VPN doesn’t work in the hotel? Here’s how to work around it

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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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.

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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.

FIX: VPN doesn’t work in the hotel

  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

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, unless they want to block all HTTPs browser traffic, but this is not a likely occurrence.

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:

  • Run OpenVPN on port 443

Port 443 is the most commonly used port by SSL/TLS encrypted web traffic, and is a standard protocol you use whenever you access a website with sensitive details like your banking or tax information. OpenVPN uses SSL encryption library so switch the port # to 443 and it will slip through all rigorous DPI firewalls.

Most high quality premium VPNs will let you switch the port # or have dedicated server locations that can access the port 443. Talk to your VPN’s tech support for this step.

  • 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.