The Situation with Iran’s Internet Connection
While we Iranians have become experts in circumventing our nationwide problems in connecting to the internet and finding the best VPNs and proxies, almost all foreign travelers find themselves ill-prepared, ill-informed, and ill-equipped to deal with the fact that they can’t access things that they have become so used to. Well, in this article, we’d like to give you a proper guide on how to use the internet in Iran: The apps and websites that don’t require a VPN to open, the ones that do, and everything you need to know about Virtual Private Networks.
First of all, some tourists have been a bit misled to think that Iran is in a far worse state than it is. Iran isn’t all that different from other countries around the world! It is possible to have access to the internet here, you are going to find a LOT of people who speak English, and yes, the tap water is in fact drinkable 🙂
Now the situation with internet censorship in Iran puts a damper on things, but no problem is without a solution. Before we get to talking about VPNs though, let’s talk about what you should expect.
So, websites like Google (including most of its subsets, like Gmail, Google Translate, and Google Maps) or TripAdvisor, as well as a lot of .com and .net domains that don’t contain any content that is likely to be illegal or just taboo in Iran do not need a VPN to work. You can easily access them on your device just as you’ve always done and do not have to worry about a thing.
On the other hand, most social media apps and websites (Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Telegram, etc.) and the Android app stores are blocked in Iran and do not work unless you’re using a VPN or a proxy. That certainly makes things complicated, we know. Here’s a little tip: If you’re coming to Iran and would like to be able to talk with the folks back home without the use of some third-party app, some messengers like Imo are not blocked, and neither are Zoom or Google Meet!
Another thing you’re not going to love about the internet connection in Iran is the speed. Now, you’re not going to face an issue doing a Google search or anything, mind you, but if you want to have a video call, stream a movie, play an online game, or anything of that sort, you do need to get yourself prepared for serious lag. This effect is doubled when you’re connected to a VPN, so make sure you keep that turned off whenever you do not need it.
One way to have access to a faster connection is using some of the newer services provided by telecommunication companies. Read all about that here!
VPNs in Iran
Now, Virtual Private Networks are not just tools for circumventing internet censorship (which they can do by changing your IP address to that of another country’s); They in fact ensure a more secure connection. When you’re connected to a VPN, you’re safer against potential attackers, information stealing, and malware. If that sounds like a good idea to you, there are some paid VPNs that can provide secure and fast connection with monthly/yearly subscriptions, but we’re not discussing those today. No, we’re talking about the free ones that you’re probably going to delete from your phone as soon as you leave Iran.
If you do decide on purchasing a VPN, one that you’re not going to use EXCLUSIVELY when you’re in Iran, I recommend reading Against the Compass‘s blog post regarding the subject matter!
Will You Get in Any Trouble If You Use a VPN in Iran?
Short answer? No. We could get into a bunch of stuff about how the government wants to create a national network with no access from or to the outside but like most government-enforced policies in Iran, very few people actually care.
Two things you should be careful about when you want to use a VPN is to first of all make sure you’re dealing with a trustable vendor if you’re planning on buying one. The second is that if you want to download a free VPN, you can’t access Google Play. Strangely enough, the App store is not blocked in Iran at this current time (though it usually doesn’t work if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, you can easily access it using cellular data), so iOS users don’t really have much to worry about. As for Android users, you can download the APK from the internet, which means you have to be careful about entering potentially dangerous sites that may bring malware onto your phone.
The Best Free VPNs for Iran (iOS & Android)
And now it’s time for perhaps the most important part of our article. As we already mentioned, Google Play is blocked in Iran and for iOS users who don’t have an Iranian SIM Card and can’t use mobile data, the App Store usually doesn’t work. But hey, we said there’s no problem without a solution and that still holds true: Just download a VPN before you leave for Iran! We’ll specify the ones that work for both operating systems with an asterisk.
- Ostrich VPN* (Just search for it in the App Store for iOS, or download through this link for Android. Do keep in mind that you have to keep the application updated for it to work properly)
- TOR (Onion) VPN*(Just search for it in the App Store for iOS, or download through this link for Android)
- V2rayNG* – This one is a bit tricky because it requires custom configurations. You can purchase one of these servers or you can find free ones through the web that usually don’t work for more than a day or so. (Just search for napsternetv on the App Store for iOS, or download through this link for Android)
We encourage you to read our series of blogs dedicated to helping you figure out the essential parts of your trip to Iran!
If you still have any questions regarding this matter after finishing this post, don’t hesitate to contact us! And we can help you with everything you need when you come to Sarv Hostel, and be sure to check our Instagram, because who knows what events we may have!