Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly the freedom house and if you plan to travel there – you should land in Riyadh (or some other place) with a VPN already installed on all your devices. Cause it could be too little too late afterward.
You can pretty much forget about accessing major media outlets from Saudi Arabia without a VPN. Therefore, you should have one ready to fire up.
It is said that the situation has been changing for the better in recent years, but we’re still not talking about the open Internet like we’ve got used to in the West.
So better safe than sorry. Grab a VPN, install it on your phone, tablet and computer – and board that flight. We’re sure you’ll love the Middle East.
Here are the best VPNs for Saudi Arabia:
- 5,000+ servers in the network
- Easy to use - install it and forget it
- One license is good for up to 6 devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Chrome extension is just a proxy
- You can't pay with PayPal
Its network includes more than 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries, which directly translates into faster speeds. NordVPN is also very secure, relying on the strong 256-bit encryption combined with secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec). But as a user, you get a seamless experience with all this technology "doing its thing" in the background.
NordVPN is well suited to pretty much every task you throw at it — whether it's accessing a banned site from some country that filters out the internet, torrenting, accessing streaming services, or just wanting to keep a low profile on the web. It also doesn't keep any logs.
We highly recommend NordVPN to anyone looking for reliable service.
- Good for both torrenting and streaming
- Works in China
- Solid network with servers in 60+ countries
- Easy to use apps on multiple platforms
- Live chat isn't always available
- Fairly pricey
Whether you need a VPN for watching Netflix shows or downloading files via BitTorrent, Astrill can help you out — all while keeping your identity under the radar. And this is especially true if you live or work in China when the company's stealth protocols will kick in to let you access all the popular sites that are by default blocked by the country's censors.
Astrill's apps are easy to use and available on all popular platforms. Nevertheless, they still manage to provide a host of advanced features tech-savvy folks are used to get. Highly recommended, again, especially if you're looking to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
- Feature-rich yet easy to use
- One of the best VPNs around
- Strong no-logging policy
- Reliable support you can reach 24/7
- Limited number of servers in Africa and the Middle East
- Kinda pricey
ExpressVPN has great desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps and browser extensions. Also, it is well suited for video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and others.
However, what makes it stand out is its ease of use. We can't emphasize this enough. One could tell a lot of time has been spent making sure even the advanced features are easily accessible. And we love it for that. Plus, let's not forget ExpressVPN's speed which tends to leave other services in the dust.
- Fast download and upload speeds
- Works with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc.
- Great for torrenting
- Advanced privacy features (i.e. Tor over VPN)
- Relatively small number of servers
- There are no browser extensions
- Live chat support is not always available
Specifically, you can rely on PrivateVPN for both torrenting and streaming, without paying a premium. It is, in fact, one of the most affordable options in its league and we love it for that.
Customer support may not be on par with bigger players but it's not like you should experience many problems anyway. You will get the same level of security and privacy as with other services, and a single license will let you run PrivateVPN on up to 6 devices. Pretty cool.
- Works in China
- Many servers in Asia
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced services like VyprVPN Cloud
- No browser extensions
- Torrenting could be better
It manages to bypass restrictions in high-censorship countries and elsewhere by relying on its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which can easily slide under the radar.
VyprVPN is also great for accessing video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and so on — delivering the true buffer-free experience every single time. It will also work with BitTorrent, and consequently - Kodi.
VyprVPN has a strict zero-logs policy. Period.
Internet Censorship in Saudi Arabia
Pretty much all kind of media is censored in Saudi Arabia, not just the Internet — local population also has limited access to books, newspapers, magazines, films and television.
There is a law that allows the Saudi government to closely monitor media and restrict pretty much anything it doesn’t like, though we have to add that some changes have been made in recent years to lessen these restrictions.
Nevertheless, Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 169th out of 180 countries for freedom of the press. Not something one would want to brag about.
How Internet censorship works in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia directs all international Internet traffic through a proxy farm located in King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology. There, a content filter kicks in to serve only those pages the government deems “safe” (or whatever).
Among the content that gets filtered out is the one showing nudity, the one that talks about LGBT rights, the one promoting Shia Ideology, and everything else that a security committee run by the Ministry of Information decides is not “worthy” for the local population (including sites critical of the Saudi government).
Like that’s not enough, the government is also inviting citizens to report “immoral” content they stumble upon through a web-based form.
The censoring bump was noticed after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, when the number of websites being censored in Saudi Arabia reportedly doubled, particularly websites of foreign news services such as Fox News and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Global platforms are targeted as well
On July 11, 2006, the Saudi government blocked access to Wikipedia and Google Translate. The latter was added to the infamous list because people used it to bypass filters on blocked sites by translating them.
Today, however, Wikipedia is not blocked except for some pages such as the one discussing the theory of evolution.
Then there’s YouTube, which is seemingly open in Saudi Arabia, but… In 2014, the government made plans to regulate local companies producing content for YouTube. The idea was to censor material that is “terrorist in nature” which could be any content that “disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state”.
Skype and Whatsapp were also banned until 2017, but today — luckily — the government is “only” monitoring the calls.
When it comes to Twitter and Facebook, these two platforms are widely used in Saudi Arabia, though again — the government is watching every step users make.
You need a VPN for Saudi Arabia
I am sure you realize that you need a VPN for Saudi Arabia. While you should be able to access some sites, there will be others beyond your reach.
And it’s not just the websites that you won’t be able to use — access to some of the most popular services could also be scrutinized by the authorities.
Except if you have a VPN installed on your devices. Which you should use even when you’re in the West, as it will:
- Protect your privacy from the government and big corporations
- Bypass restrictions imposed by the government or various organizations
- Change your IP address so you get unrestricted access to Netflix, Disney+, iPlayer, HULU, and other video streaming services
- Encrypt and protect private data from cybercriminals
The top contenders that check all these boxes include the following: