Getting Around Internet Censorship on Your Mobile Devices When Traveling Abroad

Many countries around the world impose various levels of internet censorship, blocking access to certain websites and online services. This can pose challenges when traveling abroad with your mobile devices. However, there are techniques you can use to bypass censorship and access the open internet, even in restrictive regimes.

China has some of the most sophisticated and pervasive internet censorship globally. Popular sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked along with thousands of other websites not approved by Chinese authorities. VPNs that work elsewhere often fail in China due to active blocking. But with the right approach, it is still possible to circumvent China’s Great Firewall.

Using a VPN to Access Blocked Sites

One of the most effective ways to bypass internet censorship on mobile is using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through servers in another country, hiding your location and activity. This allows you to circumvent geo-restrictions and access blocked content.

When choosing a VPN for China, look for providers with a proven track record of working reliably there. ExpressVPN and NordVPN are good options, using techniques like obfuscated servers and protocol masking to avoid blocks. Configure your VPN app before traveling and look for VPN recommendations from China VPN review sites.

Once in China, connect to VPN servers in locations like the US or Europe to access blocked sites and services. Switch servers if your connection is slow or drops due to blocking. Using VPN browser extensions as a backup helps ensure you stay connected.

Changing DNS Settings

DNS stands for Domain Name System, which translates web addresses into IP addresses. By default, your device uses government-controlled DNS in censoring countries.

To bypass this, you can manually configure alternate DNS servers like Google (, OpenDNS ( or Cloudflare ( This directs your traffic through non-restricted servers.

On iPhone, go to Settings > Wi-Fi > tap the ‘i’ on the connected network > Configure DNS. On Android, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Advanced > Private DNS. Enter the preferred DNS address.

Using Encrypted Browsers and Proxy Apps

Apps like Orbot (Tor proxy) and Firefox Focus encrypt your traffic and hide your browsing activities from censors. Other proxies like Psiphon also provide ways to circumvent blocks.

The Tor browser routes your traffic through randomized nodes, making it very difficult to censor. While slower than a VPN, Tor provides an added layer of privacy. Apps like Orbot bring Tor to mobile.

Additional Ways to Stay Connected

Other options like connecting through a secure Shell (SSH) tunnel or using a service like Streptocarpus can help you stay online. Messaging apps like Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp often work in restrictive regions when web traffic is blocked.

Staying connected across borders requires adapting to limitations. But by combining censorship circumvention tools, you can bypass most restrictions to access the open global internet on your mobile devices.

Accessing Social Media and Google Services

Popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google services are often prime targets for blocking in censoring countries. This can make it challenging to access your accounts while traveling.

Once you have a reliable VPN connection, social media sites and Google products like Gmail, Drive and Maps can be accessed normally. The VPN allows you to connect to their servers which are blocked locally.

However, the Great Firewall employs deep packet inspection which can detect and disrupt VPN traffic to these sites. This can cause intermittent connection issues.

To improve connectivity, try using the mobile apps and access the desktop sites in your mobile browser as a backup. Apps may utilize domain fronting and HTTPS encryption to better avoid blocks. Connecting through a VPN browser extension helps ensure your traffic is funneled through the VPN.

Also make sure you don’t have an old app version that is now blocked in your location. Keep apps updated or reinstall them while on the VPN so you can download the newest uncensored versions.

Staying Updated on Local News

Local news sources are often censored when traveling abroad. VPNs allow you to access independent international media, but you may also want to follow local happenings.

Try looking for apps and sites designed specifically to evade censorship in that country. Search app stores for banned social networks where locals may share news like WeChat in China or VKontakte in Russia.

Follow non-blocked blogs, message boards and social media accounts run by locals instead of state-sponsored outlets. Hashtag trends can provide insights into local events. Connect with residents who can recommend good information sources.

Stay alert for censorship workarounds like mirror sites. Using Tor or VPN browser extensions provides additional ways to access local independent media.


While censorship presents challenges, being savvy and combining the right apps can keep you informed and connected no matter where you travel with your mobile devices.


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