How to Access Restricted Websites With a VPN in 2023
I get frustrated whenever I travel and can’t access my usual websites from the country I’m in. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the main problem is restrictions set by countries based on content (censorship rules) or geolocation (broadcasting regulations).
That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your usual content while traveling. A VPN can help you to safely access restricted services. However, not all VPNs have reliable unblocking capabilities or provide fast speeds for streaming.
After testing over 30 top VPNs, I’ve picked the best 5 for accessing restricted websites. ExpressVPN is my #1 choice because it has a global network of reliable, fast servers. You can try ExpressVPN with confidence as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Warning! Accessing restricted websites with a VPN may violate a country’s laws. You may also breach a streaming platform’s Terms of Service if you use a VPN to watch a library that is outside of your location. I do not condone the illegal use of a VPN. This article is for informational purposes only.
Quick Guide: 3 Easy Steps to Access Websites With a VPN
- Get a VPN — I recommend ExpressVPN because of its excellent unblocking capabilities and superfast speeds for instant, uninterrupted access to sites.
- Connect to a server — Choose a server in the location you need.
- Visit your usual websites from anywhere. Browse and stream without restriction.
How to Access Restricted Websites
There are 3 main reasons why you may find you can’t access your usual websites:
- Restrictions placed by governments to censor the information its citizens can access.
- Schools or workplaces can prevent social media and other sites from being visited on the premises due to GDPR and productivity rules.
- Streaming platforms are usually geo-restricted to a specific country due to licensing restrictions. (For example, BBC iPlayer doesn’t work outside the UK).
However, there are ways to access restricted websites in each of these scenarios.
Download a VPN
Websites use your IP address to determine your location and grant or deny access. This is why when you travel you may find you are unable to see local news sites or access your usual streaming libraries. A VPN assigns you an IP address in the country of your choice, so you can access your websites, including streaming sites such as US Netflix, as normal.
Use a Browser Extension
Some VPNs have browser extensions on Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. While conventional VPN apps encrypt your entire internet traffic, browser extensions only secure your traffic on a specific browser. So your traffic won’t be protected if you open another window. I recommend choosing a VPN with a browser extension and a complete app for encrypting your internet traffic.
Get a Proxy
A proxy is similar to a VPN in that it allocates you a new IP address, but doesn’t encrypt your traffic. Proxies don’t need to be downloaded but can be easily accessed via a website. Private Internet Access comes with a SOCKS5 proxy in its app, so if you are interested in using a proxy, this is a great choice.
While proxies do have benefits, it’s worth noting that they aren’t good at giving you access to streaming services as a VPN, and they don’t encrypt internet traffic. Everything you do online will be visible to snoopers or hackers, which presents a potential privacy risk. Another downfall is that proxies don’t come with obfuscation features. So, if the website you’re trying to access has proxy detection, you’re unlikely to be able to get access to it. That’s why I recommend you use a VPN to regain access to your usual websites.
Use The Onion Router (Tor)
The Tor browser works in a similar way to a VPN because your browsing data is encrypted. Tor routes your internet traffic through random servers to keep your IP address hidden. That’s great for anonymous browsing, but accessing geo-blocked websites can be a problem because you can’t choose a specific location. Instead, Tor routes your data through a series of random volunteer-run servers, meaning that you have no control over the server you use.
While Tor can be used to access restricted content, it isn’t as safe or efficient as a premium VPN. Because it’s unregulated, there is no guarantee that the server you connect to isn’t being hosted by someone with bad intentions. You also run the risk of clicking on content that’s laced with malware or viewing something you would not normally wish to see. Because of this, I recommend choosing a top VPN such as ExpressVPN.
How to Use a VPN to Access Websites on All Your Devices
Windows and Mac
- Download and install a VPN on your Windows PC or Mac. ExpressVPN has easy-to-use native apps for Windows and macOS.
- Connect to a server. Select the country you need and hit the “Connect” button.
- Visit your usual website. Browse the internet without restrictions.
iOS and Android
- Download a VPN app from App Store or PlayStore. I recommend ExpressVPN because it doesn’t reduce connection speeds, even on distant servers.
- Connect to a server. Scroll through the server list or type in the country that you need.
- You’re all set. Stream or browse securely from anywhere.
Amazon Fire TV Stick and Smart TVs
- Download a VPN from the Amazon app store. ExpressVPN has a dedicated app for Amazon Fire TV devices to access geo-blocked sites easily.
- Launch the app and connect to a server. You can find more information about how to use a VPN on your Fire TV Stick here.
- Safely access websites. Avoid blocks and security threats each time you stream.
PlayStation and Xbox
- Download a VPN on your computer. ExpressVPN is my #1 choice because of its best overall performance in terms of speed and security.
- Set the VPN up on your router. Gaming consoles don’t have VPN apps, but my recommended services have detailed guides to set up a VPN on your home router.
- Access platforms on your console. Browse and stream at your convenience.
The Best VPNs to Access Websites in 2023
- 3000+ high-speed servers in over 94 countries
- Lightway protocol offers blazing-fast speeds for streaming lag-free
- Zero data leaks guarantee easy access to websites
- Access websites on 5 devices simultaneously
- 30-day money-back guarantee
Advanced data leak prevention means that ExpressVPN helps you to access restricted sites from anywhere. A data leak reveals your real IP address and browsing data, so you’d be unlikely to gain access to a restricted site. Even worse, officials would be able to see that you’re attempting to use a VPN to disguise your browsing habits. This could be dangerous in heavily restricted areas, leading to fines or even jail time. I ran several DNS, IP, and WebRTC leak tests and found that ExpressVPN’s servers kept my data completely secure.
The proprietary Lightway protocol provides blazing-fast speeds for high-bandwidth activities, so ExpressVPN is a great choice for streaming or downloading large torrent files. I got speed drops of just 5% on a nearby server in the US and drops of 25% when I connected to a country across the globe. High speeds ensure efficient downloads and uninterrupted streams without any lag or buffering.
As well as protecting you from data leaks, ExpressVPN has multiple state-of-the-art features that guarantee secure and anonymous access to restricted websites:
- Private DNS on all servers — ExpressVPN handles all your DNS requests privately with zero exposure risk for anonymous access to restricted sites
- Military-grade encryption — Encrypts your internet traffic with a 256-bit cipher, making it unreadable even if accessed by third parties
- Kill switch — Disconnects you from the internet if the VPN server becomes unsteady, eliminating any chance of data leaks while accessing restricted sites
- TrustedServer network — Uses RAM servers incapable of logging your browsing data. Even the VPN itself can’t access your browsing history. It also has a strict no-logs policy verified by KPMG
A large network of 3000 reliable servers means you can access your home content from anywhere. It’s one of the few VPNs that work in China, but make sure to install the app before you land there as the website will be inaccessible from within the country. ExpressVPN can access nearly every platform, such as:
|Netflix US||HBO Max||DAZN||ITV|
|Amazon Prime Video||Disney+||Sky GO||BBC iPlayer|
You can protect up to 5 devices simultaneously with ExpressVPN. If that’s not enough, I suggest setting it up on your router to encrypt your entire home network — it’ll only count as 1 device. Once you’ve configured it with your router, you can set up ExpressVPN on smart TVs and even game consoles.
One reservation I have with ExpressVPN is its high price tag, but it’s worth the investment because it lives up to its claims. You can get ExpressVPN at a bargain price by subscribing to its 1-year + 3 months plan that provides a substantial discount of 49% — it’ll only cost you $6.67 per month.
You can buy ExpressVPN without risk as it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re unimpressed, you can get a full refund. I submitted my request via the 24/7 live chat and the representative approved the refund with no questions asked. I got my money back in just 3 days.
ExpressVPN works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Nvidia Shield, Xiaomi Mi Box, Google Chromecast, Roku, Android TVs, smart TVs, routers, and more.
January 2023 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan (you can save up to 49%) + 3 months free! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- 9633+ servers spread across 91 countries to easily access restricted sites
- Smart WiFi protection protects your data in public
- 100% leak-proof and military-grade encryption for anonymous browsing
- Works on 7 devices at once
- 45-day money-back guarantee
CyberGhost has optimized servers for streaming, torrenting, and gaming, making it one of the best VPNs to unblock restricted platforms. It’s easy to find specific servers that work best with platforms such as Netflix US, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. These servers are designed to connect to the best locations and give optimal speeds for easy streaming.
While its optimized servers gave the best speeds, CyberGhost’s standard servers were also impressive during tests of mid-range and local locations. I got over 86Mbps on a local server, a 14% drop from my baseline speed of 100Mbps. This is more than enough to stream 4K videos on YouTube or enjoy a 3-hour-long lag-free online gaming session. I also tested its torrent abilities and managed to download a large public-domain file within a matter of minutes.
Its extensive network of efficient servers can provide access to:
|ITV||Netflix US||Amazon Prime Video||Vudu|
|Curiosity Stream||HBO Max||Hulu||DAZN|
Smart WiFi protection keeps you anonymous — you can configure it to turn on automatically when you connect to a network or on start-up so you’re always protected online. Besides that, CyberGhost comprises the following security features for seamlessly accessing restricted websites:
- NoSpy servers — Maintain your privacy as the servers are managed by CyberGhost in its private data centers in Romania, a country with no data retention policies
- 100% leak-proof — Guarantees easy access to restricted sites and prevents platforms from blacklisting a VPN’s IP address
- Military-grade encryption — Makes your internet traffic unreadable to third parties
- Kill switch — Cuts your internet supply if the VPN server becomes unstable, preventing any accidental IP leaks
I used CyberGhost on my Windows PC, laptop, Macbook, iPhone, iPad, Android phone, and router. All its apps are beginner-friendly with a simple and intuitive user interface. CyberGhost supports 7 simultaneous device connections, which is great for travelers using devices at home and on the go.
One issue with CyberGhost is the speeds on its long-distance servers. In my tests, speed drops on the farthest servers from me exceeded 40%. That can be significant if your baseline internet speeds are low to start with. You can avoid this with CyberGhost’s “Best Location” feature and connect to a local server to get the fastest speeds.
The best value plan is CyberGhost’s 2-year + 2 months subscription because it reduces the monthly price to just $2.19 with a 83% discount. With the long-term plan you also get a generous 45-day money-back guarantee — if you don’t like it, it’s easy to claim a refund. I used live chat to initiate my refund request and the rep was friendly and helpful. My money was returned to me within 4 working days.
CyberGhost works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi, Chrome, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, smart TVs, routers, and more.
January 2023 Update! You can subscribe to CyberGhost for as low as $2.19 per month + get extra 2 months free with the 2-year plan (save up to 83%)! This is a limited offer so grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- 35000+ servers in 84 countries to access restricted sites from anywhere
- Shadowsocks proxy to route data from 2 locations at once for extra security
- Military-grade encryption and no data leaks for unrestricted access to websites
- Compatible with most platforms and works on up to 10 devices at a time
- Try risk-free for 30 days
Private Internet Access’s extensive network of 35000 servers makes it a great choice for accessing restricted sites. It has 400 servers on average per country, giving it the highest server count of all premium VPNs. More server options gives you less chance of problems associated with user congestion, and you can easily switch to an alternative option if you encounter any issues.
Access to restricted sites requires top-shelf security, and PIA has an impressive list of safety features. It offers:
- MACE ad blocker — Blocks pop-up ads to prevent tracking cookies and malware for a secure browsing experience
- Flexible encryption — Lets you dial down encryption from 256-bit to 128-bit to get faster speeds for high-bandwidth activities
- Shadowsocks proxy — Provides an additional hop to route your data through 2 locations simultaneously for an extra layer of security.
Its extensive network easily gives you access to streaming platforms including :
|Netflix||Amazon Prime Video||Disney+||YLE|
With coverage extending to 10 devices simultaneously, PIA means you can protect your devices at home and when you travel. It was super easy to install and use PIA’s apps on my Windows PC, Macbook, iMac, iPhone, iPad, and Android tablet. Having so many servers means that PIA is a great option for connecting with friends through multiplayer games like Call of Duty: Warzone, as there will always be a nearby server to connect to.
The only thing that concerned me is that PIA is headquartered in the US, which means it’s bound by the data retention policies of the 5 Eyes alliance. However, PIA has a strict no-logs policy verified by Deloitte. Therefore, your online activity isn’t recorded and can’t be released, even if requested by authorities.
You can get PIA for the low price of $2.19 with its 2-year + 2 months plan, and try it out risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. I tested its refund policy using the live chat and had a reply to my request within a couple of minutes. My money was back in my account 5 days later.
PIA works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, routers, and more.
January 2023 Update! For a limited time only, save 82% with the 2-year plan + get an additional 2 months free! Hurry and check out the deal here!
- 200+ servers managed in-house for optimal unblocking capabilities
- Dedicated IP servers offer fast access to restricted sites
- Solid leak prevention, military-grade encryption, and multiple VPN protocols
- Access sites on 10 devices simultaneously
- Test risk-free for 30 days
PrivateVPN’s “Stealth VPN” obfuscation feature helps you access sites from anywhere, even in high-censorship countries like China. It uses an encrypted Shadowsocks proxy to bypass the most rigorous geo-blocks and national firewalls. However, make sure to install it before you go to a restrictive country like China or the UAE — otherwise, you won’t be able to access the website.
I ran speed tests on 33 servers, and PrivateVPN gave me average local speeds drops of just 18%. I got a maximum drop of 42% on a server that was 7000 miles away from my location, but this is to be expected as the further away you are, the more latency you’ll get. If you have slow internet speeds, I recommend connecting to the closest server to your location, otherwise you may experience lag.
To minimize speed loss, you can go into the VPN settings and switch to the IKEv2 protocol. However, it’ll make your data less secure. Still, PrivateVPN offers plenty of security features for anonymous access to blocked sites:
- Zero leaks — Ensures no data leaks and has an IPv6 leak protection feature
- Kill switch — Cuts your internet connection if the VPN fails to ensure your IP address is never revealed
- 256-bit encryption — Protects your data by making it indecipherable to prying eyes.
All of PrivateVPN’s apps are simple and easy to use. Its interface has handy features, including little question marks beside each item that briefly explain what it is and how to use it, making the VPN beginner-friendly. Installing it on my 10 devices only took around 2 minutes for each device.
One potential issue with PrivateVPN is its small network compared to other premium VPNs. It has just 200 servers, but the list is continually growing. Despite Private VPN’s small network, it can unblock the following sites:
|HBO Max||Amazon Prime Video||Netflix US||ESPN+|
Get PrivateVPN’s 3-year plan for the monthly price of $2.00 and try it risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. I tested its refund policy first-hand by emailing my request. PrivateVPN’s representative replied the same day and my money was returned within the week.
PrivateVPN works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Raspberry Pi, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Xiaomi Mi Box, Google Chromecast, Android TVs, routers, and more.
January 2023 Update! PrivateVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $2 per month with the 3-year plan (you can save up to 85%)! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it’s gone. See more information on this offer here.
- 2000 servers in 75 countries for quick access to restricted content
- Servers managed in-house and optimized for reliable connections
- Deep-packet inspection and military-grade encryption prevent accidental leaks
- Intuitive apps on all platforms and protects unlimited devices at a time
- 30-day money-back guarantee
IPVanish can give you access to restricted sites on unlimited devices. It supports all major platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android, with easy-to-use apps. This gave me peace of mind as I can protect all my devices while I travel, so I know I am completely secure, even when I use public WiFi to check my usual websites.
A well-spread network of 2000 servers and over 40,000 IP addresses make IPVanish a good choice for accessing restricted sites. IPVanish’s “Scramble IP” feature means you can use it in most high-censorship countries, except China. This obfuscation tool disguises the fact that you’re using a VPN, making it perfect for sites with anti-VPN measures.
It can unblock a number of streaming platforms, such as:
|fuboTV||Amazon Prime Video||BBC iPlayer||Disney+|
The interface is easy to navigate, and you can sort servers by ping or load to get the fastest speeds. This makes it easy to find a server with low ping and fast speeds to maximize performance. Alternatively, the “Quick Connect” button automatically fetches the best local server for you. IPVanish self-manages all its servers and addresses downtimes immediately — I never noticed congestion in the 35 servers I tested.
To ensure full anonymity while accessing restricted sites, IPVanish packs top-grade security features into every server:
- Powerful leak protection — Prevents data leaks, but make sure you’ve toggled on DNS and IPv6 leak protection in IPVanish’s app as it isn’t set automatically
- SOCKS5 proxy — Hides IP address by setting up a fake IP address before the VPN connection, improving unblocking capabilities
- 256-bit encryption — Encrypts your information to the extent that a hacker would need 100 years to decode it.
The only issue I had with IPVanish was that my speeds fell by 39% on distant servers. While I could still browse without lag and stream 4K content, if you already have slow internet then you would likely be impacted by this level of speed reduction. To boost my speeds, I activated the IKEv2 protocol in the settings area, which gave me an additional 8%. However, if you use this method, keep in mind that it’s not as secure as OpenVPN or WireGuard.
While it’s more affordable than some other top contenders, IPVanish offers a discount of 66% on its 1 year plan. You can test IPVanish risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. It also has the easiest cancellation procedure of the bunch. I clicked “Cancel Now” on IPVanish’s dashboard to get my money back on PayPal within an hour.
IPVanish works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi, Chrome, Xbox, Firefox, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, Google Chromecast, Android TVs, routers, and more.
How I Tested and Ranked the Best VPNs to Access Websites in 2023
Throughout my tests, I considered the following aspects and features when picking the best VPNs for accessing restricted sites:
- Server network — My recommended VPNs each have a large server network so you can easily access global platforms and websites.
- Security features — Each of my chosen VPNs have top security features including obfuscation, military-grade encryption, leak protection, and a kill switch.
- Speeds — All VPNs on my list guarantee fast speeds for seamless browsing, streaming, and downloading files without lag or buffering.
- Money-back guarantee — I tested each VPN’s refund policy, evaluating the ease of claiming a refund and the time taken to get my money back.
Comparison Table: 2023’s Best VPNs to Access Websites
|# of Servers||Server Countries||Leak Protection||Obfuscation||Money-Back Guarantee|
Warning! Avoid These VPNs for Accessing Websites
After running tests, I found that TurboVPN was leaking my data. It doesn’t have IPv6 protection and lacks a kill switch, which concerned me because almost every server I tried became unsteady and disconnected, exposing my real IP address. It can’t unblock most geo-blocked streaming services. Many of its servers showed signs of congestion and were incapable of buffer-free HD streaming.
The biggest problem with Opera VPN is its lack of tunneling protocols. While it offers 256-bit encryption, it doesn’t pair it with a protocol like WireGuard or OpenVPN. Instead, it uses obsolete TLS encryption for website security, putting user data at risk. It also leaked my internet traffic during IP, DNS, and WebRTC leak tests, so I don’t trust Opera VPN to provide full anonymity on the web or give safe access to restricted content.
With a limited network of just 400 servers, VPN Unlimited can’t access most geo-blocked platforms. Many of its servers were overcrowded and didn’t give me enough speed to surf websites with ease. It also has questionable logging practices since it’s bound by the data retention policies of the 5 Eyes alliance without a verified no-logs policy.
FAQs on Accessing Websites With a VPN
How can I unblock websites at school or work?
It’s possible to get around internet blocks at school or work if you use a VPN. Follow this 3-step guide to easily access your favorite websites at school or work. Networks at an institution often restrict access to certain websites for students and employees due to concerns over security, or simply to maximize productivity and avoid distractions. Using a good VPN on your device is the fastest way to get past these restrictions and regain access to your usual websites.
Can a VPN unblock streaming sites?
The best VPNs have the features needed to give you instant access to streaming platforms, including fast speeds so you can enjoy content without interruptions. The VPNs recommended in this article have a vast server network, so you can even access your usual video library while you travel, along with leak protection and obfuscation technology to prevent your IP address from being revealed.
Is it illegal to access blocked sites with a VPN?
It’s not illegal to use a VPN to protect your data, but always be mindful of the regulations of the country you are in. Some countries have strict rules about VPN use, and if you are found to breach them, you could end up with a fine or other penalties. Be aware that using a VPN to unblock a streaming site in a different country may breach the Terms of Service of the platform, and could lead to a service ban. I do not condone using a VPN for illegal practices, so always be mindful of your country’s rules, and those of the platforms you visit.
What should I do if a website detects my VPN and blocks me?
The first thing you can do is switch to a reliable VPN like ExpressVPN. Subpar VPNs leak your real data or reveal to the website that you’re using a VPN or proxy. This activates its anti-VPN technology, preventing you from gaining access. Many websites leave cookies on browsers which can reveal your true location and block you from the site. Clearing a browser’s cache and cookies can overcome this issue, but you can stop it from happening in the first place by using a quality VPN such as the ones listed in this article.
Can I safely access GDPR blocked sites?
Yes, you can safely access GDPR blocked sites from anywhere with a top VPN. Good quality VPNs give you access to a server in the location of your choice, meaning you can access your usual content while you travel. This means that you can still visit GDPR blocked articles even if you travel to the EU.
Is TOR safe?
Tor is relatively safe if you use it with care, but there are still dangers. To stay safe on Tor, I recommend you pair it with a reliable VPN like ExpressVPN, which has top security. The Tor browser is used for anonymous browsing and accessing the deep web. It encrypts your data by passing your internet traffic through multiple volunteer servers.
However, your data can leak if the entry, relay, or exit node is compromised. It’s also unregulated, so you aren’t protected against targeted threats. By encrypting your data with a VPN before you access Tor, your real IP address won’t appear on Tor’s entry node, eliminating any possibility of being exposed or targeted.
How do I unblock a website without a VPN?
You can use a proxy service instead of a VPN, but remember that it won’t encrypt your internet traffic. Using a good VPN is the safest way to unblock a website because it uses military-grade encryption, leak prevention, and a kill switch to ensure your data doesn’t leak. Even if it does, its contents will be scrambled and can’t be deciphered.
How do I unblock a website on iPhone, Android, or Windows PC?
A VPN is the quickest way to access websites on all your devices, including iPhone, Android, PC, and more. If you’re using a smartphone, you’ll need to download and install the VPN’s app on the App Store or PlayStore. PC users can download the VPN’s setup file from its website and install it on their computer. Connect to a server in a country where the website works, and it’ll open when you visit it.
Can I use a free VPN to unblock websites?
Yes, but I advise against it. While there are reliable free VPNs out there, most free VPNs don’t invest in technology. This means the servers aren’t fast enough to stream without lag, fail to unblock streaming and websites, and have serious safety issues. Worse still, some free VPNs are known to sell user data for profit.
Access Websites With a VPN
While most VPNs claim to unblock restricted sites, only a few VPNs have the technology and security features to help you get fast, easy access to your usual content when you travel.
ExpressVPN is my #1 recommendation for accessing sites from anywhere. It uses proprietary obfuscation and leak prevention in all of its servers. This means it can help you to regain access to your usual websites from any location, without revealing your true IP address. It also has superfast speeds, so you can stream without any lag or buffering. Try ExpressVPN in confidence as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you find you don’t like it for any reason, it’s simple to get a full refund.