How to unblock VPN at school, hotel, college or university

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • People usually want to use VPNs either at work, at school, or in a hotel. But public institutions tend to practice network restrictions.
  • If your VPN got blocked in one of the above scenarios, check out this guide to promptly regain access to the web.
  • Explore more VPN Solutions to cover each and every one of your needs.
  • Don't forget to visit our Unblocking VPNs Hub as well.
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The most common places people want to use VPNs are either at work, at school, in a hotel, or at college and/or university grounds. These are the areas that usually have public Wi-Fi, so as long as you have the password, there’s easy access to the internet for you.

However, even with all the access information given, these same institutions have restrictions as to who or what can access their networks, and this includes apps such as VPNs.

So what happens when your VPN is blocked at school, hotel, college, or university?

Thankfully, there are ways to bypass such restrictions and get on with your work or browsing. Check out the listed solutions below for the specific place your VPN has been blocked.

How do I unblock my VPN in schools, hotels, colleges, or universities?

  1. School
  2. College
  3. University
  4. Hotels

1. VPN is blocked at school

Networks that block VPN traffic can be unblocked using several techniques and/or tools to regain full access. Even if your VPN cannot get through the school’s firewall, there are others that actually can – they’re called Stealth VPNs.

Schools these days have internet access, but admins are always checking that students don’t do monkey business online, so they monitor and/or restrict access by blocking social networking, gaming sites, as well as VPNs.

The good news is that blocking such VPN traffic requires identification, but you can disguise your traffic and make it unblockable.

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Note: We suggest you avoid free VPNs because most of them do not protect you at all.

1.1 How to unblock VPNs in school

A stealth VPN can scramble your traffic so that it won’t be identified as VPN traffic or it is disguised as regular TLS encrypted web traffic. If you want to unblock your VPN, do this:

1.1.1 Run OpenVPN on port 443

This port is used mostly by SSL/TLS encrypted web traffic as a standard internet encryption protocol used each time a site is accessed with sensitive data.

OpenVPN already uses the SSL encryption library, so just switch the port to 443 and it will slip through except for the most difficult DPI firewalls. VPNs let you switch port numbers or give dedicated server locations to allow access to port 443, so check with your VPN’s tech support on how to set it up.

1.1.2 Obfuscation

Most VPN protocols have a data packet header sort of like a fingerprint that can let a firewall recognize VPN traffic. In this case, using a VPN with obfuscation or stealth technology will obscure the packet headers so that the fingerprint isn’t recognizable.

1.1.3 Use TOR network

For advanced obfuscation, you can use the TOR network for maximum privacy and unblocking. This makes your VPN unblockable, but it will be routed via multiple proxy layers that are encrypted, and come with different speeds so it can get really slow.

The configuration process is also complicated, but there are VPNs with built-in VPN-over-TOR support.


Looking for VPNs that can bypass pretty much anything? Check out our top choices.


2. VPN is blocked at College

Network administrators in colleges usually block site access especially to social networking and streaming platforms like Netflix and others. This is because students are known to do a lot of torrenting, so college Wi-Fi was one of the major culprits for this, hence it was nipped in the bud.

Today, college students can only dream about torrenting, plus the main idea is to help them focus more on their studies. Additionally, the bandwidth use is affected if each student is downloading or streaming videos, so throttling happens often and faster.

However, since students are in a digital world, there is a need to access these sites, so restrictions affect and defeat the intentions of study and research, which are meant to break information barriers and increase global collaboration.

This is why students use VPNs to circumvent such restrictions.

However, colleges too can block VPNs, so to get around these limitations, you can either use VPNs with obfuscation or change the port number. In most cases, college firewalls detect encryption tools via Deep Packet Inspection, so to bypass this, hide your encryption protocols.

3. VPN is blocked at University

This is a place of higher learning, and what better way to increase knowledge and share information than by using the internet?

Unfortunately, like colleges, Universities are also subjected to Wi-Fi restrictions on campus networks, which can block VPN services on specific ports.

While university firewalls do that, HTTPS/HTTP ports are open. Similarly, the university can use advanced filtering methods like Deep Packet Inspection.

Port Blocking is the most common technique used to block all ports that are not necessary to browse the Internet, which is why any application or service that uses a different port gets blocked.

Encrypted traffic (HTTPS) uses port 443, unencrypted traffic (HTTP) uses port 80. This is why port 443 and 80 are always open.

While default configurations of OpenVPN, IPsec/L2TP, and PPTP do not use any of these, SSTP is the only encryption protocol that works on port 443 by default.

It is thus the best protocol to use on networks that need port 443 for regular browsing. Unlike PPTP, SSTP is very secure and only works on Windows.

You can forward OpenVPN via port 443, but not all VPN providers allow this though they have this feature in their desktop software (mobile devices don’t support it).

Hence, if the university firewall only blocks ports that encryption protocols are using, choose a VPN that offers SSTP protocol or allows OpenVPN port forwarding to port 443 (maybe port 80) so as to bypass the firewall and gain unrestricted access to the Internet.

Another way VPNs are blocked is via a highly advanced firewall like the Chinese Firewall that uses DPI to detect encryption tools.

This means the port forwarding isn’t enough as the firewall can distinguish traffic and block the data routed through your VPN. In this case, hide or mask encryption protocols by sending OpenVPN over SSL and SSH tunnels.

Using stealth VPNs can mask your VPN traffic and make it undetectable because all your traffic will look like HTTPS so your university won’t tell you’re using a VPN.

Otherwise, you can get a cheap smartphone and make a WiFi hotspot.

4. VPN is blocked in hotels

If you’ve tried using a VPN in a hotel, you may find that it is blocked as they may want you to pay for in-hotel movies instead of streaming for free.

Here’s what to do when your VPN is blocked by the hotel:

  • Disguise your VPN traffic as a regular web browser traffic, which makes it impossible for the hotel’s network to block your VPN service unless they want to block all HTTPs browser traffic, which is unlikely.
  • Check with your office IT admin on your computer’s configuration so they can log the situation and troubleshoot for you. In the case of an overlapping subnet, the hotel router assigns your machine a private IP address range, and this matches that of the office, so when your VPN client connects, it uses the current source IP address (office network), and the gateway you connect to sees this as a local address, so they overlap and deny your VPN connection.
  • Ask your IT admin to set up a different IPsec client for you to navigate automatically.
  • Use stealth VPN technology to disguise and/or scramble your VPN traffic so that it isn’t easily identified as such, or disguised as regular encrypted web traffic. You can do this by running OpenVPN on port 443, or using stealth VPN or obfuscation.
  • You can also run your VPN through the Tor network as it makes it virtually unblockable and highly anonymous. The downside is your VPN will be routed via multiple encrypted proxy layers with varying speeds.
  • Switch between DNS servers by replacing the DNS of your ISP or increase your browsing speed.

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Hide.Me is a VPN tool that will work great in hotels from countries where the internet connection is limited.

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Are there other ways you know to get around VPN blocking in hotels, school, university, or college? Let us know in the comments section below.

FAQ: Learn more about using VPNs in public establishments

  • Can I use VPN on hotel WiFi?

It is recommended that you use a VPN tool whenever you go online through a public Wi-fi network, and this includes hotels’ network. For instance, PIA and Cyberghost VPNs both provide encrypted protection even on public networks.

  • Can hotels block VPN?

Indeed they can, mainly because they wish to limit free streaming and promote their own paying services instead. Assuming that remote access is only performed via SSL, some hotels block IPsec ports, which also affects VPNs.

  • How do I unblock VPN on school WiFi?

Use a strong VPN like PIA that allows you to switch port numbers to port 443. Using a VPN with obfuscation or stealth technology can also help with this task or alternatively, you can pair your VPN with the Tor browser for maximum privacy and unblocking.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been since revamped and updated in May 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

  • Hello,

    We have discussed with the developers and they were confident about the restrictions Surfshark could pass. Let us know if you observed something special so we could update the article.

    Cheers!