Accessing Skype Abroad: How to Circumvent VoIP Blocks While Traveling

Last edited: May 29, 2019
Reading time: 7 minutes, 39 seconds

Since its inception in 2003, Skype’s VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) telecommunications software has allowed its users to spend an estimated 2 trillion minutes reaching out to people they care about around the globe. With 300 million monthly users and over a billion downloads on Android, Skype has become so popular it has even entered our language. With “Skyping” taking its place in the Oxford English Dictionary alongside other tech-inspired terms such as “Googling,” “Whatsapping” and “Facetiming.”

Skype Blocked LaptopIn addition to becoming part of our lexicon, Skype has also become one of the most widely restricted VoIP services. In more than 20 countries Skype, along with other VoIP alternatives, is blocked or restricted. Thankfully, Skype being blocked in a country you live in, or are visiting, is not the end of the world. There are a number of ways to overcome such blocks, the most straightforward one being to sign up to a virtual private network (VPN) service. In this article, we will look at which countries block Skype and similar services. Moreover, we will explore why they are blocked and how you can get around those restrictions. Afterwards, you will be able to get back to chatting with your friends and family.


Why is Skype Blocked in Certain Countries?

There are many reasons why Skype might be blocked or restricted in individual countries. However, in the vast majority of cases it comes down to one of three factors: protectionism, government surveillance or regulatory restrictions.


Protectionism

The majority of VoIP service blocks and restrictions are implemented as a form of protectionism by telecommunications companies. Skype’s ability to offer free, worldwide voice and video calling has a potentially negative impact on the revenue generated by a telecoms company’s own services. For this reason they block the use of Skype and similar platforms.

This is particularly true of South and Central America, where the same company often handles telephone and internet access. Skype is blocked by telecoms providers in Belize, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela in order to force users to communicate via telephone or use the telecoms company’s own VoIP service. The lack of telecoms competition in these countries only increases the problem. For example, in Belize, the government-owned Belize Telemedia Limited is the only telecoms provider. They block the use of Skype in order to protect their telephone revenue and to promote their own VoIP service.


Surveillance

In some countries, notably China and a number of Middle Eastern states, the government enforces restrictions on Skype and other VoIP services. They claim that the platform’s independence and its “no phone tracking” policy poses a security risk.

Skype was removed from all local app stores in China in December 2017. They join Gmail, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Line, and Pinterest on the list of non-state-owned software that have been censored by the Chinese Government. The Egyptian government has an official policy of blocking services they cannot monitor, including Skype.

In January 2018, Microsoft announced that Skype would be implementing a “Private Call” function that would offer end-to-end encryption. This announcement has led to speculation that individual countries would move to block Skype. In a similar manner as they had placed restrictions on WhatsApp and Telegram and Calling. Countries justify this by saying they would no longer be able to monitor Skype calls and caller locations.


Regulatory Restrictions

In certain countries, VoIP services such as Skype have to obtain a license to operate. An excellent example of this is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which requires VoIP services to be licensed by their Telecommunication Regulatory Authority. Skype is currently unavailable in the UAE because they have been unable to obtain the correct license to operate.


Countries Where Skype is Blocked or Restricted

Blocked Entirely

  • Guyana
  • Venezuela
  • Kuwait
  • Libya
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • UAE

Service Restrictions

  • Belize – Skype is currently blocked by Belize Telemedia Limited, Belize’s only telecoms provider, who offer their own VoIP calling service.
  • Brazil – Brazil’s largest telecoms provider, Brazil Telecom, blocks Skype but allows VoIP calling through their own service.
  • Caribbean – LIME, the dominant telecoms provider in the Caribbean, blocks its customers from using Skype.
  • China – All VoIP services are blocked with the exception of those provided by China Unicom and China Telecom.
  • Cuba – Skype is available in Cuba, but calls cost $1.15 a minute, and extremely slow internet speeds restrict its usage.
  • Egypt – The Egyptian government regularly disrupts or blocks all VoIP services that cannot be directly monitored.
  • Iran – Skype seems to be available, but connectivity is so bad that the service is basically unusable.
  • India – Skype calling within India from Skype to mobiles and landlines is no longer available. However, free Skype to Skype calls within India are still working.
  • Jordan – All VoIP services are blocked for security reasons.
  • Myanmar – Skype, and other VoIP services are only available at certain times and in specific regions.
  • Pakistan – Skype calls, even computer to computer ones, are heavily monetized, costing $0.14 a minute.
  • Panama – Imposes a 12% tax on all VoIP calls.
  • Syria – Skype access is limited and is not available in internet cafes.
  • Vietnam – Skype access is limited. However a proxy service set up to facilitate Skype calls is available in some internet cafes.
  • Venezuela – Local ISPs block Skype and other VoIP services in specific areas but offer their own alternatives.

How Do I Bypass VoIP Blocks?

If you find yourself living in, or travelling to, a country that routinely restricts or blocks VoIP services like Skype, don’t panic. There are ways to get around those restrictions. Proxy websites, Tor software and VPNs are some of the best ways to overcome Skype blocking. You can get back to chatting in no time.


Proxy Websites

Because Skype can be configured to run through a proxy, routing your Skype call through a free proxy website is one way to overcome Skype blocking. As the proxy website is hosted in a country with no restrictions on Skype, the connection can’t be blocked by the local Government or ISPs.

The downside to using free proxy websites is that they attract a large number of customers and their limited bandwidth is eaten up by thousands of people all trying to access restricted services. This results in low quality calling at the best of times. Moreover, the VoIP services could become basically unusable during peak usage hours.


Tor Software

Tor software works similarly to proxy websites. They use a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network of more than seven thousand relays. This allows them to conceal their user’s location and country of origin. As with a proxy website, Tor allows its users to connect to Skype by circumventing IP addresses that have been blocked by the government, or the local ISP, by appearing to be in a different country.

As with proxy websites, the main issue with Tor software is latency. In order to conceal its user’s location and avoid surveillance, Tor relays its traffic across multiple nodes. This results in a noticeable amount of lag that can be very distracting during a voice or video call. Also, not all VOIP services are compatible with Tor, as Tor comes in the form of a web browser. Many VOIP services and apps don’t connect to the internet via the browser, and therefore not utilize the Tor overlay network.


VPN

VPN-connection-InternetVPN software is arguably the best way to circumvent VoIP restrictions, allowing you to connect to blocked services and websites without the severe bandwidth restrictions or latency issues associated with Tor or proxy websites.

A VPN allows you to connect to the internet through a proxy server, giving you a foreign IP address and bypassing restrictions on VoIP services. The main difference with regular proxy services is that a VPN also heavily encrypts your connection to prevent further surveillance. Because most VPN services offer a paid subscription they are able to provide far better speed and reliability than free VPN or proxy services.

In addition to higher speed, security and reliability, premium VPN services often offer quality customer support. Technical support staff is usually available to aid you in connecting to restricted services through the VPN software. This means you have the option of calling their technical support team if you are having trouble getting Skype to work.

Many VPN services also offer a “Dedicated IP” service, allowing you to have your own personalized IP as opposed to a shared one. The benefits of having a dedicated IP include being able to access video streaming services like Netflix, online banking accounts and online gaming websites, which routinely block shared IP addresses. If your dedicated IP is eventually discovered and blocked, your VPN service will quickly be able to offer you a new one.


Final Thoughts

Out of all the possible options for overcoming VoIP restrictions and access services like Skype, VPNs represent the best mix of speed, utility, reliability and security. So if you’re travelling to a country with a VoIP restriction, or you’re a local who just wants to be able to chat on Skype, subscribing to a VPN service will enable you to keep sharing your experiences without restriction. To help you pick the VPN services that are right for you, we’ve put together a list of the best VPN providers out there.

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