5 Best Free VPNs for the Dark Web in 2024: Secure & Fast

Updated on: June 17, 2024
Fact Checked by Katarina Glamoslija
Kristel van Hoof Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: June 17, 2024 Writer

Short on time? Here’s the best free VPN for the dark web in 2024:

  • 🥇 ExpressVPN : Not 100% free, but it’s the best VPN for the dark web. You can try it risk free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee. It allows Tor traffic on servers in 105 countries and also offers advanced security features that help protect you from shady sites and actors on the dark web. It also has a verified no-logs policy and maintains superfast speeds.

It’s hard to find a free VPN that keeps you safe on the dark web — many free VPNs simply don’t allow dark web traffic on their servers. And out of the ones that do, many lack essential security features, such as strong encryption protocols or a strict no-logs policy.

To surf the dark web securely, you should use a premium VPN (like ExpressVPN). They come with advanced security features, essential privacy features, high-speed global networks, and support Tor traffic across most (if not all) of their servers.

However, if you only want a free VPN, I managed to find a few good options. All of the free VPNs listed here work with the dark web, are really secure, and also have decent speeds — but keep in mind that they still come with limitations such as data caps.

TRY EXPRESSVPN NOW

Quick summary of the best free VPNs for the dark web:

  • 1. 🥇ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN for browsing the dark web in 2024 with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • 2. 🥈CyberGhost VPN — NoSpy servers & great automation for browsing the dark web securely (7-day free trial).
  • 3. 🥉Proton VPN — Best 100% free & private dark web VPN with unlimited data (but only 1 connection).
  • 4. Hotspot Shield — User-friendly free VPN with unlimited data and fast Tor speeds (but has ads).
  • 5. hide.me — Secure and fast free VPN for surfing the dark web (but restricts speeds).

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for the Dark Web

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for the Dark Web

ExpressVPN is my favorite VPN for the dark web in 2024. While it’s not completely free, it backs all purchases with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out risk-free. Plus, I love how it allows dark web traffic on servers in 105 countries.

The VPN also keeps you safe on the dark web with industry-leading security features. I like that it has an ad and malware blocker called Threat Manager, which can protect you from shady sites on the dark web. In addition, ExpressVPN comes with automatic obfuscation on all servers, which provides extra privacy and helps you browse the dark web in restrictive countries — I wouldn’t normally recommend obfuscation for dark web browsing since it slows down your speeds, but ExpressVPN implements it so well that it doesn’t cause noticeable slowdowns.

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for the Dark Web

The provider takes your online privacy seriously as well. It has a strict no-logs policy that has been audited and verified by independent security companies. Plus, it uses RAM-only servers that automatically delete your data when the server is rebooted. Lastly, it’s headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which is a privacy-friendly location.

And ExpressVPN has the fastest speeds on the market, even on the dark web. In my tests, all the .onion links I visited while connected to ExpressVPN loaded in around 10 seconds, which is really good — without a VPN, they took around 8 seconds to load.

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for the Dark Web

I also like the split-tunneling feature, which enables you to select which applications use the VPN connection and which ones don’t. This allowed me to only send dark web traffic through the VPN, which increased my browsing speeds by about 10%.

ExpressVPN offers competitive pricing starting from $6.67 / month. I’m happy the VPN provides the option to pay with Bitcoin, which enhances anonymity. As mentioned, each purchase comes with a risk-free 30-day refund.

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Bottom Line:

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for securely browsing the dark web. It offers robust security and privacy features, has automatic obfuscation on all servers, maintains superfast speeds, and comes with split-tunneling. It’s not totally free, but it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for all plans, so you can try it without any risk.

Read the full ExpressVPN review

🥈2. CyberGhost VPN — NoSpy Servers & Great Automation for Surfing the Dark Web

🥈2. CyberGhost VPN — NoSpy Servers & Great Automation for Surfing the Dark Web

CyberGhost’s NoSpy servers provide added security and privacy while browsing the dark web. These servers are located within the provider’s headquarters, ensuring that only their in-house staff have access to them — instead of being housed in data centers in different countries around the world. The VPN isn’t 100% free, but it has a free 24-hour trial, and its long-term plans are backed by an impressive 45-day money-back guarantee.

🥈2. CyberGhost VPN — NoSpy Servers & Great Automation for Surfing the Dark Web

In addition, CyberGhost VPN has a strict no-logs policy that has been audited and verified. Also, it releases a transparency report every 3 months that proves the VPN doesn’t share user data. Plus, the provider is based in Romania, which doesn’t have data-retention laws and isn’t in the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances, a group of countries that share intelligence data.

The provider makes it really easy to securely browse the dark web. That’s all thanks to its Smart Rules feature, which allows you to automate your VPN connections. For example, you can set up the VPN client to automatically connect to a server of your choice and open the Tor browser on launch.

🥈2. CyberGhost VPN — NoSpy Servers & Great Automation for Surfing the Dark Web

I recorded fast speeds while testing CyberGhost VPN’s server network, which consists of servers in 100 countries that all support Tor traffic. Although the speeds were not as fast as ExpressVPN’s speeds, they were still fast enough to browse the dark web without any annoying interruptions — it usually took around 12 seconds for dark web sites to fully load.

CyberGhost VPN is really affordable since its plans start at only $2.03 / month. On top of the 45-day money-back guarantee, there’s also a 14-day money-back guarantee for the shortest plan.

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Bottom Line:

CyberGhost VPN’s NoSpy servers safeguard your privacy while browsing the dark web. The provider also has a strict no-logs policy, advanced security features, and a high-speed global network. And it allows you to conveniently automate your VPN connections to the dark web. It’s not 100% free, but you can test it out risk-free with a free 24-hour trial and its 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full CyberGhost VPN review

🥉3. Proton VPN — Best Free VPN for the Dark Web + Unlimited Data

🥉3. Proton VPN — Best Free VPN for the Dark Web + Unlimited Data

Proton VPN is one of the few free VPNs that comes with unlimited data, meaning that you can browse the dark web as much as you want without worrying about hitting any data caps. This is impressive since most free VPNs allow you to use only 2–10 GB per month. The provider’s free plan allows Tor traffic on all servers, though it restricts you to servers in only the US, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland, and Japan and allows just 1 connection.

🥉3. Proton VPN — Best Free VPN for the Dark Web + Unlimited Data

The free plan also comes with advanced security features. It includes perfect forward secrecy (changes the encryption key for each VPN session), full leak protection, and full-disk encryption, which scrambles all data on a server — this way, even if the server is compromised, none of the information is readable. In addition, the VPN’s no-logs policy has been independently audited, it releases a transparency report, and the provider also has open-source apps, meaning anyone can inspect the code for security issues.

The free plan has pretty good speeds. When I used it to surf the dark web, all the dark web links I visited usually loaded in around 15 seconds, which is still slower than ExpressVPN and CyberGhost VPN.

🥉3. Proton VPN — Best Free VPN for the Dark Web + Unlimited Data

Upgrading to the paid version gets you more perks for dark web surfing. I particularly like the Tor over VPN servers that allow you to browse dark web sites in regular browsers, like Chrome. On top of that, you also get access to servers in 91 countries, which all allow Tor traffic.

Proton VPN’s paid version starts at $4.49 / month. Also, the provider backs all purchases with a prorated 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Bottom Line:

Proton VPN’s free plan comes with unlimited data for browsing the dark web. It offers high-end security features, a strict no-logs policy, and open-source apps. You also get good speeds and access to servers in 3 countries. The paid version provides access to servers in more countries and Tor over VPN servers. All purchases are backed by a prorated 30-day refund.

Read the full Proton VPN review

4. Hotspot Shield — Unlimited Data & Fast Tor Browsing Speeds

4. Hotspot Shield — Unlimited Data & Fast Tor Browsing Speeds

Hotspot Shield allows unlimited data, making it a great choice for surfing .onion sites. In addition, it has pretty good speeds, despite limiting them to only 2 Mbps on the free plan — in my tests, all dark web sites I visited while connected to the VPN opened in around 15–16 seconds, which is on par with Proton VPN’s speeds.

All of the provider’s servers allow Tor traffic, but the free plan limits you to servers in 3 countries (the US, the UK, and Singapore). On top of that, you’re also limited to only using the VPN on 1 device.

4. Hotspot Shield — Unlimited Data & Fast Tor Browsing Speeds

But the VPN’s free plan provides good security, especially since it comes with perfect forward secrecy and DNS leak protection. There’s also a no-logs policy, but it hasn’t undergone an independent audit like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost VPN.

I also like how user-friendly the VPN’s apps are — the interface is very simple to navigate, it doesn’t take more than 5 seconds to find and connect to a server to start surfing dark web sites, and there are helpful explanations for most features and settings.

Hotspot Shield has paid plans that start at $2.99 / month. The paid version adds access to servers in 85 countries and 10 connections. Also, all plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

Hotspot Shield provides unlimited data, making it a good free VPN for surfing the dark web. What’s more, it also provides pretty fast browsing speeds, and it comes with easy-to-use apps, strong security, and support for Tor traffic on all servers. But it limits you to servers in 3 countries and just 1 connection. Its paid version is affordable and there’s also a 45-day money back guarantee for all plans.

Read the full Hotspot Shield review

5. hide.me — Good & Secure Free VPN for the Dark Web

5. hide.me — Good & Secure Free VPN for the Dark Web

hide.me provides a good free plan for securely surfing the dark web. It has servers in 5+ countries that all support Tor traffic, and it also has Stealth Guard, which is an advanced kill switch that lets you choose which apps can’t be accessed if the VPN is disconnected. For example, I was able to set it up so that the Tor browser was blocked until the VPN was connected. The VPN also offers perfect forward secrecy, RAM-only servers, and full leak protection.

5. hide.me — Good & Secure Free VPN for the Dark Web

Its free plan allows unlimited data, just like Proton VPN, which is pretty good for visiting dark web sites. You also get only 1 connection.

In terms of speeds, hide.me is fast, but it restricts speeds on its free servers. Although it didn’t perform as well as ExpressVPN in my tests, I didn’t experience annoying slowdowns or long loading times to surf the dark web — most .onion links took around 15–16 seconds to load.

hide.me’s apps make it simple to connect to a server to browse the dark web. The interface is simple to navigate, so it never took me more than 5 seconds to find and connect to one of its servers.

Upgrading to a paid plan (they start at $2.22 / month) comes with even more perks, including access to servers in 54 countries, unlimited data, and 10 connections. And all of hide.me’s plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

hide.me’s free plan is good for securely surfing the dark web. It comes with an advanced kill switch and other advanced security features, including full leak protection. The free plan also has servers in 5+ countries, good speeds, and unlimited bandwidth. The paid plans all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full hide.me review

Quick Comparison Table

VPN Starting Price Tor Support 256-bit AES Encryption No-Logs Policy Data Allowance Number of Connections
🥇1. ExpressVPN $6.67 / month
(audited)
Unlimited 8
🥈2. CyberGhost VPN $2.03 / month
(audited)
Unlimited 7
🥉3. Proton VPN $4.49 / month
(audited)
Unlimited 1
4. Hotspot Shield
$2.99 / month Unlimited 1
5. hide.me $2.22 / month
(audited)
Unlimited 1

How to Choose the Best Free VPN for the Dark Web in 2024

  • Choose a VPN that allows dark web traffic. The VPN needs to support Tor traffic on its servers, otherwise you can’t use it to securely browse the dark web. All of the VPNs on my list allow Tor traffic on most of their servers.
  • Look for a VPN with strong security features. When searching for a VPN to browse safely on the dark web, look for 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch (to prevent data leaks).
  • Ensure that the VPN has a strict no-logs policy. This means that the VPN will not keep any records of your online activity, which helps to protect your privacy.
  • Pick a provider with fast speeds. A fast connection is crucial to ensure that your internet activity remains smooth and uninterrupted while surfing the dark web. All of the VPNs on my list have good speeds, but ExpressVPN is by far the fastest.
  • Opt for a VPN with enough data. Free VPN services typically provide data limitations that only allow a little browsing. I recommend getting a free VPN that provides at least 5–10 GB per month, so that you can surf the dark web for at least a few hours — Proton VPN is one of the only free VPNs with unlimited data.
  • Get a VPN that provides good value. This should include user-friendly apps, the ability to connect at least several devices simultaneously, and competitive pricing options in case you decide to upgrade to the paid version.

Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free VPN

  • No Tor support. Most free VPNs don’t allow Tor traffic on their servers, so you can’t use them to surf dark web sites. Luckily, all of the VPNs I mention here have servers that support dark web traffic.
  • Limited security. Free VPNs usually do not offer all the security features available with paid VPNs, such as full leak protection, ad and malware blocking, and a kill switch. This can leave you vulnerable to cyber threats while browsing the dark web. But all of the free VPNs on my list are really secure.
  • Privacy concerns. Free VPNs may sell your data to third-party advertisers to make money, defeating the purpose of using a VPN to protect your online privacy.
  • Limited server options. Free VPNs usually have a small number of servers, which may result in slower connection speeds due to not being able to connect to nearby servers or having to use overcrowded servers.
  • Data caps. Many free VPNs have a limited data allowance, which is often inadequate for streaming, gaming, or any activity that requires a lot of data transfer. Proton VPN is one of the only free VPNs on the market with unlimited data.
  • Slow speeds. Free VPN providers may intentionally slow down your connection speeds, causing you frustration and interrupting your dark web browsing.

Free vs. Paid VPNs for the Dark Web

I compiled this list of free VPNs that are secure enough to use on the dark web. Adequate free VPNs have security features like 256-bit AES encryption, which is the industry standard for data protection, a kill switch, and a no-logs policy. Some even have more advanced features to maintain your privacy better, like IP leak protection, RAM-only servers for better privacy, and perfect forward secrecy.

That said, most free VPNs aren’t suitable for browsing the dark web because they lack features that paid VPNs usually have. Free VPNs sometimes throttle speeds, which compounds with Tor’s already slow traffic. They also often have data caps that are quickly used up, especially if you often have to refresh your circuit. Also, most VPN simply aren’t secure enough to protect you from malicious .onion sites.

Top paid VPNs have much stronger security and privacy features, which is important for browsing the Dark Web. They also offer much faster speeds and larger server networks, so you’ll have a much smoother browsing experience. Moreover, most premium VPNs come with a money-back guarantee, so you can try them out without risk.

Features Free VPNs Paid VPNs
Tor support
(Not many free VPN work with Tor)
Privacy
(Some free VPNs compromise your privacy and sell your data to third parties)
Security
(Free VPNs often lack important security features such as IP leak protection)
Access to entire server network
(Free VPN plans typically let you connect to a few server locations)
Fast speeds
(Many free VPNs don’t have good enough speeds for Tor traffic)
Unlimited data
Ad, tracker, and malware blocker (if available)
(Free VPNs with an ad blocker usually offer a limited version)

Free VPNs for the Dark Web to Avoid

  • HolaVPN. Hola VPN operates on a P2P basis instead of a typical VPN server network, meaning it swaps your IP address with that of another user. This poses significant risks as someone could use your IP for illegal activities.
  • TurboVPN. TurboVPN claims to uphold a no-logs policy concerning your online activities, yet it does not clarify whether it collects IP addresses.
  • Hoxx VPN. Hoxx VPN logs detailed information about your online activities, device, and location, and its Terms of Use indicate that it might retain this data even after you delete your account.
  • FinchVPN. FinchVPN has an empty website that offers no details about its features, no links on the site work, and you can’t even see the Privacy Policy.
  • AceVPN. AceVPN has very few server locations, doesn’t have a kill switch, or even dedicated apps — you have to manually set it up on devices, which is a real hassle.

Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut

  • TunnelBear. TunnelBear allows Tor traffic on its servers and has a free plan that provides access to all of its server locations and features. The VPN is also really beginner-friendly. That said, its free plan limits you to 2 GB per month, which doesn’t allow for a lot of dark web browsing.
  • Windscribe. Windscribe is a decent free VPN as it has good P2P support, good speeds, and user-friendly apps. However, it only has 2 GB of data per month unless you provide your email (you get 10 GB when you do), which isn’t good for much more than light browsing.
  • Surfshark. This provider allows Tor traffic on servers in 100 countries, lets you connect unlimited devices, and is also really secure. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a free plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to browse the dark web without a VPN?

Yes, but I don’t recommend it. Although the Tor network provides a good level of privacy, it’s not entirely free from online threats. Past instances have revealed security flaws in the Tor Browser, such as the “TorMoil” security flaw that could expose your real IP address on certain platforms. Plus, malicious actors could operate Tor servers and steal your data.

Using a VPN while browsing the dark web provides an additional layer of privacy and security. It’s important to pick a VPN with robust security features, such as strong encryption, leak protection, and a verified no-logs policy, to ensure your online safety.

What’s the best free VPN for the dark web?

The best 100% free VPN for the dark web is Proton VPN because it allows unlimited data for uninterrupted dark web browsing and has very strong security and privacy features. But it limits you to servers in 5 countries (the US, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland, and Japan) and 1 device.

I still recommend getting an affordable paid VPN like ExpressVPN — you get access to servers in 105 countries (that all allow Tor traffic), super fast speeds for browsing the dark web, and high-end security and privacy features.

Is it legal to browse the dark web?

It’s legal to surf the dark web in most countries, though there are regions that have blocked access to the Tor network. If you need help surfing the dark web in a restrictive country, I recommend using a VPN. You should also use a VPN even if Tor is available in your area — the VPN will secure your data so that malicious actors on the dark web can’t steal it.

Will a VPN slow down my speeds when browsing the dark web?

All VPNs slow down your speeds because they encrypt your traffic and because it takes time to route your data from your device to the VPN server. That said, there are many good VPNs out there that minimize the speed loss. My favorite one is ExpressVPN since it has super fast speeds for surfing the dark web — it usually takes just 10 seconds to load .onion links with this VPN (without it, it takes them about 8 seconds to load).

Quick Overview of My Top Recommendations:

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7.8
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About the Author
Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: June 17, 2024

About the Author

Kristel van Hoof is a former tech researcher and writer for SafetyDetectives with a keen interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. For more than 3 years now, she has been testing and reviewing VPNs and other products for online data protection. When she’s not writing for Safety Detectives, she's dancing with her kids, traveling around the world, and cooking her favorite dishes.

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