Thinking about using the dark web? Tor isn’t as anonymous as you might think, which is why I recommend pairing it with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Read on to find out which are the best VPNs for the dark web.

Best VPNs for the dark web and how to use them

Once you connect to the Tor network, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can no longer tell which websites you visit. It can, however, see whether you’re using Tor or not. This is a problem since, despite Tor’s many legitimate uses (allowing anonymous communication in countries with repressive regimes, for instance), it has a reputation as a tool for criminals.

There is, however, an easy way to keep your Tor usage a secret: just connect to a VPN. These work by routing your traffic through encrypted servers elsewhere in the world. This means that your IP address is changed and your activities are completely hidden from everyone except your VPN provider.

I’ll go into more detail on each of my recommended VPNs later but if you’re in a rush, you’ll find a short summary of the best VPNs for the dark web below.

I found these to be the best VPNs for the dark web:

  1. NordVPN: My top choice for using the dark web anonymously. A high-speed service with a strong focus on security and privacy. Includes a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. Surfshark: The best budget VPN for the dark web. A security-first VPN with decent speeds, advanced privacy features, and no connection limit.
  3. ExpressVPN: Reliable and secure, with consistently high speeds.
  4. CyberGhost: A beginner-friendly service with pre-configured security features and a huge network of servers.
  5. PrivateVPN: A very fast service with powerful security features, a zero-logs policy, and strong multi-platform support.
  6. IPVanish: This high-speed VPN owns its servers outright and keeps no logs whatsoever.
  7. Private Internet Access (PIA): A great lightweight option with strong security and the ability to unblock many different streaming services.
  8. Atlas VPN: A smaller but secure and fast VPN that is a great option for streaming.

How to access the dark web with a VPN

Browsing the dark web doesn’t have to be difficult. Below, I’ll walk you through the process of accessing the dark web with a VPN.

Here’s how to access the dark web with a VPN:

  1. Start by signing up for one of the VPNs below (I recommend NordVPN).
  2. Connect to one of your VPN’s servers. The location doesn’t matter, but usually, you’ll get the highest speeds from nearby, low-load, low-latency servers.
  3. The quickest and easiest way to access the darknet is with the Tor Browser. Just install this and you’re ready to start browsing.

Not every VPN is suitable for using the dark web. For instance, some keep logs, which can be requested by the government. With this in mind, when researching the best VPNs for the darknet, I only recommended services that met all of the criteria below:

  • Privacy-focused: Doesn’t log any personally identifiable information
  • Strong security: Uses cutting-edge features including effectively uncrackable encryption
  • No tracking: Allows you to sign up anonymously
  • Fast speeds: Provides reliable, high-speed connections
  • No restrictions: Doesn’t limit bandwidth, impose data limits, or prevent torrenting

If you’d like to read more about the criteria I used when compiling this list, make sure you take a look at my in-depth methodology testing section below.

Related: Best VPN for torrenting

Best VPNs for the dark web

Take a look below to find out more about the best VPNs for the dark web:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN's Onion Over VPN page.

NordVPN is your best bet for a Tor VPN. It has some of the fastest speeds I’ve seen and with over 5,500 servers it operates one of the largest networks on the market. Further, NordVPN doesn’t restrict or throttle the user’s speed or bandwidth in any way, which is ideal given how slow the Tor browser can be.

This VPN offers a raft of security features including 256-bit AES encryption, automatic ad-blocking and malware-scanning, protection against WebRTC, IPv6, and DNS leaks, and an app-specific kill switch. You can even connect to a Tor over VPN server, removing the need to install the Tor browser at all.

With a strict zero-logs policy and shared IP addresses, NordVPN ensures your activities cannot be traced back to you. For another layer of anonymity, you can choose to pay in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Ripple.

NordVPN provides Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux apps, but it can also be manually installed on wireless routers. You can protect up to six devices with a single account.

Pros

  • Strict no-logging policy
  • Thousands of fast servers worldwide
  • Numerous customizable security features
  • Specialized servers for Tor over VPN
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Desktop app could be refined

BEST TOR VPN:NordVPN is my first pick for a dark web VPN. With high speeds, a no-logs policy, and Tor over VPN functionality, it’s ideal for anyone looking to browse the dark web. Plus, its plans come with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

2. Surfshark

Surfshark private VPN.

Surfshark is a great budget alternative with a growing network. At the moment, it operates over 3,200 servers in 95+ countries, which isn’t bad at all, especially considering this service offers unlimited bandwidth and allows torrenting.

Security features include 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. There’s also an automatic ad-blocker, split tunneling functionality, and a NoBorders feature that lets you bypass VPN blocking.

There’s no need to worry about your privacy as Surfshark keeps no traffic logs at all. Additionally, it accepts three different cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ripple, and Ethereum), making it easy to sign up anonymously.

Surfshark provides macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux apps and can be manually configured to work with wireless routers. This service has no connection limit, meaning you can protect every device you own.

Pros

  • Keeps no logs
  • No connection limit
  • Strong focus on security
  • 24/7 live chat

Cons

  • Support isn’t always up to par

BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark provides high speeds, strong security features, and a no-logs policy. Additionally, it allows you to connect as many devices as you like. All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN: best VPN for privacy.

ExpressVPN is another great choice for anyone looking to access the dark web anonymously. It provides consistently high speeds and currently operates over 3,000 servers globally, so getting a low-latency connection shouldn’t be too difficult.

This VPN is one of the best in terms of security. It uses 256-bit AES encryption and protects you from IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, plus there’s a network lock (also known as a kill switch) that stops sending data whenever you lose your connection unexpectedly. ExpressVPN accepts Bitcoin and operates its own .onion mirror site, so you can sign up anonymously.

While not completely logless, ExpressVPN doesn’t store any information that could identify you. Additionally, as you share an IP address with everyone else on the server, it’s effectively impossible to tell which user accessed a given site.

This service has apps for Windows, Android, macOS, Linux, and iOS. There’s also custom firmware that makes ExpressVPN easy to install on your home router. Up to five devices can be connected at once.

Pros

  • Doesn’t log identifying information
  • Fast speeds
  • Has its own .onion site
  • Puts your security first

Cons

  • Few advanced options for power users

SECURE AND PRIVATE:ExpressVPN is a solid choice for the dark web. It takes your security and privacy seriously, provides high speeds, and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost privateVPN.

CyberGhost has more than 8,800 servers spread across 90+ countries, all but guaranteeing you a high-speed, low-latency connection. This service doesn’t throttle your speeds or bandwidth in any way, and it even has specific servers optimized for torrenting.

This VPN is perfect for novice users as it comes with a wide range of pre-configured security features. These include 256-bit encryption, a kill switch (in every version of the app), and protection against DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leaks, along with automatic malware-scanning and ad-blocking.

CyberGhost doesn’t log any personally identifiable information. Further, it allows you to sign up anonymously with a throwaway email address and Bitcoin. All users on a specific server share the same IP address, so your activities can’t be traced back to you.

This service has apps for Linux, macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. It also works with internet routers through manual configuration. CyberGhost allows up to seven simultaneous connections per account.

Pros

  • All security features enabled by default
  • Huge network of high-speed servers
  • No logs

Cons

  • Doesn’t have many customizable features

FAST AND VERSATILE:CyberGhost is a high speed, easy-to-use service that offers a wide range of security and privacy features. Better still, it comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN Canada VPN.

PrivateVPN might have fewer servers than some of the services in this list (roughly 200 spread across 63+ countries), but it provides much higher speeds. Not only that, it provides unlimited bandwidth and allows you to torrent freely.

Using 256-bit encryption, protection against IPv6, WebRTC, and DNS leaks, and a kill switch, PrivateVPN keeps your internet traffic safe from prying eyes. There’s also a cloaking feature designed to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN in the first place. What’s more, it’s possible to manually configure this service for VPN-over-Tor (although the practical uses for this are limited).

One of the best things about this service is its commitment to privacy. Although you can register anonymously by paying with Bitcoin and using a disposable email address, this is entirely optional as PrivateVPN keeps no logs whatsoever. It even owns and hosts its own infrastructure, meaning your data never passes through a third party.

This VPN has apps for macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. It can be manually installed on Linux devices and most home routers. PrivateVPN enables you to connect up to 10 devices at once.

Pros

  • Faster than most other VPNs
  • Zero-logs provider
  • Powerful security features

Cons

  • Live chat isn’t available 24/7
  • Relatively small network

HIGH SPEEDS:PrivateVPN is an exceptionally fast service, and better still, it includes an array of powerful security and privacy features. There’s even a 30-day money-back guarantee.

6. IPVanish

ipvanish

IPVanish is a very fast VPN that currently offers access to around 2,000 servers in 75+ countries. It doesn’t impose any limits on your data usage or network speeds, making it an excellent choice for day-to-day usage as well as for browsing the dark web.

Despite this service’s low price, it doesn’t skimp on security. In fact, IPVanish even includes a few features most other VPNs don’t: LAN traffic blocking and OpenVPN traffic obfuscation. Of course, there’s also 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. You can also switch over to WireGuard if you’re interested in getting the fastest possible speeds.

This VPN keeps your activities private at all times with a strict no-logs policy. While IPVanish doesn’t accept Bitcoin, it does allow you to pay with prepaid gift cards. This means that it’s still possible (if a little more involved) to sign up anonymously.

IPVanish lets you secure as many devices as you like and comes with Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS apps. Linux-based systems and network routers are also supported but require manual configuration.

Pros

  • Consistently high-speed connections
  • Doesn’t keep logs
  • Offers advanced security and privacy features

Cons

  • Doesn’t accept Bitcoin

PRIVACY-FIRST VPN:IPVanish is a zero-logs provider that puts your privacy above all else. Despite this, it still manages to offer high speeds and unlimited bandwidth. This VPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

7. Private Internet Access

private internet access

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a lightweight option that provides decent connection speeds and a secure connection. It has servers in over 80 countries and can unblock many different services. Since it doesn’t slow down your internet connection much to begin with, your speeds won’t suffer too much while connected to the Tor network when compared to connecting without a VPN.

Strong security measures are also in place with PIA. These measures include AES 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and split tunneling.

Apps are available for macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. PIA has customer service that is available via their 24/7 live chat too. 10 simultaneous connections are allowed.

Pros:

  • Strong security measures are in place
  • Decent connection speeds
  • Wireguard VPN protocol supported
  • Several customization options are available

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work reliably in China
  • App design is lacking in some ways

LIGHTWEIGHT AND SECURE OPTION:PIA is a lightweight VPN that has strong security measures in place. It can protect you while you use the dark web, ensuring that none of your private information is leaked. It is also easy to customize and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

8. Atlas VPN

atlasvpn homepage

Atlas VPN is a smaller VPN provider with just under 800 servers in around 40 locations. Its servers are both fast and secure. In my streaming tests, the provider showcased that it offers more than enough bandwidth to enjoy HD and 4K content (when available) with little to no buffering.

This provider’s security measures include 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and protection against DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leaks. Atlas VPN stores no logs and it has MultiHop servers which encrypt data twice.

Apps are available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. An unlimited number of connections is supported as well. It provides app options for a lot of popular platforms, but lacks a few “extra” device support options that many of its competitors offer.

Pros:

  • Can unblock many different services
  • Strong security measures are in place
  • No identifying logs are stored

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work in China
  • Customer service could be improved

STRONG ENCRYPTION MEASURES:Atlas VPN combines strong security measures with fast connection speeds to avoid frustration when using the dark web. It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and an unlimited amount of devices can be connected at once.

Testing methodology: finding a VPN for the dark web

There are many different VPNs available that have different capabilities. However, not all of them are of high quality. Here are some factors that I considered when making my choice for the best VPNs for the dark web:

  • Security measures: Protecting your browsing from prying eyes is always a good thing. This is especially important when it comes to using the dark web since it can be associated with illegal activity even when being used for legal purposes. The encryption provided by VPNs and the fact that they don’t store logs keep you safe while using the dark web after connecting to a VPN server.
  • Speed: Connecting to the dark web and to VPNs slow down your internet connection. There isn’t much you can do about your connection being slowed down by the dark web but you can minimize the slow down caused by your VPN provider. Picking a provider with fast servers prevents excessive slowing down.
  • Servers: The greater the number of servers the better. This makes it more likely that you will be able to access geographically restricted services.
  • Ability to unblock services: Besides providing secure access to the dark web, VPNs can also provide access to services such as streaming services and online banking while traveling. A great VPN will be able to handle this with ease.

Find out more information about the detailed criteria I use as part of my methodology testing.

VPNs for the dark web FAQs

Can I use a free VPN on the dark web?

Don’t be tempted to use a free VPN when browsing the dark web. To start with, these tend to have too many users for their servers to support, which leads to extremely slow speeds. Given that Tor is slow to begin with, this is the exact opposite of what you want.

More importantly, you can’t count on a free VPN to keep your activities private. There’s no guarantee that the provider will resist pressure to reveal details of your activities, and some have even been known to sell this information to advertisers. Worse, research suggests that free VPNs are particularly risky to install, with almost 40% of surveyed apps containing malware.

Can I get into trouble for using the dark web?

There’s nothing inherently illegal about the dark web. However, given that criminals frequently use it to purchase drugs, weapons, and stolen credit card details, the dark web has something of a reputation. In fact, leaked NSA documents suggest that even visiting the Tor website could be enough to land you on a watchlist.

Look at it this way: you can’t get into legal trouble just for being on the internet. Problems only occur when you use the internet to do illegal things, and this rings true for the darknet as well.

Are VPNs safe?

Yes, VPNs are safe to use. Using a VPN while browsing is safer than not using one. While using a VPN, your IP address will be masked and your identity will be protected while you browse. In combination with Tor, your information will be far more private than not using either a VPN or the Tor network.

Are VPNs legal?

Yes, VPNs are legal. With that being said, using a VPN to carry out illegal activity is not. Using a VPN will not protect you from the legal consequences of breaking the law. Please don't take anything in this article as legal advice.