The Netherlands is a flat land, much of it below sea level, and the home of tulips, wooden shoes and semi-legal marijuana. It’s not all good, though. Besides the pollen and poor weather, the Dutch have to contend with being the most wire-tapped nation in Europe, which is why we’ve put together this list of the best VPNs for the Netherlands.
Our top pick is ExpressVPN, thanks to its many Dutch servers, fantastic speeds and large worldwide network, but none of our other four contenders are slouches by any means.
After all, if the government is listening in on your conversations, you have only two options: submit or fight back. Though few of us are willing to start overturning trucks in the center of The Hague, simply subscribing to one of our best VPN picks is a great form of silent protest and will annoy the powers that be enough to make you feel warm inside when you think about it.
In this article, we’ll go through some of the Netherlands’ nastier pieces of legislation concerning privacy and warrantless surveillance before showing you the features a virtual private network needs to have to beat them. After that, we’ll go through our picks in detail so you can make an informed purchase. Let’s get started.
Best VPN for Holland 2021
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card, Giropay, iDEAL (Netherlands only)
- : Unlimited
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 8
Surveillance in the Netherlands
The Dutch are the most wire-tapped people in Europe, with about 22,000 phones being tapped at any given time. A population of roughly 17 million may not seem like much, but even in the surveillance-happy UK, that many people aren’t having their private calls intercepted (read more about Britain’s woes in our best VPN for the UK piece).
It’s no China, but that’s still a lot of calls the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD or Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst) and its military sibling, the MIVD, are listening to. Whether Dutch agencies are feeding those conversations to Echelon, the Five Eyes’ surveillance network, is up for debate, but it’s still scary stuff that reminds us of PRISM.
On top of that, oversight of the Dutch surveillance community is lax, to say the least. In the first draft of the latest law meant to regulate the intelligence community, the Wet op de inlichtingen- en veiligheidsdiensten 2017, or law for the intelligence and security services, there was no built-in oversight mechanism.
In fact, its implementation had to be postponed from early 2018 until May 2018 because of the protests over poor checks and balances, and over the insane remit the AIVD and MIVD received in it. In a rare example of grassroots activists changing Dutch lawmakers’ thinking, the law was delayed to implement better oversight.
In short, the intelligence services could tap the neighborhood internet connection of anybody suspected of wrongdoing (a wide definition in the Netherlands), meaning you could be subjected to surveillance because your neighbor bitched about the government on an online forum once.
Sleepwet: Party Like It’s 1984
The new law was dubbed “sleepwet” by activists, a play on words for the type of dragnet that fishing trawlers use, where the word for “net” was substituted for the word for “law.” It was an apt description for a new rule that allowed security services to scoop up whatever information they could in a massive internet log search.
Though we don’t envy whoever would have to sift through all that data — people do weird stuff on the internet — it does remind us of the practices used by more despotic regimes to keep their population under control. Read our best VPN for Iran and best VPN for Vietnam articles for examples.
The protests got more oversight built into the new law, but the powers that AIVD and MIVD gained remained unchanged. The oversight is run by a committee, the TIB, which is largely made up of political appointees. It’s expected that the committee will be under huge pressure and turn into a rubber-stamp machine that’ll pass whatever measures are put in front of them.
Freedom of Speech in the Netherlands
With that, the Dutch surveillance state becomes more powerful. The odd thing is, though, that the Netherlands has almost complete freedom of speech, as enshrined in article 7 of its constitution. It seems that the Dutch government wants control for the sake of having it, not because it wants to censor people.
The only limits to Dutch freedom of speech are incitement to hatred or violence, and though prosecutors have sought the limits of that restriction at times (the case of Gregorius Nekschot, a cartoonist of questionable taste, is a good example), generally speaking, you can say what you want in the Netherlands without fear of government reprisal.
Is Torrenting Legal in the Netherlands?
You can expect serious repercussions for illegally downloading or torrenting copyrighted material, though. If you’re caught, and you likely will be thanks to all the surveillance, you can expect a letter from the movie distributor Dutch FilmWorks in which you’ll be threatened with a lawsuit unless you pay a fine of several hundred euros.
If you’re in the Netherlands and want to torrent, you have to use one of the best VPNs for torrenting or you’ll get one of those letters. You’ll need one just to access The Pirate Bay or alternative torrent sites because websites known to carry pirated content are blocked when using a Dutch IP address.
What Makes a VPN the Best for the Netherlands
Between government surveillance, the fact that torrenting is illegal (well, more or less) and that cybercrime is on the rise in the Netherlands, we figure security is your top concern when using a VPN while in Holland. That way, you can rest assured that your data is safe while browsing.
That said, security is useless if you can’t browse at your regular pace, so we decided speed was the second factor we needed to take into account. Nothing is worse than Netflix buffering while you’re watching the big, end-of-season reveal.
Third is the presence of plenty of servers in the Netherlands, as well as the countries around it. Because the Netherlands is a massive server hub, that isn’t a big problem, but you still want plenty of high-quality, fast servers around.
We’ll also talk about other criteria we used, but those three factors are the main ones. If you’d like a small breakdown of which VPN service scored best where, check out the list below:
- Security: ExpressVPN, NordVPN, TorGuard
- Speed: ExpressVPN, Goose VPN, TorGuard
- Network: CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, Goose VPN
1. The Best VPN for Holland: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN wins in this article because it ticks all the boxes. After all, there’s a reason why we rate it top among all VPNs. It’s secure (read our article on VPN security to see how we determine that), offering tough security straight out of the gate. In fact, you’ll probably never need to change the security settings.
On top of being secure, ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN by far. During our speed tests, it outperformed the competition by a country mile in almost any circumstance. Only Private Internet Access came close, and that’s because it uses inferior encryption (read our PIA review or ExpressVPN vs. PIA article for more on that).
Plus, as you can read in our ExpressVPN review, it offers several high-speed servers in the Netherlands (usually between two and four), as well as in all the neighboring countries, including the UK (it also won our best VPN for the UK roundup). Because it scores so well in all three of our criteria, we recommend ExpressVPN for your Dutch browsing needs.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
Besides all that, ExpressVPN is easy to use. Switching it on is a simple matter of clicking the massive button in the center of the interface, and changing servers only requires you to click the menu and scroll until you find the one you want. ExpressVPN is also the best VPN for Netflix, so you’ll be able to catch any show you want, anywhere in the world.
There’s one serious downside to ExpressVPN, though, and that’s its price. It costs $99 for one year, making it the most expensive VPN service, even if you factor in that you get three months on top of the original 12 if you sign up using this link. That said, it comes with a 30-day refund period, so even if you don’t like it, you won’t lose anything.
- Big network
2. Goose VPN
Second on this list is Goose VPN, a Dutch VPN service that has been working hard the past few years to make it as a market leader. We predict that it’s not far from that goal because it offers an interesting mix of features at a reasonable price. It needs to fix its speeds if it wants to rise further, though, because when we tested them for our Goose VPN review, they were bad.
That said, if you’re using Goose VPN purely as a way to get around the sleepwet, the speed shouldn’t be too much of a problem. As befitting a home-grown VPN provider, it has a huge number of servers in the Netherlands, so you’ll be able to connect to a server in close range. Internationally, it’s no slouch either, with plenty of options in surrounding countries.
As for security, Goose VPN is solid, offering AES 256-bit as standard (read our description of encryption if that’s just gobbledygook to you) and many VPN protocols. It defaults to IKE, though, which we’re not crazy about here at Cloudwards.net, so we recommend switching to OpenVPN in the settings menu.
Other Reasons We Like Goose VPN
Besides the above reasons, another great feature of Goose VPN is that it allows unlimited devices to be linked to your account. This means you can hook up as many computers, tablets and smartphones as you like to one subscription without paying extra. ExpressVPN, for example, only allows three, so Goose VPN was a shoe-in for the best VPN for multiple devices.
Goose VPN costs around $60 per year for the full plan, or $3 per month for a limited plan that offers 50GB of bandwidth per month. That’s good pricing, but the limited plan should only be used by people who are selective about security. Either way, all plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so trying it won’t cost you a dime.
- Unlimited connections
- Big network
- Limited plan is meh
NordVPN get the third spot in this list thanks to its great security and fantastic server network but loses points compared to the top two because of its inconsistent speeds. As we describe in our NordVPN review, finding a server that’ll get you good speeds is a trial-and-error affair that can get annoying.
Once you get past that, though, you’ll be laughing, thanks to NordVPN’s incredible ease of use. Its security is highly configurable. It’s just a matter of turning a few sliders and checking a few boxes and you’ll be as anonymous as can be. It has DoubleVPN servers for extra safety, as well as torrenting servers, so you can avoid the copyright goons.
As for server network, NordVPN has hundreds of servers across western Europe, with Amsterdam and The Hague as the epicenters. You won’t have to look long for a server in the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany (it’s also one of our best VPNs for Germany).
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
NordVPN’s other main draw is that it’s one of the best VPNs for streaming, allowing you to access Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, you name it. The only problem is the speed issue, but try enough times and no proxy error will be able to withstand you.
One of NordVPN’s best features is its pricing. Though its per-year cost is reasonable, you can sign up for three years and pay just $108, which stands in stark contrast to ExpressVPN (check out how the two compare in our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN article). We recommend giving NordVPN a try. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it’s not much of a risk.
- Huge network
- Inconsistent speeds
Fourth is CyberGhost, which is a great service no matter how you cut it but falls behind to the top three. That said, if the Netherlands is only a short, hazy stop on a longer European tour, you’ll want to check CyberGhost out because it has the best coverage in Europe of any of our top VPN services, making it one of our best VPNs for Europe.
When it comes to security, CyberGhost is as strong as any on our list. It features the same encryption protocols as ExpressVPN and NordVPN, using AES 256-bit and OpenVPN as its defaults, and has a great killswitch that’ll sever your connection when a server fails. You can read more about its security in our CyberGhost review.
Speed is where CyberGhost falls behind. Though its reliable, it’s slow compared to ExpressVPN (read our ExpressVPN vs. CyberGhost piece for the details on that). Though it’s fine for streaming and all that, CyberGhost has to take a back seat in this roundup.
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
When it comes to ease of use, CyberGhost is a great provider, using a tile-based interface that makes navigation easy for people unfamiliar with menus or with an aversion to them. It’s not as pleasant as NordVPN’s (read our NordVPN vs CyberGhost article for a full comparison), but it might just hit the sweet spot for you.
The biggest selling point of CyberGhost is its price, though. It’s the cheapest top-tier VPN around, offering three years of service for just $99. It also comes with a massive 45-day money-back guarantee, so you can play with it to your heart’s content before the sale is final. Give it a try. You’ll probably like it.
- Great network
- Bit slow at times
We’ll finish the list with TorGuard, which is a great service that offers all you might want from a VPN, but it comes with a price. It’s tough to use, making it a bad fit for many people who just want a set-it-and-forget-it VPN service. Read our TorGuard review for the details on that.
Once you get past that, though, TorGuard is a great service. It’s secure (it ranks as one of our best VPNs for China for a reason) and fast, but you’ll need a dedicated IP address to get the highest speeds. That’ll set you back a few dollars more per month, but it could be worth it if performance is your top priority.
As for network, TorGuard’s is small, but it has several servers in the Netherlands and surrounding countries. Besides that, it covers a huge swathe of the globe, making it one of our best VPNs for travelers. If you spring for a dedicated IP address or two, that range increases even further, so TorGuard is a good option if you move a lot.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
TorGuard might be tough to use, but it checks all the boxes in every other department. It’s great for streaming (check out our best VPN for HBO Now article for one example) and will get you to most websites most of the time.
The cost of TorGuard is okay, but it could be better, especially if you factor in the price of a dedicated IP address. The base VPN package will set you back $60 per year, and it comes with a short seven-day trial, so you’ll have to make up your mind quick on whether it’s the VPN for you. Tech heads will love it, so if you think of yourself as one, it might be the way to go.
- Very secure
- Tough to use
Honorable Mention: The Best Free VPN for the Netherlands
Though we’re convinced that the above five VPN services are your best bet, we realize not everybody has the cash handy to buy a full-on VPN, especially not if you’re a cash-strapped backpacker. If money is an issue, Windscribe is a good provider as long as you don’t need to use too much bandwidth.
As you can read in our Windscribe review, it offers up to 10GB per month for free, meaning you can browse securely as long as you’re not streaming video on YouTube or Netflix. It also has four servers in the Netherlands, so speed shouldn’t be too much of an issue, either.
Overall, we like Windscribe, so if you like the free plan you can upgrade to its paid plans. If you need more bandwidth, you can just switch from one free VPN to another. Check out our article on the best free VPN services for other suggestions.
The Netherlands is a densely packed, friendly country with plenty to do and see. That said, with the threat of cybercrime and the eyes of Big Brother on you, using a VPN is no more than common sense while you’re there. The above VPNs will get you the speed and security you need while in Holland, and all come with some kind of refund, so you’ve nothing to lose.
What do you think about the Dutch state’s surveillance? Is it a good thing or bad thing? Do you have experience with any of the VPNs we mentioned? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.