Instagram is surging in popularity with an estimated 800 million people using the photo-sharing app at least once a month.
If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, here’s our list of the best VPNs that’ll unblock Instagram:
Its core user base can’t get enough but the app is viewed with suspicion by many businesses, schools, and colleges. These institutions block access in order to prevent network congestion and to make sure that employees and students concentrate on their work. The Facebook-owned service has also been blocked in China since 2014.
The best way to evade restrictions on Instagram is by using a VPN. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN hides your location by encrypting all the traffic flowing to and from your device and tunneling it via an intermediary server of your choice. System administrators will be unable to determine what you’re doing online.
Here’s what you need to do to access Instagram:
- Pick a VPN that’s best suited for you
- Navigate through the options and select a plan
- Download the companion apps
- Open the VPN app, log in, and select a server preferably outside your country of residence
- Once the connection is established, open Instagram and use it normally
What are the best VPNs for Instagram?
To help you out we’ve compiled a list of the best VPNs that work with Instagram flawlessly. They’re ranked on the following factors:
- Speed and stability of service
- Large number of server locations across the world
- Strong encryption parameters so your location remains hidden
- Apps for Android and iOS
- Provision for simultaneous connections
- Ease of use
ExpressVPN occupies the top position in our list because of its rugged encryption protocols, blazing speeds, and a vast server network spread across all corners of the globe. I’ve been using the service for my personal browsing needs for the past several months and have never experienced any downtime. It’s safe to say that the product is remarkably well engineered.
As we mentioned before, the existing server network is incredibly large. Over 1,500 are spread across 94 countries. The app’s home screen also offers a ‘smart location’ option, which selects the fastest connection based on your current location.
Its encryption standards will keep you protected – ExpressVPN leverages OpenVPN with 256-bit AES with perfect forward secrecy as default. 4,096-bit DHE-RSA keys are identified by an SHA-512 hashing algorithm.
Users concerned about data leaks will be happy to know that the company barely stores any information in the first place. The only bit of metadata retention records the servers people connect to and the dates they log on. An additional feature called a ‘network lock’ will freeze web traffic if the connection drops.
A single subscription grants access to three devices simultaneously – that’s not the most generous on this list but still a decent enough option to share with friends and family. There are apps for both Android and iOS as well as desktop clients for Windows and MacOS.
Here’s our review of ExpressVPN.
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IPVanish is headquartered in the US but has stayed largely clear from any scandals pertaining to data leakages. It’s a fast VPN that emphasizes security and privacy.
The service prides itself on its logless policy. What this means is that it just doesn’t store any data whatsoever – no traffic logs or any metadata retention either. Its own employees won’t know what you’re doing online. An internet kill switch is included with all packages – this essentially has the same function as the ‘network lock’ described in the ExpressVPN review. It’ll add an additional layer of security to your web sessions.
To secure traffic, IPVanish uses 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048-bit key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The latter feature means that even if your account is compromised by a malicious entity, all past web sessions will remain out of reach.
There’s a plentiful server network with over 850 servers spread across 60 countries. A single subscription allows five devices to connect simultaneously – that should please users who don’t want to splurge a large amount of money in order to access Instagram.
There are apps for both Android and iOS as well as desktop software for Windows and MacOS.
Many users find it an excellent option for Kodi because it allows them to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
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NordVPN will appeal to power users as it packs a punch of customizable features and servers bifurcated according to your specific requirements. Its app might be a bit ungainly, but the service offers speed and stability in a largely affordable package.
It’s another logless VPN – similar to IPVanish. This policy has thwarted attempts by government agencies to gather user data – there simply wasn’t anything available on Nord’s servers to identify them.
The company encrypts web traffic via 256-bit AES and 2,048-bit DH keys. DNS leak protection is enabled. A single subscription grants access to six devices – definitely one of the highest among providers today.
Like we mentioned earlier, NordVPN allows you to pick a server based on preferences such as torrenting, anti-DDoS, or video streaming. There’s a colossal 1191 of them spread across 61 countries. The provider has compatibility across iOS, Android, Windows, and MacOS.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
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4. Cyberghost Pro
Cyberghost Pro isn’t the fanciest VPN provider out there but it’ll do its job quietly and efficiently. It helps that the service doesn’t cost an awful lot of money and delivers on the core metrics of speed and encryption.
Encryption standards are considered to be top-tier. Cyberghost Pro uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol which is hardy. Currently, there are 1,048 servers spread across 27 countries so unblocking Instagram should be straightforward.
The premium version grants access to five devices at the same time. The company supports both Android and iOS and there’s native software for Windows and MacOS, too.
Read our full review of Cyberghost Pro.
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VyprVPN has built an impressive brand equity because of its exacting encryption protocols. Some might say it’s the best in the business on this front. The company includes 24/7 online customer support, free 3-day trial, and a large server network with all packages.
There is a bit of a logging policy. VyprVPN stores “the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and total number of bytes used.” But it adds that all data is retained only for 30 days and is used to improve the product. Details of web traffic will remain out of reach.
All traffic is encrypted via the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. An internet kill switch is included. VyprVPN is also one of the few VPN providers that’s able to unblock China’s Great Firewall.
Over 700 servers are spread across the world and a subscription to a VyprVPN Pro account allows up to three devices to connect at the same time.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as a desktop client for Windows and MacOS.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
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Zenmate has been running a popular free VPN extension for Chrome in the past few years, but it also offers a paid product with a larger selection of servers and stronger encryption protocols.
The service can be a bit buggy, however. Browsing and video streaming isn’t bad but we did notice many DNS leaks in our review. That might make some users uncomfortable. The company does include a 14-day free trial so you can always cancel if unsatisfied.
If you subscribe to a premium package, you’ll notice that there are over 1,000 servers available.
Encryption standards are adequate to protect your data and privacy. Zenmate uses 128-bit AES encryption in conjunction with 2,048-bit RSA keys and SHA 256 for authentication. An internet kill switch is included.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as a desktop client for Windows and MacOS.
Should I use a free VPN to unblock Instagram?
Free VPNs services are heavily advertised on the internet and some users may be tempted to sign up because there’s usually no credit card details required. But we should warn you that you’ll be receiving a mere microcosm of the same experience.
That’s because such services are vastly inferior to paid options. You definitely don’t want your network administrator to find out that you’re trying to access Instagram while it is restricted. That may happen if you use a free VPN because encryption standards are weak – additionally you’ll also be subjected to things like data caps and bandwidth throttling.
You may think that you’re getting a great deal when signing up for a ‘free’ VPN, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Such services have to make money too in order to pay for server maintenance, salaries, and other overheads. The likely route of monetization? You.
All those grainy popup ads and other forms of migraine-inducing invasive messaging aren’t going to go away. In some cases free VPN services have also tracked user data and sold it for a profit. The more you use free VPNs, the greater the risk of contracting a malware infection. That’s why we think it’s in your best interest to skip them.
Some VPNs to avoid
VPN providers have a moral and ethical responsibility to guard your data at all costs. After all that’s why users opt to access them in the first place – to maintain anonymity on the web and keep browsing habits away from prying eyes.
Unfortunately not all companies hold themselves accountable to these exacting standards. Here are some that we think you should avoid:
Israel-based Hola is the company behind well-known peer-to-peer VPN extension for Chrome. At one point it had a pretty solid user base of almost 50 million. Shockingly, it chose to deploy these devices as pawns in a massive botnet army.
A part of Hola users’ individual bandwidth was put aside to engage in things like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, promoting copyrighted content, and pornography.
2. Hotspot Shield
In July a privacy advocacy group accused well-known VPN provider Hotshot Shield of forcefully inserting tracking cookies in user data and selling it to third-party advertisers. The complaint maintained that the company also hijacked legitimate HTTP requests by redirecting e-commerce traffic to partner domains. This meant that each time a user typed in a request to a site like nike.com, he/she was navigated instead to another similar domain where Hotspot Shield could earn profits if a sale went through.
These are still allegations and a firm decision hasn’t been made so we’re not jumping to any conclusions here. The Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating the issue and will probably reach a decision in the near future. But to err on the side of caution, we think you should avoid Hotspot Shield until it is able to prove that it is innocent.
Media outlets reported last week that a cyberstalking suspect was arrested after well-known VPN provider PureVPN collaborated with law enforcement agencies. The company, despite having a no-logging policy, handed over usage details to the FBI that helped identify Massachusetts resident Ryan Lin, believed to be stalking an unnamed 24-year-old woman.
Ryan was accused of accessing his roommates Apple iCloud and Google Drive accounts without her knowledge, downloading personal data, and using the information to blackmail her. He signed up for a VPN to cover his tracks, thinking that authorities wouldn’t be able to crack down.
We don’t condone using a VPN to break laws or engage in unethical behavior. But we do believe that VPN providers need to be open and transparent to users.
What do I do if Instagram is blocked?
Countries like China and North Korea block Instagram outright. In other places, Instagram might be accessible from a country level but blocked at workplaces and educational institutions. If you’re looking for a solution to this problem, then follow the steps given in the next section.
How do I use Instagram on a VPN?
1. Settle on a service
We’ve outlined what we think are the six best options for unblocking Instagram with a VPN but the choice is yours at the end of the day. Take into account things like how much it’ll cost you, how robust the encryption parameters are, and whether there are servers in nearby locations.
Once you’ve made up your mind, just click on one of the links, register for an account, and sign up with your credit card information.
2. Download the native software
After the payment has been processed, you’ll likely get a confirmation email from the VPN company with your login information. Proceed to download the apps for your phone or the relevant desktop client directly from the website and install them.
When the downloads are complete, clear the cookies in your web browser and restart your device.
3. Open the VPN app
Click on your VPN provider’s app after your device has rebooted. Put in the login information sent to you by the company and select a server. Safe bets are to choose one in Europe or North America.
4. Use Instagram normally
Wait a few seconds for the connection to be established. When this is successful, there should be a green notification icon in the taskbar or on the top of your smartphone screen. Now you can open Instagram and use it without any restrictions.
What’s the future of Instagram?
Instagram’s been on a steep growth curve with the trend showing no signs of abating anytime soon. It currently has an eyewatering 500 million daily active users. Engagement figures are off the charts.
Instagram’s chief rival, Snapchat, isn’t pulling these numbers and has displayed fluctuating fortunes since its heavily-touted IPO. Having said that, nearly half of US teens prefer Snapchat over other forms of social media. Instagram is going to have to keep innovating and adapting if it wants to retain its #1 position.
Co-founder Kevin Systrom told Time in an interview that video remains a priority area for the photo-sharing company. He pointed to speedier and cheaper wireless data networks as a factor for users share and engage with video more often. The approach makes sense – Instagram started off just by allowing still pictures while Snapchat burst into the scene with disappearing videos. Parent company Facebook also understands how important videos are to future media consumption with the algorithm aggressively promoting such content.
But expect Instagram to now seriously take advantage of its critical mass. We’re already starting to see promoted stories on our feeds – these will likely increase as advertisers bid top dollar to gain the attention of millennials. Shoppable tags and other forms of paid content will also probably go up, but without being too invasive so that users don’t migrate to rival apps.
Other than the monetization aspects, I do think Instagram will continue to incorporate the same kind of design ethos that’s helped it engender such a loyal community across the world. We’ll likely see the number of daily and monthly active users go up considerably as well as the amount of user generated content that’s posted.
“instagram logo copyright free Virginia State Parks” by Virginia State Parks licensed under CC BY 2.0