With its ancient monuments, beautiful landscapes and vibrant culture, there’s much to see and do in Turkey. Whether you’re lazing on a beach or wandering through ruins, you’ll most likely want to get online during your stay and the safest way to do so is with one of our best VPN for Turkey.
No matter where you are, it’s smart to use a virtual private network. It will protect you from online dangers and get by restrictions on the internet, such as censorship. Censorship is prevalent in many countries, but worse in some than others (read our piece on China for a better look).
Censorship in Turkey
The Turkish government can make internet service providers use keywords to block websites with certain content. Engelliweb found that more than 114,000 websites were inaccessible in November 2016, way more than the 40,000 it found in 2013.
Many blocks are on content that is considered as obscene. That includes websites with some sexual keywords, which means those with content related to the LGBT community can get blocked, too. Anything deemed defamatory to Islam or promoting atheism can be restricted, as well.
In 2017, Wikipedia was blocked to stop people from accessing articles on the Syrian war. Content that criticizes the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) can be blacklisted and news websites get caught in the net, too.
Social media and communication apps, such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have been blocked or throttled in the past. Authorities can also request that platforms remove content they consider obscene.
The Law on Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Combating Crimes Committed by Means of Such Publication — yes, that really is its name — regulates the blocking and removal of online content. Also called Law No. 5651, it was enacted in 2007 to protect children and prevent access to illegal and harmful material.
It has been amended numerous times to broaden the areas of censorship. Content related to child sexual abuse, drugs, prostitution, dangerous substances, obscenity, gambling, suicide and crimes against the founder of the Republic of Turkey can be blocked.
Other stated reasons for censorship are to “defend the right to life, secure property, ensure national security and public order, prevent crime, or protect public health.” Once a decision is made to block content, ISPs must comply with the order within four hours or face a large fine. Plus, the Information Technologies and Communications Authority introduced a filtering system that is supposed to protect users, especially minors, from inappropriate content. ISPs have to offer it to customers, but it’s optional. That said, it has been accused of being a backdoor to censorship because of the breadth of blocked keywords.
You should also know before you go that websites for VPNs have been blocked in the past. Providers can monitor the situation and open the blocked service by adjusting it. If it is just the website, you should install the VPN ahead of time.
Online Speech in Turkey
The Turkish constitution offers protection for freedom of expression, stating that everyone has the right to express and distribute their thoughts or opinions by speech, in writing or through other media.
While there are no laws criminalizing online activities, parts of the criminal code, anti-terrorism laws and other legislation apply online and offline. Article 26 of the constitution, for example, is broad and can be used to prosecute people for defamation.
Articles 125 and 299 of the Turkish criminal code make defamation illegal and punishable by imprisonment for up to two years or a fine. Ratchet that up to defaming a public official, the military or other authority figure and the sentence increases.
Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws have been criticized by the EU, which said their definition of “terror” is too broad and needs to be narrowed to prevent unnecessary prosecution of journalists for publishing “terror propaganda.”
Many have simply criticized the government and have no links to terrorism. More than 1,800 cases have been opened for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including some against journalists, cartoonists and teenagers. Those convicted face a prison term of up to five years.
Several have been arrested and prosecuted for social media posts involving defamation or sharing the propaganda of a terrorist organization and some have been sent to prison. For example, journalist Hayri Tunc was given two years in prison for tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos deemed terrorist propaganda and abetting and glorifying criminal acts.
University student Gizem Yerik was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison for insulting the president and spreading terrorist propaganda on Twitter. Many people have had criminal complaints filed against them for insulting President Erdogan, so you should be careful what you post online.
Privacy and Surveillance in Turkey
While the Turkish constitution aims to guarantee privacy, there are limitations on the use of encryption tools. ByLock, a communication app, is widely available in many countries, but the government claimed members of the Gulen movement were using it and detained thousands of Turkish citizens who had it.
Surveillance ramped up after the coup attempt in 2016 and tens of thousands of social media accounts have been monitored since.
Many citizens suspected the government was conducting surveillance and leaked emails confirmed their worries when they revealed a contract between Hacking Team, a surveillance software company, and General Directorate of Security, the civilian police force. They showed the GDS had paid $600,000 to Hacking Team from June 2011 to November 2014.
Plus, the Law on Amending the Law on State Intelligence Services and the National Intelligence Organization allows authorities to access communications data without a court order. Public and private bodies have to provide information if it’s requested and failure to do so can result in imprisonment.
Law No. 5651 requires hosting and access providers to retain traffic information for one year and file the data with a timestamp. They must provide assistance to the ICTA in monitoring internet traffic.
On top of all that, purchasing mobile phones anonymously is prohibited. Buyers must provide official identification and, if a phone is imported, it must be registered within 60 days. Those that are not will be shut out of the networks.
Best VPN for Turkey 2018
What Makes a VPN the Best for Turkey
Many VPNs have similar features, but some are more suitable than others in certain countries. For Turkey, you want to choose one with good security. That will hide you from surveillance attempts and online policing. To go with that, you want a killswitch, which will keep you protected by severing your connection if the VPN fails.
Your privacy is just as important, so the provider should have a strict no-logs policy, ensuring your online activities remain secret.
A large server network will make it much easier to bypass censorship and geoblocks. Plus, if you want to access content restricted to Turkey, you’ll need to choose a provider with servers there.
Fast speeds will keep you from watching loading screens and unlimited bandwidth will let you stream and download as much as you want without worry. If streaming is on your agenda, our best VPN for Netflix piece may be useful.
You might also want to consider factors such as its ease of use, what devices it supports, the quality of customer service and whether it fits within your budget.
Best VPN for Turkey: ExpressVPN
We’ve chosen ExpressVPN as our winner for Turkey as it offers everything need to stay safe and more. It often gets a mention in our top five articles because we think it’s one of the best VPNs around. Read about why we like it so much in our ExpressVPN review.
It has excellent security with AES 256-bit encryption and the option to increase it if you want. Plus, there’s a killswitch and it has a solid no-logs policy. All that together ensures you are kept hidden and secure.
You should have no problem finding a suitable server as it has over 2,000 in 94 countries. Some are in Turkey, too, meaning you can access content restricted to that country. ExpressVPN is our fastest VPN piece and it doesn’t have bandwidth caps, which helped it win in our best VPN for streaming piece, too.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
Clients are available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and they are easy to use. It also has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. If your VPN experience is limited, ExpressVPN is a good choice as it does almost everything for you.
It has good customer support, with live chat and email options. The staff are helpful and knowledgeable. It’s only letdown is the live chat is slower than that of its rivals.
Compared to other providers, ExpressVPN is expensive. Still, it’s worth the price for the quality of service and you can reduce the overall cost by opting for a longer plan. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, too, in case you don’t like it.
- Easy to use
- Slow switch time
NordVPN is another good provider that often nudges its way into our articles and it’s comparable to ExpressVPN, as you can read in our head-to-head piece. It has top-notch security and double-hops servers, which basically add more protection to the connection. There’s also a killswitch built-in and it doesn’t keep a log of your online activities.
Its server network includes thousands of servers spread over 60 countries.There are 13 in Turkey, which should make those who want Turkish content happy.
It has good speeds, but it can slow down when connecting over a long distance. Thankfully, there are no restrictions to bandwidth. Read our NordVPN review for more detailed information on the service.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
The desktop client is available for Windows and macOS and the mobile app can be installed on Android and iOS. Setup is quick and the layout is simple to use. It’s also our best VPN for multiple devices, so if you have a lot of tech, it’s a good choice.
If you need help, you can use the handy knowledgebase, which should be enough for minor problems. Failing that, you can contact support through live chat or email for a fast and thorough reply.
NordVPN is a great value for the money, even at the monthly price, but you’ll save if you sign up for a longer period. There is a 30-day refund available, too, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
- Double-hop servers
- Lack of detail on server location
TorGuard has good security and is one of the most customizable VPNs on the market. It also has a built-in killswitch and a firm no-logs policy for your protection.
It has servers in over 50 countries, giving you plenty for bypassing blocks, including some in Turkey for region-specific content. That said, TorGuard struggles with getting past the geoblocks of some streaming services. To guarantee access, you could buy one of its dedicated IP addresses for the location you want.
Speeds aren’t bad, but they vary. You don’t need to keep track of how much bandwidth you’re using, though, as there isn’t a limit. For more details, you can read our TorGuard review.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
TorGuard can be installed on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It’s easy to use, but the mobile app can be a pain during setup.
If you need help, you can use the guides and forums online for minor issues. For more technical problems, you can speak to a member of support through live chat. The chat isn’t always staffed, though, which means you may have to leave a message and wait for a response via email.
While the monthly price isn’t bad, you’d be better off opting for a longer plan. You might not want to jump straight in, but there’s a seven-day money-back guarantee to ease your worries.
- Multiple protocol options
- No logs
- Difficult to switch servers
- Blocked by Netflix
Private Internet Access is a decent provider, even though it doesn’t have all the features of its competitors. It has good security, but the encryption is set to 128-bit by default. You can manually change it to AES 256-bit, though, which we recommend. Just be aware that doing so will slow down your connection.
It has a built-in killswitch for keeping you safe if the VPN fails and it doesn’t keep a record of your online activity.
PIA only has servers in 30 countries, which is much fewer than other providers, but it should still be enough to bypass blocks. If you want to access U.S. Netflix, PIA should get you in as most of its servers are located there. It also has four in Turkey if that’s what you’re looking for.
Speed is one of PIA’s best features, but that’s mainly because of the light encryption it uses by default. Once you increase the encryption, it will slow down, but it’s still okay. There are no bandwidth limits, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Other Reasons We Like Private Internet Access
Setup is easy and it can be used on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The clients are straightforward and will get you connected fast.
Its customer support could be improved, though. It has a chat button, but you can only use it to send an email. There is no “chat.” Read our PIA review for more on the support process. It was slower than others, but the help we received was thorough.
PIA scores well in cost as it provides a full service for a fair monthly rate. You can still save money by opting for a longer subscription, too. There’s a seven-day money-back guarantee for extra peace of mind.
- Quick & easy server switching
- Mediocre server network
- Can be a pain to use
- No live chat support
VyprVPN has good security and its own Chameleon protocol, which provides extra encryption to the VPN tunnel. You get a killswitch with the service, too, and there’s a no-logs policy in place.
You also get access to its Cyphr messaging app, which allows you to communicate privately, but the person you want to speak to has to have it installed, too. Read more on that in our VyprVPN review.
It has servers spread across 64 countries, but the total amount is disappointing compared to our top choices. You should still be able to get around restrictions and there are some in Turkey, as well.
Speeds are okay, but it can get slow at times, and there are no limits to bandwidth use.
Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN
VyprVPN can be setup on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS in minutes. The layout of the desktop version could be improved, but the mobile apps are much better.
An FAQ is available to guide you through minor problems. Further help can be found by contacting the support staff through live chat or email. The live chat is the quickest option, but if your problem is more technical, we recommend you use email as the help is more thorough.
VyprVPN has a reasonable price but there isn’t a refund policy to fall back on. That said, there is a three-day trial that should provide you with enough time to check it out before buying.
- Chameleon protocol
- Cyphr encrypted messaging
- Network disappoints
- No refund policy
Honorable Mention: Windscribe
While it may not be as good as our top choices, we feel Windscribe should get a mention for Turkey. Its security is good and can be adjusted to your needs. There’s a killswitch and many privacy settings to choose from. Its downfall is that it keeps some logs, though the data retained has no real value and can’t be traced back to you.
It has servers covering 55 countries. There are six in Turkey, but they are only available through the Pro membership. Its speeds will be fine for most activities.
If you run into problems, you can contact customer support through its 24/7 live chat. It uses an AI representative named Gary, but its responses are good. You can also contact them by email or use the knowledgebase and guides for smaller issues.
It’s quite costly unless you subscribe for a long period. There is a free plan, but it limits bandwidth. There isn’t a refund policy but you can request a refund within three days of purchase. Read more about the service in our Windscribe review.
In this article, we gave you the reasons to use a VPN in Turkey and what to look for when choosing one. You should make sure you are protected with great security and that it comes with a killswitch and a strict no-logs policy.
A large server network will ensure you are able to bypass blocks and should include some in Turkey if you want content from there.
With all that in mind, ExpressVPN is our winner for Turkey. It ticks all the boxes and is a great all-around service. Plus, with its 30-day money-back guarantee, you can’t go wrong.
If you have recommendations for using a VPN in Turkey, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear them. Thank you for reading.