Best VPN Services of 2019 for Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is one of the worst disruptors of liberty on the internet because of their severe censorship and online surveillance imposed over the millions of internet users in Saudi Arabia.
For people traveling or residing in the country, who value their online privacy, a genuine solution would be to use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a tool that provides internet freedom where there is a lack of it.
VPNs can evade the imposed censorship, strengthen your online privacy, and protect you from government surveillance on the internet. However, you need to be careful when you choose one, especially in countries where their use is discouraged by the government.
Saudi Arabia is not a liberal country, and the situation is only getting worse. The country was listed by Freedom House as one of the least free nations in the world for internet freedom.
Moreover, as the Freedom House report on internet freedom in Saudi Arabia states, the intolerance is only escalating. Under their anti-terrorism law first introduced in late 2017, nonviolent political or religious offenses can now be heavily punished. Cases of journalists, female rights activists, and people that criticize the government being imprisoned due to their online activities are also more common lately.
The government of Saudi Arabia justifies broad online surveillance by claiming it is necessary for national security, and for protecting the social order in the country.
All in all, it’s crucial for internet users to take precautions. They need to be careful about what they like, post or share on social media, and they should also get a good VPN provider to browse the internet privately and without fearing for their safety.
What to Look For In a VPN for Saudi Arabia
Considering everything at risk, it’s not easy to choose a good VPN provider for Saudi Arabia. The country has powerful surveillance systems and can detect users that are violating the established laws.
And although VPNs are not illegal in Saudi Arabia, visiting prohibited websites is. So, if you want to avoid being heavily punished for your online activities, you will need a powerful and advanced provider that will in all certainty protect your internet traffic.
If it does store activity logs and the information is obtained by the Saudi government, you will undoubtedly get in big trouble. So focus on providers that store only minimal information, and not data that will potentially endanger your privacy.
For a country with such severe internet regulations, aside from privacy, you will want a VPN that offers the best security features. Luckily for you, many VPNs put their primary focus on the security by providing strong encryption.
A kill switch is a valuable feature in a VPN provider, although many on the market do not offer it.
With this feature, if you experience unexpected issues with your VPN connection and you suddenly get disconnected the kill switch will cut your internet connection as well. It’s a valuable peculiarity because it will keep you out of trouble, none of what you were doing when the VPN disconnected will be visible to your internet service provider.
Top 3 Recommended VPNs for Saudi Arabia
With so many VPNs on the market, it might be difficult for you to find what you are looking for immediately. Therefore, we made a list that might help you minimize the time you spend looking for a VPN provider, and maximize your benefits from them.
The next suggestions are optimized on every feature that we think is important for users that are searching for a reliable VPN for Saudi Arabia.
In terms of privacy and security, NordVPN excels with its security, kill switch, and zero log policy, which is beyond important when using a VPN in Saudi Arabia.
Also, with their speedy servers placed all around the world, you won’t have trouble accessing most of the blocked content, and even use this VPN for torrenting as some of its servers allow P2P sharing.
The provider does not have servers in Saudi Arabia, but it compensates this with over 5,000 other servers in 60 countries around the world. A major advantage is that their servers are optimized for particular tasks, and you can choose the type of server that fits your needs the most. Some of them, such as the Onion over VPN servers or the double VPN servers are an excellent pick for users that want extra security.
Pros of NordVPN: optimized servers; affordable; 3-day free trial
Cons of NordVPN: some servers lack in speed
Another excellent VPN for Saudi Arabia is ExpressVPN. Without going into details of all of the benefits this provider offers to its users, it is safe to say that ExpressVPN in fast, safe, and privacy-friendly.
Although ExpressVPN is slightly more expensive than other alternatives on the market, you definitely get value for your money.
Pros of ExpressVPN: fast; secure; reliable; user-friendly; kill switch
Cons of ExpressVPN: only 3 simultaneous connections
Although it might not be a suitable choice for everyone, TorGuard is certainly one of the safest options on the VPN market. The provider was essentially made to make torrenting easier in countries that ban it. However, over time it grew to eventually become a very reliable and trustworthy option for all VPN users.
Pros of TorGuard: decent speed; dedicated servers for streaming; torrenting allowed
Cons of TorGuard: not a good choice for first-time users
Government Surveillance in Saudi Arabia
Internet users in Saudi Arabia rely on two main local internet service providers, both of which the government controls. That exposes users to constant surveillance that compromises internet freedom and the right to privacy.
The spying is justified as a way for the authorities to protect the country. The reality is that everything is being monitored, including what internet users post, like or share over the internet. The authorities monitor websites, forums, blogs, social media platforms, even emails, and text messages.
To take greater control over the citizens of the country, regulators and telecommunication companies had many popular VoIP services blocked for some time. Now, most of them including Viber, Facebook Messenger, and Skype are back in use. However, some such as WhatsApp and FaceTime still remain blocked.
Censorship in Saudi Arabia
From books, newspaper, and television, to websites, social media content, and essentially everything not in line with the government policies is suppressed. Although most popular social media platforms are available currently in the country, they should not be used for expressing opinions against the monarchy.
In 2011, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture and Information inflicted a new law requiring all bloggers as well as forums and chat rooms to obtain a permit in order to continue operating on the internet. That only increased the pressure for internet users to self-regulate their online content, although the government denied that their move is with the intention to increase surveillance and censorship. Instead, a spokesman for the Ministry claimed that the new law is supposed to “supervise organizations”.
By the imposed surveillance, the Saudi authorities can closely monitor unlawful actions, and they easily ban them. There is tremendous filtering on content, comments, forums, etc. Even hashtags from Twitter have been removed when they didn't comply with what is deemed appropriate in the country. It’s rare to find anti-government comments, for example, because they are immediately removed from the internet.
Penalties for Unlawful Online Behavior
Participating in illicit activities online in Saudi Arabia could result in huge fines and imprisonment. The country has some of the strictest prison sentences for internet crimes. Depending on the crime, some prison sentences can go up to 15 years.
In one of the more recent cases, two human rights defenders, Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, were sentenced to 14 and seven years in jail on various charges, including publishing statements that were regarded as harmful to the kingdom.
Using a VPN in Saudi Arabia
Although virtual private networks are not banned in Saudi Arabia, which for some people might come as a surprise, it’s still not entirely safe to use one to access blocked websites.
Unfortunately, many people turn to low-cost providers or free VPNs for help not knowing that this might put them in even greater danger. Many providers on the market, particularly the free ones, keep logs on you, and some won’t even protect you by strongly encrypting your internet traffic.
In other words, you might unknowingly commit a crime when you open a banned website, all while thinking that you are protected by your VPN. That is why it is crucial to pick a reliable VPN service provider even if that means paying a higher price. After all, your online privacy and safety have no price, so you might want to rethink your options.
After choosing the provider and installing it on your internet connected devices, it’s best to enable your VPN to automatically connect every time you use your device, if that is an option.
As long as you stay connected to a VPN server, you will remain anonymous on the internet, access censored content, and avoid being spied on by your government.
The ongoing problem with internet freedom in Saudi Arabia is escalating and until a more positive turn, you will be best off with a VPN. Remember, not just any VPN provider will do, but only the most reliable and secure choices on the market.
With government control increasing in Saudi Arabia, the safest thing you can do right now is purchase a VPN and stay anonymous over the internet.
In the meantime, if you have any question or opinion on the subject you can leave a comment below. Also, if you have previous experience with a VPN, good or bad, don’t forget to leave a review on our website.