Two logos of Surfhsark and ExpressVPN are hovering over two open palms with a question sign in the middle.

For non-technical users, comparing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can feel impossible. Especially when the differences and the techiest stuff are behind the scenes. Don’t fret — there are only a few elements you should be aware of.

In this Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN comparison review, we will analyze the key distinctions between two of the biggest VPNs, so you can feel confident choosing the best one.

Table of contents

    Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: at a glance

    Server countries
    OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
    OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, Lightway
    Cookie pop-up blocker
    Ad blocker
    Independent audit
    10Gbps servers
    24/7 Support
    Money-back guarantee
    30 days
    30 days

    *Available in specific locations only.

    Surfshark and ExpressVPN are well-known premium VPN services featured on many top-VPN lists. 


    Both services are based in locations free from oppressive/obligatory data retention laws and are not subject to 5/9/14 Eyes surveillance. This means you can expect responsible no-logging practices for the “ultimate digital privacy.” 

    What does “no-logs” mean?

    A no-logs VPN service will not track your location, won’t sell any of your data to third parties, and will not know anything about you that isn’t necessary for providing the service itself. 

    However, a no-logging policy doesn’t mean the company won’t know anything about you. You must provide your payment information to complete a transaction with any service. You may also need to create an account, so a username or an email address will be required. A no-logs policy promises that no other information is collected and used.

    Headquarter locations

    For ExpressVPN, you’ll find the headquarters in the British Virgin Islands, while Surfshark is based in the Netherlands. Both locations are ideal for a VPN provider and will protect your data completely.

    Key takeaway: Both services are excellent when it comes to privacy. However, it’s worth noting that Kape Technologies has recently bought ExpressVPN. This firm has a poor record regarding privacy, and we’re yet to see the full effects of the takeover.

    Server locations

    More server locations mean more options for disguising your internet traffic. But it’s more than just the number of different countries you can connect to remotely. By offering more servers, Surfshark provides a less crowded service, meaning faster browsing speeds and a more seamless online experience.

    Surfshark: 3200+ servers in 100 countries

    ExpressVPN: 2000+ servers in 94 countries

    The number of server locations in a region

    Asia Pacific
    Middle East & Africa

    What locations are available?

    As you might expect, there’s a lot of overlap between the locations offered by both providers. Either provider will do if you’re looking for servers in Europe, North America, or the UK.

    If you want to connect to less common destinations, Surfshark and ExpressVPN are reliable choices. However, ExpressVPN offers fewer location options.

    Censorship and restricted countries

    If you want to connect to a restricted country (or are in one), Surfshark’s NoBorders feature has your back! NoBorders will automatically turn on if it notices restrictions on your network for example, the Great Firewall of China. This feature lets you surf the web unobstructed and safely.

    ExpressVPN doesn’t provide special features or extra settings for restricted countries. It simply notes that connecting to those countries might take longer than usual.

    How crowded are the servers? 

    Surfshark offers over 600 servers in 25 US cities. ExpressVPN offers 24 servers in 17 US cities. This means that if the servers are crowded (i.e., lots of people are logged on), you’ll have more options to switch to a less crowded one with Surfshark than ExpressVPN.

    Key takeaway: Surfshark offers more servers, so there’s less chance of getting stuck on an overcrowded server. Both providers offer a full list of server countries. So if you want to connect to a specific location, check if it’s available before committing.

    Also, Surfshark has a unique NoBorders feature to help users in restricted countries, unlike ExpressVPN.

    Server speeds

    A server’s speed determines your internet speed, measured in Gbps (gigabits per second) or Mbps (megabits per second). This tells you how fast or slow your data transfer will be.

    Surfshark offers at least one 1Gbps port connected per server. But some locations offer up to 10Gbps servers! ExpressVPN states you can expect lightning-fast server speeds, but they don’t go into any more detail than that. However, it does offer a handy VPN Speed Test (Surfshark also lets you test your connection speed).

    The fastest protocols (these dictate how a VPN connects and behaves, and we’ll be looking at them in more detail shortly) for ExpressVPN and Surfshark are the Lightway protocol and WireGuard, respectively. Both protocols are highly recommended and renowned for being fast and reliable.

    We tested the server speeds of both VPN providers in the UK, the US, Switzerland, Australia, and Japan. Before testing our speeds using a VPN, we checked our baseline: 300 Mbps upload/download speed. Since we know what speeds we’re starting with, we can better understand how these VPN providers perform.

    Fastest Protocol
    Surfshark (WireGuard)
    ExpressVPN (Lightway)
    Download average
    263 Mbps
    198.6 Mbps
    Upload average
    170 Mbps
    165.6 Mbps

    We also tested Surfshark and ExpressVPN servers on the OpenVPN UDP protocols (again, we’ll get to what this means shortly):

    OpenVPN UDP
    Download average
    123.8 Mbps
    186 Mbps
    Upload average
    140.3 Mbps
    160.4 Mbps

    In the first protocol test, we found Surfshark offered consistently faster speeds, while ExpressVPN seemed to struggle in some locations. For example, it offered download speeds of 43 Mbps on a Swiss server and 261 Mbps on a UK server.

    ExpressVPN did, however, offer the best average speeds on the OpenVPN UDP protocol. But Surfshark still hit higher top speeds, and the difference wasn’t massive.

    Note: Other things can affect your internet connection and cause slower speeds. The results of these tests may vary.

    Key takeaway: Surfshark offers consistently faster speeds in almost all locations we tested.

    Streaming speeds

    No one likes buffering when they’re trying to watch their favorite films. That’s why you need a VPN with good speeds to enjoy your chosen media and keep you protected

    Netflix recommends the following browsing speeds:

    Recommended speed (Mbps)
    High definition (HD) – 720p
    3 Mbps
    Full high definition (FHD) – 1080p
    5 Mbps
    4K/Ultra HD (UHD)
    15 Mbps

    Since Netflix isn’t the only media platform, we dived deeper and found out which streaming sites work with both VPNs:

    BBC iPlayer
    HBO Max
    Amazon Prime Video
    Disney Plus

    Key takeaway: We’re pretty pleased with the results for both VPNs. Looks like the major streaming platforms can keep playing while you’re securing your connection.

    Disclaimer: We prohibit using Surfshark services for any unlawful purposes as it is against our Terms of Service. Please be sure to act in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations of other service providers.

    VPN Protocols

    VPN protocols often sound complicated and technical, but they don’t need to be.

    A VPN protocol is a set of instructions that dictate how a connection is made between a device and a VPN server. These rules determine your upload/download speeds and your data’s security.

    You may also come across proprietary protocols when comparing VPN servers. These protocols are owned and controlled by the VPN provider and designed for use within their services. Proprietary VPNs are popular as they can offer better security and stability and even boost connection speeds. They can also help VPN providers overcome challenges posed by commonly-used protocols.

    ExpressVPN hosts a proprietary protocol called Lightway, the default VPN connection on their servers. Surfshark doesn’t offer a proprietary protocol but uses the popular and well-regarded WireGuard.

    This protocol is much newer than Lightway and only went live in 2020. But, despite being a newcomer, WireGuard is certainly keeping up with many of the most established protocols. With consistent “heavy upgrades,” it’s difficult to say which is better. However, when we tested both protocols, we found WireGuard faster than Lightway.

    Surfshark and ExpressVPN also offer standard protocols to choose from:

    Offered by Surfshark
    Offered by ExpressVPN
    OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
    Windows and macOS

    Key takeaway: Surfshark and ExpressVPN both offer top-quality protocols for users. The fastest for each provider is WireGuard and Lightway, respectively. Either of these is excellent, although Lightway has been around for longer.


    In the past, VPN hosts could rely on their reputation alone to establish trustworthiness. But these days, there’s much more scrutiny involved.

    Independent security audits are essential for backing up any claims made by a VPN provider. Audits can be a quick overview or an in-depth analysis of the provider.

    It’s worth mentioning that some auditing firms are more trustworthy than others. So, when comparing VPN audits, you want to ensure a reputable firm completed the audit. Some top names in VPN auditing are KPMG, Deloitte, Cure53, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    Surfshark audit

    In 2018, Cure53 audited Surfshark’s browser extensions. They concluded the extensions “are not exposed to any issues, neither in the privacy nor in the more general security realms.” So far, so good.

    The 2018 audit did reveal two “low severity” vulnerabilities. These were quickly fixed and highlighted the transparency and commitment of the company.

    In 2021, Cure53 conducted an independent audit of Surfshark VPN infrastructure. Again, no serious issues were unveiled, and any raised concerns were swiftly rectified.

    The 2023 Deloitte audit verifies Surfshark’s no-logs statement

    ExpressVPN audit

    ExpressVPN also takes security and trustworthiness very seriously. It claims to “regularly engage independent security auditors and penetration testers.” Here are the details:

    *To check this audit, you need to have an active ExpressVPN subscription

    Key takeaway: Surfshark and ExpressVPN have engaged independent security auditors to ensure their top-quality services. Both have audited the key aspects of a VPN — the no-logs policy and server infrastructure.

    Support for customers

    Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer similar services when it comes to customer support

    Customer service
    Live chat
    Ticket support
    Email support
    Phone support
    Searchable knowledge
    Video guides
    Average email response time
    2 hours, 36 minutes
    52 minutes

    ExpressVPN’s response time and live chat function were slightly better when testing. We didn’t have to wait long to get connected to an agent. And the email turnaround was less than half the time compared to Surfshark. We liked not having to fill out a form or enter personal details before asking questions.

    Surfshark’s knowledge base is more thorough and easier to navigate. You can also search for information from any page on the Surfshark website, whereas Express VPN requires you to go to the Support Center before you can search.

    Key takeaways: Both VPN providers offer excellent support teams. ExpressVPN provides slightly faster response times. Surfshark’s knowledge base is more thorough and easier to search.

    Security and encryption

    Let’s take a closer look at what’s there to keep you safe — protocols, encryption, and a kill switch feature that can be used in the worst-case scenario.

    VPN protocols
    OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
    OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, Lightway
    OpenVPN data encryption
    OpenVPN control channel encryption
    Cloaking technology
    NoBorders obfuscation
    Cipher block chaining
    App security
    Kill Switch (all platforms)
    Kill Switch (desktop and routers)
    DNS status
    Private DNS
    Private DNS

    Key takeaways: Surfshark and ExpressVPN both offer unhackable encryption to keep your online information and activities safe. We couldn’t pick a winner for this category!


    You’ll notice that many of the security features for these providers are similar. They offer roughly the same protocols, and both use AES-256 encryption, which is basically impossible to crack!

    Despite the similarities, with 4096 bits to protect user data, ExpressVPN’s RSA keys (referring to the Rivest-Shamir-Adleman encryption) are twice as long as Surfshark’s. But that doesn’t mean they’re twice as secure!

    That’s because decrypting an RSA key requires knowledge of the two prime numbers that created the key, which can’t be calculated in any known way. The length of the key can be 1024, 2048, or 4096 bits. So, a 2048 key is just as secure as an RSA-4096.

    Kill switch

    Besides long, complicated, thorough encryption, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer extra protection through a kill switch.

    This feature disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly. This means your user data is never vulnerable, and your privacy is always protected.

    You can find the Kill Switch feature easily via Surfshark. ExpressVPN calls theirs Network Lock, and it’s only available for desktops and routers.

    Stealth servers

    Surfshark and ExpressVPN use various cloaking technologies to keep you even safer online.

    ExpressVPN uses cipher block chaining to keep you safe. This means the only way to decrypt a data packet would be to have access to the one before. So, only someone who’s captured your traffic from the start will be able to read it… Almost impossible!

    Surfshark uses a few methods to conceal your internet activity completely. One of these methods is obfuscating. It hides the fact that you’re using a VPN and is great for unblocking georestricted streaming services. People living in oppressed or censored countries can also benefit from obfuscating.

    Besides obfuscation servers, Surfshark’s NoBorders service is specially designed to bypass oppressive censorship. Providing complete, unfiltered, and safe access to the internet.

    Either of these stealth servers will provide top-quality encryption and security.

    Extra features: ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark comparison

    Although the main function of a VPN is to protect user data and identities, premium VPN providers also include extra features to improve your online life.

    Browser extension only
    Only for iOS, macOS, and Linux.

    Key takeaway: Surfshark offers a wider range of extra features to enhance your VPN user experience.


    Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature is an ad blocker. It prevents malicious ads, pop-ups, trackers, or dangerous websites from accessing your information.

    It’s worth highlighting that CleanWeb is not an antivirus.

    Split tunneling

    Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a split tunneling feature. Surfshark users will need to look for Bypasser on the mobile apps.

    Smart DNS

    Smart DNS is also available on both Surfshark and ExpressVPN. The feature allows you to bypass firewalls and censorship on devices that don’t usually support VPN connections. For example, your PlayStation or smart TV.

    For Surfshark users, you can activate smart DNS through your account dashboard. The process is similar for ExpressVPN, but you’ll be looking for MediaStreamer.

    Double VPN

    This feature adds an extra layer of security by routing traffic through two different VPN servers. ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a Double VPN, so Surfshark takes the gold here with Dynamic MultiHop.

    GPS spoofing

    Although VPNs hide your location while you’re online, they don’t automatically override GPS. With GPS spoofing on Surfshark’s Android app, you can trick GPS-enabled apps into thinking you’re elsewhere. This works for apps like Tinder, Pokémon Go, and more.

    ExpressVPN offers some limited GPS spoofing capabilities. But these are only available in the ExpressVPN browser extension, not on mobile apps.

    Threat manager

    This feature prevents third-party tracking. It stops apps from communicating with third parties trackers or engaging in malicious behavior. Only available on iOS, macOS, and Linux.


    Before we conclude, we have one final, vital aspect to consider — price.

    1 Month
    12 months
    Cheapest plan
    $2.30 p/m (2-year plan)
    $8.32 / 12 mo. (1-year plan)

    Both offer a 30-day free trial, so you can get started risk-free. They also offer cryptocurrency payment options if you want to make a more anonymous sale.

    Key takeaways: Surfshark is a cheaper VPN service that offers many (if not more!) features available via the more expensive ExpressVPN service.

    Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: the scores

    Server locations
    94<100. What more can we say?
    Server speeds
    Although this was a close call, Surfshark provided more consistently fast speeds in our tests.
    Both service providers offer plenty of reliable protocols. However, because it’s been around for longer, the Lightway protocol is just that little bit better than WireGuard (at the moment).
    Audits for both VPNs are aimed at the same core elements. ExpressVPN has done more testing in bulk, but taking that word for granted without access to some of the reports is hard.
    Customer support
    ExpressVPN offered faster responses to queries and an easier live chat function.
    Knowledge base
    Surfshark makes it much easier to navigate the website and find the help pages you’re looking for.
    Although ExpressVPN has longer RSA chains, the security levels are similar for both services.
    Extra features
    Surfshark offers a more comprehensive selection of extra features, including many that aren’t available with ExpressVPN.
    At $2.30 per month (on a 2-year plan), there’s no competition!

    So which VPN provider is better?

    Much like Surfshark vs. NordVPN, it is an extremely close comparison. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark are great VPN service providers. With either option, you’ll be treated to comprehensive knowledge guides, blogs, YouTube videos basically, anything you need to get started and surf safely!

    Both providers offer a wide range of beneficial tools and extra features to keep you safe online. So, no matter which you choose, you’re sure to be in safe hands.

    But although most of our categories came out close, we can’t help but give the win to Surfshark.

    Surfshark wins this comparison for several reasons:

    1. Both overlap in available countries more or less, but Surfshark offers more and faster servers to choose from;
    2. The auditing process was more transparent for Surfshark. Plus, you don’t need to log in to an account to view the findings;
    3. The ability to enjoy unlimited simultaneous connections is fantastic for families or tech-heavy households;
    4. If you need to show the same IP address but want to stay safe online, you can keep connecting to the same secure VPN server with Surfshark;
    5. The range of extra features like CleanWeb and smart DNS allows you to get more bang for your buck.

    And speaking of bucks, you just can’t argue with that price!

    Secure yourself online today

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    More Surfshark reviews and comparisons

    Trying to make sure if Surfshark is for you? To help you make a better decision, here’s a Surfshark review! Maybe you want to know how Surfshark compares to other players in the market. If so, we’ve got you covered!


    Is Surfshark a good VPN?

    Surfshark is an excellent VPN. It’s among the best VPN services to use AES-256 bit encryption, offer security, and convenience features like a Kill Switch and split tunneling. Having their headquarters outside of the Five Eyes alliance is a huge plus.

    Does Surfshark VPN slow down the internet?

    Every VPN slows down the download and upload speeds because the data has to make a trip to the VPN servers to get encrypted and decrypted.

    With that in mind, Surfshark offers split tunneling, a feature that lets you choose which part of the data stream you want to encrypt and save some internet speed without leaving you unprotected.

    Can the police track a VPN?

    Authorities can’t track encrypted VPN traffic. But with a court order, they can go to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and request connection or access to the records. Better choose a VPN provider that uses an obfuscated server and doesn’t log user data. Care to guess who that might be? (*wink wink*)