France has a lot to offer, from fine food and wine to rich history and art, plus the Eiffel Tower and other monuments in the City of Lights. Behind all that, though, there’s the online world, which can be ugly no matter where you are. To stay safe, you should use one of our best VPN for France picks.

Using a virtual private network while you’re connected is beneficial for many reasons. For the most part, VPNs keep you safe, but many people use them to bypass internet censorship. While it’s not a big deal in some countries, others are much stricter with what their citizens view. 

Take China, for example. Its Great Firewall blocks pretty much any Western content, including social media apps, replacing them with in-house versions. VPNs are banned there, too, so if you plan to visit, make sure you use one of our best VPN services for China to stay under the radar.

Best VPN for France 2019

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Online Censorship in France

Though France is no stranger to censorship, its internet is mostly unrestricted and social media is freely available. However, since the 2015 Paris attacks, censorship has increased. Administrative measures have been taken to block terrorist and extremist content, as well as anything displaying child pornography.

A blacklist of sites that contain infringing material is created by the — take a deep breath — Central Office for the Fight Against Crime Linked to Information and Communication Technology. Removal requests are sent to the editors or hosts of the content, and if they don’t comply within 24 hours, this office can ask internet service providers (ISPs) to block them.

Torrenting is not illegal in France, but, like in most countries, torrenting copyrighted material is. If you’re caught, you could end up with a hefty fine. Plus, under the anti-piracy law, some users have been banned from the internet after their third violation. That said, nowadays most pirating is done through streaming, so it can be harder to trace infringers.

France continues to fight piracy, and the French minister of culture called for the creation of a national blacklist to keep popular streaming websites offline. 

If that took effect, or you found that a torrent site was blocked, a VPN would help you access them. Take a look at our best VPN for Germany piece for another country that doesn’t tolerate copyright infringement.

Online Surveillance in France

Not only was France’s internet freedom impacted in the wake of the terror attacks, but government surveillance powers also expanded. Soon after the attacks, a controversial surveillance law was enacted, ordering ISPs to store user data for one year.

France’s Intelligence Act also allows intelligence agencies to engage in electronic surveillance without judicial oversight. Plus, ISPs are required to install “black boxes,” which monitor the behavior of users that have been identified as a terrorist threat, as well as those who may be related to a terrorist threat or belong to the same group as that person.

It works in real time, looking for anything suspicious. Any questionable information found is then forwarded to intelligence services. The definition for identifying a user as a threat is broad, though, making the whole population potential suspects. 

Plus, the bulk collection of communication data is allowed, along with other forms of surveillance, such as using hidden cameras and microphones. Phone conversations, text messages and emails can all be intercepted.

In 2016, plans of a biometric database were revealed. It would contain personal information on around 60 million French citizens, and authorities said the reasons for it were for national security. The data would include people’s photographs, fingerprints, eye color, weight, as well as geographical and IP addresses.

To top that off, France is also part of the Nine Eyes alliance, which is a group of countries that share intelligence information with each other. For a more detailed explanation, read our piece on the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes.

Freedom of Speech Online in France

The French constitution protects freedom of speech and it is generally respected. Individuals are able to discuss sensitive topics and the media can report freely, even on political opinions. However, once again, due to terrorism, laws have been enacted that affect it.

The 2014 anti-terrorism law penalizes speech that is seen as an “apology for terrorism,” which can result in up to seven years of imprisonment, as well as a fine of 100,000 euros ($110,000). 

In one example, Khader Cikilli was sentenced to five years in prison for “apologizing for terrorism.” However, his acts included circulating propaganda and retweeting terrorism videos.

Others have been sentenced under different circumstances. In 2018, a former member of the French political party, La France Insoumise, was given a one-year suspended prison sentence for mocking the fact that a police officer had been killed after taking the place of a hostage during the terrorist attack in a supermarket in Trebes.

In yet another case concerning that same terrorist event, a vegan activist received a seven-month suspended sentence for her social media post that said she had no compassion for one of the victims who was killed during the attack because he was a butcher.

A new law that allows the immediate removal of fake news during election periods was passed in 2018. Those who violate the law could receive one year in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($82,840). Plus, in more recent news, President Emmanuel Macron is considering permanent social media bans for those who are convicted of hate speech.

Cybercrime in France

Although it may not be at the same level as the Land of the Smile (read our best VPN for Thailand piece for more on that), France is a big target for cybercrime. The threats include ransomware, banking malware and scams. 

Norton Security’s 2017 cyber security insights report showed that more than 19 million people in France were affected by cybercrime, which resulted in 6.1 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in damages during the 12-month period. 

That’s why it’s a good reason to install a good antivirus, especially if you use public WiFi. Read our Norton Security review while you’re here.

What Makes a VPN the Best for France

When you evaluate VPNs from a distance, most of the providers in our VPN reviews will look like they have the same features. You need to dig a little deeper than that, though. 

That’s because some services are better at implementing the features than others. In regard to France, you need to make sure the one you pick is suitable to use in the country.

Given all the online surveillance that can be carried out, as well as the cybercrime figures, the first factor you should look at is the level of VPN security

By choosing one with good security, you’ll keep yourself hidden from surveillance and protected from online threats. A kill switch is also important, as it will sever your connection if the VPN fails, keeping you anonymous.

Your online privacy is also important, but isn’t ensured just by having good security. You need to make sure the provider has a bullet-proof no-logs policy. With that, none of your online activities will be recorded, meaning that even if authorities were to ask for them, there would be nothing to hand over.

The VPN’s server network is something else to keep in mind. This is one instance where it’s OK to be greedy. The more servers there are in the network, the easier it will be for you to get around blocks, including geoblocks

Let’s say you want to access Netflix U.S. Unless you’re in the country, you’ll get blocked. A VPN will help you get a U.S. IP address and spoof your way into the U.S. library. 

If that is something at the top of your list, you need to make sure the VPN you choose can get past Netflix’s intelligent VPN detectors. Our best VPN for Netflix roundup has some good recommendations.

On the other hand, you may be out of the country and want to access your favorite French shows and content that’s restricted to the country. In that case, you’ll need to make sure the VPN has servers within France. Once you connect to one, you’ll have a French IP address and be able to access all the French content you want.

The VPN’s speed and bandwidth is important, especially if you want to stream. Plus, you may want to keep in mind other factors, such as what devices it supports, the level of customer service provided and its price.

The Best VPN for France: NordVPN

We’ve given NordVPN the French crown due to its excellent security and general all-round performance. It has some of the best security available, which is upped with the use of its double-hop servers. It includes a kill switch for extra peace of mind, and there’s a strict no-logs policy in place, too.

NordVPN’s server network is one of the largest on the market, with more than 5,000 servers covering 60 countries. Most of them are in the U.S. and Europe, with 208 in France. 

It has fast speeds, but they can be affected by the distance between you and the chosen server. If you’ll mostly be connecting to distant ones, it’s probably best to go for our second option, ExpressVPN.

You’ll also get unlimited bandwidth and, if you like to torrent, you’ll be pleased to know that NordVPN is our best VPN for torrenting. It can also get into most streaming services, such as Netflix. Read more about the service in our full NordVPN review.

Other Reasons We Like NordVPN

You can use it on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It’s simple to download and install, and has easy-to-use clients. Plus, NordVPN allows six devices to be connected at the same time, which is more than some other VPNs.

A handy knowledgebase is available if you need help. There’s also live chat and email support, with the former being the quickest option. The staff is helpful and friendly, too.

NordVPN offers good value for your money. However, to get the best deal, you shouldn’t go for the monthly plan. Longer subscriptions work out cheaper in the end. However, if you’re not sure about taking the plunge, there’s a 30-day refund window, in case you find you don’t like it.

Pros:

  • Excellent security
  • Double-hop encryption
  • Massive server network

Cons:

  • Can be slow on certain servers
Starts from $ 349 per month
Save 71 %

ExpressVPN

Next up is ExpressVPN, which is an excellent service. It’s comparable to NordVPN, too, as you can read in our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN showdown. It has excellent security, as well as a built-in kill switch. Plus, it doesn’t keep a log of your online activities.

It has fewer servers than NordVPN, though, with more than 3,000 available, but it covers 94 countries. It has some servers in Paris and Strasbourg, too, in case you want to access French content. Its speeds are great — in fact, it’s the fastest VPN we’ve tested — and it doesn’t have any bandwidth caps.

ExpressVPN allows for torrenting and can get into all streaming platforms, which helped it earn the top spot in our best VPN for streaming piece. Read more in our ExpressVPN review.

Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN can be installed on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It’s one of the easiest VPNs to use, meaning it’s a great choice for beginners. Once you’ve installed it, you just need to make sure you’re connected to a server by pressing its big button. You can also have up to five devices connected at the same time.

A knowledgebase is available, if you get stuck. Live chat and email support is available 24/7, too, but the email route is best for more technical help.

ExpressVPN’s downside is its price. It’s one of the most expensive VPNs on the block. That said, its service is well worth the money. Plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can’t go wrong.

Pros:

  • Fast
  • Gets into all streaming platforms
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Expensive
Starts from $ 666 per month
Save 49 %

CyberGhost

In the middle spot we have CyberGhost, which is a great provider, even if it doesn’t quite meet the specs of the top two. It has good security, so there’s no problem there. Plus, it has a permanently enabled kill switch. The fact that you can’t turn it off may annoy you, but it’s good in case you forget to set it. A strict no-logs policy is in place, too.

Its server network is similar in size to NordVPNs, with slightly fewer than 5,000 servers in 58 countries. There are 304 servers in France, too, which will help you access content restricted to there.

If you’re especially privacy-conscious, CyberGhost also has specially configured NoSpy servers that sit outside of the 14 Eyes. They can be added to your package for about $1 per month. You can read more about that in our CyberGhost review.

CyberGhost has fast speeds, but, like NordVPN, it can become slow over long distances. You’ll also get unlimited bandwidth, be able to torrent and access most streaming platforms.

Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost

CyberGhost can be used on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The interface was recently revamped, too. It can take a bit of getting used to, but that’s not to say it isn’t easy to use. 

You can simultaneously connect up to seven devices, which is more than most services, and it earned it a spot in our best VPN for multiple devices. That said, you can only install it on seven devices, period.

CyberGhost’s knowledgebase is one of the best available, and it’ll help you resolve minor problems easily. For extra help, you can contact the support team through live chat and email, though the email route is best for more in-depth assistance.

It’s an inexpensive service, but not if you opt for the monthly charge. There’s a seven-day trial for Android and iOS users, but there’s also a money-back guarantee in place; the monthly plan gets you 14 days, whereas the longer ones get 45.

Pros:

  • 7 simultaneous connections
  • NoSpy servers
  • Automatic kill switch

Cons:

  • No kill switch controls
  • Can be slow
Starts from $ 275 per month
Save 79 %

VyprVPN

VyprVPN has earned a place in this list, too, with its excellent, customizable security. You can choose from different protocols, and you get access to its very own Chameleon protocol. With that, it won’t even look like you’re using a VPN. Our VyprVPN review goes into more detail, if you’re interested.

A kill switch is included, which you can set to only work on certain applications, and the provider doesn’t keep a log of your activities.

VyprVPN’s server network is disappointing when compared to its rivals. It covers 64 countries, which is good, but there are fewer than 1,000 servers in total, which isn’t so good. Still, you should be able to find one that suits your needs, and there are some in Paris, too, for accessing French content.

Its speeds are slower than our other picks, but it should still be fine for most activities. There’s no limit to bandwidth, and it can get into most streaming platforms, too.

Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN

It’s compatible with Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The interface could do with being updated, but it’s easy to use. You can connect up to five devices, depending on the package you choose.

VyprVPN’s help desk leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a knowledgebase, live chat and email available 24/7, but the help received is not great. 

There are different tiers for pricing with VyprVPN. The standard package — the cheapest one — allows up to three connections. The premium package adds on two more connections, but you’ll also get to use its Chameleon protocol. You can also choose a monthly or yearly subscription, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out.

Pros:

  • Configurable security
  • Chameleon protocol
  • Many features

Cons:

  • Slow
  • Small server network
  • Bad customer service
Starts from $ 500 per month
Save 50 %

TorGuard

To finish up, we have TorGuard. It has great security, which is the most customizable we’ve come across. There’s also an automatically enabled kill switch and a strict no-logs policy.

It has a decent server spread, with more than 3,000 in 55 countries. That includes some in France, too, in case you need them. However, switching servers isn’t the best process. You have to disconnect in order to change it, leaving your privacy and security at risk for the time it takes to change. Read our TorGuard review for more on the subject.

Speeds are fast, but they can vary depending on location and higher security. There’s unlimited bandwidth, and it allows for torrenting. That said, TorGuard is not very good at getting into streaming services. In fact, it’s blocked by Netflix. 

You can get around that, though, by purchasing a dedicated IP address. They’re sold under specific categories, like the country or streaming service, and cost $7.99 per month. That may seem like a chunk on top of your subscription, but they’re guaranteed to work, which is why it placed first in our best VPN with dedicated IPs piece.

Other Reasons We Like TorGuard

Clients are available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The mobile version can be a pain to set up, though. It allows for five simultaneous connections, but if that’s not enough, you can purchase up to 20 more at $1 per month for each extra connection.

If you need help, you can find a handy knowledgebase, resources and a forum online. There’s also live chat and email support. The live chat is outsourced to a general customer service company, though, so it may not be very in-depth. Email support is good, though, and is available 24/7.

TorGuard’s price isn’t bad, and you can save money by opting for a longer subscription. Plus, there’s a seven-day money-back guarantee, in case you don’t like it.

Pros:

  • Multiple security options
  • Dedicated IPs
  • Automatic kill switch

Cons:

  • Trouble getting into Netflix
  • Difficult to switch servers
  • Live chat isn’t great
Starts from $ 500 per month

Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. You should now know why it’s important to use a VPN in France, or anywhere for that matter. You should pick one that has great security, doesn’t keep logs and has a good server spread.

NordVPN is a clear winner here, with its excellent security, including double-hop encryption, its strict no-logs policy and massive server network. Plus, it has a huge number of servers in France, in case you need them. Why not give it a go with its 30-day refund period?

If you have experience using a VPN in France, tell us about it in the comment section. We’d love to hear it. Be sure to check out our VPN archive while your here, too. As always, thank you for reading.

Starts from $ 349 per month
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