Surfshark VPN is a virtual private network (VPN) service with over 3,200 servers in over 95 countries. It’s low-cost (if you commit) and is great 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:
- Pros and cons
- Who it’s best for
- What it is
- User experience
- Network speed impacts
- DNS leaks
- Whether it’s easy to install
- Criteria for choosing a good VPN
Keep reading and 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:
- Works with various streaming ang gaming services
- Great for countries with strict online censorship laws
- Easy to install
- Annoying desktop notifications though I turned off notifications
- Would like biometric or security-key based 2FA login
- Nord Security now owns Surfshark (NordVPN’s parent company)
- Company is based in a 9 Eyes country
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. So 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. So 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.
Surfshark VPN Specifications
|Split-tunneling Tool (Bypasser)||Yes|
|Compatible Streaming Services||Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Netflix, and more|
|No Logs Policy||No logs kept|
|Malware Blocker||Yes (free)|
|# of Servers||3,200|
|Web Tracker Blocker||Yes|
|Number of Device Connections||Unlimited|
|Country Based In||Netherlands|
|VPN Kill Switch||Yes|
|Protocol Support||WireGuard & OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)|
|GPS Spoofing Feature||Yes (Android Only)|
What is Surfshark VPN?
Surfshark VPN is a virtual private network (VPN) service that offers 3,200 servers in over 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 .
And that means NordVPN will continue to remain based in Panama.
Surfshark VPN Features
Surfshark VPN offers the following services:
- Encryption protocols
- 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.
Software Encryption: Is Surfshark Safe?
For all of Surfshark VPN’s encryption protocols, they use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 algorithm. In simple terms, with 256 bits, that means a hacker would need 256 different 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.
Most modern companies use AES-256 encryption to protect your data. And thankfully, Surfshark is one of them.
Let’s explore the additional protocols that Surfshark uses to protect your privacy:
- OpenVPN: great for everyday use
- WireGuard: newest protocol suited for everyday use
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.
Moreover, whenever something or someone turns off a RAM-based server, the server automatically wipes all data.
Many know browser extensions for their security problems. However, these problems don’t exist with Surfshark VPN’s Firefox and Chrome extensions.
How do I know?
The German cybersecurity firm Cure53 performed a penetration test (PDF link) to review the extensions’ code and gave it a passing grade.
Surfshark VPN’s browser extension best serves you who don’t want to download the application and need lightweight software.
Otherwise, there isn’t much reason to download the add-on.
Application User Experience
If you love software that’s easy to use, thankfully, Surfshark is one of those services that doesn’t force you to make a million clicks to achieve one task.
So, first, I want to cover the main menu once you open the Surfshark app.
This is on macOS, so your dashboard may look different.
With a single click, you can access the location that’ll result in the least loss in performance. 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.
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 Customer Service
You can contact Surfshark VPN’s customer service via email or live chat. If you opt for the live chat feature, it will start with talking with a chatbot.
However, if you don’t like speaking to a chatbot, you can request to speak with an actual person.
The person I talked to was delightful.
Moreover, reviews of Surfshark’s customer service experiences mirrored mine.
Troubleshooting and Testing
The following are several speed tests and an issue that I ran into while setting up Surfshark VPN. Of course, my situation differs from yours, so what results in you get from using this software will differ. This test is meant to give you an estimate as to how this VPN service would work for an average internet user.
Dealing With DNS Leaks
First off, a DNS (Domain Name System) is a naming system meant to identify services and devices through the internet.
A DNS leak is when someone can intercept any communication between your DNS and browser.
If you have a DNS leak, then you’re not benefiting from any anonymity from a VPN.
You can fix DNS leaks, though.
While the VPN service itself doesn’t fix it, you can take steps to address these issues.
However, it usually requires you to deal with your network or browser settings.
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.
Units of measurement.
Before proceeding, here are the areas that I’ll test and why they’re important:
Download speed: affects how quickly websites load, files download, media streams, and most other online tasks. Higher speeds are what you’ll want.
Upload speed: determines how fast your computer can send data to the internet. A good example is uploading a picture to cloud storage, which would use uploading speed. The higher the upload speed, the better.
Ping: shows how fast your data transfers from one place to another. For example, the speed of how fast it’ll be for your computer to transmit data to a website. A lower ping is better.
Jitter: the delay in sending data over your network. This measurement should sit below 30 ms.
Here’s my speed with my VPN disabled and running off WiFi. This test was taken in Taiwan.
It was night when I tested this; so 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.
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.
Odd that upload speed on the other side of the globe only 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 only 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.
As you can see from the timestamps, 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 of the grimmer readings throughout my tests, I could still stream without any issues. If you get a VPN, I recommend connecting your device to a router VIA an Ethernet cable to maximize your speed.
Keep in mind that this test also didn’t account for throttling, which is when an internet service provider (ISP) limits your available bandwidth.
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, which means that they don’t retain user data.
However, the biggest concern stems from them relocating from the British Virgin Isles to the Netherlands, a member of the 9 Eyes intelligence group.
Also, the Netherlands is subject to the Dragnet Act, which allows for the untargeted interception of communications.
After speaking to Surfshark, they assured me that 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, you can use a virtual debit card masking service like Privacy to shield your data further.
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.
However, installing Surfshark VPN on a router throws you into a different scenario.
First, you’ll need to find your router’s IP address.
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.
Surfshark Cost: Plans and Pricing
Surfshark Cost: Plans and Pricing
Here’s the pricing for all of surfshark’s plans:
|Tier||* Price||Billed Upfront|
|Per 2 Years||$2.49/mo.||$59.76|
|Surfshark One||$1.49/mo.||** Varies|
|Incogni||$5.79–$11.49/mo.||$69.48 (annual plan)|
* 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 over $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. Just going with a 2-year plan instead will save you a little over 46%.
They give you a 30-day money-back guarantee. So you could go with the 2-year plan, and if you don’t like the service before the 30 days pass, you can 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, which would suck considering you locked yourself into a “contract” with a provider. If that happens, 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:
- Google Pay
- Credit/debit card: Visa, Amex, Discover, and Mastercard
- Cryptocurrency: Ripple, Bitcoin, and Etherium
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 is an optional add-on subscription service that you can get 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 only use the antivirus on Android and Windows operating systems, so 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, you can use free alternatives for each feature:
- 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 you can get your hands on
- Search engine: DuckDuckGo
- Alert: Firefox Monitor
Surfshark offers a data removal service (Incogni) for $5.79–$11.49 monthly. They’ll remove your personal data from over 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.
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. So if you hate it, you can just cancel.
It’s only available for EU, US, Canada, UK, and Switzerland residents.
3 Alternatives to Surfshark VPN
If you’re completely sold on Surfshark VPN based on what you’ve heard, you may want to look around before purchasing.
Below are a couple of virtual private network options—and a DIY option—to explore.
- Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
- It doesn’t keep any activity logs
- Based in the British Virgin Isles (BVI)
- Over five encryption methods
- Servers in 94 countries
- Accepts cryptocurrency
Other than NordVPN, ExpressVPN is likely a name you’ve heard a million times.
You’ll mainly want this VPN service if you use many devices.
While like most other services, you can only use the VPN on five devices simultaneously, they do offer support for many devices.
A few unique devices include Kindles, routers, and Apple TV.
There has never been any instance where ExpressVPN has been hacked.
Moreover, they don’t keep any activity logs and don’t fall under any jurisdiction that requires them to hand over your data in any circumstance. So, you won’t have to worry about how this company will handle your data.
They have over 160 servers within over 90 countries, which is great for you who live in areas that usually don’t have nearby VPN servers.
Also, each server supports different encryption methods.
However, if you happen to find yourself in a city that doesn’t support, for instance, L2TP, try another city in your region—other areas may support that algorithm.
Pros of ExpressVPN
- A lot of servers to choose from
- Supports various devices
- Every feature an average privacy-concerned user could need
Cons of ExpressVPN
- No WireGuard encryption
2. Mullvad VPN
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- No logs
- Based in Sweden
- Split tunneling
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 keep an eye on maintenance, service issues, and server status.
They charge either a monthly, annual, or lifetime fee, all of which are €5 ($5.65) per month.
Do you want discounts?
Due to reduced transfer fees, you can 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.
Pros of Mullvad VPN
- Discount when using crypto
- It gives you everything you need with a VPN
- A lot of features
- Transparent about their policies and marketing
Cons of Mullvad VPN
- Not as many available servers
- It doesn’t support as many devices as its counterparts
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 only useful if you don’t intend on using that much bandwidth for a short period.
VPN Buying Guide
To know whether you’re purchasing the best VPN, you need to understand what makes for an ideal VPN.
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 Surfshark 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: for anonymous payments, ensure they accept cryptocurrency.
- VPN business location: this determines the company’s data policies and whether they have to share your data with local governments when requested.
- Data privacy: ensure a VPN provider has a “no-log” policy, which means the service provider doesn’t log any of your information that’s transmitted through their servers.
- Encryption methods: providers offer various options that either enhance your security or improve your speed
Final Verdict: Is Surfshark Worth a Try?
While Surfshark VPN doesn’t have the most features, it offers top-tier protection for its price point.
Also, after all of my testing, Surfshark didn’t affect my speed as much as I thought
I could still download stuff and stream media while on a server located on the opposite side of the world without any issues.
Pros of Surfshark VPN
- Plenty of servers
- Excellent browser addon
- Fantastic encryption
- No-logs policy
Cons of Surfshark VPN
- Surfshark One doesn’t offer the most value
- Based in a nine-eyes country
Surfshark VPN Frequently Asked Questions
Save time from scouring the Surfshark VPN support pages and Google when you can find your answers here.
Instead, keep reading to explore some commonly asked questions about Surfshark VPN.
Where Is Surfshark VPN Located?
Surfshark VPN is based in the Netherlands as of 2022.
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 3200 servers throughout more than 65 countries.
Surfshark lists its server locations and what features each country supports.
Is Surfshark Good?
Overall, Surfshark offers an excellent service for a great price point for you who think their competitors cost too much. Moreover, 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.
If you’re interested in trying this VPN, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don’t like what you get.
Image sources: Surfshark logo is from Surfshark’s press kit and the rest are the author’s screenshots