Navigating online geo-blocking

Not all retailers have embraced the web as a "borderless world", with geo-blocking forcing Australians to pay more.
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02.A how-to guide to navigating geo-blocking

How do I get stuff shipped?

The price is often right with online retailers until you reach the checkout, only to be told that shipping to Australia isn’t possible. Third-party delivery services, such as, Bongo and Australian-based company Price USA, remove physical shipping barriers, opening up new shopping opportunities for Australian consumers.

From computers to clothing, the basic principle is the same: you purchase the product, enter the warehouse address of the parcel-forwarding service you choose, and wait until they redirect the mail to your Australian address. Some companies, such as Price USA, actually buy the product on your behalf. 

To read more about third-party forwarding services, see Shopping online for overseas goods.

How do I access movies, TV shows and software usually unavailable in Australia?

As a client connecting to a virtual private network (VPN) server that’s in the same country as the site you’re attempting to access, you have unimpeded access to services and purchases usually unavailable to Australian residents.

There are hundreds of free and paid VPN service providers available online. Some popular options include TorVPN, LogMeIn Hamachi, Hotspot Shield, HMA, IPVanish and Overplay. Opening the Netflix or Hulu webpage while connected to a VPN server in the US allows you to successfully set up an account if you use a legitimate US postal address.

The alternative to using a VPN is to adopt a US-based Domain Name System (DNS) server, such as, for about $5 per month. Rerouting your internet connection through a DNS server – a simple configuration in your computer’s network preferences – can also trick the site you’re attempting to access into believing you are in fact elsewhere.

If documentaries or international news is your thing, you can access BBC iPlayer and international news networks, usually blocked here in Australia, in a similar way.

How do I play games online without feeling ripped off?

It’s no surprise that Aussie online gamers are keen to navigate their way around geo-blocks when the average cost of a game is 50% more here. Access to the lower prices offered on the US version of online gaming service Steam is a difficult one to get around without a US credit card. However, the cheaper US prices for PlayStation 3 Online and Xbox LIVE can be accessed by purchasing prepaid vouchers that can be used to add credit to an account set up via a VPN, provided you also use a legitimate US address.

How do I set up a US iTunes account?

In the US iTunes store, the Beatles’ No. 1 album sells for US$12.99, yet Australians fork out almost 60% more to buy it from an Australian IP address. To get around this, you can set up a US iTunes account by altering the country setting automatically detected when opening the iTunes store and entering a legitimate US address. To get around the US credit card requirement, it’s possible to make your maiden purchase a free app and later top up your account with prepaid US iTunes store gift cards purchased from eBay.


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