You may think of Saudi Arabia as nothing more than a desert country, but there is more to it. It is the home of Islam and two of its holiest places, giving it the name “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques.” There’s a lot to explore with it being the largest sovereign state in the Middle East and if you want to stay connected while there, you should use one of our best VPN for Saudi Arabia.
Using a virtual private network is a good idea as it will not only keep you safe from online dangers, but it will also help you access restricted content. The internet in Saudi Arabia is classified as not free on Freedom House and, while it’s not as bad as some countries, you will find you can’t access certain websites.
Our piece on the Middle Kingdom is a perfect example of how restricted the internet can be, and if you plan on visiting, you should turn to our best VPN services for China article.
Internet Restrictions in Saudi Arabia
Websites with content deemed harmful, anti-Islamic or offensive are often blocked. Authorities also look to censor websites spreading extremist ideologies, but that sometimes results in licensed news websites being blocked because they published photos of militants. Another website was blocked after it was accused of being a mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Content related to human rights and political organizations can also be targeted, as well as websites that belong to dissidents and the Shi’a religious minority. The website belonging to the country’s only political party, the Islamic Umma Party, is blocked because political parties are illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Plus, anything to do with pornography, drugs or gambling is restricted, similar to what is pointed out in our best VPN for UAE piece. Service providers have to block whichever websites the Communications and Information Technology Commission asks them to and failure to do so can result in a fine of up to 5 million SAR ($1.33 million).
While social media and communication apps are accessible, restrictions have been imposed to make platforms slow down or unable to perform certain tasks. That was done to try to stop extremist organizations from using them. It’s not as bad as what’s noted in our best VPN for Iran piece, though, where several of those apps have been banned.
As in most countries, including Germany, piracy is illegal. In 2012, the Unfair Competition Law was enacted to combat it. Websites that distribute copyrighted material are blocked, so if you like to torrent, a VPN will help.
You should also know that some VPNs’ websites are blocked in Saudi Arabia. You might have to install the one you choose before you get there.
Content Liability in Saudi Arabia
Website owners can be held liable for content posted on their platforms that is deemed inappropriate, so they frequently delete user-generated material. The CITC can also send requests to social networks to remove posts it feels are inappropriate, such as copyright violations, obscenity or nudity.
Criticism of the Saudi royal family is not tolerated and social media users are careful about what they post, share or like online. The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing came into effect in 2014, but its definitions are vague, including terms such as “insulting the reputation of the state” and “harming public order.” That means a range of speech can be criminalized.
Most Saudi Arabian laws regarding speech restrict it. The 2007 Anti-Cyber Crime Law, for example, limits freedom of expression and producing something that harms public order, public morals, or religious values can result in a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 3 million SAR ($800,000).
Those who express certain views are monitored by the government and many have turned to more private networks, such as Snapchat and Path (we have a best VPN for Snapchat piece in case it gets blocked). In January 2017, WhatsApp groups received a threatening message stating that those who incite public opinion on it could face imprisonment for one year and a fine of 500,000 SAR ($133,000).
The Copyright Law is sometimes used to remove content deemed defamatory. For example, a TV show called “Fitnah” was censored due to its use of footage from the Saudi TV channel Rotana to criticize Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, the channel’s owner.
Religious figures and conservative citizens have been arrested for criticism of the government, as well. Conservative preacher Asem al-Owyaed was arrested for criticizing the General Entertainment Authority on Twitter. Our best VPN for Singapore article visits another country with strong laws against defamation.
Surveillance in Saudi Arabia
Websites, blogs, social media, chat rooms, emails and text messages are monitored, which authorities say is to protect national security and maintain social order. The Ministry of Culture and Information requires blogs, forum, chat rooms, etc. to have a license to operate. That puts pressure on writers to self-regulate their content.
American security expert Moxie Marlinspike said he was contacted by the telecommunication company Mobily via an email titled “Solution for monitoring encrypted data on telecom.” After some correspondence, he learned it was organizing a surveillance program to intercept mobile data on apps such as Twitter, Viber, Line and WhatsApp.
In 2013, the government introduced blocks to internet communication apps after becoming suspicious that the services could be used by activists and militants. In late 2017, it lifted the bans, but said it would monitor and censor the apps. It said the new regulations were to protect user information and block content that violated the kingdom’s laws.
At the beginning of 2016, the CITC required new SIM card subscribers to have their fingerprints registered. Later, unregistered subscriptions were suspended. Users were given 90 days to register before the suspension would be made permanent.
Its reasoning was to protect subscribers from negative effects or irregularities that may occur. This was in addition to requiring subscribers to register names and identity numbers, even for prepaid mobiles. Plus, there are reports that the government invested in spyware company Hacking Team. Read our piece on government surveillance for more eye-opening information.
Best VPN for Saudi Arabia 2022
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 30
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 8
What Makes a VPN the Best for Saudi Arabia
As you can see, many factors go into making a good VPN, but some are more important than others in Saudi Arabia. First, you’ll want one with great security. That will not only keep you hidden from surveillance and online policing, but also help protect you from online dangers such as hacking (that’s also a good reason to install an antivirus).
Along with that, it should have a built-in kill switch. That will disconnect you from the internet if the VPN fails, keeping your data safe. You’ll also want to make sure it doesn’t keep a record of your online activities by checking for a strong no-logs policy.
A large server network covering as many countries as possible is good for bypassing censorship and it will also help you get by geoblocks on some websites. For example, if you want to watch Netflix U.S., you’ll need to connect to use a VPN to get a U.S. IP address. The same goes for content in Saudi Arabia. You’ll need to connect to a server there to view it.
Speed is another feature to consider. A fast VPN will ensure that you’re not just waiting for things to load. You’ll also want unlimited bandwidth, so you don’t have to worry about how much data you use. Both features are especially handy if you plan on streaming or torrenting.
Other things to consider are user-friendliness, supported devices and how many you can connect at once. Plus, good customer service and a fair price could be influencers.
Our recommendations are good for different reasons, so make sure you choose the one that fits best with your activities.
1. Best VPN for Saudi Arabia: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is our best VPN overall and takes the top spot for Saudi Arabia, too. It has great security and you can increase it from the 256-bit AES default to 4096-bit if you want. It also has a kill switch, so you don’t need to worry about being exposed if the VPN fails. There’s a strict no-logs policy, as well, making sure that your activities stay private.
ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers dotting 94 countries so you should have no problem finding a server that suits your needs — that is unless you want to access Saudi Arabian content. You won’t be able to as it doesn’t have servers there. If that’s a deal breaker for you, you’ll need to skip to our third pick, as that’s the only provider that does have some.
If streaming is on your agenda, you’ll be pleased to know ExpressVPN earned first place in both our best VPN for streaming and best VPN for Netflix pieces. It was also one of the fastest VPNs and doesn’t impose bandwidth limits. Read more about why we like it in our ExpressVPN review.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is one of the better choices for ease of use, especially if you are new to VPNs. Once installed, it does almost everything for you. All you have to do is choose a server and make sure you’re connected. You can use it on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and it allows five devices to be connected at the same time.
It has good customer support and offers live chat 24/7, which is the fastest option. You can also contact it via email and that is best for more technical queries. The staff are helpful and polite with either method.
ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPNs, but we recommend it because of its quality of service. Besides, if you opt for a longer plan, you will save some money and it has a Best VPN for Saudi Arabia 2022: Security Amid the Shifting Sands.
- Large server network
- Easy to use
- No ad or malware blocker
Next up, we have NordVPN, which often appears in our top five articles. It has some of the best security around, including an option for double-hop encryption to add even more protection to the VPN tunnel. It also has a kill switch and doesn’t keep logs of your online activities. Read our full NordVPN review to see why it’s so good.
It has over 5,000 servers, which is more than ExpressVPN, and they’re spread across 60 countries, giving you plenty of options. That said, none are in Saudi Arabia, so you won’t be able to view content from there.
Speeds are good, but can get slow when connecting to distant servers. Its server switch time is fast, though, and there are no bandwidth caps to hinder your streaming or downloading. NordVPN won in our best VPN for torrenting piece, so it’s a good choice if that’s what you’re after.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
It’s easy to setup and the clients are user-friendly. You can use it on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and it allows up to six devices to be connected at the same time, which helped it earn a spot in our best VPN for multiple devices article.
Customer support is available through live chat and email. Live chat will get you the fastest reply, but the staff are helpful either way. You can also use the handy knowledgebase to try to resolve the issue yourself.
The monthly plan is affordable, but if you sign up for a longer term, you’ll save money. If you don’t feel comfortable making such a commitment, you can use the Best VPN for Saudi Arabia 2022: Security Amid the Shifting Sands to check it out first.
- Specialty servers
- Large server network
- Inexpensive multi-year plans
- Inconsistent speed across network
Our next choice is VyprVPN. It has good security that’s made better with its Chameleon protocol. There’s a built-in kill switch to make sure you stay protected if the connection fails and no logs are kept.
With the possibility of communication apps being monitored in Saudi Arabia, you may want to choose VyprVPN because of its encrypted messaging app called Cyphr. It’s available on Android and iOS, which means you won’t have to worry about anyone snooping on your messages. You can read more about it in our VyprVPN review
Its server coverage isn’t as good as our other choices, though. It has servers in more than 60 countries, but there’s less than 1,000 in total. Still, you should have enough to get around blocks, even in Saudi Arabia, as VyprVPN has servers in Riyadh.
Its speeds aren’t bad, though they aren’t among its best features, and there are no bandwidth limits to contend with.
Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN
Setup is easy and you can get connected in minutes. Desktop clients are available for Windows and macOS, along with mobile apps for Android and iOS. The interface is easy to use and you can connect up to 30 devices at once, too, if you sign up through the mobile app. If you sign up through the mobile app, though, you’re limited to five simultaneous connections.
There’s a handy FAQ section for you to consult which should help with most common problems, but if you need further assistance, you can contact customer support through live chat or email. That said, neither of those offer great help .
VyprVPN has a monthly and yearly plan, but, as with the others, you’ll save money by opting for the yearly one. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee you can make use of.
- Highly configurable
- Chameleon protocol
- Cyphr encrypted messaging
- Small server network
- Subpar speeds
4. Private Internet Access
Another good choice is Private Internet Access. While it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the other providers, it’s still a good choice. It has decent security, but by default it’s set to the less desirable 128-bit encryption. You can change it to AES 256-bit manually, but that will slow down your connection.
You get a kill switch with the service and you don’t need to worry about your privacy because it doesn’t keep a log of your online activities.
Its server coverage is hit-and-miss. It has more than 3,000 servers, but only covers 33 countries. It doesn’t have any servers in Saudi Arabia, but you should still be able to bypass blocks on other content. If you want to watch Netflix, you shouldn’t have a problem as most of its servers are in the U.S.
PIA is speedy, but that is mainly because of its lighter encryption. When you increase the encryption, the service will slow down. It will still be okay, though and there are no bandwidth caps.
Other Reasons We Like PIA
Setup is easy with clients for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. They’re simple to use and switching servers is a breeze.
Its customer support could be better, though, as there’s no live chat. You have to use the online form and wait for a reply via email. While it could be faster, the response was thorough. Read our PIA review for more information.
Its full service comes at a decent monthly rate, even though its prices went up. You can still save money by opting for a longer subscription, though. It has a seven-day money-back guarantee, as well, so you can make sure you like it during that period.
- Multiple security settings
- Inconsistency across locations
- Trouble with some streaming platforms
Our last pick is TorGuard. It has good security that you can customize for your own preferences and many protocols to choose from. That’s great if you like to tweak settings, but make sure you know what you are doing.
There’s a built-in kill switch for extra protection, too, and your privacy is ensured with a solid no-logs policy.
TorGuard has a decent number of servers scattered over 55 countries, though there are none in Saudi Arabia. Still, you’ll be able to use other locations to bypass restrictions in the country.
That said, you should know TorGuard isn’t great at getting past geoblocks for streaming. You can opt to get a dedicated IP address for the country you need, though. It’s guaranteed to work, but it’ll cost extra.
Its speeds are okay, but can vary. You don’t need to worry about how much bandwidth you use, though, as there are no limits. You can read more about the service in our full TorGuard review.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
You can use TorGuard on Windows and macOS with easy-to-use clients. There are also apps for Android and iOS, but they can be a pain to setup. It allows five devices to be connected at one time and you can buy up to 20 more at $1 each.
If you run into trouble, the online guides and forum should help you solve minor issues. If you need more help, you can use the live chat, but it just goes to a basic support company. For that reason, more technical problems are best aimed at the email support team. Its available 24/7 and the help is good.
TorGuard’s monthly price is not bad, but the cost comes down considerably if you commit to a long-term subscription. There’s a seven-day money-back guarantee available, so you can check out the service first.
- Multiple protocol options
- Dedicated IP address option
- Difficult to switch servers
- Blocked by Netflix
Now you know why it’s sensible to use a VPN in Saudi Arabia and, hopefully, we’ve helped you decide which provider will suit your needs.
Our VPN library includes many decent providers, but you want one with great security, with a kill switch and a strict no-logs policy. Plus, you want a good network of servers for circumventing blocks, with some in Saudi Arabia if you want content from there.
Our winner is ExpressVPN because of its great security and privacy. That said, our third choice, VyprVPN, is the only one that has servers in Saudi Arabia. If you’re after Saudi Arabian content, you’ll need to choose that one.
If you have experience using a VPN in Saudi Arabia, let us know about it in the comments below. Thank you for reading.