Freedom House gives South Africa a 2021 Internet Freedom Score of 73/100, “free” (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free). Although online content manipulation declined following the May 2019 election, self-censorship and online harassment remain prevalent.
The government passed the Cybercrimes Act in 2021, providing officials with broad authority to access user data when investigating cybercrimes. The act includes restrictions to certain kinds of speech, including incitement to violence. However, we have seen no reported instances of filtering or blocking of websites, nor were there restrictions on social media.
Why Do I Need a VPN in South Africa?
The South African government generally allows a free internet in the country, although it does partially censor political content. However, authorities have not yet targeted bloggers or other online content creators for their activities.
Internet Service Providers are required to issue takedown notices for illegal content, including copyrighted material, defamatory content, and sexually explicit content.
Most popular sites and services are available in South Africa, including social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
While Netflix and other streaming services are available in the country, the content offered by the services is different from that offered in other countries. Meanwhile, Hulu is available only in the U.S. and Japan, and BBC iPlayer is available only to viewers inside the borders of the United Kingdom.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) offers South African users optimal online protection, while also expanding their online content options. Both residents of South Africa and visitors to the country will find that a VPN enhances their online experience.
In this article, I’ll share information about the top six VPNs to protect and enhance your online activities while you’re living in or visiting South Africa.
How to Use a VPN From Inside South Africa
It’s easy to use a VPN to protect and enhance your online activities while you’re in the country of South Africa. Simply do the following:
- Subscribe to the VPN provider of your choice. (I recommend NordVPN.)
- Install the VPN provider’s app(s) on your device(s).
- Log into the VPN service on the device of your choice.
- Select a VPN server located outside of South Africa to access content based in other countries, or select a server inside of South Africa to protect your online activities from observation while accessing content located inside the country.
- Enjoy your new online protection and freedom!
Best VPNs for Use in South Africa
The six VPN providers below have proven to be the best VPNs for use while inside South African borders. The TL;DR version is:
- NordVPN: Top VPN pick for South Africa. NordVPN offers excellent online protection, HD-capable connection speeds, and a large server network, all for a reasonable fee.
- Surfshark: Budget VPN pick for South Africa. Both Surfshark’s low price and unlimited simultaneous connections allowance will make it attractive, especially for users on a budget who need a lot of concurrent connections.
- ExpressVPN: Premium South African VPN protection. This provider delivers fast, well-protected connections, as well as wide-ranging global server coverage, and more.
- CyberGhost: Good option for rookie VPN users. First-time VPN users would do well to take a closer look at CyberGhost. The provider’s easy-to-use apps provide quick access to protection, and also offer access to streaming- and file-sharing-friendly servers.
- Private Internet Access: Reliable VPN protection for South Africa. This VPN provides reliable online protection, as well as access to geo-fenced content from around the globe, as well as from inside of South African borders.
- PrivateVPN: Small but powerful VPN. This provider’s global server coverage is admittedly a bit lacking, as is its app support. However, features like “Stealth VPN”—the feature helps hide your VPN activity—make it worth a look.
When ranking this top six lineup, I considered the following factors:
- Global server network (bonus for servers in South Africa)
- Security and privacy protections
- Speed of protected connections
- Multi-platform app support
- Customer support
- Access to geo-fenced content
Note: While this article concentrates on using a VPN from inside South Africa. However, I only included providers in this list that do have servers stationed inside the country so that you can also access South Africa-only content when you’re outside of the country.
Here is my list of the six best VPNs for South African users.
NordVPN earns the top spot in this roundup thanks to its strong encryption and privacy protections, lightning-fast speeds, and wide global server coverage.
NordVPN’s global server network of 5,500+ servers includes servers inside South Africa, along with 59 other countries. The provider’s owned-and-operated servers means there are no third-party contractors around to access your personal information.
Privacy is also well covered at NordVPN thanks to a no-server-logs policy and a cryptocurrency subscription payment option. The provider recently began running all server operations directly from RAM, never writing any data to a physical hard drive. All data is wiped from the servers when they are rebooted.
NordVPN’s connection speeds are the fastest I’ve ever measured, their connections can still easily handle HD video, online gaming, and downloading and sharing of files. Data caps are nowhere to be found.
Native app support from the provider has the popular device platforms covered thanks to apps for the Android, iOS, macOS (with native M1 Mac support), Windows, Android TV, Amazon Fire, and Linux platforms. Chrome, Edge and Firefox browser extensions protect your browsing.
Extensive router support protects all of your connected devices via a single connection. Up to 6 concurrent connections are allowed on a single set of login credentials.
NordVPN also offers other security-related services, NordPass (a password manager), NordLocker (cloud storage with file encryption), and NordVPN Teams (VPN service for businesses).
Customer support is always available thanks to 24/7 live support chat, email support, and a searchable knowledge base.
- Servers in South Africa and 59 other countries
- Super-fast speeds
- 24-hour customer support
- Top-notch privacy and security protections
- Reasonably priced
- Android app doesn’t offer a kill switch
BEST VPN FOR SOUTH AFRICA:NordVPN is the best VPN for South Africa because of its comprehensive privacy and security protections, as well as its fast connection speeds, great multi-platform support and large server network. It offers its exceptional service at a bargain-basement price. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
Surfshark hasn’t been around as long as most of the providers in this list of 5, but it’s quickly earning a good reputation as a reliable VPN service.
Surfshark’s impressive global server network currently boasts 3,200+ servers in South Africa and 64+ other countries.
Surfshark’s connection protection consists of bank-level encryption, a kill switch, and IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. Ad-blocking, tracker, malware, and phishing protection are available. A MultiHop server option routes your internet traffic through two VPN servers.
No logs are to be found on Surfshark’s servers, and they accept Bitcoin to protect your payment privacy.
Surfshark’s dependable connections offer more than enough speed to handle all of your favorite online activities, including gaming, video streaming, and more.
App support from the provider includes options for the Android, iOS, Linux, macOS (with native M1 Mac support), and Windows device platforms. Edge, Firefox and Chrome protection is also available. The provider’s service is also compatible with multiple brands of routers.
You can protect as many devices at once as you wish since the provider has an unlimited simultaneous connections policy.
Someone is available to support you 24 hours per day thanks to round-the-clock live chat, a support request form, and a searchable knowledge base.
- Fast-growing server numbers
- Unlimited simultaneous device connections
- Excellent security and privacy protections
- Not many advanced options
BEST FOR BUDGET :Surfshark allows you to enjoy its strong security and privacy protections, fast speeds and unlimited simultaneous connections allowance at a very reasonable price, which should make it attractive to many. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
This provider is an excellent choice for those with a taste for content in many different places because of its widespread global server network.
The provider has the globe covered with a global server network of 3,000+ servers spread among 94 countries. Some of those servers are stationed inside South Africa.
ExpressVPN provides top-notch online security thanks to military-grade encryption, a kill switch option, and DNS and IPv6 leak prevention. The provider also offers split tunneling on its desktop apps, allowing users to pick and choose which apps will communicate through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel.
Privacy protection comes in the form of a Bitcoin subscription payment option, as well as a strict no-server-logs-ever policy. The provider’s TrustedServer technology runs all VPN server operations only from RAM. This ensures that all data on the VPN server is totally wiped when the server is rebooted.
Connection speed is another category where ExpressVPN shines, scoring the best in my most recent speed tests. Depending on your usual speeds, the provider’s connections can easily handle HD and 4K video streaming, online gaming, and the sharing of large files. The provider doesn’t enforce data caps of any type.
Multi-platform support is also a high point, as the provider offers native app support for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, and Chromebook device platforms. Chrome, Edge, and Firefox browser extensions are also available.
Wide-ranging router compatibility protects all of your connected devices. (The provider recently updated its router app.) 5 devices can connect simultaneously using the same login info.
Customer support is available around the clock via 24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket system, and a searchable support library.
- Reliable access to geo-blocked services and websites
- Excellent global server coverage, with servers inside South Africa
- Comprehensive online protections
- App support for all popular device platforms
- More expensive than other VPN providers
- Only 5 simultaneous connections
GREAT WORLDWIDE COVERAGE:ExpressVPN is a top-notch choice for users who crave reliable access to all types of geo-blocked content housed around the globe. The provider also offers optimal security and privacy protections. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
First-time VPN users will want to take a closer look at this provider. CyberGhost’s apps are easy to use and offer quick access to streaming- and file sharing-optimized VPN servers.
CyberGhost’s global server network includes 8,200+ servers, stationed in 90+ countries, South Africa included. Among those servers are streaming-optimized and downloading-optimized servers.
While the provider may be easier to use than many of its brethren, it doesn’t “dumb down” its security and privacy protections. Government-grade encryption, a kill switch, and DNS leak, and IPv6 leak protection are all present and accounted for. Plus, ad and tracker blocking is available, as is the ability to force websites to serve up HTTPS versions of their pages.
Privacy is also well-protected thanks to a strict no-server-logs rule and the ability to use Bitcoin to pay for a subscription.
CyberGhost’s encrypted connections will likely keep up with your favorite online activities, easily handling both HD and 4K video streams, downloading and sharing large files, and playing games online. No data caps to worry about here, folks.
Easy-to-use apps are available for the Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox extensions protect your web browsing, and support is available for various router makes and models. You can make up to 7 simultaneous connections using the same account.
In addition to comprehensive VPN services, CyberGhost also offers a password manager, alerts when a users’ email address is included in a data breach, antivirus and anti-malware protection for Windows and much more.
Around-the-clock support is available thanks to 24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket system, and a searchable knowledge base.
- Servers in 90+ countries (South Africa included)
- 4K-capable connection speeds
- Easy-to-use apps
- Online activity-optimized servers
- Users may miss the ability to customize settings
- Doesn’t work in China
BEST VPN FOR NEWBIES:CyberGhost is my top pick for first-time VPN users thanks to its easy-to-use, yet powerful app lineup for most popular device platforms. The provider also scores points with its servers optimized for specific online activities. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
Private Internet Access (PIA) delivers well-protected access to geo-controlled content, both inside and outside of South Africa.
The provider’s global server network boasts 3,300+ servers that are stationed in more than 80 countries, including South Africa. This allows users to access content located locally, as well as from around the globe.
All of your PIA-connected online travels are kept incognito, as the provider offers industry-standard protection, with government-grade encryption, IP/DNS leak prevention and a kill switch. Ad, tracker, malware and malicious website blocking is also included.
The provider’s no-server-logs policy ensures that there are no records kept of your online activities. Plus, the provider accepts cryptocurrency as subscription payment keeping your payment information private when you sign up using a disposable email address.
PIA connection speeds are admittedly the slowest on this list. That said, the provider’s connections should provide more than enough bandwidth to handle your favorite online activities. No data caps or bandwidth limitations to deal with here.
Native support from the provider includes apps for Android, Android TV, iOS, Windows, macOS and Linux devices. Chrome, Opera and Firefox browser browser extensions protect your in-browser activities, while compatibility with multiple router makes and models makes it easy to protect your entire wi-fi network from online perils.
Users can simultaneously connect up to 10 of their devices to PIA’s servers.
Live support chat, a trouble ticket form, and a searchable support library are available in your time of need.
- Native app support for popular connected devices
- Has servers located in South Africa
- Excellent online privacy and security
- No labeled streaming-optimized servers
- Has issues working in some restrictive countries
RELIABLE VPN PROTECTION FOR SOUTH AFRICA:Private Internet Access provides reliable access to geo-controlled content, improving your online experience while its industry-standard connection protection keeps your online antics undercover. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of Private Internet Access.
PrivateVPN is somewhat new on the scene, and still has plenty of room to grow when it comes to global server coverage and app support.
Admittedly, the provider’s global server coverage is thin, considering that it has just 200+ servers spread out among 60+ countries.
The provider’s connection protection isn’t thin, though, thanks to banking-grade encryption, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and their proprietary Stealth VPN protection, which disguises your VPN activity as regular browser traffic.
PrivateVPN keeps no server logs, ensuring your online activity history stays private. Plus, the provider accepts Bitcoin as payment.
The provider’s connection speeds can handle your favorite online activities, including gaming, sharing large files, and streaming HD and 4K video.
While app support is limited to the big 4 platforms (Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows), you can protect the rest of your connected devices by using the provider’s router features. Up to 6 devices can connect to the PrivateVPN servers at once on a single set of login credentials.
Customer support consists of email support, an FAQ library, and what is claimed to be 24/7 support chat, but I’ve visited the site numerous times when live chat wasn’t available. (The support chat balloon will be green when it’s available, red when it isn’t.)
- Reliable access to geo-blocked content
- Extra protection via Stealth VPN
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Server numbers are quite low
- App support needs a boost
EXTRA SECURITY:PrivateVPN offers reliable and not-easily-detectable access to content around the world. The provider’s “Stealth VPN” obfuscation feature disguises your VPN traffic as normal internet traffic. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
Methodology for assessing VPNs for South Africa
You cannot rely on just any VPN to protect you online, or expect any VPN to provide reliable access to geo-fenced content around the globe.
In the list below, you’ll see several key factors that should be considered when deciding on a VPN for use in South Africa:
- Connection Speed: Fast connection speed is always an important consideration, no matter your location or your favorite online activity. Each VPN I include on my list provides fast connections.
- Server Network: A large global server network is a requirement if you plan to access content housed in other regions of the world. Also, look for a provider that has multiple servers located in each country, as that helps prevent a single server from being overwhelmed with too many connections.
- Value: A VPN’s feature set should justify its asking price. Every VPN that I include on my list offers a comprehensive set of features, providing an excellent value.
- Ease of Use: A quality VPN service provider will provide apps for a variety of popular platforms. A VPN app should also provide easy access to protected connections. All of the VPNs I recommend offer easy-to-use apps for popular platforms.
- Security and Privacy: Top-notch online security and privacy protection are a must. VPNs should offer banking-level encryption, an automatic kill switch, and DNS/IP leak protection. The provider should also never save logs related to your online activities.
- Streaming: Watching streaming video is a popular online pastime. The VPN’s I recommend offer reliable unblocking of geo-fenced content in other areas of the globe, offering comprehensive access to plenty of streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
The factors listed above are quite important. However, my comprehensive research doesn’t end here. This is just a small part of my overall VPN testing methodology. This data-driven approach gives me a better understanding of VPNs and their services, recommending only VPNs that are a good fit for my readers’ needs.
Won’t a Free VPN Work in South Africa?
While you could probably find a “free” VPN that will work inside of South Africa, I’ll bet you wouldn’t be happy with the performance of that provider, its limitations, or its “protections.”
Using a freebie VPN provider is just downright inconvenient. First of all, you may have to sit in a queue with other free users, waiting until a slot opens up on one of the provider’s limited number of free servers.
Then, once you’re given the green light to connect, you will either be automatically connected to the server of the provider’s choice, or you’ll have a limited number of servers to choose from. So, you may not be able to connect to the region of the world that you’d like to.
Once you’re connected, you’ll likely find that the free VPN throttles your connection speeds. Plus, many freebie VPNs will impose daily or monthly data caps on your free usage. Neither one of these limitations is exactly copacetic if you enjoy streaming video or sharing files.
Your privacy and online security will be limited on a free VPN. Even a free VPN has to keep the lights on, and many VPNs of this type will keep their servers humming by tracking their users’ online movements, selling that valuable information to advertisers or other interested third parties.
The provider might also inject unwanted ads and tracking cookies into your browsing sessions. Those cookies stick around on your hard drive even after you’ve disconnected from the VPN provider’s server.
Does any of this sound good? It doesn’t to me. Why not budget for a few bucks per month for a reliable, paid VPN service? Believe me, you’ll be happier.
What Can I Do With A VPN?
A Virtual Private Network not only protects your online activities from prying eyes, it can also enhance your online life in other ways.
A VPN can temporarily assign a new IP address to your connected device. Since an IP address can be used to identify your geographical location, this makes it appear as if you are in another location.
This opens up access to geo-controlled content you might normally not have access to, such as video streaming services (like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, etc.), online games (like Minecraft, League of Legends, etc.), and other sites and services.
An encrypted connection also protects you from having your online activities monitored by your Internet Service Provider. That means your ISP can’t throttle or block your connection simply because it doesn’t approve of your video viewing or file-sharing activities.
A VPN’s encrypted connections are also a handy shield to have when you’re using an unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspot, as you’ll find at Starbucks or a hotel.
Hotspots are usually left unprotected, meaning anyone on the network can monitor your online activities if they’re savvy enough. This can be hazardous to your financial health if you use a hotspot to shop, pay bills or do your banking.
South Africa VPN FAQs
What Is the Best Free VPN for South Africa?
You don't want to use a free VPN for anything, including searching the internet in South Africa. Free VPNs have been known to throttle connection speeds, impose data caps, track and sell your data, and insert unwanted ads and tracking cookies into your browsing sessions. Stay away from free VPNs at all costs. (See what I did there?)
What Is the Cheapest VPN for South Africa?
The cheapest South Africa VPN would be Surfshark, which offers a high level of service for a low cost. Make sure to get one of their multi-year subscriptions for the best savings.
Are VPNs Legal in South Africa?
It's always important to check the laws of the country you're in to see whether or not using a VPN is legal there. In the case of South Africa, VPNs are legal to use.
Residents of South Africa, as well as visitors to the country, will find that a Virtual Private Network is an indispensable tool. A VPN can both enhance and protect your favorite online activities.
NordVPN’s comprehensive global server network provides access to content around the globe, and its fast and well-protected connections offer swift and reliable access to that content. The provider’s security and privacy protections ensure you can’t be monitored while online, keeping your activities private.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the NordVPN website.
- Why Do I Need a VPN in South Africa?
- How to Use a VPN From Inside South Africa
- Best VPNs for Use in South Africa
- 1. NordVPN
- 2. Surfshark
- 3. ExpressVPN
- 4. CyberGhost
- 5. Private Internet Access
- 6. PrivateVPN
- Methodology for assessing VPNs for South Africa
- Won’t a Free VPN Work in South Africa?
- What Can I Do With A VPN?
- South Africa VPN FAQs
- What Is the Best Free VPN for South Africa?
- What Is the Cheapest VPN for South Africa?
- Are VPNs Legal in South Africa?