Internet in Iran is a little tricky. Find out what a VPN is, why it’s a good idea to access the internet in Iran through a VPN and which VPN is best VPN for budget backpackers in Iran.

There are many lovely things in Iran, but good and uncensored internet isn’t one.

When backpacking in Iran, you’ll notice Wi-Fi is actually widely available in hostels and tourist restaurants. The thing is that once you connect, you’ll realise the internet in Iran is slow as balls. And we’re talking proper slow. As in 2 MB/s slow. Compare that to the US average of 21 MB/sec and you’ll never ever complain about Netflix lagging at home, eh?

But the lack of speed is not the only challenge about the internet in Iran. The Iranian government has also put up a pretty massive firewall blocking a long list of Western websites such as Facebook, Skype, and Instagram. Does this mean nobody in Iran uses Facebook? No, it does not. It means a lot of people in Iran use a VPN.

Don’t want to read the whole article? No worries here’s a nice summary of what we think are the 3 best VPNs for Iran.

NameScoreThe gistPrice
PureVPN5/5High speed, travel-friendly, cheap, easy to use$10.95 for 1 month
NordVPN3/5Useful features, varying speed, smooth design, low number of countries$11.95 for 1 month
ExpressVPN4/5Strong connections, user-friendly design, advanced encryption, expensive, overkill for the average backpacker$12.95 for 1 month

Why Do You Need A VPN In Iran?

Lowering the speed and creating a massive firewall are two tools the Iranian government is using to censor the internet in Iran and minimise the access to Western media. The list of blocked websites is long, but here’s just a few more:

  • Twitter
  • CNN
  • BBC
  • Gmail (you can still use Google search)

Luckily, there’s a way to get around this firewall. That way is called a Virtual Privacy Network or VPN.

Further reading: What To Wear In Iran As A Female Backpacker

How Does A VPN Work?

Our trip to Iran was our first time going to a country with internet censorship, and we had no idea what a VPN was or how to use it. All we knew was it’s something people use to watch the US version of Netflix.

A VPN basically works by tricking the internet into thinking you’re somewhere you’re not and encrypting your data.

How does it do this? Good question. When you turn on your VPN, you’re asked to choose which country you want the internet to think you’re in. Your VPN then connects to a server in that country through a sort of “tunnel”. The server connects to the internet and finally, information is sent back to you through the “tunnel”.

In other words, no one else can listen in on the “tunnel” or know where you’re browsing from when your VPN is on.

This means you can:

  • Use public Wi-Fi without worrying about people stealing your data
  • Watch Netflix or other geo-specific streaming services
  • Have sweet internet freedom!
Anti American Graffiti in Tehran

What’s The Best VPN For Iran?

Alright, you get it, VPNs are your best friends in Iran. Next step is to find the right one, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are thousands of companies out there, but here’s the three we think give the most bang for the buck:

750+ servers in 141 countries

Unlimited data

5 simultaneous logins

7-days money-back guarantee

PureVPN is an excellent VPN for backpackers looking to save money. It’s a bit like the station waggon of VPNs; it’s not overly sexy or fancy, but it does the job at an affordable price. On top of that, PureVPN also takes the prize as the most travel-friendly VPN on the list with server locations in no less than 141 countries. That’s a good chunk above the average which means you’ll have fast connections on other trips around the world and not just in Iran.

In terms of user interface, it’s beautifully designed and easy to navigate, even for VPN newbies. The speed is generally good and it comes with five different browsing modes so you can customise the VPN to fit your internet needs.

On the downside, PureVPN does have occasional connection issues on a few specific servers. The high number of countries available should offset that pretty easily as you’ll always have a wide selection of global servers to choose from. So, as for the verdict for PureVPN: if you’re looking for a solid, not-too-pricey VPN, this is an excellent budget backpacker option.

PureVPN costs:

  • $10.95 for 1 month
  • $8.95/month for 6 months
  • $10.95/month for 2 years
Go to PureVPN
NordVPN one of the best VPNs for Iran

929 servers in 57 countries

Unlimited data

6 simultaneous logins

30-days money-back guarantee

Above all, NordVPN stands out for its unbeatable prices. As long as you sign up for at least 6 months, these guys are by far the cheapest option on the market. Along with the ridiculously low prices come a smooth and intuitive design and a number of useful inbuilt features. This includes a connection wizard that suggests which country’s servers would suit your needs best so you don’t need to waste time guessing around.

Now, on the less positive side, NordVPN does have a few drawbacks. For one, it has servers in three times as few countries as PureVPN. That’s the lowest number of countries on the list which makes NordVPN the least travel-friendly VPN in terms of global server locations. Another issue is the speed which tends to vary quite a lot depending on the time of day. Especially in Iran, that can get quite annoying. Like we said before, decent internet connections in Iran are few and far between, so when you do actually find one, you want your VPN to work.

But, all in all, if you can live with a few issues here and there, NordVPN is another excellent and very affordable VPN for Iran.

NordVPN costs:

  • $11.95 for 1 month
  • $7.00/month for 6 months
  • $5.75/month for 1 year
Go to NordVPN
ExpressVPN one of the VPNs for Iran

1,500+ servers in 94 countries

Unlimited data

3 simultaneous logins

30-days money-back guarantee

If PureVPN is the station waggon of VPNs, ExpressVPN might just be the Ferrari. Granted, the price is not very backpacker-friendly, but you’ll be getting the crème de la crème.

ExpressVPN is a market leader that really does tick all the boxes. The speed is consistently high, the performance is reliable, the amount of servers is impressive, and the server connections are strong. Design-wise, the user interface is extremely user-friendly and the website is quite helpful if you have any questions.

All of this is a massive win in itself, but the area where ExpressVPN really shines is its security. You’d have to look really hard to find a VPN with the same level of Fort-Knox-worthy encryption as these guys. In fact, for most backpackers, the level of security might even be unnecessarily high. Unless you’ve got some very compromising Iran selfies to hide, you don’t technically need to be this well protected. But hey, in this case, security doesn’t come at the expense of performance, so why not?

Overall, this is a smooth-running, gently purring little machine. Apart from the hefty price, the only downside is the low number of simultaneous logins. To be honest, though, 3 devices should be enough for just one person. So, if you’re willing to cough up a little extra, ExpressVPN is your guy!

ExpressVPN costs:

  • $12.95 for 1 month
  • $9.99/month for 6 months
  • $12.95/month for 1 year.
Go to ExpressVPN
Old man on a bench in Iran

Be Careful With Free VPNs

Now, we know what you’re thinking: why aren’t these guy suggesting any free VPNs? Any self-respecting budget backpacker would at least consider the free option, but you need to tread carefully when it comes to free VPNs. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll have to look at annoying adverts
  • Free VPNs are slower and have far fewer servers
  • There are limits on data transfer and how long you can be connected

And we haven’t mentioned the worst part yet. As if all of this wasn’t enough – hang on to your hat for this one -, a free VPN might even be watching everything you do and selling the information. Yep, that’s right, bank details, passwords, and all sorts of other nasty things. Just check out this article about a previously popular free VPN. You had one job, VPN.

Further reading: How To Budget For Backpacking In Iran

Pro Tips For Using VPNs

No matter which lovely VPN you choose, you’ll want to get the most out of your new toy. We’ll end this post with some pro tips for using a VPN in Iran:

  • Download your VPN before you go! They’re hard to get once you’re in Iran
  • Download your favourite VPN and then another as a backup, in case Iran has blocked its servers
  • Don’t forget to turn it on (sounds silly, we know, but we forgot to do it several times)
  • Connect to countries close to your actual location for a faster connection
  • Note that running a VPN will drain your battery quickly (it killed our iPhones over 4G)
  • The internet might sometimes be too slow for your VPN to work (this happened a lot in Iran)

Further reading: How To Get An Iranian Visa On Arrival

With all of this in mind, it shouldn’t be too hard to find the right VPN for Iran. There’s something for everybody, whether your main priority is saving money, looking at some nice design or enjoying high-quality internet safety. And once you get your VPN up and running, you can get back to stalking people on Facebook knowing nobody is looking over your shoulder!

Still Confused?

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