If you live in a country with relative internet freedom and healthy competition between telecoms companies, you might not know about one of the rarer VPN uses – accessing blocked free VoIP services.
However, if you live in a country that limits citizens' access to VoIP, you’ll know you need the best VPN to talk for free – but how does it work? Below we’ll explain why VoIP is blocked, what you can do to avoid it, and how to pick the right VPN for the job.
Why is VoIP blocked?
Many countries – including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Brazil and some Caribbean nations – have been known to block free VoIP (which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol) services such as Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger and more.
This is often done to protect the interests of telephone companies – some state-owned, some not – as VoIP calls offer a free alternative to the often monopolized networks.
Some countries block apps at the highest level, while others face restrictions at ISP level – but whatever the situation, a VPN can access them and let people use them for free, as they were designed. And, even though a good VPN may cost a few dollars a month, that’s far cheaper than the monthly payments to the networks.
Who does this affect?
Essentially, anyone who can’t afford or refuses to pay the extortionate fees charged by monopolized telephone networks. That includes migrant workers, travellers and those living in poverty, as without access to VoIP they’d effectively be cut off from their loved ones.
Also, these countries often place heavy restrictions on the internet as a whole, so getting, for example, a great UAE VPN can give you access to not only VoIP but blocked content all across the web.
Many people in these situations will already be using VPNs to access VoIP, but it’s also worth investing if you’re going on holiday – your phone plan might end up charging you far more than a month’s VPN subscription if you’re chatting away for hours. So, how does it work?
How to avoid VoIP blocking
All good VPNs have simple mobile VPN apps which make the process of accessing VoIP services incredibly easy. As they’re often blocked at ISP level – meaning the internet provider and not the government itself has blocked them – a VPN can very easily get you access. And, even if they are blocked at a government level, some of the top VPNs can still get you in.
All you need to do is sign up, download and turn on your VPN. Then access your VoIP app and make a call. It’s as simple as that.
What VPN is best for accessing VoIP?
For the vast majority of users, we’d recommend Express VPN. As our top-rated VPN service it can access VoIP pretty much anywhere in the world, and also has no trouble accessing restricted sites in countries like the UAE and China.
With over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, you’re bound to have a good range to choose from, which should in turn should ensure you have great speeds. Tom’s Guide readers get three months FREE of ExpressVPN, meaning you’ll be able to bag 15 months for the price of 12 – and if it’s not for you, you’re covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee if you change your mind.
If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, though, we’d also recommend Surfshark. At around $2 a month on a 24-month plan, it’s the most affordable way to access VoIP abroad. You’ll get a choice of over 1,700 servers in 63 countries, plus it reliably delivers great speeds. We won’t pretend Surfshark is as powerful as Express, but for the money it’s definitely a safe bet – plus you’ll still have 30 days to make up your mind.