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How to find your VPN server's true location – and why it matters

Verified by Nick Jones Editor-in-Chief

Discover the significance of a VPN server’s true location. Learn how to find it and how it affects your online privacy and security so you can make informed decisions when choosing a VPN service

As the digital world grows, so does the spectre of cyberthreats, posing a significant risk to personal privacy and online security. With a hacker attack occurring every 39 seconds, the role of virtual private networks (VPNs) is becoming increasingly critical, and the VPN server’s true location is particularly relevant to safeguarding our online interactions. 

A VPN server is a crucial cog in the wheel of online privacy and security, combining hardware and software technologies to provide users with access to VPN services. The primary purpose of a VPN server is to securely route your internet traffic, keeping your online activities encrypted and anonymous. 

When you connect to a VPN, your online data is redirected through a server, altering your Internet Protocol (IP) address and making it appear as though you’re accessing the internet from a different location. This fundamental attribute is not only beneficial for circumventing geographical content restrictions, but also crucial for safeguarding your privacy. However, the true physical location of these VPN servers plays a pivotal role in determining the efficacy and reliability of these services. 

In this article, we’ll discuss why a VPN server’s true location matters, its benefits and potential risks, and how to find it.

How VPN servers work

A VPN server plays a crucial role in establishing secure connections online, maintaining a user’s anonymity and ensuring data privacy. The process begins when a user launches a VPN client, or app, which initiates a connection to the server, routing all internet traffic through this secure VPN tunnel. This connection is encrypted using specific VPN protocols configured within the server, making the user’s data indecipherable to their internet service provider (ISP) or any potential eavesdroppers.

As the encrypted data reaches the VPN server, it’s decrypted and forwarded to the intended web server. The responses from the web server are then encrypted again by the VPN server before being relayed back to the user. Once this data arrives at the user’s device, the VPN client decrypts it, rendering the information readable.

VPN diagram
A VPN may seem complicated, but it’s a great tool for protecting your online activity (Adobe)

Additionally, the VPN server masks the user’s original IP address, substituting it with its own. This feature is a significant boon for privacy, as it conceals the user’s geographical location, aiding in bypassing geo-restrictions and firewalls while simultaneously enhancing privacy.

This entire process relies on the VPN server software, which is designed to handle the complex tasks of managing network and hardware components, encrypting and decrypting data and employing various VPN protocols, such as OpenVPN, WireGuard, SSTP, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2 and SoftEther.

By safeguarding your data, obscuring your online activities from your ISP and protecting you from potential surveillance or cyberattacks, a VPN server significantly improves your online experience. It forms a critical line of defence in the ever-evolving digital world.

Why true VPN server location matters

The true location of VPN servers is important for your online privacy and security. First, the physical location of a server can determine the laws and regulations the VPN provider must comply with. For instance, VPN servers located in jurisdictions known for rigorous privacy laws can offer enhanced protection of your data.

Second, a geographically diverse server network enables you to bypass geo-restrictions effectively. By connecting to a server in a desired location, you can access content otherwise unavailable in your region.

Third, server location impacts connection speed and latency. Generally, the closer you are to a server, the faster and more reliable your connection is.

Last, VPNs with transparent server locations offer an extra layer of trustworthiness. Ensuring your data isn’t routed through locations with potentially intrusive surveillance laws means reliability. Thus, the true server location is a key consideration for a secure and privacy-oriented VPN experience.

Benefits of VPN server true locations

Some VPN providers offer “virtual locations”, where the IP address they assign doesn’t correspond to the server’s physical geographical location. However, this practice could result in users making uninformed decisions, compromising their privacy and impairing VPN performance.

Choosing VPN servers with true locations offers considerable advantages: 

  • Users can rely on predictable connection speed and latency and avoid unforeseen slowdowns and delays 
  • Servers with true locations ensure the VPN delivers on the promise of bypassing geo-restrictions and provides a reliable and seamless experience when accessing local content or resources 
  • The authenticity of server locations underscores the transparency and trustworthiness of a VPN provider. It indicates the company’s commitment to providing reliable, high-quality service, which is an essential factor for users when selecting a VPN service

Risks and limitations

A primary concern revolves around the issue of legal jurisdiction. Since a VPN server’s physical location dictates the jurisdiction it falls under, users could inadvertently expose themselves to different data retention and privacy laws. For instance, local laws may require VPN providers to maintain logs of user activities, which can compromise user privacy. While most reputable VPN services maintain strict no-log policies, the legal jurisdiction under which they operate might mandate otherwise.

Furthermore, if a VPN provider uses virtual locations, misrepresenting the true location of servers, it may raise concerns about the provider’s transparency and trustworthiness. Users may question the provider’s commitment to privacy and reliability, ultimately influencing their confidence in the service. Thus, while VPNs are a powerful tool for digital privacy and security, it’s crucial to understand their potential limitations and risks.

Factors to consider

When evaluating the location of VPN servers, there are several crucial factors that demand attention. First, privacy laws specific to the geographic region of the server are an essential point to consider. Jurisdictions with strict data retention laws can potentially put user data at risk, making it vital to choose a VPN server located in privacy-friendly regions.

Second, the strength and reliability of server infrastructure cannot be overlooked. A well-maintained and robust infrastructure ensures smoother performance and reduced downtime, directly impacting the quality of the VPN service. Moreover, this factor demonstrates the service provider’s commitment to delivering secure and efficient connectivity.

Last, it’s beneficial to look into whether the server indicates a true or virtual location. Knowing a server’s true location would typically help provide better performance and more accurate geolocation, offering an enhanced user experience.

Evaluating these factors can assist users in making an informed decision about the choice of a VPN server and its true location.

How to find a VPN server’s true location

Understanding the actual location of your VPN servers can be vital for many reasons, and you can utilise several tools and techniques for that purpose.

Using online services such as IP address locator websites is one of the ways to learn more about your VPN server. When connected to a VPN, these sites can provide data associated with your IP address, including the city and country your VPN server is in and even your ISP. To learn all these details, you need to identify the server’s IP first. If you’re using NordVPN, which our researchers highly recommend, you can do that by hovering your mouse over the country icon next to the country name and survey number.

VPN server true location finding IP on NordVPN
With NordVPN, you can find your server’s IP address by hovering your mouse over the flag icon next to the country name and server number (NordVPN)

Then, insert this IP in the search field of the tool you’ve selected. For instance, WhatIsMyIP.com can list the information you are looking for.

VPN server true location finding IP
An online IP locator tool can show you detailed information about a specific IP address (WhatIsMyIP.com)

In our example, the true VPN server location coincides with the location assigned to the IP address, which is usually the case with high-quality VPN services.

However, the city provided might not always be precise due to the nature of geolocation.

Therefore, it’s advisable to cross-reference this data with multiple IP locator sites, such as iplocation.net, which compares results from multiple geolocation providers for accuracy.

It’s advisable to check the details of your VPN server’s IP address on multiple tools to check for discrepancies (iplocation.net)

Discrepancies in country allocation across different geolocation providers can indicate inconsistencies in your VPN’s server location.

However, while these sites can reveal the country associated with your IP address, they can’t ascertain whether the server is physically located elsewhere. This necessitates a more sophisticated approach.

A useful tool to identify the actual physical location of a VPN server is an online ping test, such as the one offered by ping.pe. By connecting to your VPN and entering your IP address into the ping test, the site will ping your IP from various global locations, generating ping times for each.

VPN server true location using ping to locate server
An online ping test can give you an indication of a VPN server’s physical location (ping.pe)

The principle is simple: lower ping times typically signify closer geographic proximity. Thus, the location with the lowest ping time to your IP address might indicate the true location of your VPN server.

So, understanding the actual location of your VPN servers can provide valuable insights into the service’s operation, reliability and potentially its commitment to privacy. Utilising a combination of IP address locators and ping tests can help you uncover what’s happening behind the scenes in terms of your VPN server locations. It’s a worthwhile endeavour, capable of enhancing your understanding and VPN experience.

Choosing a reliable VPN service

When choosing a trustworthy VPN service, it’s critical to focus on not only the VPN’s overall performance and features, but also its transparency regarding physical server locations. Always opt for a VPN service that’s open and upfront about the cities and countries its servers are actually located in. 

Reliable VPNs have a broad global network of servers, ensuring quick and stable connections no matter where you are. Note that transparency about server locations is key to ensuring reliable, fast and secure connections.

Here are some more considerations to help you make a well-informed choice:

  • Requirements: understand what you’ll primarily use your VPN for. Whether it’s streaming, secure browsing, or bypassing geo-restrictions, different VPNs serve different purposes
  • Security and privacy features: a reliable VPN should offer high-grade security features, such as AES-256 encryption, leak protection and various secure protocols. A strict, third-party audited no-log policy is crucial to ensure your data isn’t stored
  • Speed and performance: evaluate the VPN’s impact on your internet speed. A quality VPN minimises latency and offers high-speed protocols, providing a seamless internet experience
  • Torrent support: if you’re looking for a VPN for torrenting, ensure it meets torrenting security and privacy requirements, supports P2P connections and offers additional features like port forwarding for better speeds
  • User-friendly interface: the VPN should offer an intuitive and easy-to-navigate interface, ensuring a smooth user experience
  • Simultaneous connections: choose a VPN that allows multiple device connections at once, providing comprehensive coverage for all your devices
  • Responsive customer support: look for a VPN with a strong customer service ethos. Whether it’s for technical issues or general queries, prompt and knowledgeable support can be invaluable
  • Payment flexibility: opt for a VPN with diverse payment options and a solid money-back guarantee, ensuring you can get a refund if the service doesn’t meet your expectations

Final takeaways

A VPN server’s true location is an important factor that impacts your online privacy, security and overall user experience. It influences the applicable legal jurisdiction, connection speed and ability to bypass geo-restrictions. Trustworthy VPNs – including reliable free VPNs – ensure transparency about their server locations, upholding their commitment to user privacy and reliability. 

However, understanding the true server location requires diligent research, utilising tools such as IP locators and ping tests. When choosing a VPN service, it’s crucial to consider the breadth of the server network, security features, performance and the provider’s transparency about server locations. 

Remember that a trustworthy VPN doesn’t just offer robust security or speed, but also maintains open and honest communication with users about its service infrastructure. Your vigilance in understanding the nuances of VPN servers can significantly enhance your digital privacy and security.

Frequently asked questions about true VPN server locations

The location of a VPN server significantly impacts internet speed due to distance and latency. The further the server is from your actual location, the further the data has to travel, increasing latency and potentially slowing down your connection. Moreover, if the server is in a heavily congested area or is overloaded with users, your speed might decrease due to the high demand.

Yes, the location of the VPN server can indeed affect access to region-specific content. Certain online content is geo-restricted, meaning it’s only available to users in specific locations. By connecting to a VPN server in the region where the content is accessible, you can bypass these restrictions and access the content as if you were in that location.

The “best” VPN server location for privacy and security can vary depending on individual needs, but in general, servers located in countries with strong privacy laws are preferable. For instance, countries like Switzerland and Iceland and certain regions in the European Union are known for their stringent privacy laws and could offer a more secure VPN experience. However, users should always verify a VPN provider’s policies and the specific laws governing their servers’ physical locations.

Verifying the true location of a VPN server can be accomplished by using IP address locator websites and ping tests. The IP address locator will provide you with the location assigned to your VPN IP address, while the ping test, which calculates the time it takes for data to travel to and from your device and the server, can help infer the server’s physical location. Cross-referencing these methods can provide a clearer picture of the server’s actual location.

Yes, there can be disadvantages to using VPN servers in certain locations. Some countries, such as the members of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance, have stringent data retention laws that might require VPN providers to log user activities, which could compromise user privacy. Additionally, servers in distant locations may lead to slower connection speeds and increased latency due to the longer distance data must travel.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
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ExpressVPN 12 month £6.79 /Month
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CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
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PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
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Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
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PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
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Windscribe 12 month £4.60 /Month
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IPVanish 2 year £2.92 /Month
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Independent Advisor does not endorse the streaming of content from regions other than where the subscription is held, nor does it endorse the downloading or consumption of illegally pirated content.

Mariana is an experienced technology writer specialising in web and internet technology. She writes about cyber security, including VPN; web development; and software engineering. She has been writing since 2006 and held a position of English lecturer at Technical University of Varna in Bulgaria until 2022, working in a variety of educational fields.

For the Independent Advisor, Mariana writes about the usefulness of VPNs and how people can protect themselves and their data online.

Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

Whatever the area of interest he’s worked in, Nick has always been a consumer champion, helping people find the best deals and give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision.