The Tor network (or just “Tor” for short) lets you surf the web anonymously and visit certain sites that are otherwise inaccessible. Tor encrypts the traffic traveling to and from your device so that it can’t be read by anyone who intercepts it.
However, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) as well as government agencies can see that you’re using Tor. This isn’t ideal as while Tor has many legitimate uses, it has a reputation associated with illegal activity. As such, using it may raise some red flags, and in some countries, ISPs block Tor traffic entirely.
Using Tor in conjunction with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can hide the fact you’re using Tor at all. A VPN adds a layer of encryption and routes traffic through a secondary server. This server can be in any location you choose. Your VPN provider will be able to see you’re using Tor, but no one else will.
If you don’t have time to read the full post, here’s a brief look at my top VPNs for Tor:
- ExpressVPN: Fast, security-conscious VPN with its own .onion site. Accepts bitcoin and includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- NordVPN: Best budget option. Boasts a huge network of high-speed servers and comes with lots of security extras.
- CyberGhost: Fast, private VPN with a ton of server options.
- PrivateVPN: Log-free service that is simple to set up and accepts bitcoin.
- IPVanish: Secure, speedy, and keeps no logs.
- Surfshark: Offers a growing network of servers and doesn’t impose a device limit.
While there are a ton of VPNs out there, they’re not all made the same, and they’re definitely not all suitable for use with the Tor browser. Here’s a list of the main criteria I considered when choosing my recommendations:
- Doesn’t keep logs
- Uses strong security
- Pegs fast speeds
- Includes Tor-specific features
- Accepts cryptocurrency payments
Best VPNs for Tor
Here’s my list of the best VPNs for Tor:
ExpressVPN is my top pick for a Tor VPN. It puts a huge emphasis on security and privacy and has excellent speeds.
Security features include 256-bit encryption with perfect forward secrecy, protection against leaks, and a kill switch (called a network lock) in the desktop apps. The latter will kill the internet connection should the VPN connection drop so that your data remains protected.
This provider will never keep any logs of user-identifying data. You can pay using bitcoin which allows for better anonymity. ExpressVPN has a .onion site that can only be accessed through Tor, which means you can sign up anonymously.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. Select routers can be set up manually or using ExpressVPN’s custom firmware. You can connect up to five devices at a time. Live chat is available 24/7 to help with setup and troubleshooting.
- Offers fast speeds
- Doesn’t keep logs of personally identifiable information
- Provides tight security
- Has a .onion site
- Accepts bitcoin
- Priced a bit higher than rivals
BEST VPN FOR TOR:ExpressVPN is my #1 choice for Tor. It’s fast and secure and respects user privacy. A 30-day money-back guarantee (even on bitcoin payments) makes it a risk-free deal.
NordVPN is a mainstay in the industry and offers extremely fast speeds and a large global network of servers. It has a Tor over VPN option which means your traffic is automatically routed through the Tor network.
Security is top-notch and includes a strict no-logs policy, military-grade encryption, and perfect forward secrecy. There’s also automatic wifi protection, leak protection, and a kill switch (in all apps except Android). The latter can be tweaked to apply to specific applications. NordVPN offers a list of special obfuscated servers as well as double VPN options.
You can download NordVPN desktop clients for Windows, Linux, and MacOS, and mobile apps are available for iOS and Android. A paid plan allows for up to six simultaneous connections. This provider accepts a few different cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, ethereum, and ripple
- Very fast VPN
- Built-in Tor over VPN option
- Zero-logs provider
- Accepts cryptocurrency
- Server switching can be slow on desktop
BEST BUDGET TOR VPN: NordVPN is my top budget pick. It offers a huge network, great speeds, and lots of security features. Plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee, even on cryptocurrency payments.
CyberGhost is probably the strongest VPN out there when it comes to online security and privacy. Plus it has reliable connections, fast speeds, and a rapidly expanding server network.
Your traffic is protected at all times with 256-bit encryption, perfect forward secrecy, a kill switch (in all apps), and leak protection. You can activate automatic wifi protection on familiar networks. CyberGhost doesn’t store any logs and accepts bitcoin payments. Signup email addresses are encrypted and users are assigned an anonymous ID, adding a layer of privacy.
CyberGhost allows for seven devices to be logged in at a time. Apps are available for Linux, Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.
- Superior security and privacy
- Strong speeds
- Seven-device limit
- Doesn’t work in China
NO LOGS VPN: CyberGhost has always been known for its strong security and privacy. It uses tight encryption and never maintains logs. CyberGhost comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee (including when you pay using bitcoin).
PrivateVPN is another VPN that performs well in terms of privacy and security. It even offers a special option for Tor users: VPN over Tor. I discuss this in more detail below but this setup can help you access sites that block Tor traffic.
This provider doesn’t store any traffic or connection logs and protects traffic with military-grade encryption in conjunction with perfect forward secrecy. Other security features include protection against leaks and a kill switch, although the latter is only available in the Windows app. You can pay for this VPN with bitcoin.
PrivateVPN has a smaller server network than others on this list but speeds are excellent.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Up to six simultaneous connections are allowed.
- VPN over Tor guide
- Great speeds
- Strong encryption
- Kill switch is Windows-only
FAST AND PRIVATE: PrivateVPN keeps no logs, accepts bitcoin, and has a strong suite of security features. Plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, even if you pay with bitcoin.
Surfshark is newer than the other providers on the list, but it’s already proven itself as a strong contender for a multitude of uses including as a Tor VPN.
This provider gives you reliable connections secured by military-grade encryption along with perfect forward secrecy. All apps have a kill switch and leak protection. Surfshark packs several extra features including automatic wifi protection, split tunneling, traffic obfuscation, and multihop servers. You can pay using various cryptocurrencies for added privacy.
One of the big perks of a Surfshark subscription is there’s no limit to the number of devices you can connect. This provider has desktop clients for Windows, MacOS, and Linux, and mobile apps for iOS and Android.
- Lots of security extras
- No device limit
- No logs whatsoever
- Some servers can be slow
- Fewer servers than top rivals
UNLIMITED DEVICES: Surfshark goes above and beyond with a number of security extras. It has a strict no-logs policy and accepts bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Surfshark extends a 30-day refund policy (which includes cryptocurrency payments).
IPVanish has been around for many years and has gained a loyal following. Fast speeds mean you shouldn’t see a noticeable slowdown to your Tor connection.
Strong encryption is provided in conjunction with perfect forward secrecy. There’s a kill switch (in the desktop apps) and protection against leaks. IPVanish doesn’t accept cryptocurrency but there is no storage of any user-identifying information. The option to switch your IP address periodically adds an additional layer of privacy. There’s also a traffic obfuscation feature which makes your VPN traffic look like regular traffic.
IPVanish apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. You can connect up to 10 devices at any given time.
- Speedy VPN
- Doesn’t keep logs
- Traffic obfuscation feature
- Doesn’t accept cryptocurrency payments
- Shorter money-back guarantee than rivals
PRIVACY-FOCUSED: IPVanish is secure and private. It provides fast and reliable connections and extends a 30-day refund policy.
How to use a VPN with Tor
The simplest way to use a VPN with Tor is to set up Tor over VPN, this just means that you connect to your VPN and then open Tor. Don’t worry if that sounds complicated, we’ll explain the simple steps below.
Here’s how to use a VPN with Tor:
- Sign up with your chosen VPN provider. I recommend ExpressVPN.
- Choose a server and ensure a connection is established.
- Open Tor browser.
- You’re ready to surf the web.
The alternative is a setup known as VPN over Tor which involves connecting to the Tor browser first. Read on for more details on the pros and cons of each setup.
VPN over Tor versus Tor over VPN
The above steps show you how to set up Tor over VPN, which is usually preferable. However, it’s worth knowing about both setups and their advantages and drawbacks.
- Tor over VPN: You connect to the VPN then Tor. Outgoing traffic is encrypted by both Tor and the VPN. It then goes to the VPN server before going through the Tor network.
- VPN over Tor: You connect to Tor then the VPN. Outgoing traffic is still encrypted by both but it now goes through the Tor network before going through the VPN server.
Here are some of the main features of each setup:
|Feature||Tor over VPN||VPN over Tor|
|The fact you’re using Tor is hidden from your ISP|
|The fact you’re using Tor is hidden from websites|
|Your real IP address is hidden from the Tor entry node|
|Your real IP address is hidden from your VPN|
|Traffic is hidden from your ISP and VPN|
|Traffic is hidden from compromised Tor exit nodes|
|You can access .onion sites|
|You can access sites that block Tor traffic|
|It’s easy to set up|
|You can choose which traffic goes through Tor|
Can I use a free VPN with Tor?
Free VPNs can seem very appealing, but they’re generally a bad idea, and especially so for this use case. Free VPNs are notorious for their lack of security and privacy. Many track information about users including their real IP addresses and the sites they visit — not what you want when you’re trying to improve anonymity.
Free VPNs also tend to have very slow speeds. They typically have a huge number of users vying for a small number of servers. With the Tor browser already slowing down your internet connection, you really need a fast VPN to keep browsing at a bearable pace.
Paid VPNs prioritize user privacy and offer much faster speeds, making them far better options for Tor VPNs.