Best VPNs for Kodi: How to safely stream TV and movies from anywhere
Want to use Kodi anonymously? These six VPNs play really nicely with the popular open-source media player.
We need to talk about Kodi.
No, not the younger member of the mischievous twin duo that lived a Suite life in the Tipton Hotel. (That’s Cody Martin.) Not the wide-eyed, goateed patriarch of the polygamist family on TLC’s Sister Wives, either. (That’s Kody Brown.) Not even the 19th-century cowpoke-slash-bison hunter who became an icon of the American West under the moniker “Buffalo Bill.” (That’s William Frederick Cody.)
Nope — the Kodi in question isn’t a person at all, but a free, open-source media player that lets you manage and stream your locally stored music and videos on almost any device (no separate streaming subscription required). And if you’re not using it with a virtual private network, or VPN… well, you probably should be.
Kodi 101: Your one-stop entertainment shop
Formerly known as the Xbox Media Center (XBMC), Kodi was introduced in 2002 as a media player for the very first Xbox console and renamed in 2014 when a nonprofit called the XBMC Foundation took over its operations. It’s since been made available as a cross-platform app for macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, and even Raspberry Pi, serving an all-in-one entertainment hub that makes all of the files in one’s existing media collection available on different devices.
One of the reasons why Kodi has enjoyed such longevity is because its volunteer developers (“Team Kodi“) have created a huge repository of add-ons (“repo”) with which users can customize their Kodi experiences. It describes this catalog as being “like an ‘App Store’ for Kodi” where you can download all sorts of different plugins, scripts, and themes to tweak the way your Kodi interface looks and works — and best of all, everything is free. Cool, right?
Kodi’s long-term popularity can also be credited to the fact that it supports third-party add-ons in addition to Team Kodi’s official repo. In other words, anyone with a little coding experience can use the Kodi framework to write and publish their own add-ons for other users to install and use.
Kodi itself is totally legal to use, FYI, but it’s often associated with piracy due to the fact that some of these unsanctioned, unofficial add-ons let users illegally stream movies, music, TV shows, and other copyrighted content. As a result, platforms like Amazon, ebay, and Facebook have banned the sale of “Kodi boxes,” which are modified devices (often Fire TV Sticks) that come pre-installed with the Kodi app. (Note: Team Kodi itself doesn’t condone piracy — and neither do we, for that matter.)
Why should you use a VPN with Kodi?
For the uninitiated, a VPN is a service that redirects your internet connection through its own private servers to create a secure network over a public one — a technology that both masks your internet protocol (IP) address, which hides your IRL location, and encrypts your data to keep you anonymous online. (Here’s a more detailed explainer, if you’re interested.)
Kodi itself is totally legal to use, but it’s often associated with piracy.
Using a VPN is crucial if you frequently use public WiFi, dabble in torrenting, need access geo-blocked content in countries like China (where the internet is heavily censored), or simply want protection from the prying eyes of your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
As far as Kodi is concerned, you probably don’t need to run a VPN if you’re using the software for its intended purpose (i.e., as a media management tool) and steering clear of unofficial add-ons that use your network connection. But let’s face it: Some of the best add-ons for Kodi have been made by third-party developers, and Kodi’s official repo is rather limited, so you’re bound to use one at some point. When that time comes, a VPN can hide your traffic from your ISP — many will throttle your bandwidth if they catch you using Kodi — and help you overcome geo-restrictions on add-ons that are unavailable (or censored) in certain areas.
It’s worth mentioning that while a VPN will protect you from snoopers and spies, it won’t flag phishing sites or malware that’s disguised as a third-party Kodi add-on. To protect yourself against those kinds of threats, you should avoid add-ons with poor reviews, stay away from Kodi boxes (especially “fully loaded” ones), and consider either running an antivirus on Kodi-equipped devices or sandboxing the app away from other programs.
Is there a VPN add-on for Kodi?
Kodi’s official repo does not include any VPN add-ons, so you need to boot up a separate VPN on any device that runs the app — ideally, one that doesn’t do a number on your connection speed while still offering enough security features to keep you protected. (One provider has made its own third-party add-on for Kodi, but we’ll get to that later.)
We’re partial to VPNs in privacy-friendly countries that maintain verified no-logs policies; decent-sized server networks to avoid geo-blocking; and intuitive, easy-to-use apps — Kodi’s learning curve is pretty steep as it is, so it’s best to avoid mucking around with a clunky VPN interface.
What’s the best VPN for Kodi?
After poring over expert and customer reviews, here are the six VPN providers we think you’ll like best for your Kodi devices:
Kill switch • Great support resources • Split tunneling • Torrenting allowed on all servers • 30-day money-back guarantee • No-logging policy • Supports up to five simultaneous connections • Over 3,000 servers in 94 countries • Based in the BVI • Accepts Bitcoin
Expensive • No ad blocker
You get what you pay for — and in this case, you’re getting best-in-class protection for your Kodi-enabled devices.
ExpressVPNIt’s the priciest VPN on this list, but its top-notch security, premier support, and reliable, speedy servers are worth every single penny.
$9.99/month (billed $59.95 every six months)
$6.67/month (billed $99.95 every 12 months) + 3 months free for your first year
Out of all the features offered by ExpressVPN, we especially like its advanced “split tunneling” tool, which gives you the option of sending only some of your device traffic through the VPN’s private servers. (Logically speaking, this would be the traffic you want to protect the most — i.e., your Kodi traffic.) The rest of your web traffic is then routed through your local network to prevent bottlenecks that might otherwise clog up your bandwidth.
If you’re worried that ExpressVPN might log your activity while you’re connected to its servers, don’t be: It proudly stands by () no-logging policy, which is bolstered by the fact that it’s based in the British Virgin Islands, where there are no data retention laws. And as far as security features go, ExpressVPN users also have access to military-grade 256-bit encryption and a “” kill switch that protects your data in case the VPN connection drops.
Available apps: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Kindle Fire, Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, Nvidia Shield, and routers, plus browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
30-day money-back guarantee • No-logging policy • Kill switch • Dedicated IP addresses available • Ad blocker • Unlimited bandwidth • Up to 6 simultaneous connections • 5,300+ servers across almost 60 countries • Based in Panama • Accepts cryptocurrency
“Onion over VPN” feature can take a toll on speeds • Split tunneling only available for Android and Windows • Can get expensive with add-ons
This one’s got a huge toolset of security features with a bonus ad blocker to boot.
NordVPNWith options for double encryption and Onion over VPN, this heavyweight VPN provider doesn’t skimp in the security department.
$5.75/month (billed $69 for your first year)
$4.13/month (billed $99 for your first two years)
Oh, and this is all on top of a verified zero-logs policy and a Panama headquarters — that’s another country without data retention laws.
If you feel comfortable noodling around with your VPN’s settings, you can also take advantage of a premium security tool that NordVPN calls “Onion over VPN,” which routes your traffic through the Onion network to make it even more difficult to track. If you’re running Kodi somewhere with iron-fisted censorship laws, this feature will come in clutch — but bear in mind that it’s likely to decrease your connection speed.
Available apps: Android, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV, Linux, and Raspberry Pi, plus browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
Note: NordVPN suffered a minor security breach in March 2018 when a hacker exploited an insecure remote management system at a Finnish data center where the company was renting servers. However, we still think it’s a strong contender in the VPN space.
to read Mashable’s in-depth review of NordVPN.
Kodi add-on available for OpenAELEC devices • 1-day trial for free, 7-day trial for 99 cents • 30-day money-back guarantee • Add-ons (dedicated IP, port forwarding) are inexpensive) • Split tunneling • 24/7 support • Up to 10 simultaneous connections • 3,600+ servers in 77 countries • Plans include 2TB of secure cloud storage • Accepts Bitcoin
On the slow side • No-logs policy hasn’t been verified by a third-party audit • Based in Singapore (iffy on censorship)
An affordable VPN with its own Kodi add-on.
Ivacy VPNSuper cheap with a long-term plan, Ivacy is the rare VPN provider that maintains its own Kodi add-on.
$3.66/month (billed $44 every year)
$2.45/month (billed $59 every two year) + 2TB of free cloud storage space
Out of all the things Ivacy has to offer, we’re probably most impressed by the fact that it has its own Kodi add-on for devices that support the OpenELEC (“Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center”) operating system. As far as we can tell, it’s the only VPN provider that offers its own add-on on any platform.
An Ivacy subscription also gets you access to its entire suite of features, which includes 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, DDoS protection, and split tunneling. Moreover, you add an additional port forwarding tool or a dedicated IP address to your plan for just $1 or $1.99 a month, respectively. (For comparison’s sake, NordVPN charges $5 a month for dedicated IPs.)
Available apps: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Android TV, Xbox, Playstation, Huawei, and routers, plus browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
30-day money-back guarantee • All servers are P2P-friendly • No-logging policy • Split tunneling • Over 3,200 servers in 65 countries • Security infrastructure has passed a third-party audit • Affordable upgrades (data breach detection and private search mode) • Based in the BVI • Accepts cryptocurrency
No dedicated IPs • Still too new to completely trust • Kill switch only available for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS
A newer VPN that’s showing a ton of promise.
SurfsharkIdeal for families (or people with a whole fleet of Kodi devices that need protecting), this up-and-coming VPN is already quite well-rounded.
$6.49/month (billed $38.94 every six months)
$2.49/month with code surfsharkdeal (billed $59.76 upfront, then annually after the first 24 months)
One thing we love about Surfshark is that its blog is filled with tons of thoughtful support resources and tutorials, including a detailed article on how to use its service with Kodi. Once you’ve got it installed, you can take advantage of handy security features like split tunneling, DNS and leak protection, an ad blocker, and 256-bit encryption.
For even more protection, you can add two additional privacy tools to your Surfshark plan — one that’ll alert you if your email address leaks, and another that lets you conduct ad-free internet searches anonymously — for just 99 cents a month.
Available apps: macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, Xbox, Playstation, and Trust DNS, plus browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
One-day free trial (hey, it’s better than nothing) • Supports up to seven simultaneous connections • 45-day money-back guarantee on long-term plans • Kill switch • Dedicated IP and password manager available as add-ons • 24/7 live customer support • Based in Romania • 7,500+ servers in 91 countries • Accepts Bitcoin
No split tunneling on Mac or iOS apps • No-logs policy hasn’t been verified by a third-party audit
A user-friendly VPN with excellent support resources.
CyberGhost VPNCyberGhost makes it easy to navigate the world of VPNs with a top-rated support team and a user-friendly interface.
$3.99/month (billed $47.88 every year)
$3.49/month (billed $83.76 every two years)
$2.25/month (billed $87.75 every three years) + 3 months free
If you *do* happen to run across any issues with CyberGhost, don’t fret: It offers a friendly, fleshed-out and keeps its in-house customer service team on hand 24/7. (Fun fact: It currently boasts the highest TrustPilot score of any VPN provider on the market — NBD.)
CyberGhost is on par with other VPNs on this list in the security department, offering a kill switch, 256-bit encryption, and DNS and IP leak protection. (You can also add a dedicated IP address to your plan for an extra $3.75 a month.) Its server network, however, is in a league of its own with more than 7,500 servers across 91 countries — and many of them are specially optimized for torrenting.
Available apps: Windows, Android macOS, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Android TV, and routers, plus browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
30-day money-back guarantee with annual plan • 24/7 live support • P2P friendly • Unlimited simultaneous connections
Based in the United States (a Five Eyes country) • Split tunneling only available for Android and FireOS • Kill switch only available for macOS, Windows, and Android • No-logs policy hasn’t been verified by a third-party audit • Doesn’t accept cryptocurrency • Small server network (1,600+ servers in 75+ countries)
A good pick for casual Kodi users that doesn’t make you mess around with tons of settings.
IPVanishIt’s nothing special, but this super-simple VPN with ultra-affordable annual plans does what it needs to do well.
Monthly plan (just VPN):
$3.49 for your first month, then $9.99/month
Monthly plan (VPN + storage):
$3.84 for your first month, then $10.99/month
Annual plan (just VPN):
$31.49 for your first year, then $89.99/year
Annual plan (VPN + storage):
$34.99 for your first year, then $99.99/year
While it doesn’t offer a whole lot in the realm of security features — the ones it does have are limited to certain platforms — IPVanish’s lightweight, bare-bones interface with drop-down menus and country flags takes any sort of hassle out of booting up your connection. (And a small-ish network is offset by decent global diversity spanning more than 75 countries.)
Available apps: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Linux, Chrome OS, and routers.
Click here to read Mashable’s in-depth review of IPVanish.
Editor’s Note: IPVanish is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of Ziff Davis, Mashable’s publisher. Any J2 products featured on Mashable are covered independently by our content team.