Are you planning a trip to Ethiopia? With every international trip you make, if you plan on accessing the internet, you need to be aware of local regulations — and Ethiopia has one of the most restricted and monitored internet networks around the globe. To make matters worse, since 2016, Ethiopia’s government has been blocking not just websites with politically-opposite opinions, but social media as well. So even just checking up with friends and family while in the country becomes a nigh-impossible task.
Luckily, if you use a VPN while in Ethiopia, your information will be encrypted and sent through an alternate IP – which means you can appear as if you’re actually sitting in a café in the United States – or anywhere else for that matter – and access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest with ease. In this guide, we’re going to show you how we selected our top picks for the best VPNs for Ethiopia, which ones we chose, and some other reasons to employ a VPN and things to consider.
Let’s dive in!
How do you pick the best VPN?
If you’re just going to be in Ethiopia for a short time, it can be very tempting to install a “free” VPN. But, we strongly recommend against this. So-called free VPNs partake in iffy practices, like selling user data to third parties, using poor-to-little encryption, and even selling access to users’ devices for botnets – a major security risk.
Good, paid VPNs, on the other hand – especially those on the list below – don’t sell your data (or even keep logs on it), have powerful encryption tech, and don’t cut deals with third parties. So with that and the problems with Ethiopian internet access mentioned above firmly in mind, there are some specific and general things you need to keep an eye out for in your VPN research.
- Security and privacy – The VPNs on this list needed awesome encryption and a strong zero-logging. Any less is unacceptable.
- Speed – To be considered, the providers needed to have fast server connections, and minimum lag time and buffering. Encrypting your data can slow it down already – you need the fastest VPNs out there.
- Server network size – The bigger the network, the better (within reason). A VPN with a large, widespread network gives you many options to choose from to find the best server to get around geo-blocks. And, going with the last bullet-point, you can find the fastest server available to you more easily.
- Software availability – Each VPN needed to have software support across many platforms, so you can keep yourself safe across all your devices. Whether they have Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, or another, you’ll be able to protect your phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop at once.
Best VPNs for Ethiopia
Now, we present our 2018 list of the best VPNs to stay anonymous online in Ethiopia:
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPN providers on the market today. They give you buffer-free streaming, fast download speeds, and seamless browsing on a network of unlimited bandwidth, no throttling or speed caps, and no restrictions on P2P files or torrents. ExpressVPN has a large server network, numbering greater than 2,000 in 94 countries – so you’ll never have to worry about finding the best, fastest connection for your use-case.
This provider pledges never to keep logs on your traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, or browsing history – so none of your data can be used to identify you. And, with 256-bit AES encryption – the best in the biz – it would take the world’s strongest supercomputer millions of years to get at your data and traffic as it flies to and from your device, to the server, and to the websites you visit.
ExpressVPN offers split tunneling, a built-in speed test, DNS leak test, and an automatic kill switch. It’s available across a wide variety of software types, so you’ll always be safe – no matter what device you’re on.
Take a look at our full review of ExpressVPN!
NordVPN keeps you safe and virtually untraceable with their zero-logging policy. They don’t keep logs on your traffic, IP address, timestamps, bandwidth, or browsing history – making it one of the most complete in the industry. And the five encryption protocols built into NordVPN’s 256-bit encryption give you different variations on speed and security, keeping you safe and fast no matter your use-case.
5,100+ servers in 62 countries make NordVPN the largest VPN network provider out there – and they’re always growing. And, amongst that vast network, they offer specialty servers for various use-cases. These include specialty servers for the Onion network, anti-DDoS, Double VPN, P2P, Dedicated IP address, and Obfuscated servers – perfect for advanced users.
NordVPN’s advanced features make it one of the most reliable VPNs for bypassing VPN blocks. This helps you access video-streaming services like Netflix and Hulu with ease. It also includes toggles that can block things like ads and malware, keeping you extra safe. And NordVPN is available on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, Router, and RaspberryPi.
Check out our full NordVPN review to learn more.
CyberGhost is a fantastic choice for beginner VPN-users. It’s easy to install, with a colorful display that immediately offers you six preset configurations. These give you the best settings for the most common use-cases, so you don’t have to worry about optimizing them yourself. And each profile is customizable, with simple toggles that include extra speed, data compression, and ad- and malware-blocking capabilities.
But don’t rush to think you’re losing out on security or network size with such an easy-to-use VPN – CyberGhost has military-grade, 256-bit AES encryption with the usual 5 protocols. And with more than 2,700 servers in 60 countries, their network size is nothing to shake a stick at.
Learn more in our comprehensive CyberGhost review!
Another great provider for beginners, PrivateVPN offers first-time installers a unique help-feature: “Remote Help,” which offers virtual help and installation via a real-time screen share, making setup a breeze. Based out of Sweden, they offer over 100 servers in 56 countries, giving you enough options to find a server that will get you past geo-blocks.
You can also connect up to six devices at once and keep all your devices secure with their 256-bit AES encryption through OpenVPN. They have a great zero-logging policy that, combined with their privacy-friendly home-base of Sweden, prevents your activity from being pulled and traced back to you. With support across all the major software platforms, you’re sure to be happy with PrivateVPN.
Find out more about this great provider in our full PrivateVPN review.
Why use a VPN in Ethiopia
As touched on earlier, Ethiopia has one of the most censored and monitored internet networks in the world. A big reason for this is that the country has just one ISP: Ethio Telecom. Ethio Telecom is regulated by the Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency – which is not an independent body, but rather a part of the Ethiopian government.
Because the Ethiopian government has a monopolized control over the entire country’s internet, they’re free to do what they please. As such, Ethiopia bans all websites that have views opposite the current government – blogs, news outlets, TV and radio websites, and international digital rights, as well. The government doesn’t just block certain websites, however – they censor based off keywords. In theory, a single wrong word on a website could cause it to be blocked instantly.
The Ethiopian government has used their control over the internet as a weapon to continuously censor opposing viewpoints. They’ve even shut down mobile connectivity several times to prevent the general public from having access to critical opinions. In 2016, they even blocked or severely restricted access to sites like Facebook, Instagram, IMO, Google+, Twitter, Viber, Skype, and WhatsApp.
That context gained, let’s look at how a VPN can help you get around these harsh restrictions.
Get around geo-blocking and censorship
If you’ve been to or reside in Ethiopia, it probably didn’t take you long to get frustrated with the constant “this video/web page/etc. is not available” error messages. Whether you were trying to access one of the websites already mentioned, or were trying to get onto streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer, so many sites are blocked in Ethiopia.
With a VPN, though, you’ll be able to get past these blocks the vast majority of the time. Safely and securely getting past firewalls like are encountered in Ethiopia is something VPNs are very good at doing. By using a VPN, you change your IP address to one in another location – so it looks like you’re elsewhere, just passing through from another, free, country and tricking your way around the regional censorship.
Dodge surveillance and tracking
If you’re worried about having your traffic traced back to you, despite using another IP address – don’t be. When you use a VPN, your traffic – and all of your data, including your DNS and IP – are sent through an encrypted “tunnel” to the VPN server you’re using. From there, it takes on the location of the server before being sent back through the same encrypted tunnel to your device, where you see whatever you’re looking at.
With this encryption, your data is kept private and secure from third-parties (like the ISP – i.e. Ethiopian government). They and other prying eyes can’t see what you’re doing online. And with a zero-logging policy, even if someone wanted the records pulled from the server you’re using, they’d find nothing that would trace back to you.
VPNs aren’t foolproof – How to stay safe online
As great as VPNs are, they aren’t completely invincible. Fortunately, there are other, simple things you can do to shore up these weak points and stay safe and secure. Use these tips:
- Don’t use a free VPN – We discussed this earlier, but it’s so important it bears mentioning again. While tempting, most free VPN’s aren’t really “free” – instead of money, you pay in data. Most actively destroy your online privacy by logging and/or selling your information to third parties. Low-cost, but well-established paid VPNs are what you should use.
- Mobile device encryption – Your smart phone and tablet contain a lot of important information about you, and VPNs don’t protect them from being hacked. To stay safe, learn how to encrypt your Android or iPhone.
- Security browser extensions – HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger are two browser extensions that force all websites to be encrypted whenever possible. They also disable tracking scripts, ensuring high-level browser security.
- Anti-virus + anti-malware – Viruses and malware are still problems to contend with – even with a VPN. Unless you keep your anti-virus and -malware programs active at all times, things like trojans can slip through your computer’s defenses and infect your device.
Getting a VPN in Ethiopia is a quick, simple, and easy way to bypass strict censorships and secure your data from being traced back to you while doing so. In no time flat, you can be enjoying the free, open internet – just the way it was intended.
Do you currently live or plan to travel to Ethiopia? What have been your experiences with internet censorship and usage there? Tell us about it in the comments section below!