The best VPN for split tunneling is NordVPN.
But I didn’t arrive at this conclusion lightly.
I spent days testing VPNs from numerous providers to find one that outperformed the others – and NordVPN happened to tick all the right boxes.
First, I could seamlessly listen to music accessed from a foreign server while I continued with my online banking and work – convenient!
And then, come game time, I played LoL without changing my IP – all while my downloads funneled through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel in the background.
It’s times like these where a VPN for split tunneling is useful.
But I do understand that NordVPN may be a bit pricey for some, or it may not “tickle your fancy” for other reasons.
So, I’ve listed a few AWESOME VPN split tunneling alternatives.
Read on to get the gist of it!
Top 3 VPNs With Split Tunneling (September, 2023)
This budget-friendly VPN uses patented Whitelister functionality to provide an easy-to-use split tunneling experience. Plus, AES-256-bit military-grade encryption protects all activity that’s pushed through the tunnel.
This top provider offers reliable split-tunneled protection via its app and browser extensions. It’s also one of the most secure VPNs, ensuring safe internet activity for the programs you do want to run via a VPN.
ExpressVPN features great split-tunneling functionality with flexible configurations. It’s also one of the fastest VPNs, making it an option for gamers and streamers who need a safe and speedy connection.
There are several VPNs that offer split tunneling functionality, meaning that finding the best one for you can be a challenge.
To sift the wheat from the chaff, I tried and tested a few VPNs to find which do a reliable job at funneling specified activity through a VPN’s encrypted tunnel (while the rest run through an unprotected connection).
Below is a list of 7 VPNs that I feel are good enough for split tunneling activity:
The Best VPNs for Split Tunneling at a Glance
In this review, I’ll discuss in-depth why each chosen VPN provider is perfect for split tunneling.
But if you’re short of time, here’s a brief summary of my best VPN with split tunneling list:
- NordVPN – Best VPN for Split Tunneling
- Surfshark – Affordable With Quality Split Tunneling
- ExpressVPN – Offers a Variety of Split Tunneling Methods
- CyberGhost – User-Friendly Split Tunneling VPN
- IPVanish – Unlimited Number of Simultaneous Connections
- PureVPN – Great Compatibility With Windows
- Private Internet Access (PIA) – Novice-Friendly Cheap VPN
Detailed List of the 7 Best VPNs With Split Tunneling
1. NordVPN - Best VPN for Split Tunneling
Before I delve deep into this review, it’s important to know that NordVPN’s split tunneling functionality is limited to its Android and Windows App.
It also works with some Android TVs (run your model through Customer Support to make sure).
However, it does offer a Bypass List feature on its Chrome and Firefox browser extensions.
This means that you can choose which websites/URLs you want to protect with the VPN and vice versa (but only when using these proxies).
This functionality can be useful if you want to access geo-blocked content.
Remember, the browser extensions (BypassList) are not the same as the split tunneling apps and do not offer the same security and features.
If you require more flexibility, then you may want to consider ExpressVPN as an alternative (keeping in mind that it costs just a bit more).
This, for me, was the only setback.
The browser and app-based split tunneling features are reliable and you can easily choose which traffic filters through the VPN.
My first positive experience using this feature on NordVPN was its ease of use.
You simply switch the split tunneling functionality on and then select the apps that you want to enable or disable.
I’ll share a step-by-step guide on how to activate split tunneling on NordVPN below.
It also pairs seamlessly with all devices that use Android or Windows operating systems (and can be used on 6 devices simultaneously):
There’s no ETA on when or if the feature will become available on other operating systems.
But again, I didn’t pick this as my top choice for versatility.
I’m a big Android and Windows fan, so I don’t have any gripes in this regard.
Stability is the name of my game!
As for speed and security, no issues here either.
In fact, when compared to many other VPNs, NordVPN takes the cake for being fast and secure.
With its Double VPN, Military-grade encryption, and kill switch protection, you can keep your funneled web traffic private and safe.
You can also choose between servers in 62+ countries to secure your connection while you run your VPN-free apps in the background.
Now, let’s talk about price.
NordVPN isn’t the most expensive option on my list (ExpressVPN is), but it’s not the cheapest either.
It does, however, hit a reasonable middle-ground where you get great value for money.
Or, if you sign up using this link, you’ll get a massive discount with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
2. Surfshark – Affordable With Quality Split Tunneling
We all need to pinch pennies where we can but when it comes to VPN safety, we don’t want to skimp on security.
Surfshark is a popular VPN provider that merges affordability with exceptional service.
The provider is not the cheapest on my list (PIA is) but they offer the best overall service at the lowest price.
And when it comes to their split tunneling functionality, they take it so seriously that they trademarked it as “Whitelister.”
Whitelister is unique in that it offers users the option to whitelist websites and specific IP addresses as well as apps.
No other VPN on my list has this feature.
So, you can select which apps and websites you want the VPN to bypass while it secures the rest of your online activities.
This is great if you want to access your online banking website while you stream a foreign movie in the background, for example.
However, like NordVPN, Whitelister is currently only available on Android and Windows.
But the provider does promise to add the feature to other operating systems soon:
I couldn’t find any info online to confirm the technical functionality of Whitelister, so I contacted customer support.
Turns out it’s device-based, meaning it configures your router to allow specific devices to bypass the VPN tunnel.
This makes sense since Surfshark allows you to connect as many devices as you want, with unlimited simultaneous connections.
The only other VPN on my list that has this “unlimited connections” perk is IPVanish.
Like NordVPN and most of the other VPNs on my list, Surfshark uses 256-bit AES encryption and a kill switch to provide optimal security for VPN traffic.
In addition, it also offers protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
So, for traffic tunneled through the VPN, you’re covered!
With so many great features, you may be asking “WHY is this VPN so affordable?”
It’s possibly because it has access to only 3200+ servers, whereas the others (apart from ExpressVPN) surpass 5000+.
But that’s just my guess.
Click on this link to read an in-depth review of Surfshark.
While we’re on the topic of pricing, here’s what you’ll fork out for Surfshark’s VPN service:
It’s hard to believe that this provider’s prices can get any cheaper, but if you hop to it, you can save some extra cash on the side!
3. ExpressVPN - Offers a Variety of Split Tunneling Methods
Sitting at the higher end of the price range is ExpressVPN.
This VPN deserves a solid spot near the top of my list.
In fact, if you’re looking for versatile split tunneling functionality, this may be YOUR first choice – barring that you’re willing to pay the hefty subscription fee.
But what makes this VPN so “versatile?”
ExpressVPN is one of few providers that offers split tunneling for Windows, Android, AND Mac – plus routers!
The functionality here works based on “split-include” and “split-exclude” (or inverse split tunneling) options.
Most VPNs only use one of these methods, but ExpressVPN offers both.
This means you can choose between:
- Directing all traffic through the VPN tunnel
- Sending only selected traffic through the VPN tunnel. Blocking selected traffic from entering the VPN tunnel.
One disadvantage of ExpressVPN is that it does not support URL tunneling through its apps (like Surfshark and CyberGhost).
But URL tunneling can be done through the browser extensions.
On the plus – it’s the only VPN on my list that provides split tunneling at the router level.
This means that you can use a router app to specify which devices (up to 5) will have all their traffic tunneled through the VPN and which will run through the unprotected connection.
The router split tunneling screen displays all connected devices with an on/off toggle next to each one.
Other ExpressVPN standout features include higher-grade encryption (AES 256-bit), a standard kill switch, and access to more than 3000 servers in 94 countries.
It gets a thumbs up for speed, too.
Now for the part where I clench my teeth.
The price, it’s just a tad steeper than most options on my list.
You’ve got to ask yourself, are you worth it?
I think so.
Here’s some relief: click on this link to get yourself a well-deserved discount.
4. CyberGhost - User-Friendly Split Tunneling VPN
CyberGhost’s easy-to-use apps and browser extensions make it an ideal option for novice VPN users.
You don’t need to be a techie to navigate the user interface and even the split tunneling feature can be found and activated with ease.
Access the split tunneling settings under “Smart Rules” and then click on “Exceptions” – and Bob’s your uncle!
CyberGhost has the split tunneling feature for Windows and Android-powered devices.
It also caters to some iOS devices but with limited features.
You could always make use of the 45-day money-back guarantee if it doesn’t perform well on your Mac.
Like most other VPNs, CyberGhost allows you to exclude apps that you want to keep outside of the VPN tunnel.
In addition, it also lets you exclude websites by adding their URL in the exception menu.
Not all split-tunneling VPNs specify website (URL-based) tunneling and this gives CyberGhost an edge.
The only other VPNs on my list that offer website tunneling are NordVPN and Surfshark.
7 concurrent connections are allowed (which is more than what NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer) and as a bonus – router features are also available.
One catch is that it doesn’t work in China or the UAE – bummer.
Along with reliable split tunneling, CyberGhost is trusted for quality security protocols such as OpenVPN (TCP/UDP), IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec.
AES-256 encryption protects your details.
CyberGhost isn’t on the top of my list for speed (ExpressVPN is), but it does have a large server network (7000+).
Moving to subscription fees.
CyberGhost is slightly cheaper than Surfshark but still doesn’t beat PIA’s prices.
However, like Surfshark, it offers a great overall budget-friendly VPN experience.
Get your CyberGhost plan with a major discount when you use this link.
5. IPVanish - Unlimited Number of Simultaneous Connections
IPVanish provides app-based split tunneling only.
This is fine if you don’t want to run your game through the VPN, but it can become a nuisance if you want to access your home printer without disconnecting other programs from the VPN.
Surfshark and CyberGhost are the best options for URL-based split tunneling.
Despite this one drawback, IPVanish offers reliable split tunneling functionality that can be accessed via Android and Fire OS, and Android apps (nothing for Mac or Windows).
The feature can be accessed via the app’s settings (found under “Connection”) and uses split-exclude functionality to allow you to tick the apps you want to exclude from the VPN tunnel.
IPVanish has some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen, which makes it ideal for streaming and torrenting.
You can stream your Netflix in the background while you run your work file through the unprotected tunnel.
Like Surfshark, users get an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
This is great if you need to run your work and family’s devices at once.
IPVanish safeguards your data with military-grade 256-bit AES encryption.
This is no different from the other VPNs on my list, but it helps to know that the traffic you do direct through the tunnel is protected by the best security.
IPVanish also has 1,900+ global servers (which is considerably less than the other VPNs I mentioned).
Let’s talk about price.
This VPN offers mid-range pricing that provides value for the fee you’re paying.
But you can decide for yourself:
Access your discount using this link (with a 30-day money-back guarantee included).
6. PureVPN - Great Compatibility With Windows
PureVPN limits its split tunneling to Android and Windows with no promise of extending the feature to other operating systems.
So, iOS users will have to stick to ExpressVPN or PIA for now.
The good news is, if you’re a Windows or Android fan, then you’ll find the functionality reliable and easy to navigate.
In fact, it was one of the first VPNs to offer split tunneling – so it has experience on its side!
The feature uses a device-based split-include configuration to complete its task.
This means that users select the apps they want to run through the VPN.
All other online activity will be directed to a normal internet connection (not VPN-protected).
PureVPN also provides split tunneling via browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
This isn’t URL-based split tunneling, but it does mean that you can run certain websites through the VPN while others are kept out of the tunnel.
For security, you’re looking at WebRTC, IPV6, and DNS leak protection, and 256-bit encryption.
This is pretty much up to par with the other VPNs I included.
The service also gives you secure access to 6,500+ servers.
Speeds are average and you can run up to 10 devices (impressive) simultaneously.
PureVPN has some good price plans and often offers huge discounts:
Grab your discount here!
7. PIA - Novice-Friendly Cheap VPN
PIA offers a straightforward split tunneling service that comes at an incredibly cheap price (the cheapest on my list).
It covers all the basics, barring two restrictions: there’s no inverse DNS support and website URLs cannot be bypassed when using the app (Surfshark, and CyberGhost are your go-tos if you insist on this in-app functionality).
However – there is a feature in the PIA browser extension that works for website URLs under “Extension Settings > Bypass List.”
The provider DOES allow applications and networked IP addresses to bypass/use the VPN and relies on a combination of app and device-based technology to complete the service.
To access PIA’s split tunneling feature, go to “Settings” and then select “Split Tunneling.”
Then, choose which apps and IP addresses you want to run through the VPN.
PIA is one of few providers to seamlessly offer split tunneling on Mac and it’s the ONLY option on my list that works with Linux.
It offers Windows and Android compatibility, too.
It also has the largest server park with 35500+ servers, so count potent unblocking as an additional bonus feature.
Aside from split tunneling, PIA offers strong security features, including kill switch and IP/DNS leak protection.
Choose between AES 128-bit and AES 256-bit encryption for privacy.
PIA’s price is an easy price to swallow – considering you get simultaneous access on up to 10 devices with one subscription.
Sign-up with this link to get an exclusive discount!
How to Choose the Best VPN for Split Tunneling?
Not sure which VPN to choose for split tunneling?
Whatever’s left you on the fence, this cheat list of must-have features will help you choose the best split tunneling VPN.
If you want split tunneling to work, you’ll need a VPN that pairs perfectly with your operating system.
For example, PIA is the ONLY VPN on my list that works with Linux – so Linux users don’t have much choice in the matter.
And, while some VPNs will say that they work with all systems and devices, the functionality may differ across the apps.
Rule of thumb: ask customer support to confirm if the feature will work with your device before you purchase the VPN.
Depending on how clued up you are with VPN technology, you’ll want a split tunneling feature that you understand or that’s easy to use.
My recommendations for VPNs with the best novice-friendly split tunneling are NordVPN, CyberGhost, and PIA.
Do you want to use split tunneling across multiple devices?
If so, then you want a VPN that supports this.
Some VPNs are more lenient than others but for unlimited simultaneous connections across devices, Surfshark and IPVanish are your options.
Security needs to be considered for the traffic you DO run through the VPN.
So, you want a provider that will offer privacy with excellent protocols.
AES 256-bit encryption is a standard feature with the best VPNs.
But you may also want to look for additional protection, like kill switches, DNS leak protection, and double VPN functionality.
This may seem like a flamboyant add-on, but a large server network helps with speed and can help unblock websites that are accessed using a VPN.
It just provides more flexibility when you do need to rely on full VPN functionality.
The more servers there are, the better.
If these servers expand across several countries, bonus!
The Different Types of Split Tunneling
The concept of split tunneling is quite simple.
But when it comes to implementation, there are several ways to achieve the same goal.
Keep in mind that each method may have limited or ample functionality.
Here are the most frequent methods used:
- URL-based: This mode is typically available with VPNs that work with browser extensions, although some VPNs do offer an in-app URL split option. This option allows you to select which URLs you want encrypted and which ones you don’t.
- App-based: This is where you select the applications that you WANT to be VPN-protected. Everything else goes through your regular channel.
Examples: ExpressVPN, IPVanish
- Inverse split tunneling or “split exclude”: With this method, your entire internet traffic passes through your VPN – unless you specify otherwise. In other words, you choose which apps you WANT to exclude from the VPN.
Examples: ExpressVPN, Surfshark, IPVanish
- Device-based: This method allows users to configure a router VPN to allow specific devices to bypass or use a VPN tunnel. For instance, you can specify your desktop to always use the VPN, and your iPad to bypass the encrypted tunnel.
Examples: Surfshark, PureVPN
How to Use NordVPN’s Split Tunneling Feature on Android and Windows?
If you’re happy to use my top choice (NordVPN) but you’re not sure how to activate the split tunneling feature, the next bit of info will help.
The following is a step for step guide on how to use NordVPN’s split tunneling.
How to Use Split Tunneling on Windows:
- Download and install the NordVPN application on your PC or device.
- Open the app and connect to a server.
- Select the “settings cog” in the top right corner to display setting options. Then click on “split tunneling.” Make sure the toggle switch is set to “on.”
- Now you can check the apps that you want to/don’t want to run through the VPN.
- In the image below, you’ll see that I have disabled Google Chrome so that it won’t run through the VPN tunnel. Now, if I want to run a website through a normal (no VPN) tunnel, then I can access it using Chrome while I run the rest of my online activity through Firefox.
How to Use Split Tunneling on Android:
- Download and install the app on your device.
- Log in and connect to a server.
- Click on the settings cog in the top left corner to display settings options. Select “VPN connection.”
- Under the “VPN Connection” heading, select “Split tunneling.”
- Now you can select/deselect the apps that you want to/don’t want to run through the VPN.
As you can see, the split tunneling feature on NordVPN is easy to navigate and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to use this service.
Which VPNs Support Split Tunneling?
Not all VPNs support split tunneling, so it’s important to review a VPN’s features before subscribing to a package.
From my experience, the best spilt tunneling is offered by top-tier providers, like the ones mentioned in my list above.
Just remember to contact customer support before you purchase a VPN that’s not listed in my reviews.
Ask if their split tunneling feature will work with your operating system and confirm the type of split tunneling they offer.
Can I Use a Free VPN for Split Tunneling?
You can use a free VPN for split tunneling but the functionality may be limited.
Free VPNs can be useful, but they’re often limited to performing the basics.
So, before you subscribe to one, make sure that it offers split tunneling (and to what extent) on the free version.
Free VPNs with split tunneling are hard to find, considering you want to select one with premium options from a provider with an excellent track record.
What I can suggest is that you make use of a 30-day trial from one of the more reputable providers.
Click here to try ExpressVPN’s free risk-free 30-day trial now!
Also, keep in mind that a free VPN may not be as secure as its paid-for counterpart.
This means that the links and apps you do run through the VPN could still be at risk.
There’s a reason why we pay for VPNs: they add VALUE for MONEY.
Does Split Tunneling Add Latency?
Split tunneling does not add latency to a connection.
However, traffic that’s directed through the VPN by the split tunneling feature can be slowed down.
Because the VPN routes and encrypts the data in its tunnel.
This can often overwhelm the traffic and create a miserable experience for users.
Saying this, VPNs are becoming more speed-savvy and it’s not often that you find VPN connections that are severely slow or unstable.
Is Split Tunneling Safe?
The split tunneling feature on most VPNs is safe to use.
But you do need to pay caution to the traffic that’s directed away from the VPN tunnel.
Online activity that’s not protected by a VPN is vulnerable to cyber threats and attacks.
If attackers are successful, it’s possible that your VPN-protected traffic is more susceptible to becoming compromised.
For this reason, split tunneling is considered less secure.
What’s the Difference Between Full Tunnel and Split Tunnel?
If you’re in full tunnel mode, every single byte of your online activity is directed through your VPN server.
In contrast, split tunnel mode only allows the data you have selected to reach the VPN connection.
It splits your data into two categories (protected and unprotected).
Split tunneling is a convenient feature and has its advantages, but remember – a full VPN tunnel is more secure.
That’s a Wrap!
We’ve had a thorough look at split tunneling, and which VPNs are best at offering this useful feature.
While NordVPN is still my go-to option for split tunneling, the other VPNs on my list are great solutions and I do encourage you to pick one before you head out.
If my suggestions aren’t up your alley – click on this link for a list of the best VPNs – maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for!
Otherwise, grab this CRAZY discount on NordVPN now!