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7 Ways to Unblock Websites & Access Restricted Content From Anywhere

Updated: January 3, 2022 By Dean Chester

The whole idea behind the invention of the internet was to be able to share information with anyone, anywhere, and without restrictions. However, this is not the case today, and the crackdown on internet freedom is growing by the day. For example, we have all come across the annoying YouTube banner “This video is not available in your country.” Even worse, you may not be able to access Gmail if you are in a country like China, use Skype in the UAE, or even access certain Netflix titles despite your subscription.

The good news is you don’t have to be limited to only what your government, ISP, or streaming service lets you access. With the right information, you can take back your internet freedom and circumvent any bans and restrictions that have been put in place by the various bodies.

To help you achieve that, this guide will show you 7 different ways you can access any restricted content on the internet regardless of your location. You can use the methods shown here to unblock websites and content on any PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Firestick, Apple TV, gaming console, Smart TV, or Android TV/ Box.

The guide will also explore:

  • The different types of internet restrictions
  • How a VPN works and how to set up one
  • Tor and the dark web
  • The legality of unblocking websites

Types of Internet Restrictions

Before we look at the various ways of circumventing restrictions and bans, it’s important we understand the types of restrictions in place today. This will help determine a suitable method for evading each of them.

Geo-Restrictions

Geo-restrictions are simply internet restrictions that are put in place depending on a user's geographical location. The region information is extracted from the user’s IP address, the online identifier that also carries other information such as the city, area code, and ISP name.

An example of a geo-restricted site is Pandora Radio. The streaming service is only available in the US, and if you try to access it from another region, you’ll be notified that the service is not available in your country.

Geo-restrictions on Pandora

Another type of geo-restriction is tailoring content according to a particular country or region, something that has been made popular by Netflix. The streaming service provides a custom library for each of its 190+ countries. These libraries vary in the number of titles and specific titles available, with the largest being ten times larger than the smallest!

Thankfully, there are several methods you can use to access Netflix US as well as other libraries such as Canada, UK, Netherlands, Japan, and India. We’ll have a look at them shortly.

Government Censorships

Government censorship is a form of information filtering put in place to prevent citizens from exposure to certain information/ services or suppress communication. Governments can set up such censorship for economic, religious, legal, or even moral reasons.

The most well-known form of censorship is China’s Great Firewall (GFW). This censorship system suppresses information and prevents access to certain websites and services. These include popular services such as Google (and all its services), Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Countries that impose high levels of censorship, such as China, North Korea, and the UAE also block circumvention tools, but we’ll show you the best tools for such countries.

Network Censorships

Network censorships are put in place by network administrators in workplaces and schools to regulate the use of the internet. These restrictions are meant to increase output by preventing distractions, but they can also be quite annoying. Such controls are easy to bypass.

Top 7 Best Ways of Unblocking Restricted Websites & Content

There are many ways of circumventing internet filtering and censorship, and below are the best 7. Note that each method is suitable for a certain type of restriction, although some can cover all types.

1. The Best Option: Use a VPN

VPNs are the best option for bypassing any form of internet filtering. Short for Virtual Private Networks, VPNs encrypt user traffic and then securely tunnel it to a remote server. This server then spoofs the user’s IP address and connects them to the internet, making the user appear as if they are in the server's location.

The fact that a VPN changes a user’s IP address means that the user can determine their virtual location by connecting to a server in their desired location. For example, to access the aforementioned Pandora, you only need to connect to a US server.

Accessing Pandora through ExpressVPN

However, some streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu actively block IP addresses owned by VPNs to adhere to licensing deal terms. This means that you need to choose a VPN that can circumvent such blocking by frequently refreshing its IP address range.

Apart from the above, VPNs are much more than changing a user’s IP address and streaming as they also provide encryption and protocol tunneling. This functionality is quite useful in countries that practice high levels of surveillance, as encrypting your traffic means that you can keep your activities private. Some VPNs also go ahead and offer obfuscation technologies that can be used to evade the deep packet inspection (dpi) VPN blocking technologies used in highly censored countries.

However, choosing a VPN that can circumvent government censorships and the VPN blocking practiced by streaming services is not easy. Don’t worry though; we have done the hard work for you and provided an overview of the top 3 VPNs for circumventing website blocking and censorships.

Suitable For:

  • Unblocking geo-restricted sites
  • Bypassing local network restrictions
  • Bypassing ISP bans
  • Circumventing government censorships
  • Streaming on Netflix and other streaming services

2. Use a Web Proxy to Access a Blocked Website

Using a proxy website is an easy way to access a blocked website. These proxies allow you to connect to a website using their servers, so you will bypass all local network restrictions.

However, that’s pretty much all they can do. Unlike a VPN, they do not provide any encryption or privacy. Actually, since most of them are free, they may end up selling your data. Most proxy websites are also blocked by network administrators and streaming sites such as Netflix, so you may not have huge success.  The good thing is that they come up all the time, so you can find one that has not yet been blacklisted on your network.

Examples of Web Proxies: croxyproxy.com & proxysite.cloud

Suitable For:

  • Bypassing local network restrictions
  • Bypassing ISP bans

3. Change your DNS

Sometimes when ISPs block certain websites, they do so by corrupting their DNS IP addresses. For example, when you open thepiratebay.org on your browser, instead of providing you the correct IP address, your ISP may give your browser a dummy IP address such as 0.0.0.0.

DNS blocking is easy to bypass as you only need to change your DNS server IP address. This may sound a little geeky, but it actually isn’t. Changing DNS servers on any device only requires a few steps and about a minute or two. You can use Google’s free DNS service to circumvent ISP DNS blocking.

Primary DNS: 8.8.8.8

Secondary DNS: 8.8.4.4

Apart from simply changing your DNS servers, you can also use a SmartDNS service. Such a service is useful for accessing streaming sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer without needing a VPN. When you try to open a particular site, the DNS servers will redirect you to the version you are interested in even though your actual IP address won’t change.

SmartDNS services always require a subscription, but several of the best VPN services provide one for free as long as you have a VPN subscription. You can use your SmartDNS to unblock streaming services on devices that do not support VPN installation, such as Smart TVs and gaming consoles.

Suitable For:

  • Bypassing DNS-level ISP bans
  • Streaming on Netflix and other streaming services

4. Connect to the Tor Network

Tor stands for The Onion Router, and it is a free, open-source project that was designed to offer anonymity and avoid online censorship. Besides using a VPN, this is the most powerful method of unblocking websites and content as it also provides both privacy and anonymity. Tor works by directing your traffic to three nodes: an entry node, an intermediate node, and an exit node. Due to the setup, your ISP can’t tell your exit IP address, and the exit node can't know your real IP address.

To use Tor, you need to download the Tor browser. After that, you can open it and connect to the Tor network. Check your IP address while using the browser, and you'll notice that it's different from the IP address on your other browsers. However, it's important to note that Tor significantly slows down your connection due to the extra nodes and is therefore only suitable for light browsing.

Apart from unblocking content, Tor also provides access to the dark web, a part of the internet that is not available via regular search engines such as Google. Websites in the dark web end with a .onion address and are not restricted.

An interesting tip is that you can also access the dark web using your regular browser by using a VPN that provides Tor over VPN servers. The two best VPNs for that are NordVPN and Surfshark.

Suitable For:

  • Unblocking geo-restricted sites
  • Bypassing local network restrictions
  • Bypassing ISP bans
  • Circumventing government censorships

5. Install a Proxy or a VPN Browser Extension

Some websites don’t block VPN and proxy IP addresses, and to unblock such sites, you'll only need a browser extension. These extensions are available for free on the Chrome and Firefox stores, and they can be used for changing the browser's IP address. Once you install a proxy or VPN extension, you'll then be able to select a server just like with a VPN. The extension will then spoof your entire browser traffic, but it won't be encrypted in most cases.

This is a more reliable way than using a web proxy as you won’t have to access a website through another website, and network admins don’t block browser extensions. Examples of free VPN and proxy extensions are ZenMate and Hotspot Shield. Note that if you get a VPN subscription with most paid VPNs, you’ll also have access to a premium browser extension.

Suitable For:

  • Unblocking geo-restricted sites
  • Bypassing local network restrictions
  • Bypassing ISP bans

6. Use Google Translate

Google Translate doesn’t sound like a reliable method for unblocking websites and content, but it is surprisingly quite effective for local network restrictions. Most institutions and workplaces do not block the online service as it is seen as a learning tool, making it a good option.

To unblock a website or webpage using Google Translate, type or paste the URL, then click it to open it on another page. Leave the left side as "Detect Language," then set the right side to English or any other language you are familiar with. The website will open using Google's servers, and you'll bypass your ISP and local network restrictions.

Accessing Wikipedia through Google Translate

However, this method only works for simple websites and web pages (not streaming services).

Suitable For:

  • Bypassing local network restrictions
  • Bypassing ISP bans

7. Use the IP address instead of the URL

In most cases, ISPs and local network admins block websites using their domain names. This means that you can circumvent that ban by using a website’s IP address rather than its URL. To find the IP address, you can head to whatismyipaddress.com/hostname-ip.

Alternatively, you can use Ping on CMD (Windows) or Traceroot on Terminal (Mac and Linux).

From there, type the IP address in your browser as http://142.250.68.100, and you will bypass the website ban. However, this method is not effective in cases where a website uses a shared IP address, is connected to a CDN, or has hidden its IP address.

Suitable For:

  • Bypassing local network restrictions
  • Bypassing DNS-level ISP bans

Top 3 Best VPNs for Unblocking Websites & Accessing Restricted Content

As you can see from above, a VPN is the standout option for unblocking restricted websites as it can bypass all forms of internet filtering. However, there are hundreds of VPNs in the market, and all of them offer different features and functionalities.

To ensure that you choose the best, here are some crucial considerations:

  • Speed: The VPN should let you browse and stream without any significant losses in speed.
  • Compatible with Streaming Services: If your VPN doesn’t specialize in streaming, you will be blocked by the likes of Netflix and Disney+.
  • Huge Server Network: A good VPN provides access to all regions through a network of well-distributed servers.
  • Obfuscation Capabilities: Government censorships block regular VPN traffic, so your VPN needs to offer obfuscation features to bypass these blocks.
  • Solid Privacy & Security: This is a VPN’s primary functionality, and you need to ensure that your VPN doesn’t keep logs and uses the recommended encryption standards.

Considering the above factors and others such as usability, here are the top 3 best VPNs to unblock websites and access restricted content.

1. Surfshark VPN

Surfshark VPN has only been around since 2016, but it is already one of the most popular VPN services. The VPN has a server network that consists of 3,200+ servers spread across 56 countries. You can use it to connect to the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Surfshark VPN is super-fast, and you can use it to unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, Prime Video, DAZN, and many others. In the case of Netflix, you can unblock 15+ Netflix libraries. There’s also a SmartDNS service that you can set up on your Smart TV and gaming console.

If you are in a restricted country, the VPN apps have a “No Borders” mode which is automatically activated. The functionality lets you bypass VPN blocking, and you can also activate a “camouflage mode” to prevent your ISP from knowing that you are using a VPN. Overall, Surfshark VPN has everything when it comes to unblocking websites and accessing restricted content.

Pros
Cons
  • Super-fast
  • Smart DNS
  • Chrome and Firefox browser extensions
  • Excellent privacy & security
  • Inbuilt ad and tracking blocker
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • High monthly price, although you can still get it at just $2.49 a mon

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is one of the biggest names in the VPN industry, and it is known for its many features and huge server network. The VPN’s network consists of 5,400+ servers in 69 countries, and they are spread across all regions of the world.

The VPN allows users to users to circumvent restrictions through several groups of specialized servers. One of these is obfuscated servers that add an additional SSL/SSH encryption to hide that your traffic is encrypted with OpenVPN, hence bypassing dpi blocking. The other category of servers is Onion over Tor. These servers allow you to combine a VPN's security with the anonymity of Tor. Once connected, you won’t need a Tor browser to access the dark web.

As for streaming, NordVPN uses DNS rerouting technology known as SmartPlay to ensure you can access almost any streaming service. The VPN also provides 14 of the largest Netflix catalogs, and there’s a SmartDNS option. A NordVPN subscription comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros
Cons
  • Excellent speeds
  • Superb privacy & security
  • Supports Netflix & other streaming services
  • RAM-disk servers
  • Bypasses government censorships
  • SmartDNS service
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Renewal price relatively high
  • Desktop apps are a bit heavy on RAM

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a leading VPN service provider and the most popular in highly censored countries like China. The VPN is quite reliable in bypassing censorships through its inbuilt obfuscation capabilities and a selection of servers that are not blocked. To ensure access even in such countries, Express has many mirror websites and a dark web site available at expressobutiolem.onion.

Apart from that, ExpressVPN unblocks pretty much any streaming service. You can access 15+ Netflix libraries and stream in up to 4K thanks to its super-fast servers. If you don’t want to lose any speed or you like to stream on a non-compatible device, the VPN also provides a SmartDNS service.

ExpressVPN offers 3,000+ VPN servers spread across 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries to ensure you can connect to any region. A single subscription can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros
Cons
  • Superb uptime in China
  • Excellent speeds
  • Stream on any website
  • Solid privacy and security
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Smart DNS service
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Relatively expensive

How to Bypass Restrictions Using a VPN

Circumventing restrictions with a VPN is quite easy, and below is a layout of the process.

  1. Sign up with a VPN provider that supports the specific task you’d like to accomplish.
  2. Download and install the VPN app on your desired device.
  3. Launch the VPN app and sign in using your credentials.
  4. Connect to a server where the content you’d like is available
  5. Access any region or content you like.

Note that if your aim is to circumvent government censorships, you will need to activate obfuscation/ scrambling on the app (although the option is automatic in some VPNs). You will also need to select streaming servers if you'd like to access a streaming service, as most servers are usually blocked. If you encounter any issues, the VPNs above provide 24/7 live chat support.

Is it legal to unblock websites?

Whether unblocking websites is legal or not pretty much depends on where you are located. However, almost all countries (including China) allow VPNs to some extent, so it all comes down to what you access and the local laws. Note that if accessing certain content (e.g., copyrighted content) is illegal in your country, it’s still illegal even with a VPN.

In the case of streaming services, the service will state that it’s against their policy, but you won’t break any law or even get your account suspended for unlocking new titles.

Wrap up

Internet blocks and restrictions are quite annoying, but you don’t have to let them frustrate as you can use the above methods to bypass them. However, the most reliable of them is using a VPN. A reliable VPN service will let you bypass all forms of internet filtering, from local network restrictions to complicated censorship firewalls and Netflix VPN blocks. This way, you can take control over what you can access while at the same time keeping all your online activities private and anonymous.

Senior Researcher
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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