Summary (updated 24.10.2017): The best way to access blocked websites is by using a VPN. A VPN allows you to get a new IP address. The major reason websites are blocked is because you are not in the country the website is in. For example if you are in London you might want to access HBO Now, but you can only access HBO now from the USA. However with a VPN you can connect to a USA computer so HBO Now thinks you are in the USA and thus unblock the website.
The best VPN we recommend to access blocked websites is ExpressVPN.
Understanding Why Websites are Blocked
We’ve all been there before, stuck at work or the office, or overseas in a new place, and running into blocked websites left and right. It’s incredibly frustrating, but a problem that’s all too common unfortunately.
Network Restrictions in line with Business Policies
Often times, schools and workplaces put network restrictions in place to keep employees focused and on task. That’s all fine and good if you never need to keep up with an eBay option, or check your Facebook, or even just engage in a little shameless time-killing. But we’re all human, and restricted networks, more often than not, are just a total pain.
Even more frustrating, many countries actually have nationwide bans on certain content, restricting your access to sites like Facebook and Google. In many countries, politically sensitive content is strictly off limits, and there’s even government surveillance in place that monitors your activity online.
The types of content restrictions that are actually dependent on your location are known as geo-restrictions. For instance, the internet censorship that China is famous for is known as geo-restricting, and it basically means that so long as you’re in that country, you won’t have access to that content.
Servers, Locations and IP Adress
It’s a creepy thing, to be online and trying to access a website, and get denied because your location doesn’t have access. It means that the server you’re requesting data from knows your rough location, and is limiting your access accordingly.
But how do they do that?
The answer is simple: with your IP address. This unique code is attached to the device you use to access the internet, either your router, smartphone, tablet or whichever WiFi-enabled device you’re utilizing.
When you try to access a website, the server sees your IP address, which gives them your rough geographic location (usually in proximity to the nearest major city), and gives you access to content accordingly.
It’s how the internet knows to provide you with content in English, or advertisements to certain local services. Programs such as Adsense that run in the background of webpages use your IP address to target advertisements to you based on your location, which is why you’ll often see obviously placed ads with a nearby city in the tagline.
Getting around these content restrictions isn’t as tricky as it used to be. While proxy codes work sometimes, it’s definitely a case for trial and error, and requires you to dig into those computer settings to try them out.
The easiest way to get around content filters and access blocked websites is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). It’s a subscription service designed to not only give users access to blocked content, but also privacy while online.
Why Use a VPN to Unblock Websites – Functionality and Properties
When trying to understand how a VPN works, the easiest thing to visualize is a secret passage in a house. Where the house is like the internet in this analogy, the passageway is the VPN. You’re still on the internet, but you’re taking an alternate route and flying under the radar.
VPNs give you access to blocked content by providing you with access to their worldwide network of servers. When you download their software, you just choose a server location and connect.
From there, you’ll have access to any content that is available in the location you’ve selected. Your real IP address is blocked by the VPN, and to servers, it looks as if you’re actually accessing from the server location, rather than your actual location.
This has the added perk of protecting your anonymity. All of your content and internet activity is impossible to trace back to you, and you bypass content restrictions entirely.
Your privacy is also protected, since the VPN encrypts all of your traffic for you. Everything you do while connected to the VPN is fully protected and private from everything from hackers to government surveillance.
There are plenty of options out there for VPN, and trying to figure out which ones are ripoffs and which ones actually do what they’re supposed to can be kind of tricky, especially if you don’t know what to look for.
Here’s a rundown of some of the key features you’ll want to look for in a VPN, and just what all of that tech jargon actually means.
- Encryption: This is what keeps your data secure, and is essentially just a way of coding your data so that even if it is intercepted, it’s just illegible nonsense, and your personal information is secure. There are essentially two strengths of encryption, 128- and 256-bit, with the latter of the two being the strongest. You can generally count on 256-bit encryption to be unbeatable, so that’s the one to shoot for.
- Bandwidth: Bandwidth refers to the rate of data transfer, and companies that want to restrict your bandwidth typically don’t have a large enough network to support their user volume. Unlimited bandwidth is pretty common, so don’t settle for less.
- Multiple Connections: This refers to the number of devices you can connect to the VPN per account. It saves some major money if you can use it on more than one device, so look for a VPN that allows you to connect to both a home and mobile device, at minimum.
- Compatibility: This one’s simple enough. Is their software compatible with your device? Check their list of operating systems to make sure your device is supported.
- Network size: This matters because, like I said earlier, the more servers they have to choose from, the wider the distribution of bandwidth. You’ll be more likely to get a fast, reliable connection, and have a server in your area to hop on.
So these are the basic technical specifications you need to look for. Honestly, it’s a buyer’s market, so there’s just no reason you shouldn’t be able to hit the mark on all of these with the VPN you choose. It’s pretty competitive out there, so don’t settle for less than your money is worth.
As far as the other perks go, it’s generally nice if they also offer:
- 24/7 customer support
- live chat or phone support
- easy-to-use software
- a fast connection
- a money-back guarantee
- referral program for free service
Choose the Right VPN to Unblock Websites
If you’re not sure how a VPN checks out in these categories, here are the vpns we recommend to unblock websites based on real trials with these companies, with speed test results to give you an idea of what you can expect.
#1 ExpressVPN to Unblock Websites
So first in my little roundup here is ExpressVPN, and for a good reason. The thing is, a lot of times, you wind up compromising speed for security with VPNs. All of that top notch encryption can really bog down a connection, making it tricky to stream Netflix and download music (a deal breaker for me).
With ExpressVPN, you get unlimited bandwidth, two connections per account and an incredibly fast connection, despite the military-grade encryption that’s used. I’ve used this VPN a lot, and I’ve never had any trouble streaming Netflix, downloading music from iTunes, or anything else that tends to suck up bandwidth like a black hole.
What really sold me on these guys though was their customer service. They are just so damn fast. They always respond to emails in less than 20 minutes and of course their live chat support means you can get help instantly if you need it.
Besides unmatched speed, ExpressVPN have servers in prime locations for streaming entertainment. It does come at a slight cost as it’s pricier than most of the competition, but you do get your money’s worth thanks to the overall reliability and ease of use. So if you plan on using a VPN for Netflix and other online content, you can’t do much better than ExpressVPN.
Morevover, their software is easy to use, and they include a 30-day, money-back guarantee, so you can always snag a refund if it just doesn’t work out.
- 1 month: $12.95
- 6 months: $9.99 per month
- 15* months: $6.67 per month *Three months free
ExpressVPN is a fast, easy way to access blocked websites, no matter where you are.
Exclusive Limited Time Deal: 12 Months + 3 Months FREE for a yearly subscription.
You can read our full ExpressVPN review for more information.
NordVPN is a solid service that will get you access to any blocked streaming websites easily, including Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and YouTube.
While most VPN services promise to get rid of any logs of user data, you can actually trust NordVPN to empty their recycle bin. They don’t care if you want to stream blocked content, and they have lots of servers to choose from.
They’re not as fast as ExpressVPN, but they can still connect you to high quality streams with no lag. NordVPN is also the cheapest overall, and their 24-month deal is great value for money. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee trial so you can try the service without commitment to contract unless you are satisfied.
- 1 month: $11.95
- 12 months: $5.75 per month
- 24 months: $3.29 per month
Exclusive Offer - Getn 72% off for a 2 year subscription plan.
More information on this service on NordVPN review.
With server locations in over 80 countries, PrivateVPN will get you access to anything blocked by online geo-restrictions.
As their moniker suggests, PrivateVPN is also big on privacy. It’s a major plus point in the current climate of online privacy worries.
Their service is intuitive to use and speedy enough for video streams, while it’s priced competitively compared to the rest on the list. Like ExpressVPN, they also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
There isn’t much else that sets it apart from the rest, but it does the job effectively.
- 1 month: $8.21 per month
- 12 months*: $4.15 per month *One month free
- 3 months: $5.63 per month
Exclusive Offer - Save 25% with 1 month FREE for 13 months subscription.
Get more information on PrivateVPN review.
The final VPN on our list, IPVanish is an expansive provider with servers located across the globe. They have over 850 locations to choose from in 60 countries, so you’ll never want for an IP address from the region of your choice. Not in the UK but want to catch up on Doctor Who? Use IPVanish to get a UK IP address and stream BBC iPlayer.
As with ExpressVPN, it’s more expensive than the norm, but it pays off in terms of both choice, and overall connection speeds. IPVanish also have a money-back guarantee, but it’s only good for the first seven days.
So last on the list, but definitely not least in terms of unblocking websites.
- 1 month: $10.00 per month
- 12 months: $6.49 per month
- 3 months: $8.99 per month
Exclusive Offer - Save 46% off for a 1 year subscription plan.
Get more details on this service on our IPVanish review.
Get a VPN to Access Blocked Websites
If you’re at work, school, or in a country with restricted access, chances are you’re not going to be able to access the content you want. These content restrictions block access to everything from political content to streaming services, and there’s not a lot of leniency there.
More often than not, even filter circumvention services are blocked, so before you get stuck high and dry, make sure you download a VPN service.
A VPN unblocks websites by hiding your IP address and giving you access to a network of remote servers. You can then access these servers and appear as though you’re in an entirely different place. It will protect your privacy, open up your access, and keep your activity from being traced back to you.
Remember it’s a buyer’s market. When you get a VPN, make sure you don’t compromise speed for security. Based on these latter features, we strongly recommend ExpressVPN as the best service to access blocked websites.
Exclusive Limited Time Deal: 12 Months + 3 Months FREE for a yearly subscription.