Are you a resident of Tajikistan, traveling there for work, or just passing through Dushanbe on your way elsewhere? Aside from typical geo-blocking you’ll find around the world, recent events have resulted in blanket-measure online censorship. Many of the blocked websites and services include social media and VoiP services – a minor nuisance for some, and a serious issue for others. But, although these services are blocked, there are ways you can get around these firewalls.
One of the best ways to unblock and protect your internet in Tajikistan is with a VPN. In this guide, we’re going to show you how to select the best VPN provider for Tajikistan, the criteria you should use to measure them, and our top picks. Then, we’ll guide you through how to setup your VPN and troubleshoot any issues. Finally, we’ll discuss the internet situation in Tajikistan in greater depth and wrap things up from there. Let’s get started.
Qualities of the best VPNs
So you learn that a VPN is one of the best ways to access the free and open internet. But then you start searching, and you learn a few things very quickly: (1) there are a lot of VPN service providers on the internet; and (2) what seemed like a quick, easy search can quickly become overwhelming as you trawl through the many, many providers available. One site recommends this VPN, another one says don’t get that VPN – how can you clear this up?
We decided to take the guesswork out for you. We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching VPNs, conducting speed tests, and figuring out which ones are the “real deal.” In those hours of research, we came up with some standards that VPNs have to live up to. The ones below are specific to Tajikistan, but can apply to just about any country:
- Encryption – VPNs use an encrypted “tunnel” to keep your data private and secure to and from the server. Having powerful encryption allows you to keep your IP address hidden so you can bypass tough blocks and view the content you’d like to. It also prevents anyone from seeing what you’re doing while you do it.
- Network size – The more server nodes you have available to you, the more quickly and easily you can establish an effective connection. Plus, if you want to view or stream content that’s only available in another country, an expansive server network is more likely to give you options to get a local IP and stream to your heart’s content.
- Speed – Nobody likes slow internet, and if you want to download or stream content, a lagging connection kills. All the VPNs we selected have been rigorously tested and retain fast speeds while keeping you secure.
- Zero-logging policy – This goes hand-in-hand with encryption. By using a VPN, you prevent your ISP, the government, and other 3rd-parites (like hackers and other cybercriminals) from watching what you do online. But if your VPN is watching and recording what you do, then what’s the point? Your VPN needs to be as close to as much in the dark as the rest of them. A strict zero-logging policy means that none of your online activity is recorded – so even if your provider was forced to turn over any records, there wouldn’t be anything to turn over anyway.
Best VPNs for Tajikistan
With that out of the way, here are our selections for the best VPNs for Tajikistan:
1 – ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is big, reliable, and one of the fastest VPNs available. Offering you 2,000+ servers across 94 countries, a built-in speed test, unlimited bandwidth for users, and no speed caps coupled with powerful servers ensures that you’ll be able to browse, stream, and download seamlessly.
Nearly unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption (with 5 protocols including OpenVPN), a DNS leak test, and automatic kill switch helps you punch through the toughest firewalls and stay hidden versus anti-VPN countermeasures. If ExpressVPN can bypass China’s Great Firewall – which it can – it can get you access to the full web in Tajikistan. What’s more, ExpressVPN’s commitment to helping users access the free, open internet makes them one of the most reliable providers for not only bypassing tough blocks, but unblocking streaming and VoIP services, too.
ExpressVPN also has a good zero-logging policy to keep you safe when you log off and software availability for a wide range of desktop, mobile, browser, and other devices.
You can learn more in our full ExpressVPN review.
2 – NordVPN
NordVPN is a power-user’s dream. Aside from their massive, 5,200+ strong server network, NordVPN offers advanced features that make it fantastic for beating oppressive regimes’ restrictions on internet. Among these features are their specialty servers, with functionalities like double VPN and server obfuscation–which provide twice the encryption and hide your use of a VPN, respectively.
256-bit AES encryption is nearly unbreakable and their 5 protocols give you options for balancing speed and security, or trading one for the other. NordVPN also keeps your identity safe and secure from reprisal with one of the most complete zero-logging policies in the industry. A graphical map interface makes it easy to choose servers, and security toggles can block out ads and malware.
Finally, they’re fast and reliable for breaking Netflix and Hulu’s VPN-blockers, and are immune to takedown requests thanks to their Panamanian jurisdiction.
Learn more about this great provider in our comprehensive NordVPN review.
3 – CyberGhost
CyberGhost is the perfect choice for users look for simplicity and ease-of-use. On launch of the app, you’re presented with a colorful, minimalistic display that offers you 6 simple, preset configuration profiles. Some of these profiles help you surf anonymously, unblock streaming or basic websites, and choose your server. You can further customize with simple toggles for extra speed, data compression, and to block online tracking, among others.
Military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, a connection guard, and kill switch make sure your activity is private at all times. An immaculate zero-logging policy continues to keep you safe to the point of not even recording your email address.
Unlimited bandwidth, high connection speeds, and the ability to connect as many as 5 devices across a wide spectrum of operating systems and devices gives you speed and versatility. More than 3,100 servers across 59 countries rounds out the package with plenty of options to choose from to make sure you’re secure, fast, and safe.
Find out more in our full CyberGhost review.
4 – PrivateVPN
PrivateVPN is one of our top choices for Tajikistan for several reasons. First, there’s security. PrivateVPN uses AES-256 encryption with 2048-bit keys. Each of these has more possible combinations than there are atoms in the known universe, making it an excellent choice for ex-Soviet regimes like Tajikistan. Your ISP, the local government, and other third parties will all find your connections extremely difficult to crack when you’re using PrivateVPN. It helps that the service has a comprehensive zero-logging policy that doesn’t store any records that can be used to find you. Throw in every modern cutting-edge cryptographic protocol you can think of, from OpenVPN’s UDP and TCP to IPSec, and it’s easy to see that PrivateVPN is a top choice for Tajikistan and other oppressive regimes.
In addition to the above PrivateVPN is strong on core features. The server network spans 52 countries. The total server count is relatively small at 80+ nodes, but each node is equipped with an exceptional amount of processing power and a high-speed Internet connection. This means that a single PrivateVPN server can have the same throughput as 10-15 lesser servers. Between this and no bandwidth, speed, or server switch restrictions, Tajikistani residents and visitors can stream, torrent, and browse the web at high speeds. Another cool, unique feature is the free remote setup service that helps users get a PrivateVPN app installed on their Windows, Linux or macOS system quickly and easily. If you want to access the free web from Tajikistan, PrivateVPN is a strong choice.
Check out our full PrivateVPN review to learn more.
5 – PureVPN
Whether you’re a permanent resident or just visiting Tajikistan, PureVPN should be one of the first providers you consider. Here’s why. With a massive server network of 2,000+ servers in over 140 countries, PureVPN can help you get an IP from virtually anywhere in the world. This means you can access whichever content libraries you want, digitally relocate to any continent (except the South Pole), etc. In addition to this, PureVPN boasts unlimited bandwidth, speed, and server switches. Throw in up to 5 multi-logins for your household, and you get an incredible VPN for all your devices – all at one of the lowest subscription fees in the business.
Outside of being strong on core features, PureVPN is a smart choice for ex-Soviet countries like Tajikistan because it comes with strong security features. First, there’s 256-bit AES security that’s so tough a supercomputer would need quadrillions of years to break it. Second, there’s a strong no-logging policy that, all told, is one of the best in the business. Then there’s a number of exclusive features. One is split tunneling, wherein you get to choose which data goes through a VPN connection, and which goes through your ISP. Another is P2P protection, which lets you enjoy torrents and other P2P services without worrying about your anonymity. Last but not least is the proprietary Ozone feature that protects your data, device, and identity when you’re using the Internet. Given the political situation in the country, all of this makes PureVPN a top choice for Tajikistan.
Unblock the internet in 5 steps
Once you pick a VPN, how do you get started? It’s pretty simple. Just follow these steps:
- Go to your chosen provider’s website. We suggest one of the services above, and if you pick one of those you can just click the link to be taken directly to their website. Once there, if you haven’t been redirected already, go to the “plans” page. Select your plan (again, we suggest the plans outlined above), and fill out the details they request. These will include your name, email address (except for CyberGhost), and payment information.
- Next, download and install the VPN software to your device. If protecting a mobile device, you may have to visit your app store. Click whatever link is provided directly on your VPN provider’s website and you’ll be taken straight there. This way, you avoid downloading a fake. If you want to use a VPN with multiple devices, all the VPNs above let you do so for at least 3, so just repeat these steps as many times as necessary to put the VPN on as many devices as you like.
- Once you’ve downloaded and installed the VPN onto your device(s), launch the app and sign in with the user credentials you created earlier. Once logged in, you’ll likely be automatically connected to the fastest server available. If this is one in a country with open internet access, then you’ll be set. If not, (i.e. it’s a server within Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, etc.), then simply visit the server list and make your selection in a more open country. Connect to that one and wait for it to resolve.
- After a few moments, your connection to the VPN server should resolve. From here, you can open a browser and start your use-case – but given the internet climate of Tajikistan, we recommend you run a quick test first to ensure you’re secure. Open your web browser and visit net. The webpage will run an IP address lookup, the results of which will be displayed in a box near the top of the screen. Just under a long string of digits at the top of the box (your IP address), the page will display a country name. This is your IP address’s country of origin, and it should match whatever server you connected to. So, if you connected to a server in the United States, it should read “United States.” If it doesn’t but reads anything else (like “Tajikistan”), then you’re connection did not go through. Return to your VPN and try again with a different server.
- Once you’ve confirmed that you’re connected, you’re free to use the open internet to your pleasure.
Whether you’re trying to unblock VoIP or video streaming services (like Netflix), eventually you’re likely going to run into problems accessing them, even with a VPN. Netflix, Hulu, and other popular streaming platforms will especially give you problems, throwing messages to the tune of, “It looks like you’re using a proxy server. Please disconnect…”
This is totally normal, as the major streaming providers attempt to block VPNs because of licensing problems and VPNs have to try to stay ahead of them. You might also have trouble bypassing censorship firewalls on certain servers or settings.
Don’t panic yet – try these options out first:
- Check your connection/change servers – Make sure you’re connected to your VPN server. If you didn’t use ipleak.net to double-check your connection when you launched your VPN, do so now. All you may have to do is re-connect to the same or a different server. And if you did, or that doesn’t make a difference on the same server, try a different one.
- Change your settings – All the VPNs we recommend have 5 encryption protocols, and some have more advanced settings for tough blocks. The default may not be enough, leading you to need to opt for slower speeds in exchange for tougher encryption. See what your particular provider recommends and adjust your settings.
- Call the pros – If your connection is good, changing servers doesn’t work, and even adjusting your settings doesn’t do the trick, contact your customer support. Even if you’re just not sure how to adjust your settings for tougher blocks, or you know how and it didn’t work, customer support can help.
Internet in Tajikistan
Internet access in Tajikistan is fairly widespread, clustered primarily in urban centers, with coverage holes and lagging found between cities. Mobile internet is pretty inexpensive, too, with decent signals and speeds and 3G available in most towns. Hotels, coffee shops, and dedicated internet cafes abound in most major cities, so getting online isn’t much of a problem. Despite this, just 17% of the population regularly uses the internet, suggesting its usefulness isn’t being appreciated yet.
Censorship in Tajikistan
But, although accessibility isn’t much of an issue, human rights in Tajikistan have long been poor and worsened across the board in 2017. Specifically, in July of 2017 the parliament passed several amendments that allow the government to monitor, track, and record individuals’ online activity. Those who visit “inappropriate” websites or make inappropriate comments on social media can now be subject to extra surveillance, fines, and detention.
The government doesn’t clearly define what is an “inappropriate” website or comment, either. But, for the past several years, they have blocked many popular sites, like Facebook and YouTube. The government continues to deny initiating these blocks, despite multiple ISPs confirming that they received government orders to do so.
Recent worsening censorship
More recently, tensions increased in parts of the country when an article was published suggesting enhanced economic privileges being granted to businessmen close to government authorities, as well as public demonstrations and prison mutinies.
In response, the Tajik authorities reacted by blocking wide swathes of internet content, particularly Asia Plus (the article’s origin), Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Even censorship circumvention tools have been inaccessible since the tension began in November – yet authorities continue to deny blocking and blame technical problems. To further drive the nail into the proverbial coffin, the government has created a monopoly on internet access, allowing them to block anything without needing to consult ISPs.
Now that you know the best qualities you should look for in a VPN, the best ones available, and how to get things set up – get started. This guide should have answered your biggest questions, and hopefully some small ones too.
But if you have any more, or thoughts, stories, or experience with VPNs or censorship in Tajikistan, just let us know in the comments below.