Staying connected while travelling is perhaps one of the most important things to us – we need to either check email, text family/friends, work, etc. However sometimes we end up in countries which limit what is on the internet and what people can access (China, for example, limits a ton of things). Ever wonder how you can bypass website location restrictions?
Personally I’ve never (so far) been in a country where my internet was so limited I wasn’t able to do anything. However since I’m constantly travelling, I like to keep up with movies and TV shows from my home country of Poland. All shows and movies are available online for people to watch, but there’s just one problem – you need to physically be in Poland to watch them. The website’s servers detect your IP address which then tell them where in the world you are.
The solution to getting around filters like these is a VPN connection. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and basically what it is, is that you connect your computer to a certain network/server located somewhere in the world and then you can route all of your browsing/traffic through that server.
Most major businesses use VPN connections so that their employees can access their documents, computers, etc. when they are at home. Basically the employee will connect to the business server using VPN and then from their home computer they can access most things that are on the business network. It would be like if their home computer was in the business domain. Hopefully this explanation makes sense (I’m currently studying Information Technology at a uni in Seattle).
So where do we, travellers, come into place? Well, there are websites that ‘sell’ you a VPN connection for a set period of time (e.g. 1 month, 3 months, ½ year, etc.) Usually these websites provide lots of servers that are located around the world – so you then connect to the server in the country from which you want to access content.
If you google the title of this post, you will get a ton of results with VPN connection services. Most cost $2-6 USD per month and provide unlimited traffic, which is super cool.
So in my example, say I’m in the U.S. and want to watch a movie from a Polish website which limits access to people only in Poland.
I simply connect to “Poland” using my Mac and the VPN connection (you get the setup instructions from the service).
Once I am connected, all I do is head over to the Polish website and it automatically detects that I have a Polish IP and allows me to stream content. The VPN connection basically routes your web traffic through the server you connect to and gives you an IP based on where the server is.
Is it safe? Most services are. You have to read reviews and usually the best services won’t charge you a ton of money and will have 24hr support. However, personally I only connect to the service when I want to watch something and then disconnect right away. For example, I would feel skeptical logging into my bank account while I’m connected to the VPN connection since everything can go through their servers.
It also depends on which VPN connection type the service provides you, there are several including PPTP, OpenVPN, L2TP, etc. Since all I do is watch movies, I use PPTP which is the simplest to setup. All you do is type in the server address, username, and password.
Overall, VPN connections are awesome and help bring the world’s content everywhere. Now, you no longer need to be in a certain country just to access certain websites. You can read more about VPN connections and how they work by googling “VPN”. To find VPN services, just google the title of this post. Hopefully this post made some sense of how to bypass website restrictions (or government restrictions).