You’re smart – you recognize that the dark web isn’t 100% nefarious.
But you also acknowledge the necessity of using a reliable VPN to access it.
I’ll cut to the chase.
The best VPN for the dark web is NordVPN.
I tested dozens of VPNs to be sure, but NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN feature sealed the deal.
Throw in its premium security features and super-fast speeds, and it’s easy to see why it’s my top choice.
Keep reading for the full scoop!
Top 3 VPNs for the Dark Web (September, 2023)
ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN for browsing the dark web, with a speed loss of just 7.89 Mbps. You’ll also get automatic obfuscation on every server with any protocol, so you can enjoy fast speeds without sacrificing security – essential for dark web users.
NordVPN is my top VPN for the dark web, thanks to its Onion Over VPN feature that adds an extra layer of security to your dark web experience. On top of that, you’ll get premium security features, including two kill switches, a double VPN, and obfuscation.
ProtonVPN offers dedicated Tor Over VPN servers that let you browse the dark web on your regular browser – eliminating the middleman (Tor). Plus, you’ll get Secure Core (double VPN), a kill switch, and 256-bit military-grade encryption for the best security.
There are numerous ways to access the dark web, but the most common method is via the Onion Browser (Tor).
So, to keep things concise, my guide will focus on that method and VPNs that work with and unblock Tor.
I’ll also pay close attention to VPNs with Tor-related features, like NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN, and must-have security features that will keep you safe while tiptoeing around the darkest corners of the internet – and, of course, fast speeds.
On top of that, you’ll find valuable tips for accessing the dark web with a VPN at the end of my guide, including the best Tor settings.
Ready to See if Intel Exchange Is Still Accessible? Grab One of My Top VPNs First!
Spoiler alert – you’ll only find a read-only page:
But before you search for an alternative (like Cryptome), grab one of my top VPNs to secure your dark web connection:
- NordVPN – Onion Over VPN + Fast Speeds & Cryptocurrency Payments
- ExpressVPN – Fastest VPN for Dark Web + Automatic Obfuscation
- ProtonVPN – Built-In Tor Servers, Secure Core, & Open-Source
- Private Internet Access – MultiHop & Obfuscation in One + Open-Source
- PrivateVPN – User-Friendly VPN for Dark Web Users on a Budget
And don’t forget to read my full guide.
There’s valuable information you don’t want to miss.
Maybe you’ll find that another VPN fits your needs better than your first choice!
What Are the Best VPNs for the Dark Web?
In the following sections, you’ll find in-depth details on the best VPNs for the dark web, including why they made my list (such as unique features).
Let’s get surfing!
1. NordVPN – Onion Over VPN + Fast Speeds & Cryptocurrency Payments
If you’ve heard the term “Tor Over VPN,” you’ll know it’s the trustworthy method of turning on your VPN and then connecting to Tor.
It also protects you from compromised Onion nodes and third-party snoopers, so your dark web activities are safe from cybercriminals and hackers.
By the way – NordVPN is the only VPN on my list with an Onion Over VPN feature!
ProtonVPN comes close, though, with its built-in Tor support.
Anyway, NordVPN is also equipped with premium security features.
First, you’ll get 256-bit AES encryption and two kill switches – one for your system and one for apps.
The app kill switch is especially handy, as it closes Tor Browser if your VPN disconnects, so your real IP isn’t leaked to whatever you’re doing on the dark web.
Both are great alternatives to Onion Over VPN (if it’s not working).
The double VPN will send your dark web activities through two VPN tunnels, ensuring your Hidden Wiki browsing is extra encrypted.
Meanwhile, obfuscation ensures no one but you knows what you’re up to on the dark web.
Just don’t go buying “things” on darknet markets!
NordVPN is also the only VPN on my list to offer two separate features for a double VPN and obfuscation (whereas PIA combines them).
NordVPN also has a verified no-logs policy, meaning if the authorities demand your logs, the VPN provider will have nothing to give.
AKA: even if you disregard my advice and buy a “How to Hack?” guide on Versus Market, your logs won’t tattle on you.
Don’t do that!
Moving on, NordVPN also boasts blazing-fast speeds, so your connection won’t suffer a greater drop than that produced by Tor.
Out of all the VPNs I tested, it placed second, with a speed loss of just 8.11 Mbps (ExpressVPN took first).
There is a downside, though.
When you’re using Onion Over VPN, double VPN, or obfuscation, your speeds might drop more.
For example, Onion Over VPN gave me a 9.56 Mbps drop – though it still left NordVPN in second place (albeit barely).
Speaking of tests, I also put NordVPN through numerous leak tests – DNS, WebRTC, and IP.
My results came back negative, so there’s no worry of your data leaking while browsing hacking forums on the dark web (or anything else).
It’s also worth mentioning that NordVPN easily unblocks Tor in countries where it’s restricted or banned, like China, Russia, or Iran.
Plus, if you want to be extra-cautious, you can pay for your subscription with cryptocurrencies.
As for the subscription fees – NordVPN is very affordable, especially on long-term plans.
But if you want to SAVE MORE MONEY for totally legal, non-dark web purchases, grab my exclusive discount!
2. ExpressVPN – Fastest VPN for Dark Web + Automatic Obfuscation
In second place is ExpressVPN, thanks to its lightning-fast speeds and automatic obfuscation on every VPN server with any protocol.
The VPN provider also used to offer a .onion address, but since the update from v2 onion to v3, it appears to be defunct.
ExpressVPN is still worthy of its place.
First, its lightning-fast speeds ensure your dark web activities are as fast as possible, despite Tor’s infamous speed drop.
This means you can browse your favorite forums without unbearable lag (though live streams are out of the question…luckily).
On top of that, thanks to ExpressVPN’s automatic obfuscation, you can use its fastest (proprietary) protocol, Lightway, for the best speeds without sacrificing security.
This is likely why the provider placed first during my speed tests, with a mere drop of 7.89 Mbps.
You won’t find automatic obfuscation on every server with any protocol elsewhere on my list, either!
But more than that, ExpressVPN offers an automatic kill switch (Network Lock) and 256-bit AES encryption.
Those and its obfuscation are all you need to stay safe on the dark web, whether you’re browsing ProPublica or uploading a file to ZeroBin.
That said, it would’ve been nicer if ExpressVPN offered a dedicated Tor feature or at least a double VPN.
In the meantime, the provider does operate a verified no-logging policy – so at least your dark web life will stay private if the authorities demand your logs.
And like NordVPN, I also put ExpressVPN through the usual leak tests.
As expected, they came back clean!
No IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.
You can also trust ExpressVPN to unblock Tor Browser in restricted countries, including China.
So, if you’re desperate to share whistleblower info on SecureDrop, you can do so safely worldwide.
You can also use Bitcoin to pay for your subscription, adding yet another layer of anonymity!
Although, ExpressVPN is pretty expensive and has little savings on long-term plans.
3. ProtonVPN – Built-In Tor Servers, Secure Core, & Open Source
It was a tight race between ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN.
In fact, the only reason ProtonVPN places below ExpressVPN is its speeds – it had the second-biggest drop at 12.51 Mbps (using Firefox, discussed below).
But it was fast enough to enjoy most dark web activities, including researching conspiracy theory .onion links shared on Reddit and other forums (I might be obsessed).
Anyway, it’s not like you’ll be streaming 4K videos!
On the other hand, something ProtonVPN can boast that ExpressVPN can’t is its built-in Tor servers.
In fact, the only other VPN on my list with a similar feature is NordVPN!
This gives ProtonVPN quite the edge, as it means you can access .onion URLs (AKA: the dark web) in your normal browser without skimping on security.
ProtonVPN even offers a thorough guide on how to do this.
I was curious if this meant we wouldn’t deal with Tor’s typical speed drop, so I tested it.
With ProtonVPN and Tor Browser, my speed drop was 14.17 Mbps.
But with ProtonVPN and Firefox, my speed drop was 12.51 Mbps.
Impressive, as I was worried ProtonVPN’s slower speeds would make my dark web activities super laggy.
Luckily, my worries were in vain.
Moving on, ProtonVPN has a double VPN feature called “Secure Core,” which routes your dark web activities through the VPN’s “safest servers in privacy-friendly countries.”
This makes the provider a great choice for unblocking the dark web in countries like China and Russia, especially as you don’t even have to access Tor Browser.
The downside – it negatively impacts your speeds.
On the bright side, you’ll also get a reliable kill switch, 256-bit AES encryption, robust leak prevention (all my tests came back clean!), and the option to pay in Bitcoin.
However, ProtonVPN doesn’t have an obfuscation feature.
That’s not as big of a disappointment as you’d think, though, thanks to the built-in Tor servers.
Finally, ProtonVPN has a verified no-logging policy and is open-source, meaning you’re extra safe from anyone or anything demanding your logs.
And despite separating its accounts into tiers, the VPN is the most affordable on my list!
So this MAJOR discount is just extra savings on the side.
4. Private Internet Access – MultiHop & Obfuscation in One + Open-Source
Recently, Private Internet Access (PIA) introduced a feature called “Multi-Hop” that combines a double VPN with obfuscation, earning it fourth place as one of the most reliable VPNs for the dark web.
My favorite part about this new feature (aside from its dual-action) is that it reroutes your VPN traffic through the Shadowsocks or SOCKS5 proxy.
This increases the likelihood of faster speeds, as, normally, a double VPN is routed through two VPN servers instead of a proxy.
I tested PIA’s speeds with the new feature enabled to be sure, and it came in third – very close behind NordVPN, with a speed drop of just 9.62 Mbps.
So, you can enjoy obfuscation and a double VPN while browsing the dark web without the desire to throw your computer against the wall due to lackluster speeds.
And considering PIA has no dedicated dark web feature, eliminating that desire is helpful.
PIA is also the only VPN on my list with combined obfuscation and MultiHop – and NordVPN is the only VPN with both features in general, giving them an edge.
Of course, PIA has more security features to boast, as well.
You’ll get a robust kill switch, 256-bit AES encryption, and reliable leak prevention (no leaks when I tested), ensuring the time you spend looking up obscure .onion pages on Daniel is well-protected.
Here’s a favorite:
Now for a downside.
PIA has a no-logging policy, but it hasn’t been verified through third-party audits.
On the bright side, it is open-source, meaning anyone can browse the code for red flags – and none have been discovered so far.
Private Internet Access VPN is also reliable for unblocking Tor/the dark web in countries like Russia and Iran, so you can browse Riseup to your heart’s content regardless of your location.
And, of course, you can pay for your PIA subscription with numerous cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitpay.
Plus, you’ll appreciate PIA’s affordable plans:
Don’t forget to grab my exclusive discount for the BEST savings!
5. PrivateVPN – User-Friendly VPN for Dark Web Users on a Budget
PrivateVPN might be last on my list of the top VPNs for the dark web – but don’t overlook it!
It’s here for a reason, starting with its user-friendly interface.
If you’re a novice VPN user, you’ll appreciate PrivateVPN’s “Simple view.”
It hides all the complicated options, making it easy to connect to the fastest server and dip your toes in the dark web.
But if you’re comfortable with VPNs, I recommend switching to “Advanced view.”
This gives you many options to choose from, including PrivateVPN’s obfuscation feature, Stealth Mode, which hides your VPN use from any third-party snoopers like your internet service provider and government.
This is helpful for users from China, Russia, etc., who might struggle to access the deep web without the help of a virtual private network.
Luckily, PrivateVPN easily unblocks Tor.
You’ll also find the VPN’s two kill switches for your system and apps.
So, like NordVPN, you can set Tor Browser to close if your VPN disconnects.
You’ll also get 256-bit AES encryption and reliable leak prevention (no leaks detected!), though PrivateVPN is missing a double VPN and dedicated Tor feature.
There’s more bad news.
First, like PIA, PrivateVPN’s no-logs policy isn’t backed by audits.
However, unlike PIA, its app isn’t open-source, meaning everything is left to trust.
Luckily, there are no cases of PrivateVPN misusing logs or lying (so far).
Next, PrivateVPN scored last during my speed tests with a speed loss of 14.77 Mbps.
Sadly, this introduced a bit of lag – namely, .onion URLs took longer to load.
This is why the provider sits in last place.
But, as mentioned in its header, it’s an excellent option for new VPN users on a budget, as it offers very affordable plans (and you can pay with Bitcoin):
Of course, you can also get a HUGE discount by clicking here!
How to Find the Best VPN for the Dark Web?
If you’re unsatisfied with my selection of VPNs for the dark web or want to shop around before committing, this section is for you!
I’ll discuss essential features your VPN should have for safe dark web access and a couple of other tips.
Let’s get to it!
This Checklist Is More Valuable Than the Hidden Wiki – So Use It!
Okay, so the Hidden Wiki has lost its value over the years.
But this checklist is still relevant and essential if you want the best VPN for the deep web!
So, during your shopping spree, look for the following:
I don’t want to know what you get up to on the dark web.
But whatever it is, you need a VPN with premium security features to keep you safe.
Even if you’re just browsing a dark web forum, a VPN with essential security features will protect you from cyber threats, whether hackers, criminals, or creeps.
So, for starters, your VPN needs a kill switch.
This is non-negotiable, as it’ll stop your real IP address from leaking if your VPN disconnects.
Remember, red rooms aren’t real – but the threat of someone finding your location is.
An app kill switch that will shut the Tor browser at the same time is also beneficial but not necessary.
However, I recommend finding a VPN with a double VPN, obfuscation, or dedicated dark web feature (like NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN).
You don’t need all three, but find a VPN with at least one to enhance your security and/or prevent your ISP/government from seeing your VPN use.
This last one is easy – look for 256-bit AES encryption and nothing less.
Luckily, most VPNs offer this by now.
And if they don’t, avoid them.
Your VPN should have a no-logs policy.
Preferably, it should also be verified by independent audits so you know your dark web activities are safe if the authorities demand your logs.
The only exceptions are if the VPN is open-source and/or reputable with no sketchy history.
But even then, try finding a VPN with audits to back up its claims.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the first time a VPN lied to save face.
Tor Browser is notorious for slowing down your internet.
For this reason, you need a VPN with super-fast speeds – so your internet doesn’t dissipate completely.
Preferably, your speed loss with a VPN won’t be more than 10 Mbps, though less than 15 Mbps is still decent, depending on your base speed.
All of the VPNs on my list are fast enough to use on the dark web, though PrivateVPN is touch-and-go.
Here’s a table for comparison:
If your VPN leaks your data, IP, or location, it’s not doing its job.
This is especially crucial when you’re on the dark web, as a leak can result in a criminal getting your information and using it to harm you, whether online or physically.
Thus, the best way to verify that your VPN has robust leak protection is to buy a subscription, perform the leak tests (I use IPLeak), and if there are leaks, use your VPN’s money-back guarantee to get a refund.
I had no leaks during my tests!
Anonymous Payment Methods
There are many bad things associated with the dark web, and even if you’re not partaking in them, using an anonymous payment method (like cryptocurrencies) to purchase your VPN is still worth considering.
It means the info you provide to the VPN provider will be minimal.
You can even use a fake name and temporary email during sign-up to minimize the info even more.
Tor Compatibility – Including Unblocking It
The most popular method of accessing the dark web is Tor Browser.
So, of course, your VPN needs to be compatible with it.
And if you’re in a country (or traveling to a country) that blocks the Tor Browser, your VPN needs to unblock it.
You can use the same money-back guarantee method here – buy a VPN subscription, try it with Tor, and if it doesn’t work or unblock it, ask for a refund.
Finally, before committing to a VPN, compare different plans, features, and prices.
Ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
Can I Use a Free VPN on the Dark Web?
I don’t recommend using a free VPN to access the dark web.
There’s a chance your data gets sold to third parties – eliminating the purpose of using a VPN in the first place.
On top of that, your dark web activities are more likely to be discovered.
Or, if you’re super unlucky, your free VPN might be malware.
That said, one of the VPNs on my list – ProtonVPN – offers a free VPN service with limited servers and mediocre speeds.
It doesn’t include necessary features like Secure Core or the Tor Over VPN servers, but you’ll at least get unlimited bandwidth.
I only recommend this option if it’s impossible to purchase a premium subscription.
Remember, you can get an AMAZING discount on ProtonVPN when you use my exclusive sign-up link!
How to Use a VPN on the Dark Web?
Using your VPN to connect to the dark web is easy!
Here are step-by-step instructions:
- Choose one of my recommended VPN providers (or a VPN you found after thorough research) and purchase a subscription.
- Download and install the VPN app on your device(s).
- Open the VPN app and sign in to your account.
- Ensure the kill switch is enabled.
- If your VPN has any dark web features, enable or connect to them. Likewise for obfuscation or a double VPN.
- If you’re not connected already, click the Connect button for the fastest server near you. Or, if you need a server from a specific country, select your preferred location from the server list.
- Open your browser and check for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
- Open Tor Browser and connect to it. For the best settings, check the next section.
- Alternatively, if you’re using ProtonVPN or a similar VPN, use your normal browser instead of Tor.
- Find a .onion website that catches your interest and put it in the URL bar!
- Enjoy unlimited access to the dark web!
How to Set Up Tor? (Best Settings)
You can tweak settings in the Tor Browser for the best dark web experience.
Follow these instructions to do so:
- Open Tor Browser and select “Tor Network Settings.”
- Click “Privacy & Security,” scroll to “Security > Security Level,” and select “Safest” for the best security.
- Click “Search” and switch the “Default Search Engine” to “DuckDuckGoOnion,” so your searches are routed through the DuckDuckGo .onion domain.
- Next, locate the Tor Browser URL bar, type “about:config,” and hit enter.
- Confirm by clicking “Accept the Risk and Continue.”
- Search “network.http.sendRefererHeader” and change the value to 0 to disable HTTP referrers.
- Search “noscript.forbidIFramesContext,” click “Number,” and change the value to 0 to disable iframes.
- Click “Connect” to save your settings.
- You’re all set!
What Can I Do With a VPN on the Dark Web?
The dark web isn’t just for criminals intent on breaking the law without getting caught.
It’s also a platform for journalists, whistleblowers, and privacy-conscious users to partake in activities without governments, ISPs, and other third parties breathing down their necks.
So, yes, you’ll find black markets and websites promising “hitmen for hire” (almost always fake) or “live red rooms” (always fake).
But you’ll also find forums of all kinds, anonymous file-sharing services, whistleblower websites, and other valuable Intel that’s unavailable on the surface web.
A favorite of mine is obscure darknet websites dedicated to conspiracy theories.
I’ll search for rabbit holes on Reddit, Quora, dark web forums, search engines, and .onion directories in my free time.
Here’s another favorite:
Which Is Better – Tor Over VPN or VPN Over Tor?
Tor Over VPN is always better than VPN Over Tor, as the IP that connects to the Tor bridge is your VPN instead of your actual IP.
This means your unsecured connection never touches Tor, so if a node is compromised, your data is still safe.
On top of that, if you connect to Tor first, you’re putting your anonymity at risk.
Reddit user u/Kelceee45 explains in great detail Tor Over VPN vs. VPN Over Tor on this post:
Can I Be Tracked on the Dark Web With a VPN?
It depends on what you’re doing on the dark web.
If you give identifying information to a person or website, you’re more likely to be tracked.
However, if you maintain your anonymity to the best of your ability and always use your VPN, you’re unlikely to be tracked.
Or, rather, if you are tracked, the tracker will see your spoofed location.
That said, it’s essential to use a reliable VPN with robust leak prevention and a verified no-logs policy to ensure your activities are truly masked.
Are VPNs More Secure Than Tor?
The Tor Browser is a good way to stay secure while browsing the dark web, but it’s not risk-free.
For example, you might connect to a compromised node, click on a phishing link, or download a virus.
This is why Tor Browser isn’t meant to replace VPNs, nor is it more secure.
I recommend using the Tor Over VPN method when partaking in dark web activities.
That way, your connection has double the security.
Can I Browse the Dark Web Without a VPN?
You can browse the dark web without a VPN, but I don’t recommend it.
Tor might offer encryption, but it’s not as secure as a reliable VPN with military-grade encryption and premium security features.
Plus, without a VPN, you’re more prone to repercussions by human error – for example, if you accidentally click a sketchy link or download a malicious file.
Whereas, if you have a VPN, there’s a second layer of security between you, Tor, and any threats.
Is It Legal to Browse the Dark Web?
While some countries block or restrict access to the Tor Browser, surfing the dark web is not illegal as a standalone activity.
However, if you break the law while on the dark web, you’re still committing a crime and risk getting caught.
This includes purchasing anything from a darknet market and/or browsing illegal content.
What’s the Best VPN for the Dark Web on iOS?
The best VPN for browsing the dark web on iOS is NordVPN, as it has a robust kill switch, Onion Over VPN servers, 256-bit AES encryption, super-fast speeds, and a malware and adblocker.
You’ll even get an integrated dark web monitor that alerts you if your info is found on the dark web.
What’s the Best VPN for the Dark Web on Android?
The best VPN for browsing the dark web on Android is ProtonVPN, as it comes with Tor Over VPN servers, a robust kill switch, Secure Core (double VPN), and reliable malware and adblocker.
Plus, ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, is open-source, and doesn’t store logs, so you know your data is safe while partaking in dark web activities.
If you’ve made it this far, I’m confident you have all the necessary information to find the top-rated VPN to browse the dark web.
After all, my best VPN might not be yours – but surely one of my top five VPNs will hit the mark.
Still, I’ll stick with NordVPN.
Its Onion Over VPN feature is hard to beat!
Plus, it has the second-best speeds, a verified no-logs policy, and a huge suite of premium security features.
Ready to take the plunge and get browsing?