Surfshark VPN Review

I may make commissions from purchases made through some links. Read here for more information.

Surfshark VPN is a virtual private network (VPN) service with more than 3,200 servers in more than 95 countries. It’s low-cost (if you commit) and is excellent for people living in countries with strict censorship because of its NoBorders feature.

I think I’ve used Surfshark VPN for a couple of years now. So I want to put together a review based on my experience and possibly make a recommendation.

Areas I’ll cover to help you determine whether Surfshark is worth it include:

Keep reading. Figure out whether you should keep shopping for VPN software.

Pros and Cons of Surfshark VPN

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using Surfshark’s VPN:

Pros of Surfshark VPN

  • Country and server support
  • Works with various services
  • Great for countries with strict online censorship laws
  • Easy to install
  • Affordable

Cons of Surfshark VPN

  • Annoying desktop notifications, though I turned off notifications
  • Would like biometric or security-key based 2FA login
  • Company is based in a 9 Eyes country
  • Nord Security now owns Surfshark (NordVPN’s parent company)

Who Is Surfshark VPN Best For?

Surfshark VPN is best for the following groups:

  • Those in countries with strict censorship laws
  • Overseas digital nomads or expats: helps find Google results relevant to a specific country you want to see results in
  • Accessing streaming services from anywhere
  • Online gamers: CAN decrease ping (latency), which results in smoother gameplay
  • Anyone with internet service providers that throttle connections

It works great for bypassing The Great Firewall of China to access websites outside China. That’s just an example. Plenty of other countries have internet censorship rules.

And if you’re an expat or digital nomad who wants to research content not localized for the country you’re in, Surfshark works as a wonderful solution to that.

If you’re in Taiwan and want to research something like “Nasal Polyps” for a project yet don’t want results like “Nasal Polyp Removal in Taipei,” a VPN works well for changing those results.

Streaming services. Say you’re in the U.S. and want to watch Netflix Japan, you could use a VPN to change your location to Japan and localize your Netflix results.

Stable online gaming requires lower ping. The only way to lower your ping is to somehow place yourself closer to the game’s servers.

Here’s an example. Guild Wars 2 (GW2) doesn’t have servers in Southeast Asia. If you were to jump on a GW2 server while living in Vietnam, you’d have HORRENDOUS lag.

Switching your location to a US-based Surfshark server close to a GW2 server could reduce your lag.

Many online gaming services prohibit masking your IP and could ban your account. Use this service for that purpose at your own risk.

VPNs generally hide your web traffic (most of the time) from internet service providers. That means if you were to stream videos, your ISP might not know you’re watching media. Thus, they can’t throttle your speeds.

Back to Table of Contents

Surfshark VPN Specifications

Split-tunneling Tool (Bypasser)Yes
* Compatible Streaming ServicesHulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Netflix, and more
No Logs PolicyNo logs kept
Malware BlockerYes (free)
# of Servers3,200
Countries Supported95+
Web Tracker BlockerYes
Number of Device ConnectionsUnlimited
Country Based InNetherlands
VPN Kill SwitchYes
Ad-blockerYes (free)
IP RotatingYes
EncryptionAES-256-GCM
Protocol SupportWireGuard, OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
GPS Spoofing FeatureYes (Android Only)
Surfshark VPN specs.

* Whether Surfshark VPN works for streaming services appears to vary by person. I, and other folks, have had no issues. But many people will complain that “X” streaming service blocked their device.

What is Surfshark VPN?

Surfshark VPN is a virtual private network (VPN) service that offers 3,200 servers in more than 95 countries.

It’s based in the Netherlands and owned by Nord Security. The company that owns NordVPN. However, these companies don’t share their servers and will operate independently [1].

And that means NordVPN will remain based in Panama.

Surfshark VPN Features

Surfshark VPN offers the following services:

  • Encryption protocols
  • RAM-based servers
  • Browser extension
  • GPS spoofing
  • Bypasser (split tunneling): turns off your VPN for certain apps or websites
  • CleanWeb: blocks ads, malware, phishing attempts, and trackers
  • GPS spoofing: changes your location
  • Invisibility on local area networks (LAN)
  • IP rotation
  • Kill switch

The following sections will explain some of these features in-depth.

1. Software Encryption: Is Surfshark Safe?

Let’s explore the additional protocols that Surfshark uses to protect your privacy:

  • IKEv2/IPsec: best for mobile devices
  • OpenVPN: great for everyday use
  • WireGuard: newest protocol suited for everyday use

Surfshark VPN’s encryption protocols use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 algorithm. In simple terms, with 256 bits, a hacker would need 256 combinations to break this type of encryption.

No technology we possess could penetrate this type of encryption.

Also, Surfshark claims it would take billions of years for the fastest computer on Earth to steal your data with brute force [2].

2. RAM-Based Servers

Instead of traditional servers based on hard drives, Surfshark VPN uses 100% RAM-only servers. With these types of servers, staff can easily wipe users’ data. Whenever something or someone turns off a RAM-based server, the server automatically wipes all data.

3. Browser Extension

The German cybersecurity firm Cure53 performed a penetration test (PDF link) to review the extensions’ code and gave it a passing grade [3].

I daily drive the Surfshark browser extension through Chrome and almost haven’t had any issues with it. The user experience isn’t ideal for my use cases. I often use VPNs for pulling up search results in a different country and rarely use the Quick Connect feature.

surfshark vpn browser addon dashboard

Why can’t they add a “Favorites” section to the main pop-up page?

While it only requires an extra click to get to the VPN selection page and select my favorite, having to frequently drag my mouse across separate monitors to get to the screen is quite annoying.

I’m nitpicking:

But most of the other tabs on the extension promote Surfshark’s other products. Like the antivirus and Search. Again, a bit annoying. Since I don’t use any of those products and see those tabs as clutter.

I love the settings menu. It gives me an additional add and cookie pop-up blocker. Though my browser already includes those features.

If you’re primarily using a VPN for online browsing, you may just want to download the browser extension instead of the desktop application.

4. Override GPS Location (Android Only)

The GPS spoofing feature allows you to change your phone’s GPS location. It’s a valuable feature for preventing apps like Uber from knowing your location at all times. Or if you want to access an app that’s only available in some countries.

But use GPS to track your location.

Don’t try to use the override GPS feature for games like Pokémon GO (POGO). It doesn’t work most of the time. Unless you root your phone.

If the POGO developers catch you spoofing, they’ll shadow- or permanently ban your account.

You’ll need to enable your Android Phone’s developer options to use this feature. To do so, navigate to your phone’s About page and tap “Build Number” 7 times. Enabling developer options gives your phone the ability to use mock locations applications.

5. Invisible on LAN

Enabling Invisible on LAN hides your device from others on the same network. It’s a useful feature if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network and don’t want other folks on the same network to see your device.

This feature could prevent a hacker from eavesdropping on you while you’re using Starbucks Wi-Fi.

6. Rotating IP

Surfshark will change your IP address automatically every 5 to 10 minutes. This helps add anonymity to your connection since it’ll mimic your activities with requests from various users.

Rotating IPs are helpful in scraping when performing search engine optimization (SEO), lead generation, and marketing research.

While a nice feature, it’s not stable. Every time your IP changes, you’ll encounter interruptions in your online task. For instance, if you’re watching Netflix, you must refresh your page once your IP changes.

Back to Table of Contents

Surfshark Cost: Plans and Pricing

Here’s the pricing for all Surfshark’s plans:

Tier* PriceBilled Upfront
Per Month$12.95/mo.$12.95
Per Year$3.99/mo.$47.88
Per 2 Years$2.49/mo.$59.76
Surfshark One$1.49/mo.† Varies
Incogni$5.79–$11.49/mo.$69.48 (annual plan)
Surfshark VPN plans and pricing.

* These prices don’t include sales tax. These amounts will vary based on your location. I also labeled these prices in USD.

† The amount they’ll charge you depends on the length you set for your plan to last. For instance, choosing a 24-month Surfshark One plan will cost more than $35.

Surfshark supports various international currencies. Because of website localization, they’ll automatically convert the price to your country’s currency.

Paying for two 1-year plans separately will cost $95.76. A 2-year plan will save you a little more than 46%.

They give you a 30-day money-back guarantee. You could go with the 2-year plan. And if you don’t like the service before the 30 days pass, get your money back.

And if you like Surfshark, you’ll have saved a lot of money.

But there are two enormous risks of VPNs.

Government legislation and software company scandals.

Governments could pass laws banning VPNs anytime. It would suck considering you locked yourself into a “contract” with a provider. If that happens. In that scenario, contact Surfshark and let them know your country doesn’t allow you to use VPNs anymore and request a refund.

They may help.

And company scandals. You may find out later that Surfshark wasn’t the best or most trustworthy company. Hopefully, this never happens.

If a scandal ever happens, I’ll withdraw my recommendation. Anyway, let’s move on to payment methods.

You can pay for a Surfshark subscription with the following payment methods:

  • PayPal
  • Google Pay
  • Credit/debit card: Visa, Amex, Discover, and Mastercard
  • Cryptocurrency: Ripple, Bitcoin, and Ethereum

I included Surfshark One in the pricing table. It’s not essential for your VPN to work. And it’s a separate service.

Surfshark One

Surfshark One is an optional add-on subscription service for Surfshark VPN. It includes these features:

  • Antivirus: malware protection and removal
  • Search engine: private in-house search engine
  • Alert: monitors the internet for data breaches with your accounts

You can use the antivirus on Android and Windows operating systems. It’s not useful for Mac, iOS, or Linux users.

As with the scans, the full scan will take a couple of hours, while the regular scan takes up to 10 minutes. There’s nothing special about it.

If you want to support the company, adding Surfshark One to your plan doesn’t cost much. 

Otherwise, use free alternatives for each feature:

  • Antivirus:
    • Malwarebytes: if your PC is already infected
    • Windows Defender: sufficient antivirus software
    • VirusTotal: to check files and links for viruses (always use this)
    • Common sense: don’t click sketchy links
    • Ad-blocking software: browsers, Pi-Hole, or whatever’s available
  • Search engine: DuckDuckGo
  • Alert: Firefox Monitor

Ingcogni

Surfshark offers a data removal service (Incogni) for $5.79–$11.49 monthly. They’ll remove your personal data from more than 130 data brokers, continually search for new data brokers, and update data removal requests when necessary.

The former number requires you to get an annual subscription. Meanwhile, the latter is their monthly plan.

So you may have Googled your name and found random websites listing your contact information on their websites. Without your permission. These are data brokers.

They obtain your information by scouring every source online, and then allegedly sell it to the highest bidder. Companies who obtain your information may fill your call logs with telemarketing calls or send you junk snail mail (or email).

This information lying around the web can also be dangerous. Because it could lead to doxing. That’s when someone publicly releases your information. And with strangers knowing that information, they could harass or stalk you.

While Incogni may not remove your information from ALL brokers, it could help.

And you could manually request to delete this data yourself, but that takes a lot of time. I’ve tried it and found my information just re-released online after requesting a deletion request.

And Incogni will automatically submit deletion requests.

It’s not a VPN service. But it’s a nice addition to your arsenal of removing your personal information from the internet.

They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you hate it, just cancel.

Back to Table of Contents

Application User Experience

I want to cover the main menu once you open the Surfshark app.

This is on macOS. Your dashboard may look different:

surfshark vpn home page dashboard
Surfshark VPN settings.

Access the location that’ll result in the least loss in performance with a single click. It’s a minimalist design.

The only complaint I have is that Surfshark doesn’t label the icons on the left. The second icon on the left side menu is a location selection area. The third is them trying to convince you to purchase Surfshark One. And the fourth is—

Behold, the settings:

surfshark vpn settings
Surfshark VPN settings.

I kept Surfshark CleanWeb off because I already have an ad blocker. You can also enable and disable your Kill Switch or Auto Connect. The Protocol setting allows you to select your encryption method.

I stuck with WireGuard.

NoBorders allows you to use your VPN in restrictive regions like China. Surfshark doesn’t explain how it works, nor can I provide a first-hand experience that it’ll work in China. But from the stories I’ve read, Surfshark does work in China.

Surfshark VPN Speed

Before proceeding, here are the areas that I’ll test and why they’re essential:

  • Download speed: affects how fast your device receives data
  • Upload speed: determines how fast your device sends data
  • Ping: shows how fast your data transfers from one place to another
  • Jitter: the delay in sending data over your network
    • This measurement should sit below 30 ms

The trials.

Here’s my speed with my VPN disabled and running off Wi-Fi. This test was taken in Taiwan.

surfshark vpn test without active vpn

It was night when I tested this. Meaning, many people were online.

Afterward, I went into Surfshark, activated the WireGuard protocol (likely what you’ll use, too), and connected my VPN to a Taiwan server on the opposite side of the country.

surfshark vpn taiwan test

5.50% increase in ping and a 29.19% reduction in upload speed. I don’t know what was going on with the download speed. Somehow, when using the VPN, I had higher download speeds.

I tested multiple times after that and still sat in the 90s with download speed.

I also connected to a New York server using the same settings and protocol.

surfshark vpn test_ new york

Odd that upload speed on the other side of the globe suffered a 7.28% loss. However, you’ll notice a significant 122.05% increase in ping.

Here I saw a 27.40% loss in download speed.

Not too bad, but I could still stream videos without any issues.

During my trials, I also used a server in Los Angeles. Lost 16.71% download speed but had a 187.23% reduction in upload speed.

As for the ping, there was a 98.07% increase compared to not using a VPN.

I performed the speed tests quickly after one another.

After the speed tests, I went back to each server and streamed media to test the VPN’s reliability.

Concluding This Test

Despite some grimmer readings throughout my tests, I could still stream without issues. If you get a VPN, I recommend connecting your device to a router VIA an Ethernet cable to maximize your speed.

This test also didn’t account for throttling. This is when a cable internet service provider (ISP) limits your available bandwidth and latency. And it doesn’t account for attenuation that comes with digital service line (DSL) internet.

Attenuation is when your internet speed gets slower—and ping increases—when you live further from your ISP’s Digital subscriber line access multiplexer (DSLAM).

You’ll notice the most negligible impact from VPN usage when going with fiber optic internet plans. Since they offer the highest speeds. And don’t suffer from the same flaws as DSL and cable.

Also, during this test, I did not purposely attempt to download files with malware to test Surfshark’s Clean Web feature. Nor do I recommend you do the same.

How Surfshark Privacy Compares To Other VPNs

Surfshark VPN runs on a no-log policy. Meaning, they don’t retain user data.

However, the biggest concern stems from their relocating from the British Virgin Isles to the Netherlands, a member of the 9 Eyes intelligence group.

The Netherlands is subject to the Dragnet Act. It allows for the untargeted interception of communications.

After speaking to Surfshark, they assured me the above laws and group wouldn’t affect their no-log policy. They spread their technologies around the world to avoid risking our privacy.

If you don’t want to pay using crypto, use a virtual debit card masking service like Privacy to shield your data further.

Back to Table of Contents

How to Reach Surfshark Customer Service

Reach Surfshark’s customer service through these channels:

Usually when contacting Surfshark’s customer support, I’ve had a pleasant experience. They didn’t beat around the bush regarding my questions. And were friendly.

Dealing With DNS Leaks

A DNS leak is when someone can intercept any communication between your DNS and browser. If you have a DNS leak, you’re not benefiting from any anonymity from a VPN.

But it’s fix(able).

I used Mullvad VPN’s privacy vulnerability tool to check whether the IP addresses I used with Surfshark VPN were blacklisted—they weren’t blacklisted. However, it did say I had a DNS leak.

I went to Surfshark’s DNS leak test to see if they provided any options. But when I clicked “Stop DNS Leak,” it just took me to a landing page. Their tool did tell me the DNS provider that’s leaking my DNS.

From there, I went into my browser’s settings and deactivated “Use secure DNS.” From there, I passed Surfshark’s leak test and technically passed Mullvad’s test.

But what’s a DNS?

A DNS (Domain Name System) is a naming system meant to identify services and devices through the internet.

Ease of Installation

Whether you’re using Surfshark VPN on your desktop, smartphone, or browser extension, it’s simple to set up. Create your account, purchase your plan, and install the software.

Installing Surfshark VPN on a router throws you into a different scenario.

First, you’ll need to find your router’s IP address. The way you log in to your router will vary by model. Type “How to log into ‘X’ router” into Google and follow the steps that appear.

Surfshark has a router installation tutorial to help you with installing your VPN. Next, you’ll want to follow Surfshark’s instructions on setting up their VPN on your router. These steps involve logging into your router’s settings and making adjustments.

Back to Table of Contents

3 Alternatives to Surfshark VPN

Below are a couple of virtual private network options—and a DIY option—to explore:

VPN ProviderPriceNumber of Servers
Surfshark VPN1 mo.: $12.95/mo.
1 yr.: $3.99/mo.
2 yrs.: $2.49/mo.
3,200+
ExpressVPN1 mo.: $12.95/mo.
6 mo.: $9.99/mo.
1 yr.: $8.32/mo.
*3,000+
Mullvad VPN$5.00/mo.759
Surfshark alternatives.

* ExpressVPN does not officially reveal the number of servers at their disposal.

1. ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark VPN

Choose Surfshark VPN because:

  • More server options
  • Servers in more countries
  • Better pricing options

Express VPN is a better option because:

  • Based in the British Virgin Islands: not a member of intelligence-sharing alliances

I’ve had a better experience using Surfshark VPN than ExpressVPN. It’s cheaper and uses WireGuard. Plus, Surfshark offers more servers in a wider selection of countries. As mentioned, ExpressVPN does not disclose the number of servers they operate.

The argument between Surfshark and ExpressVPN lies between the countries they’re based in. While the British Virgin Isles is a part of Britain, it’s a self-governing area. It has its own laws and regulations. And isn’t required to share information with the British government.

From my understanding. It appears the information the BVI must share is the exchange of information regarding taxpayer residents’ locations [4].

2. Mullvad VPN vs. Surfshark VPN

Pick Surfshark if:

  • Has more servers
  • Cheaper when you remain subscribed for longer

Mullvad VPN will work as a better option in these areas:

  • Discount when using cryptocurrency
  • Transparent about policies & marketing
  • Doesn’t store account information

Surfshark offers better pricing the longer you keep your account and more servers. Mullvad works better for privacy-conscious people who don’t even want to provide their email addresses to the VPN provider.

An overview of Mullvad VPN:

The virtual private network service provider runs 759 servers within 38 countries and 64 cities.

The types of servers vary among OpenVPN, Bridge, and WireGuard. Their website provides real-time information on each server to monitor maintenance, service issues, and server status.

They charge either a monthly, annual, or lifetime fee. All are €5 ($5.65) per month.

Do you want discounts with Mullvad?

Due to reduced transfer fees, get a 10% discount with Mullvad when using crypto.

Also, unlike any other VPN, you can pay with cash. They explain how everything works on their website.

Mullvad provides a free scan on their website to determine whether you’re suffering from leaking DNS servers and WebRTC leaks. Moreover, it’ll tell you whether your IP address is blacklisted anywhere.

If you’re confused by any of the above terms, Mullvad explains in-depth what they are and how to fix the privacy vulnerabilities.

3. Create a VPN for $1

When looking up tutorials online, they all say this method is free. However, you’ll use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a VPN. They’ll verify your payment method by charging a dollar. Not that bad if you need a VPN server in the US while traveling.

It’s fairly easy to do this.

You’ll need an AWS account, a debit/credit card, 20 minutes, and administrative access to your computer’s terminal. Moreover, throughout this tutorial, you’ll be using OpenVPN as the VPN service provider with AWS as the server.

I can’t explain the tutorial as well as the YouTuber below:

However, don’t expect too much data privacy with this.

Creating a free VPN is useful if you don’t intend on using that much bandwidth for a short period.

Back to Table of Contents

Surfshark VPN Deals: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, & More

Surfshark currently does not have any special deals.

VPN Buying Guide

The following are features that you should look out for whenever shopping for virtual private networks:

  • Security: check the company’s history to ensure whether they’ve been hacked
    • Also, look for accounts that offer 2-factor authentication login
  • Server locations: check location coverage to ensure they have servers in the countries you would like to relocate to
  • Device support: what device can you use with the aforementioned VPN?
  • Payment methods: ensure you can pay your bill
  • VPN business location: this determines the company’s data policies
  • Data privacy: ensure a VPN provider has a “no-log” policy
  • Encryption methods: providers offer various options that either enhance your security or improve your speed

FAQs

Save time from scouring the Surfshark VPN support pages and Google when you can find your answers here.

Where Is Surfshark VPN Located?

Surfshark VPN is based in the Netherlands as of 2021. Many sources say Surfshark VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, that information is outdated as of October 1st, 2021.

Is Surfshark VPN in the 5 Eyes?

Surfshark VPN isn’t within the 5 Eyes jurisdiction. However, they are within the 9 Eyes since they are in the Netherlands.

How Many Countries Does Surfshark VPN Have Servers In?

Surfshark VPN has 3,200 servers throughout more than 65 countries.

Wrapping up

Surfshark offers an excellent service for a great price point for you who think their competitors cost too much. While they don’t provide the most features, this VPN will give you what you need—a VPN service.

Hopefully, this review of Surfshark VPN helped you learn more about this service.
Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Consider at least trying Surfshark. Worst case scenario, you’ll need to request a refund before 30 days of using your service.

person standing on top of Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan City, Taiwan

About Tee

Tee began first experienced the wonders of traveling when visiting Vietnam. Afterward, he went crazy and ventured to at least… More about Tee