Saudi Arabia has very strong internet filtering and blocking. However, it is possible to bypass these blocks with a VPN or “virtual private network”. This is a service that encrypts and redirects all your internet connections.
Here are my recommended VPN providers for Saudi Arabia:
- ExpressVPN (fast, excellent customer support) — uses a confidential method of packet obfuscation
- VPN.AC uses TLS-authentication to mask OpenVPN handshake packets (thus hiding it from Deep Packet Inspection). Provides a self-hosted DNS (domain name service)
- Don’t use a Saudi DNS service on your computer (see details below for more information).
- If you find you are still being blocked, despite using a VPN, try changing your VPN protocol and trying using different ports (your VPN customer support should be able to help).
- Saudi Arabia may also be using Deep Packet Inspection — I have an article with details on avoiding it.
The Details: VPNs For Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia internet filtering is one of the strongest in the world. Saudi Arabia directs all international internet traffic through a proxy farm located in King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology. Since October 2006, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has been handling the DNS structure and filtering in Saudi Arabia.
Mostly the restrictions apply to adult, gambling websites, social and news sites. The authorities claim to have blocked some 400,00 sites — you can read more details in this recent news story.
The latest target in the Saudi authorities’ sights is the video platform YouTube, which has been blocked since last December. Six months earlier, the Viber messaging service was cut off.
Use A VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) is a service encrypts and redirects all the internet connections on your computer. This means all the data leaving your computer is encrypted, which adds a layer of protection against censors and other eavesdroppers. It is also very difficult for your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to monitor you or block your connections. A VPN service will also allow your to computer to appear to be Europe, the USA, or other countries at will. This is helpful if you want to access blocked media like streaming videos.
VPNs differ from web proxies because VPNs encrypt and redirect all of your computer’s outgoing network connections, whereas proxies will only usually only redirect particular protocols within an application.
Use External DNS
Don’t use a Saudi DNS server (i.e. your local ISP provided DNS server) — it’s often part of the filtering and gets blocked.
You can check what DNS servers you are using here:
If you’re still using a Saudi DNS, change your DNS settings to use either the servers provided by your VPN, or one of the many public DNS servers.
I recommend the following: