South Africa is at the southernmost tip of the African continent. Its beautiful coastlines, diverse culture and dramatic landscapes packed with various wildlife make it a popular place for tourists. Whatever you do while you’re there, you’ll most likely want to surf the internet, and you should use one of our best VPN for South Africa picks for protection.
Our favorite by far is ExpressVPN, though our other picks will give you a decent run for your money, as well.
It’s always a good idea to use a virtual private network while online, wherever you are in the world. One of its main uses is to access restricted content. While you’re in South Africa, you may find that you’re unable to access what you normally do online. That’s because of geoblocks, which basically restrict access to content to a particular country.
For example, if you go on Netflix, you’ll be greeted with its South African library. If you want to access the U.S. version, you’ll need a U.S. IP address.
But many can’t get past Netflix’s VPN detection system (read our piece on the Netflix proxy error). If that’s what you want, we’ve rounded up five VPNs that are up to this task in our best VPN for Netflix piece.
Best VPN for South Africa 2023
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Average speedDownload Speed81 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency39 ms
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Average speedDownload Speed94 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency2 ms
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- : 30
Online Censorship in South Africa
Besides regional restrictions, there are other blocks that you may have to contend with. Some countries block certain websites and online content. The reasons for the blocks vary, but can include political and moral grounds. One of the worst culprits is China with its Great Firewall. Pretty much any Western content is blocked from Chinese citizens.
In South Africa, little censorship is imposed. Some moral policing takes place on sites that feature sexually explicit or violent material. Plus, a proposal was made for an automatic filter to be put on all devices so that children would not be exposed to adult material. Apart from that, most content is free to view.
That said, parliament approved a new internet censorship bill in 2018. It is now waiting to be signed into law by the president. Although the Films and Publications Amendment Bill is not technically censorship, there are concerns that it may lead to a more controlled internet.
Once it becomes law, the Film and Publication Board (FPB) will be able to regulate user-generated content and take down anything that the FPB deems to be harmful or disturbing.
That includes pictures, music and videos on any medium, including social media, films, publications and YouTube. Most blocks can only occur if someone complains about it, though.
In some instances, it’s a good thing. There will be stricter rules to protect children online from certain content, and it also aims to stop revenge porn. Hate speech is a target, too, and anyone who knowingly distributes content that incites violence or advocates hate speech can be fined or given a prison sentence.
That said, concerns have arisen because the bill is poorly written and the law could be misused. Plus, content platforms, such as YouTube and Netflix, will have to register as a distributor and pay an annual fee, the amount of which will depend on the size of the platform’s content library. Platforms that don’t comply can be blocked at the ISP level.
Torrenting in South Africa
If you like to torrent, you should know that copyright infringement can lead to penalties under South Africa’s Copyright Act. Under it, you could receive a fine of 5,000 South African Rand (about $330) and/or imprisonment of up to three years for each infringement, if it’s a first conviction.
Subsequent convictions can end up with a fine of 10,000 South African Rand (about $660) and/or five years imprisonment for each infringement.
Plus, ISPs have to block torrent sites and others that infringe on copyright, as well as report users for piracy, under a revision in the Cybercrimes Bill. If you download anything illegally, you could end up with a nice punishment, with the maximum penalty being up to 15 years in prison.
Online Surveillance in South Africa
The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act — also known as RICA — is South Africa’s primary surveillance law. Under it, law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to obtain special permission to intercept communications, and their reasoning must be adequate.
However, in 2017, it was revealed that the South African government was tracking thousands of mobile phones and that it was able to do so because of a loophole in RICA. Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act allows officials to bypass the permission needed with RICA and access your phone data.
Not only that, but RICA requires ISPs to retain customer data, and it bans communications systems that can’t be monitored. Plus, mobile phone subscribers must provide their national ID numbers and other personal documents to purchase SIM cards and other services.
That said, encryption tools are not prohibited and internet cafes are not required to monitor their customers.
Besides South Africa’s main surveillance law being problematic, other revelations have increased concerns over surveillance, too.
In 2015, reports emerged about state security organizations possessing surveillance technology. The equipment can capture cell phone metadata by mimicking cell phone towers.
A spokesperson for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation confirmed that it possessed such technology, but said that it was only used for matters of national security.
The Cybercrimes and Cyber Security Bill 2017 is still waiting to be signed into law, but it includes a provision that could give the state more interception powers and infringe on privacy rights. Section 38 allows for interception of indirect communication, as well as access to real-time communication data and archived information.
Freedom of Speech Online in South Africa
The South African constitution provides for freedom of speech. It is generally respected, and libel is not a criminal offense. That said, there are constraints for hate speech toward race, ethnicity, gender and religion, as well as inciting violence.
Plus, if the Cybercrimes and Security Bill becomes law, it penalizes the circulation of harmful messages, which can include false information. The specifications of it are vague, though, and there are concerns that it could be used to censor certain speech, such as political opinions.
South Africa has a vibrant media environment, but journalists face harassment and attacks for their critical reports of the government.
Cybercrime in South Africa
South Africa has seen a 22-percent increase in malware attacks during the first quarter of 2019, and cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab said that more than 13,000 cyber-attack attempts occur every day in the country. Another study from 2016 showed that almost 9 million South Africans were victims of cybercrime during a 12-month period.
With that in mind, you should be cautious while on your travels, especially if you connect to one of the many public WiFi hotspots available in the country. The level of security on such connections is unknown, and you could be vulnerable to viruses and hacking attacks. Using a VPN is a no brainer in this case, but a decent antivirus wouldn’t go amiss, either.
What Makes a VPN the Best for South Africa
Although many VPN providers have great features and a reliable service, it’s important you choose the one that suits South Africa the most.
You need to make sure it has good security to protect you from online surveillance and cybercrime. As part of that security, it’s a good idea to make sure it includes a kill switch. A kill switch will sever your connection to the internet if the VPN fails, keeping you safe.
Your privacy is also important, and having good security doesn’t mean that the provider honors it. You need to ensure that the VPN has a no-logging policy. With one of those, you can be sure that your online activities won’t be recorded.
A good network of servers is beneficial for getting past any censorship or geoblocks. The more servers there are in different countries, the better your chance of bypassing restrictions. Plus, if you want to access content that’s exclusive to South Africa, you’ll need a South African IP address, so make sure the VPN has servers there.
You also want to make sure the service has good speeds and unlimited bandwidth, especially if you want to torrent or stream. Good speeds mean you won’t be plagued with loading screens, and having unlimited bandwidth ensures you won’t have to worry about hitting a limit, at which point the VPN would stop working and leave you unprotected.
1. Best VPN for South Africa: ExpressVPN
We’ve chosen ExpressVPN as the top pick for South Africa because of its all-round great service. It’s the best VPN we’ve reviewed to date, and it ticks all the boxes for South Africa.
Its security is excellent and set at 256-bit encryption, though you can increase it if you like. There’s a kill switch, too, which is enabled by default. Privacy is not an issue here, either, as ExpressVPN has a strict no-logs policy in place.
There are plenty of servers scattered across the globe for getting around restrictions, and there are some in South Africa, too, in case you need them.
ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested. Its speeds, unlimited bandwidth and ability to get into Netflix easily helped it win in our best VPN for streaming piece. It’ll also cover you if you want to torrent. Read our ExpressVPN review for a better look at the service.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
If you’re new to all the VPN malarky, ExpressVPN is a great choice as it’s one of the easiest VPNs to use. Don’t worry if you’re a more experienced user, though, because you can still tinker with its settings. It can be installed on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and you can connect up to five devices at the same time.
ExpressVPN is expensive, unfortunately. However, the service that you get is worth the money. Plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free first.
- Easy to use
- Good number of servers
Our second choice is NordVPN. It often gets a mention here at Cloudwards.net and is a close contender with our first pick, as you can read in our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN showdown.
It has some of the best security available with a built-in kill switch, and you can add even more protection to your connection by using its double-hop servers. NordVPN also values privacy and doesn’t keep a log of your activities.
There are more than 5,600 servers available in 60 countries, and that includes 30 in South Africa for content restricted to there.
Its speeds are fast but you may find they slow down if you connect to a distant server. There are no bandwidth caps, and it can get into pretty much any streaming network. 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 easy to use and allows you to simultaneously connect up to six devices.
NordVPN may be a better choice than ExpressVPN if you’re not swimming in cash. It’s good value for money, and while the monthly plan isn’t great, longer plans make a lot of difference to the overall price. There’s a NordVPN, too, so you can try it first.
- Excellent security
- Double-hop encryption
- Large server network
- Can be slow over long distances
Another good VPN choice is CyberGhost. It has great security and even has a permanently enabled kill switch, so you don’t need to remember to set it. There’s also a strict no-logs policy to honor your privacy.
Its server network is huge, with around 7,800 servers in 91 countries. There are 10 servers in South Africa, too, so you can access content restricted to there.
Its speeds are good but, like NordVPN, they can become slow over long distances. There’s unlimited bandwidth, and it can get into most streaming platforms. Plus, in the interface, there are tabs for streaming and torrenting servers, so you can choose the best one available. You can read more about that in our CyberGhost review.
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
CyberGhost is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Its recently updated interface may take some getting used to, but it’s easy to see where you need to be and isn’t difficult to use. You can connect up to seven devices at the same time, which earned it a spot on our best VPN for multiple devices list.
The monthly rate is bad, but if you sign up for a longer subscription, it’ll work out cheaper in the long run. A free seven-day trial is available for Android and iOS, so you could use that to see if you like it. Plus, there’s a money-back guarantee in place for extra peace of mind. The monthly plan gets 14 days, but longer ones get 45 days.
- Massive server network
- Automatic kill switch
- 7 simultaneous connections
- Slows down over long distances
- No kill switch controls
For our fourth selection, we’ve chosen Windscribe. First and foremost, we’ll quickly mention that Windscribe offers a free and a paid plan. The free plan is generous, even being named the best free VPN service by the Cloudwards team. However, there are some features that you can only access through the paid plan, so keep that in mind.
It has good security that can be customized and includes a kill switch, though that is weirdly called a firewall. There’s a no-logs policy, but some information does get logged, such as bandwidth consumption and activity timestamps. None of what is logged holds any true value, and it can’t be pinpointed to you.
Its server count stands at more than 600 in more than 60 countries, but you’ll only get access to all of its locations if you’re on the paid plan. There are servers in Johannesburg, but only “pro” members can connect to them.
Its speeds are good enough for most activities, but others are faster. As for bandwidth, free members get 2GB per month, rising to 10GB if you enter your email. Adding locations to your server network for $1 per month each will get you another 10GB, too.
“Pro” members get unlimited bandwidth, which is a must if you plan on streaming or torrenting. Plus, Windscribe’s servers work well with Netflix and other platforms. More information on that can be found in our Windscribe review.
Other Reasons We Like Windscribe
There are clients available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Its interface is a no-frills experience, which is great for beginners, but those in the know can tinker around, too. A plus for Windscribe is that you can have an unlimited number of connections, too.
The monthly price is quite expensive, but longer plans bring the cost down considerably. There’s no free trial, but that’s because you can make use of the free plan to see if you like it. No refund policy is in place, either, but if you ask for a refund within three days, they’ll happily oblige.
- Generous free plan
- Unlimited connections
- Direct support could be better
Finally, we have VyprVPN, which is a good service that offers excellent security. It’s customizable but easy to use. It also has its own proprietary Chameleon protocol available, which adds even more protection to the VPN tunnel. There’s a kill switch and a solid no-logs policy in place, too.
Its server quantity is similar to Windscribe’s, with more than 700 spread across more than 60 countries. That said, VyprVPN does not have servers in South Africa, so you won’t be able to access any South African-restricted content.
Its speeds aren’t as good as our other choices, but should be fine for most activities. You also get unlimited bandwidth, and it can get into streaming services. VyprVPN will shield you if you torrent, too.
Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN
It’s available on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and its interface is easy to use. Plus, the mobile apps are some of the best out there, which is why it’s one of our best VPN for Android picks. You can connect up to 30 devices at the same time, too, if you sign up through the website. Signing up through the mobile app only gets you five simultaneous connections.
During our testing of its customer service, our experience was varied. The wait time usually wasn’t too bad, but on one test we waited around 20 minutes. Plus, it seems that it isn’t always manned, in which case you’ll have to leave a message.
There’s still the email option, too, though. It has improved, but it could still be better. Read more about that in our VyprVPN review.
You can choose between the monthly and yearly price plan, but the yearly plan works out the cheapest in the long run. You can give it a whirl with the 30-day money-back guarantee, to see if you like it.
- Customizable security
- Chameleon protocol
- User experience has improved
- Poor speeds
- Small number of servers
Whatever your reason for going online in South Africa, you now know why you should use a VPN when doing so. You need good security and privacy to protect yourself from government surveillance and cybercrime. Plus, you’ll benefit from a good server network, as well as South African servers, if you’re after content from there.
With that in mind, ExpressVPN is the clear winner. It ticks all the boxes and includes many other features, too. Its security is excellent, there’s no doubt your activities will stay private and it has a great server network, including some in South Africa. Plus, it can get into streaming services, including Netflix, with ease.
Why not make use of its 30-day money-back guarantee and see whether you like it? If you have experience using a VPN in South Africa, or we’ve missed anything out, let us know in the comment section. Check out our VPN archive while you’re here, too. Thank you for reading.