VPN blocked on hotel Wi-Fi? How to get it working

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • If your roaming data plan is not too generous, using a hotel WiFi is a great idea. But what happens if they don't allow VPNs?
  • Get your VPN working again by disguising the traffic, changing DNS servers or change some configurations as needed.
  • You have every right to protect your privacy. Check out our other related stories in the Privacy section.
  • Unblocking your VPN and other similar articles can be found in the VPN How-to Guides section.
vpn doesnt work in hotel

Connecting to different networks can expose you and your devices to potential security vulnerabilities, and closing such loopholes usually results in slow or blocked connections to the corporate server, translating to lower productivity overall.

Most times the first thing that hinders the connection is the VPN itself, as they facilitate secure remote access and let you work regardless of your location. Despite their importance, one of the most common issues is the level of user attention they need. The best ones need little user input and offer easy user interfaces and straightforward installs and implementations.

However, people who travel and work while they’re at it already have enough to handle, so there’s not much room to constantly configure their VPNs, which can bring up more security holes so it should be avoided at all times.

One of the places where people consistently find themselves trying to deal with remote access issues is hotels. If a visitor goes outside the hotel to flag a cab, the connection signal weakens and eventually disconnects, unless the visitor usually hotspots because modern VPNs have dialers that integrate into the client and can detect different networks around the area, delivering those available to the device in which the VPN client is installed.

Hotels also assume everybody is on SSL VPNs for remote access, so they block access to IPsec ports. They actually block VPNs, especially for media streaming, because they want you to pay for in-hotel movies instead of streaming for free.

This article looks at some steps you can take when your VPN doesn’t work in the hotel, so you can unblock your service and regain complete access.

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  1. Disguise your VPN traffic
  2. Check your laptop configuration
  3. Use stealth VPN technology
  4. Switch between DNS servers

1. Disguise your VPN traffic

Private Internet Access

You can disguise your VPN traffic as a regular web browser traffic, which makes it impossible for the hotel’s network to block your VPN service.

To do this, you need to set OpenVPN on port 443. This port is usually used for SSL/TLS encrypted web traffic. If the hotel’s network would block it, then most of the websites will not work today.

Private Internet Access is a service that uses OpenVPN technology with their dedicated VPN client. Their servers also support the newer WireGuard technology making things even easier for you to bypass any blocks. They are a US-based company, owned by Kape Technology.

We highly recommend this provider. Here are our main reasons:

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  • Over 3000 servers to choose from
  • Built in kill-switch
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2. Check your laptop configuration

If you’re trying to connect so you can work, check with your office IT admin on your computer’s configuration and let them know what is going on so they can log the situation and troubleshoot for you.

Should you be a victim of overlapping subnets (when a connection is established from the VPN client to another network with the same private IP address range so the addresses overlap), or a restrictive hotel firewall. 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.

If the issue is that the hotel’s firewall is too restrictive, preventing your IPsec connection, it won’t work because the ESP (encapsulated security payload) frames are dropped or modified by the router. But, some IPsec clients have features that allow remote access behind firewalls with settings to prevent IPsec-based data traffic. As your IT admin to set up a different IPsec client for you to navigate automatically.

3. Use stealth VPN technology

This can disguise and/or scramble your VPN traffic so that it isn’t easily identified as such, or disguised as regular encrypted web traffic. Here’s how to unblock your VPN on almost any network:

  • Stealth VPN or Obfuscation

Whether you use port 443, most VPN protocols still have the data packet header, more like a fingerprint that can let firewalls recognize VPN traffic. If you use a VPN with stealth or obfuscation technology, the VPN connection can rewrite the packet headers or obscure them so they’re not easily recognizable. Some of the VPNs with this include IPVanish, Proxy.sh, Torguard, VyprVPN, and VPN.ac.

You can also run your VPN through the Tor network as it makes it virtually unblockable and high anonymous. The downside is your VPN will be routed via multiple encrypted proxy layers with varying speeds. VPNs like NordVPN, AirVPN, Proxy.sh and BolehVPN have built-in VPN-over-Tor support.

4. Switch between DNS servers

Some users have come across a tool called DNS Jumper, which makes switching between DNS servers easier, and is a great troubleshooting tool as well. You can improve security by replacing the DNS by your ISP or increase your browsing speed.

DNS Jumper helps access blocked sites, improve security by changing to more secure DNS servers, blocks inappropriate websites, speeds up browsing by moving to a faster DNS server, and simplifies the DNS server switch process (though this can be done manually). It is freeware and is portable – no need for installations.

Has any of these steps helped? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.

FAQ: Learn more about VPNs blocked by the hotel

  • Can a hotel WiFi see your content with a VPN?

If you are connected to a good VPN that offers a kill-switch option, then the hotel Wi-Fi will not be able to see the content of your activity.

  • Does VPN hide browsing from hotel wifi?

The hotel Wi-Fi will detect that connections to one or more servers have been made (the ones from the VPN). But they will not see any other details and they won’t know anything else about your online activity.

  • Is it safe to use hotel wifi with vpn?

Since you are using a VPN, yes, it’s safe to use it since the hotel Wi-Fi will not be able to see any sensitive information while you are browsing.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been since revamped and updated in May 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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