By using a VPN, you quickly come to learn that there are stark differences between countries, not only speed-wise but also in terms of laws, privacy, and security.
Each country deals almost uniquely differently regarding online privacy and user data protection. During our research, we found that while some countries had a stellar reputation for online security, others that people typically considered to be privacy havens were more mixed in the protections they offered.
Whether you want a VPN for streaming, torrenting, or overall privacy, understanding how different countries handle online privacy can make or break a VPN service. Here are the 10 best countries to connect to using VPN.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 96/100
- Data Privacy Laws: Federal Data Protection Act (DPA)
- VPNs: ProtonVPN, VyprVPN, PerfectPrivacy
Switzerland is more than just the Alps, chocolate, and fresh air. Based on many criteria, it’s pretty clear that Switzerland is the best jurisdiction for VPN providers.
Although Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, and probably never will be, staying true to its neutral stance throughout history, it’s also not bound to share user data with other countries in the EU or otherwise.
But, on the flip side, it also means that the relatively new GDPR data protection laws also don’t cover users in Switzerland.
However, as part of the DPA, law enforcement legally has to disclose their collection of user data within a certain period, and users can challenge this in court if they believe it’s unlawful.
It’s somewhat a utopia for privacy advocates. Whenever you’re asked to provide personal data, you have the right to request the data collector why that data is being collected and for what purpose.
And if any sensitive data is to be collected from you, it has to be done with your clear consent. And, even better, if your data is disclosed to third parties, that can result in fines for the data controller.
If you’re torrenting just to consume the material and not to make a profit, that’s perfectly legal in Switzerland, no matter if you’re sharing the copyrighted material or not.
For all of these reasons and more, Switzerland is the best VPN country for torrenting, and overall, the best country to VPN through.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 95/100
- Data Privacy Laws: Equal Access Act (EAA)
- VPNs: N/A
Although no major VPNs are currently based in Iceland, it’s still one of the best choices for VPN services, mainly because the country has numerous laws and regulations in place to guarantee online privacy.
The Equal Access Act, for instance, is highly similar to the US’ previous Net Neutrality Act in that it prevents ISP companies from restricting or throttling access to online services for all Iceland citizens.
Just like Switzerland, Iceland isn’t a part of the EU. However, the country’s lawmakers have written GDPR into the Icelandic law through their Data Protection Act, giving users greater control over their data and how it’s stored.
Iceland isn’t just talking the talk; the country is also a relentless defender of freedom of speech and expression, which they wrote into law during the Wikileaks controversy in 2010.
This brings us to the biggest flaw of VPNs located in Iceland (of which there aren’t many): any telecommunications company, by law, has to maintain user data records for up to six months.
Doesn’t sound great, does it? However, these records are only requested and used in public safety and criminal cases. Iceland has a good reputation for being a safe haven for journalists, publishers, and others people that NEED to voice their critical and/or controversial opinions.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 100/100
- Data Privacy Laws: Personal Data Act (PUL)
- VPNs: Mullvad, PrivateVPN
Sweden is one of the top contenders for the best country for VPN servers, considering Julian Assange trusted a Swedish ISP with Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing documents.
Why is it one of the best countries to VPN through? First of all, Sweden has long been a defender of free speech and famously refused to implement the EU’s Data Retention Directive before the European Court repealed it in 2014.
Its Personal Data Act (PUL) states that users must give express consent for their personal data to be used, and the consent can be pulled at any time.
Sweden is also part of the EU, which means that GDPR protects users. Legally, websites have to ask for consent before users receive tracking cookies, and any user has the right to have their personal data deleted when they request it.
Again, Sweden isn’t as torrent-friendly as Switzerland, with a 2018 report stating that fines and penalties for infringing copyright through torrenting weren’t harsh enough.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 84/100
- Data Privacy Laws: Bill No.665
- VPNs: NordVPN
Panama isn’t just a home of the Panama Canal, casinos, and nightclubs. The country has long been infamous for its extensive laws regulating offshore jurisdiction effects, making it an excellent location for VPN providers.
Under Article 29 of Panama’s constitution, online privacy is very much protected, which clearly states that private communications can’t be intercepted without a warrant. Something that more and more countries don’t care for these days.
But Bill No.665 is above and beyond set to provide a legal framework for online privacy. This is clear from the requirement that any parties holding personal information have to delete it within 10 days of the person’s request to remove it.
The country goes further by allowing anyone under its jurisdiction to obtain access to public files with their personal information, as well as all the information about why that data was collected in the first place.
For these reasons, Panama is widely recognized as one of the best jurisdictions for online privacy and why VPNs like NordVPN are immensely popular with users who need robust online security.
As always, there’s a catch. Filesharing copyrighted content is not only illegal in Panama but can land torrenters with fines and legal action. So, if you’re looking for a torrenting-friendly country, you’re better off using a VPN in Switzerland.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 84/100
- Data Privacy Laws: General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- VPNs: CyberGhost VPN
Romania is a part of the EU and is therefore covered by GDPR but also has its own robust data protection and online privacy laws.
Notably, Romania also has a National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing, which guarantees that the right to privacy and personal data protection are respected.
Apart from that, Romania was also one of the few EU countries that refused to implement the European Union’s Data Retention Directive in 2006, as the Directive was ruled unconstitutional by Romania’s Constitutional Court.
When talking about P2P and torrenting, Romania has some degree of protection, as copyright infringements are considered a (very) low priority by Romanian law enforcement.
Also, Romania doesn’t have as robust copyright laws as the rest of the EU, so it’s a proper jurisdiction for VPNs like CyberGhost that focus on torrenters.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 52/100
- Data Privacy Laws: Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA)
- VPNs: Hide.Me VPN
Although most folks don’t consider Malaysia as the best country for VPNs, in reality, it’s a surprisingly worthy choice.
Despite having poor freedoms compared with the other countries on this list, Malaysia has strict privacy laws that protect not just Malaysian companies and citizens but anyone connecting to Malaysian servers.
Malaysia’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) ensures that your data is protected and kept safe from third-party use, making it one of the most robust online privacy laws in the world!
7. British Virgin Islands (BVI)
- Freedom House Assessment Score: N/A (British Overseas Territory)
- Data Privacy Laws: Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA)
- VPNs: ExpressVPN
The British Virgin Islands are a host to one of the best and most popular VPN providers – ExpressVPN.
BVI are obviously outside of the European Union, but they are covered by the English Common Law, which lets the courts regulate the law around confidentiality and privacy. Still, the British Virgin Islands are covered by Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), which is mainly similar to GDPR, except for a few key areas.
Unlike under GDPR, PIPA doesn’t, unfortunately, allow Internet users the right to revoke consent and request their data to be erased by all organizations involved in collecting it.
Instead, you can only erase the personal data if you prove that storing that personal information has harmed you as an individual.
Also, the BVI Business Companies Act requires that businesses retain personal data related to transactions or business relationships.
Despite this, VPNs like ExpressVPN that are based in BVI can effectively circumvent these laws by requesting only the bare minimum personal data as possible from its users.
ExpressVPN will only ask users for an email address on signup, and while they store payment information, both services allow you to pay with cryptocurrencies.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 94/100
- Data Privacy Laws: EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- VPNs: N/A
Apart from being a lovely sunny country to live in that attracts expats from all over the world, Spain is also good to visit from your couch – via a VPN.
The reason behind it is that this EU country has some of the strictest laws regarding data protection that work alongside the GDPR mentioned above.
Whenever you connect to a server that’s located in Spain, you enjoy the data protection laws even though you or the company that owns the servers aren’t physically located in Spain.
As long as you aren’t making a profit from torrenting, you can download these kinds of files without worrying about copyright.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: N/A (British Overseas Territory)
- Data Privacy Laws: Data Protection Act (DPA)
- VPNs: IVPN
Gibraltar ceased to be a part of the EU after Brexit. And, although Gibraltar is technically a part of the UK, it’s a British Overseas Territory, and self-governing for that and is not governed by the UK laws.
Gibraltar’s Data Protection Act is primarily similar to that in the UK and GDPR. Therefore, users have the right to request their personal data be deleted, and they can only maintain personal data with a users’ consent.
Given the robust data protection and online privacy regulations of the countries listed above, Gibraltar isn’t the best VPN country on this list. However, a VPN based in Gibraltar will still be a better choice than countries like the UK, USA, or Singapore.
- Freedom House Assessment Score: 72/100
- Data Privacy Laws: Data Protection Act (DPA)
- VPNs: N/A
Although Seychelles is one of the best-known tax havens, so it’s not surprising that it also offers relatively strong online privacy protections. The Seychelles constitution contains a guaranteed right to privacy, and the DPA gives its citizens additional protection when it comes to processing personal data.
Because of this, Seychelles has no mandatory data retention laws, making it a great place to locate a VPN service. However, Seychelles also has a significant drawback in that anyone can incorporate a business in that location, regardless of if they live there or not. So, it’s impossible to know if a VPN that says it’s based in Seychelles is truly located there.
Seychelles is potentially a good country for a VPN with that in mind. However, we can’t recommend it above the other countries we’ve listed in the section above.
Now that we’ve listed our top 10 countries to VPN through in general, let’s see which ones are the best individually for:
The Best Country for Privacy: Switzerland
When we’re talking about privacy, Switzerland is the best place to connect your VPN for improved privacy and security. It has some of the most sweeping online privacy laws and protections of all of the countries we’ve covered in this article.
The country’s democracy guarantees that these protections will be here to stay.
Switzerland is well known for having no mandatory data collection and retention laws, and all data collectors must ask for consent before collecting sensitive data. So, they have laws that are common sense and should be applied worldwide. That’s how it should be in a perfect world.
When personal data is concerned, people have the right to ask data collectors why they need that data. Also, if your data is collected by law enforcement, they legally have to notify you within a specific period. You can, of course, challenge that decision in court. Truly, a way to go for lawmakers.
The Best Country for Streaming: United States
Ah, yes. The land of the free. I rarely recommend using a VPN based in the USA because of the lack of online privacy protections. However, if you’re looking to stream content not available in your country, then connecting to a VPN server based in the USA is your best, and oftentimes, the only bet.
The United States has access to more streaming services than any other country as they mostly originate from there. It thus makes it a great place to connect your VPN if you want to unlock additional content.
In recent years, Netflix has greatly expanded all over the world but even if your country already has Netflix, VPN servers in the US can typically unlock their USA library, which is the most extensive one of all of them.
All that being said, we only recommend using US servers for streaming content. If you’re looking for improved privacy while you’re browsing or torrenting, you’re better off connecting to servers in other countries. This brings us to:
The Best Country for Torrenting: Switzerland
It seems that Switzerland is the real “land of the free”. As it’s again at the top of our list for the best country to VPN through when you want to torrent. Not only is torrenting legal in Switzerland, but the government has online privacy and data protection regulations that make it the best option for torrenting.
Apart from Switzerland, Iceland is also an excellent option, particularly as its Equal Access Act prevents ISPs from throttling data depending on its source.
However, it’s worth noting that Iceland does have mandatory data retention laws, but these are only used for criminal cases and in matters of public safety. Torrenting is illegal in Iceland, but it’s reported that this isn’t usually enforced except for some torrenting websites being blocked.
With all that in mind, both Switzerland and Iceland are good options to connect your VPN for torrenting.
Countries to Avoid picking a VPN
Obviously, when we’re talking about online privacy and what the best countries for VPNs are, we need to mention what countries you have to avoid.
Firstly, we have two western countries that don’t have a good track record of online privacy and go out of their way to collect all the user data that they can on their citizens.
As already mentioned, ISPs in the US can completely legally sell your browsing history to third parties, like advertisers or companies. ISPs can readily access information about everything you do online. Apart from that, the government is also very much known to be surveilling its citizens in a real “Big Brother” kind of way.
Across the pond, the UK isn’t much better, especially since 2016 and the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act. This Act gives every law enforcement office the ability to gather and store personal internet history. It also allows for real-time online surveillance and hacking of Internet-connected devices by the government.
Then we have China. This densely-populated country is one of the worst for online privacy. They went as far as making VPNs illegal in China, and the Great Firewall prevents Chinese citizens and travelers to China from accessing any non-authorized content. Which is most western media, apps, and content.
There are, of course, VPNs that can get around the Great Firewall, which is helpful if you want to connect to servers in China, but in general, it’s not a good choice for maintaining privacy.
Next on our list of countries to avoid with VPNs is India. If you value privacy and want to avoid surveillance, you’ll also want to avoid India. The country uses NETRA surveillance technology.
NETRA analyses data and all internet communications for precise keywords yet it doesn’t have many safeguards to identify between normal folks using these keywords and users with malicious intent. Thus, it’s easy for innocent people to be reported to law enforcement.
How to get Maximum Protection
Apart from connecting to a safe country, the other option for protecting your privacy is using a double VPN feature or essentially connecting through at least two different VPN servers to further mask your online traffic. Each server encrypts your data, resulting in multiple layers of encryption.
So, if you want to ensure that your data is obfuscated as much as possible, we recommend using a double VPN.
However, because this can significantly reduce your speed, depending on the servers’ location, connecting your VPN to a server in Switzerland can offer the same enhanced protection of your personal data without compromising your speed.
Why isn’t the United States on the List?
The government is known to use surveillance technology on its citizens, and ISPs can legally gather data without your knowledge. So, we’d only recommend using a USA-based VPN or servers if you want to access streaming libraries that aren’t available in your country.
As we already mentioned, although the US isn’t on our main list for best countries for VPN, it does remain the best country for streaming with a VPN.
Conclusion: What Country Is the Best for VPN
So what’s the conclusion here? Well, Switzerland came out on top as the best country for both VPN providers and servers. Given the extensive legal protections in place to protect personal data and people’s right to privacy and torrenting being legal for personal use, it’s a safe haven for both confidentiality and filesharing.
Surprisingly, we found that Panama isn’t as safe for torrenters as we thought, and torrenting copyrighted material, whether for personal use or profit, can land the user fines or even legal action. Given that NordVPN is one of the largest VPN providers on the market, it’s worth bearing this in mind if you use a VPN for torrenting.
In short, for enhanced privacy and security, we recommend using a VPN based in Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, or BVI. However, there are other countries that provide substantial privacy and security, although we’d advise you against using the USA or UK-based VPN service.