How to unblock Instagram and use it anywhere

Social app icons including Instagram on a phone screen
(Image credit: dole777 / Unsplash)

Instagram is a giant of the web; a photo and video sharing platform which exceeded the magic one billion user milestone a few years back. And while there are whispers about it being in danger of stagnating against trendier newcomers on the social media block like TikTok, there’s no doubting that Instagram still has a massive audience.

However, as part of that audience, you may at times find yourself unable to access the app at all - a source of some frustration. This may be in your workplace, or perhaps as holidaymaker visiting a place that bans certain social media outlets.

Luckily, finding that Instagram is blocked in your current location is not a difficult problem to get around: all you need is a little bit of time to grab one of the best VPNs to help circumvent any restrictions - and this article to show you how that’s achieved.

Why would I want to unblock Instagram?

Instagram is a popular social network, and access to its vast oceans of media is something you likely take for granted. However, there are situations in which Instagram might be blocked, and there are two main scenarios where this might occur:

Universities and schools, or offices

It’s not uncommon for employers, or academic institutions, to stop their staff or students from going onto social media sites, because they are seen as a major avenue of time-wasting.

So to prevent any potential loss of productivity, these organizations may simply have a blanket ban on popular social networks, and that could well include Instagram.

When travelling abroad

On a much wider level, some countries have far-reaching bans on social media which can include Instagram. This can be for all manner of reasons, but usually revolves around curtailing the spread of ideas or conversations which the ruling regime deems a threat to its security, or perhaps stopping folks sharing images it doesn’t approve of. Furthermore, where Facebook is banned, Instagram is often tarred with the same brush, as Facebook owns it (and has done for almost a decade now).

Instagram is banned in China, and has been for a long time, as well as North Korea, and at times Instagram has also been blocked in Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran in the past too. Indeed, looming legislation in Iran could reportedly usher in a fresh ban on Instagram.

If you’re visiting one of these – or other similarly ban-happy – countries, or are taking a business trip, or indeed if you live in such a place, then accessing Instagram will obviously be a thorny issue. Of course, it’s easy enough to get around any restrictions by using a VPN, and we’ll discuss how that works next.

Instagram Shopping

(Image credit: Facebook)

How to unblock Instagram - step-by-step guide

  1. Pick a VPN – You may already subscribe to a VPN service, and if that’s the case, then you should be fine: any decent provider won’t have trouble unblocking Instagram. Otherwise, you’ll need to choose a VPN and sign up (our constantly updated list of top VPNs details plenty of top-quality options).
  2. Install the VPN software – Download and install the VPN client. Install it on your phone if you access Instagram that way, as most will, or your desktop PC if you use that. You can install a VPN on both PCs and phones, as any provider worth its salt will offer a mobile VPN app to complement its desktop software.
  3. Open the VPN app – This will take you through initial setup, including granting any relevant permissions in terms of privacy conditions, or usage of your device.
  4. Hit ‘connect’ – Press the obvious ‘connect’ button to automatically hook up with the nearest, usually fastest VPN server. This is all that’s needed to unblock Instagram at an office or college, as it’ll make you appear to be using a device outside of the building, side-stepping the blockade. A ban on a country level requires a slightly different approach, as follows…
  5. Choose another server – For getting around a blanket ban in a country, find the list of servers in the main menu – or sometimes a geographical map is used – and choose a VPN server outside of the country you’re in. This will make it seem like you’re in the country where the server is located, thus allowing access to Instagram.
  6. Enjoy Instagram – With the service unblocked, you’re now free to use Instagram as normal.

Unblock Instagram: what VPN should I use?

Which VPNs are best for unblocking Instagram? Our top pick is ExpressVPN for a number of reasons, and the most obvious of these is that it has topped our list of the best VPNs for some time now – a clear indication of the quality on offer with this provider.

For getting around country-wide restrictions, ExpressVPN has thousands of servers dotted across the best part of 100 countries. (As there’s a lot of choice, you’ve therefore got a better chance of finding a suitably speedy server in a nearby country).

We found in our review that ExpressVPN is a great performer when it comes to unblocking all sorts of apps and services – like Netflix for example – so it’s very unlikely to flounder with obtaining easy access to Instagram (or anything else). Don’t forget, for those who have loads of media to store – like photos or videos for Instagram – ExpressVPN also has a special offer which throws in a year’s worth of free and unlimited Backblaze cloud backup.

Another good option for Instagram is NordVPN, which is pitched a bit more affordably, and still offers a sterling range of obfuscation powers to keep your VPN usage from being detected. Instagram addicts will also appreciate that NordVPN’s mobile apps are much better than the competition in general, on both Android and iOS.

Of course, if you want further choices, it’s worth perusing our best Android VPN and iPhone VPN roundups to check out other good options for providers which have impressive mobile chops.

Is it illegal to unblock Instagram with a VPN?

No, in a word. Instagram won’t have a problem with users accessing its service while using a VPN app.

That said, note carefully that what could be problematic is when you’re in a country which has restrictions on VPN usage, and particularly nations where it’s illegal to run a VPN. In these cases, using a VPN – no matter what you’re doing, whether accessing Instagram or not – could land you in seriously unpleasant hot water. Therefore, be sure to fully check out the legality of VPN software if you’re travelling to a different country.

Read more:

  • So...what is a VPN anyway? Understand what the software is
  • VPN uses: discover 10 brilliant ways to get the most from your software
  • Unblock Netflix, iPlayer, Peacock and more with a streaming VPN

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).