free VPNs acting against their users and actually making them less safe. It is strongly advised that you get a reputable paid VPN that you know you can trust.
In order to recommend a VPN provider, we look at the following factors:
- Excellent security to keep you safe and to protect your privacy. The most important aspects to look out for are the use of strong 256-bit encryption to prevent anyone from cracking your data, and good privacy policies like a no logging policy so that you can be sure that your data won’t be shared with any other companies or government agencies.
- Servers available in multiple countries. In order to get around blocks or censorship of websites, you need to connect to a server in a different country. That means that it helps for your VPN provider to have many servers in lots of different countries so you can connect to one which works for you. In addition, it helps to have servers nearby to you that you can connect to for the best speeds. Few VPN providers have servers located within Saudi Arabia due to the harsh internet restrictions there, but many have servers in nearby countries which can be used for fast connections.
- Fast connection speeds. When you use a VPN, your internet will inevitably get a little slower as data has to be passed to a server in an extra step. But a great VPN like the ones that we recommend will have super fast connections that you won’t even notice.
- Software for multiple operating systems. To use your VPN, you download the software from your VPN provider to connect to their network. This software should be easy to use, have plenty of extra features, and support all of the different operating systems that you use on your various devices.
When we came to find VPN providers to recommend for use in Indonesia, we look at all of these factors and settled on the following recommendations:
Recommended VPNs For Saudi Arabia
1. ExpressVPN – Best Overall
ExpressVPN is a top VPN that you’ll see recommended everywhere. It has all the features that both new and advanced users require, with easy to use software plus great security and exceptional speeds. The security features that are offered include the use of strong 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy, and in the software you’ll find more features too like an IP address checker to make sure that your real IP address is hidden, or a kill switch which will automatically cut off your internet connection when the VPN goes down so that you don’t accidentally use an unsecure connection.
There is a large network of more than 2000 servers available in 94 countries, including servers nearby Saudi Arabia in Egypt, Israel, and Turkey which will offer good speeds for users. The speeds overall are excellent, with fast connections that can be used for browsing, streaming, and downloading. The software is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android, plus some games consoles and smart TVs, and there are also browser extensions available for the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers.
- Unblocking Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime
- 94 countries, 2,000+ servers
- Secure encryption & VPN protocols
- No personal information logs kept
- Live Chat Support.
- Limited configuration options
- Slightly pricier than competition.
Read our full ExpressVPN review here.
2. NordVPN – Great Advanced Features
NordVPN accomplishes everything a solid VPN should, and then so much more. The basics include 256-bit AES encryption along with zero logging, fast connection speeds, and general ease of use. Where NordVPN really outshines its competition is in its massive array of servers, which numbers 3500 strong in more than 60 countries worldwide. Included in this network are a variety of specialty servers, including double VPN, onion over VPN, anti DDoS, P2P, and dedicated IP servers. Torrent users will be particularly delighted with the app-specific kill switch (which complements the general kill switch).
No matter which server you connect to, you’re guaranteed a steady and fast connection. However, for optimal performance in Saudi Arabia, we advise users to try servers located in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Turkey, and Egypt. The software features a handy map interface which makes picking out a proxy location a breeze. Dedicated applications exist for all major platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Chrome OS, Android and many more.
- Best Budget Choice
- 5,100+ servers globally
- DNS leak protection, kill switch
- Retains no metadata of your browsing
- Great customer service via chat.
- Some servers can be unreliable
- Sometimes slow in procesing refunds (but always do).
Read our full NordVPN review here.
3. CyberGhost – Best For New Users
CyberGhost is an easy to use VPN which won’t be intimidating for new users. No technical knowledge or prior experience with VPNs is required – you simply open up the software and choose whether you want to browse anonymously, torrent anonymously, or unblock streaming websites. Once you have chosen the option that you require, a server will be selected for you and all of the settings changed to the most efficient setting for your activity. This takes the hassle out of using a VPN which can get technical or complicated.
The security offered is nevertheless excellent, with 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy. The connections are fast and so you can use them for browsing, streaming, or downloading as you wish. With a total network of more than 2200 servers in 60 countries, including servers in Israel and Cyprus, you’ll be always have access to a nearby server offering good performance. The software is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OS.
- Unblocks US Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu
- P2P allowed on any server except in US and Russia
- Located in Romania (out of 14 eyes)
- No logs policy
- 24h support.
- WebRTC leak detected
- Can’t unblock some popular streaming sites.
Read our full CyberGhost review here.
4. PrivateVPN – Best For Streaming
PrivateVPN is a great VPN for users who love to use streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu. As well as being able to keep your data private and letting you access blocked or censored websites, PrivateVPN can also be used to unblock streaming sites. Many VPNs don’t work to unblock Netflix, but PrivateVPN does. In addition, it has good security with the default use of 128-bit encryption but an option to raise that to 256-bit encryption for those who are more concerned with security. There is a no traffic logging policy so no outsiders can find out what sites you visit. There are more than 80 servers in 56 countries available, including servers in Egypt, Israel, and Turkey that will be useful for users in Saudi Arabia.
The connections are fast as well so you can stream even in high definition with no problems. The simple software is easy to use, and you can install it on devices running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire Stick, or it can be installed as a browser extension for Chrome.
Read our full PrivateVPN review here.
5. PureVPN – Bonus Security Suite Included
PureVPN is not just a VPN but also a whole security package. As well as the regular VPN, your subscription grants access to other security features like an ad blocker, anti malware and anti virus protection for your device, along with an anti spam filter to keep your email inbox free from unwanted mail. The security is top notch, with the option to use strong 256-bit encryption and a no content logging policy to protect your privacy. In total there are more than 750 servers available in 140 different countries, including 2 servers within Saudi Arabia for the best possible speeds. In order to get around censorship and restrictions, users in Saudi Arabia can also connect to nearby servers in Yemen, UAE, Syria, or Jordan. The fast connections allow all kinds of regular internet use.
Further features of the VPN include DDoS protection, app filtering, a kill switch, a dedicated IP address, and a NAT firewall. The software is available for Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Android TV devices, plus there are browser extensions available for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.
A VPN is essential for users in Saudi Arabia to browse the internet safely and freely, and to access the content that they want to. Using a VPN is a simple process that will encrypt your data so that it is kept safe and private, then send the data via a server located in another country so that you can access any websites you want even if they are restricted or blocked. We have recommended a selection of the best providers for users in Saudi Arabia.
Have you had experienced issues with accessing the internet freely in Saudi Arabia firsthand? Have you tried out any of these VPNs? Let us know about it in the comments below.