The 5 Best VPNs for Accessing the Dark Web in 2022

VPN shield icon, trophy and Dark Web icon on a dark background
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The 5 Best VPNs for the Dark Web (2022): A Quick Guide

If you plan on visiting the dark web it’s important to protect your data and privacy. Unfortunately, many parties feel like using the dark web is enough of a reason to spy on you.

Furthermore, in some countries where censorship is common, you might not even be able to access the dark web. A good VPN can solve both of these problems. You’ll find the five best dark web VPNs below.

  1. NordVPN: The best dark web VPN
  2. Surfshark: A cheap but secure option
  3. Mullvad: Simple and privacy-focused
  4. ExpressVPN: Great stealth options
  5. Private Internet Access (PIA): Affordable private connections

Our personal pick, NordVPN is a fantastic choice that offers the right level of encryption, anonymity, and data security.

Read the complete article below to find out why you need one of the VPNs above to access the dark web anonymously and for a quick guide on how to do this.

Who hasn’t heard of the dark web? Many people who’ve never been on it probably have plenty of sinister fantasies of what goes on there. The people who have accessed it know it harbors a very diverse collection of content and can be a beacon of freedom and anonymity.

Accessing the dark web and dark web browsing aren’t illegal in the majority of jurisdictions. However, the dark web obviously has more questionable content as well. As such, many governments and third parties are wary of dark web users.

Moreover, most oppressive regimes aren’t fans of the internet freedom and privacy the dark web offers. As such, there are countries where dark web users face obstacles and government scrutiny.

The issues outlined above are all reasons to mask your dark web use. A great way to do so is by using a good and reliable VPN (virtual private network). This is exactly why we’ll discuss some of the best VPNs for dark web use below.


Why Use a VPN to Access the Dark Web?

Why You Need a VPN iconAs we explained above, a VPN is necessary to hide from third parties that you’re on the dark web. If you use the Tor browser, the main way to get on the dark web and by far the safest, without taking additional safety measures, your internet service provider (ISP) can see this.

In many oppressive countries, ISPs have an important role in enforcing censorship and monitoring citizens. But of course, even in Western democracies, it’s impossible to be 100 percent sure what ISPs do with user data. In other words, better safe than sorry.

Moreover, it’s true that the Tor browser already offers a high level of anonymity and security. After all, the network reroutes your traffic past three nodes with data being encrypted at each step.

However, considering the dangers you could face on the dark web, it’s not a bad idea to use extra protection. This is where a VPN can prove very useful.

There is another reason you might need a VPN to access the dark web: censorship. In some countries, the Tor project webpage or other pages where you can download Tor are blocked. In this case, you’ll have to use a VPN to even get as far as starting your dark web journey.

Some of these countries, such as China, go so far and are so advanced (from a technology standpoint), that they even manage to block Tor traffic altogether. In this case, a VPN can help to get passed this “firewall of censorship.”


Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best VPNs for the Dark Web

Infographic showing how to choose a good Dark Web VPN

Choosing a good VPN can be overwhelming enough as it is. If you also need to think about which VPN will serve you on the dark web, it gets even more complicated. We want to take away the worry of choosing a good dark web VPN.

You can rest assured we choose the best dark web VPNs very diligently. These are the factors we took into account when considering the best VPNs for the dark web:

  • Strong encryption protocols: To keep your data safe from third parties and hide your use of Tor (the dark web browser), it’s important to choose a provider with strong encryption.
  • A strict no-logging policy: There is no point in successfully hiding your dark web use and encrypting your data if your VPN provider will just hand over your data the first chance it gets. Ideally, it’s best to use a provider that only employs RAM (short-term) memory on its VPN servers.
  • Fast servers: The Onion network (Tor) might be one of the most anonymous ways to surf, but that comes at the cost of it being, admittedly, very slow. Therefore, you’ll need a VPN with fast servers that won’t exacerbate this problem.
  • Obfuscated servers: ISPs and third parties can see when you’re using a VPN. In many countries that ban or scrutinize Tor use, such as China, VPN use is also banned or frowned upon. To circumvent this issue, some VPNs use obfuscated servers.

The 5 Best VPNs for Accessing the Dark Web

Now, based on the above criteria, here are the five best VPNs for accessing the dark web.

1. NordVPN: The best dark web VPN

Screenshot of NordVPN's homepage

NordVPN is currently the best all-around VPN, according to our extensive research and tests. It also just might be the best dark web VPN. After all, it’s got excellent encryption protocols and offers obfuscated servers.

These will help you to stay out of your ISPs and the government’s crosshairs. Moreover, it has a strict no-logs policy, thanks to its company’s registration in Panama. Lastly, their fast VPN servers won’t slow your connection down any more than necessary when using Tor.

For users who want to get even more out of their VPN than “just” dark web use, NordVPN is a great option as well. After all, its stable server connections, kill switch option, and excellent encryption help you to stay protected at all times.

Furthermore, NordVPN offers plenty to streamers and torrenters as well. After all, it can access the US version of Netflix and streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO Max.

NordVPN
Our pick
Our pick
Deal:
Only $3.29 a month for a two-year subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$3.29
9.3
  • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
  • Nice and pleasing application
  • No logs
Visit NordVPN

2. Surfshark: A cheap but secure option

Surfshark VPN provider website homepage with added logo to the corner

Just like NordVPN, Surfshark is an excellent all-purpose VPN. Nevertheless, it is specifically a great dark web VPN as well.

After all, just like NordVPN, it offers solid obfuscation servers (Surfshark calls this Camouflage Mode, but it serves the same purpose), highly secure connections, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy.

Interestingly, these aspects aren’t even where Surfshark shines most. What really sets Surfshark apart is its impressive speed: it’s the fastest VPN we’ve tested.

Surfshark’s fast servers will likely ensure the inherently low speed of the Tor browser remains bearable. Moreover, it also makes Surfshark very suitable for other online activities, such as surface web browsing, streaming, torrenting, and playing multiplayer games.

Surfshark
Deal:
Safe and anonymous internet for only $2.30 a month
From
$2.30
9.0
  • Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
  • 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
  • Cheap with many extra options
Visit Surfshark

3. Mullvad: Simple and privacy-focused

Screenshot of Mullvad VPN, website homepage with added logo in the corner

It makes sense a privacy-oriented VPN like Mullvad is great for staying safe on the dark web. It offers strong encryption protocols, obfuscation through its bridge servers, a firm no-logging policy, and a kill switch to keep you safe at all times.

Moreover, it’s got impressive speeds. Unfortunately, its obfuscation servers really slow things down. Then again, this is generally the case with obfuscation.

The important thing is that Mullvad’s bridge servers will mask your VPN connection. This means oppressive regimes or ISPs won’t see you’re using a VPN. Remember, you want to give third parties as little reason as possible to go snooping around in your data.

If you’re looking for a VPN that can do it all, however, we believe there are better options. After all, Mullvad keeps things quite simple in terms of features.

For instance, it doesn’t offer whitelisting or access to the US version of Netflix, unlike premium providers such as Surfshark and ExpressVPN.

Neither does it offer the dedicated IP addresses that providers such as NordVPN and CyberGhost offer. As such, if you’re looking the get the most use of your VPN, rather than only browsing the dark web, we recommend checking out the other providers on this list.

Mullvad
From
$6.75
8.3
  • Very good for privacy and safety
  • Extremely fast
  • iOS software not that good
Visit Mullvad

4. ExpressVPN: Great stealth options

Screenshot of ExpressVPN provider website homepage

ExpressVPN is another great VPN provider. We can only really fault this provider for its relatively high prices. Other than that, it offers everything you’d expect from a solid dark web VPN: great encryption, obfuscation technology (called “stealth servers“), and zero-logging.

Its servers only use short-term memory, so data isn’t ever stored for longer periods. It also has a kill switch, and it offers strong encryption protocols for keeping your data safe.

ExpressVPN is a great option if you want to access the dark web and stay safe and anonymous while doing so.

ExpressVPN
Deal:
Great discount on annual subscription + 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$6.67
8.9
  • Very easy to use VPN
  • Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
  • 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Visit ExpressVPN

5. Private Internet Access: Affordable private connections

Screenshot of Private Internet Access VPN provider homepage with added logo in the corner

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a great VPN provider that offers excellent value. In fact, it’s the most affordable premium VPN that we have tested, at the time of writing. PIA offers an excellent choice of various encryption protocols, including the very popular OpenVPN.

Moreover, it has a no-logs policy and offers obfuscation technology (the Shadowsocks proxy protocol). It also offers a kill switch and connection speeds are pretty good too.

These features make PIA a VPN that’s not only great for the dark web, but for a multitude of different uses.

PIA
Deal:
PIA is always well-priced with a 30-day money-back guarantee
From
$2.19
8.6
  • Strong focus on privacy and security
  • Good price
  • Fast and stable servers
Visit PIA

How to Access the Dark Web with a VPN: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know which are the best VPNs to use on the dark web, we’d like to tell you in brief how to use a VPN to actually get on the dark web. Just follow the steps down below:

  1. Get a subscription with a good VPN. We recommend choosing one of the VPNs that we mentioned above, such as NordVPN.
  2. NordVPN
    Our pick
    Our pick
    Deal:
    Only $3.29 a month for a two-year subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
    From
    $3.29
    9.3
    • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
    • Nice and pleasing application
    • No logs
    Visit NordVPN
  3. Install the VPN app on your device.
  4. Open the VPN app and log in.
  5. Select a VPN server. We recommend using the automatic server selection feature that many providers offer to find the fastest server. If the VPN doesn’t have this feature, just select the VPN server closest to you.
  6. Select an obfuscated server if you live in a censorship-heavy country, where Tor is either blocked or using it could put you in danger. Do remember that obfuscated servers generally slow down your connection (quite a bit).
  7. Download the Tor browser from the official Tor website.
  8. Configure the Tor browser according to your preferences, if you want, by clicking on “Tor Network Settings.” It’s recommended that you enable the “Bridges” setting, which masks Tor use.
  9. Go back to the first tab and click on the “Connect” button.
  10. You’re now securely connected to the Tor network and can browse the dark web. If you’re looking for dark web links to visit, we strongly suggest checking out our articles on worthwhile dark web sites and dark web news sites.

For more detailed information on how to access the dark web, you can check out our article on accessing the dark web.


Can I Use a Free VPN to Access the Dark Web?

Hands holding VPN shield icons, free vs paid VPN with white background

You might ask yourself: If I can’t get on the dark web without a VPN, why don’t I just use one of many free VPN providers? In such cases, going for a free VPN isn’t really recommended.

After all, free VPNs often have some serious limitations, such as the ones below.

  • Data limits: Many free VPNs enforce a data cap you can use while being connected to their servers. This means your VPN may disconnect while you’re browsing.
  • Speed limits: Just like the maximum amount of data you can use, many free VPNs also enforce speed limits. Since the dark web’s browser (the Tor browser) is already quite slow, a slow VPN will make things even worse.
  • Limited servers: Most free VPNs have a (very) limited number of servers compared to their paid counterparts. This means there might be tons of users on your server, which only exacerbates the problem of low speeds.
  • Selling data: Some “free” VPNs are not as free as they claim: they make you pay with your data. They may even sell your data to third parties.

Many free VPNs, unfortunately, feature one or more of the disadvantages above. That’s why, instead, we recommend one of several affordable VPNs, such as Surfshark, with unlimited bandwidth and great premium features.

If you insist on getting a free VPN, we recommend checking out our article on the best free VPNs right now.


Conclusion: The Best Dark Web VPNs

As we’ve discussed, it’s very important to use a VPN on the dark web. You’ll need one for privacy and security reasons and in countries where using Tor is banned, using a VPN definitely improves things.

When choosing a VPN for the dark web, you should make sure it offers high-level encryption, has a strict no-logs policy, fast servers, and ideally obfuscation technology.

With this in mind, we’d recommend you go with NordVPN as the best VPN to use for accessing the dark web.

The Best VPNs for the Dark Web: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question about accessing the dark web safely and the best dark web VPNs that you can use? Check out our FAQs below!

Yes, a VPN helps to protect your data when you’re on the dark web. However, even more importantly, a VPN will hide from your ISP and other spying third parties that you’re on the dark web. Moreover, a VPN can help you to get access to Tor in a country where it’s blocked.

There are multiple VPNs on our website that lend themselves well for this use, but we believe the best one is NordVPN. This VPN offers excellent encryption to keep your data safe, a strict no-logs policy to ensure your privacy, good speeds, and obfuscated servers to prevent parties from spying on you.

Under most jurisdictions, just accessing and browsing the dark web in itself is not illegal at all. However, there are some governments that are firmly against their citizens using the dark web. Check out our article on the best dark web VPNs to find out how to access the dark web using a VPN.

We generally don’t recommend using a free VPN on the dark web. After all, many free VPNs enforce speed and data restrictions and some even involve privacy risks. Check our piece on the best dark web VPNs to find one that offers maximum security.

Tech journalist
Nathan is an internationally trained journalist and has a special interest in the prevention of cybercrime, especially where vulnerable groups are concerned. For VPNoverview.com he conducts research in the field of cybersecurity, internet censorship, and online privacy. He also contributed to developing our rigorous VPN testing and reviewing procedures using evidence-based best practices.