How to change your location: VPNs, proxies, and Tor

Privacy news
14 mins

VPNs, proxies, and the Tor browser are some of the best tools you can use to change your virtual location online. But, which one should you pick? We explore the various options in this article.

How do virtual location changes work?

Most sites, services, and apps determine your location based on the IP address assigned to you each time you go online. An IP address is a string of numbers that offer clues to your general vicinity. 

Therefore, changing your IP address is the most straightforward and reliable way to change your virtual location, fooling sites, services, and any individual snoops. You’ll see that there are several ways to change your IP address, the easiest of which is via a VPN app.

Why should I change my virtual location?

Changing your virtual location by replacing your real IP address with a different one can offer a variety of benefits, enhancing your online experience in terms of security, privacy, and accessibility. Here are several reasons why you might consider changing your virtual  location:

1. Access to restricted content and web services

One of the most popular reasons to change your virtual location is to be able to access different types of content and web services that might not be available in your geographic location. For example, if you’re an expat, you might want to access your bank or government accounts in your home country, and using a VPN could help you connect to your accounts without running into problems because you’re overseas.

2. Improved privacy

Changing your virtual location conceals your physical location from stalkers, snoops, bullies, and the like. When you’re browsing the internet, trackers can also follow you around the internet using your IP address. So by replacing yours with a different one, you can also lessen targeted advertising, tracking, and potential data collection by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) or government agencies.

3. Finding discounts

Prices for online shopping, hotel bookings, and flights can vary based on your geographical location. By changing your virtual location, you might find better deals or lower prices that are targeted to a specific market or country.

4. Improved internet connection speeds

When changing your IP address to one that is closer to the service you’re trying to use, such as an online gaming site, you could speed up your internet and get a gaming advantage by reducing lag or ping.

5. Avoid targeted advertisements

Online advertisers and networks compile detailed profiles of users based on their location, browsing habits, and other online activities. It’s creepy. By changing your virtual location, you can obscure your actual location and browsing patterns, making it harder for ad networks to target you with personalized advertisements.

6. Software testing and development

Developers and testers might use a VPN to change their location to test apps and websites as they appear to users in different geographical locations. This helps in ensuring that digital products provide a consistent and user-friendly experience worldwide.

7. Market research and SEO

Marketers, researchers, and SEO specialists might change their virtual location to see search results, advertisements, and content as it appear to users in different regions. This can provide valuable insights for competitive analysis, marketing strategies, and understanding local trends.

8. Break through censorship

As most online censorship happens based on your location, changing your virtual location can offer access as if you are in a different country. It also provides a layer of anonymity and security for those wishing to share their views, report on sensitive issues, or access information without the fear of reprisal.

How do I change my virtual location with a VPN?

All you need is a VPN app on your device. Here are the steps you need to take to change your location with a VPN:

1. Pick a reliable VPN service

Select a reputable VPN provider with strong encryption, a no-logs policy, a stellar reputation, and a selection of VPN server locations that serve your needs.. ExpressVPN also brings greater value by offering a slew of other security  features included in its apps, like a password manager and ad blocker.

2. Sign up for the service and download the VPN app

Most high-quality VPNs are subscription-based. Once you’ve signed up for an account, download the VPN app to your devices and sign in.

3. Select a server location

Open the app and select your desired server location. Some VPN providers might also suggest the best VPN location for you based on speed and server capacity.

4. Connect to the server

After selecting a server, click the “on” button (or similar). The VPN app will establish a secure connection to the chosen server. This process may take a few seconds. You can verify your new virtual location by visiting a website like to see your new IP address and location.

Does a VPN change my IP address?

Yes, a VPN does change your IP address. When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is routed through a VPN server, making it appear that your online activities originate from the server’s location, not your actual physical location. This process assigns you an IP address that corresponds to the VPN server’s location, effectively masking your real IP address.

How does a VPN change my IP?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how a VPN changes your IP address: 

  1. Connection to VPN server: When you activate your VPN and choose a server to connect, your device establishes a secure connection.
  2. Data encryption: The VPN encrypts your internet traffic. This means that any data sent from your device is encoded so that it can only be decrypted by the VPN server.
  3. IP address masking: Once your encrypted traffic reaches the VPN server, it is decrypted and sent to its final destination on the internet. To any website or online service you access, it appears as though your traffic is coming from the VPN server, not your actual location. As a result, the IP address shown to websites and services is that of the VPN server.
  4. Privacy and anonymity: Your location and identity are hidden because the website sees the VPN server’s IP address instead of yours. This enhances your online privacy and anonymity, making it difficult for anyone to track your online activities back to you.

How can I change my virtual location with a Tor browser?

When you change your location with the Tor browser, your internet traffic goes through many layers of encryption and different servers around the world before it reaches where you want to go. This makes it look like you’re accessing the internet from a different location than where you actually are.

However, unlike a VPN, the Tor browser does not allow you to select a specific country or location for your traffic to appear easily. The exit node (the last relay your traffic passes through before reaching the internet) can be in any country and this changes with each new session or website you visit.

If you have a specific need to appear as if you are accessing the internet from a particular country using Tor, you can manually configure Tor to use exit nodes from a specific country, although this is a bit more advanced and might slightly reduce your anonymity. Read more on whether Tor is safe.

Follow our guide to find out how to set your virtual location when using the Tor browser:

1. Download and install the Tor browser 

First, if you haven’t already, download and install the Tor Browser from the official Tor Project website. This ensures you have the latest, most secure version.

2. Access the Tor configuration file 

After installation, you might need to access the Tor configuration file (torrc), which is located in the Tor Browser’s installation directory. The path and method can vary depending on your operating system.

For most users, navigating to the Tor Browser folder and looking for the torrc or torrc-defaults file is the first step. On Windows, this might be under the Browser -> TorBrowser -> Data -> Tor directory inside the Tor Browser installation path.

3. Configure Tor to use specific Exit Nodes

Open the torrc file with a text editor and add the following line to specify the desired country by its two-letter ISO 3166 country code: 

ExitNodes {us} StrictNodes 1

Replace us with the country code of your choice. StrictNodes 1 tells Tor to strictly use the exit nodes specified then save the changes and close the file.

4. Restart Tor Browser

For the changes to take effect, you need to restart the Tor Browser. Once restarted, Tor will attempt to use exit nodes only from the specified country, making it appear as if your traffic is originating from there.

How can I change my virtual location with a proxy server?

Proxies aren’t designed to protect your privacy the way VPNs and Tor do, since they don’t have the same robust encryption features. However, they can do the job of changing your IP address. Here’s how to use a proxy service to change your virtual location.

1. Choose a proxy service

Select a proxy service that meets your needs. There are many types of proxies, including free and paid services, and they come in various forms such as HTTP/HTTPS, SOCKS, and web proxies. Paid services usually offer better reliability, speed, and security. (That said, if you are going to use a paid proxy service, you might as well upgrade to a high-quality VPN.)

2. Get the proxy server details

Once you’ve chosen a proxy service, you’ll need to obtain the necessary details to configure your connection. This typically includes the proxy server’s IP address or hostname, port number, and sometimes a username and password for authentication.

3. Configure the server for your device

You can configure a proxy server on your device or within specific applications like web browsers. The process varies depending on your operating system or the application you’re using. Here are general steps for common scenarios.

Google Chrome: Chrome uses the system’s proxy settings. On Windows, changing this in the Internet Options will affect Chrome. On macOS, Chrome follows the system’s network configuration.

Mozilla Firefox: Go to Options > General > Network Settings, and select Manual proxy configuration. Enter your proxy server’s IP address and port number. If necessary, include your username and password for authentication.

Safari: Safari uses the system’s network settings. Go to System Preferences > Network, select your network service (e.g., Wi-Fi or Ethernet), click Advanced, and then Proxies. Fill in the Web Proxy (HTTP) or Secure Web Proxy (HTTPS) fields with your proxy server details.

For Windows 10/11: Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Proxy. Under Manual setup, turn on ‘Use a proxy server’, and enter your proxy server details. Click ‘Save’ when done.

For macOS: Open System Preferences > Network, select your active connection, and click Advanced. Go to the Proxies tab, select the appropriate proxy protocol, and enter your proxy server details.

4. Verify your new virtual location

After configuring the proxy, verify that your virtual location has changed. You can use online services like to check your new IP address and location. If it reflects the proxy server’s location, you’ve successfully changed your virtual location.

What are some other ways I can change my virtual location?

Besides using a VPN, Tor browser, and  using a proxy server, there are other things you can do to change your virtual location. A word of caution though, not all of these options will ensure strong privacy and security.

1. Smart DNS services

Smart DNS is a technology that works by rerouting your DNS queries through a server in another location. Unlike VPNs, Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt your traffic, which means it can offer faster speeds but less security. It’s particularly useful for smooth streaming or gaming.

2. Browser extensions

Some browser extensions can spoof your location to websites. While not as secure or reliable as VPNs, they can be a quick and easy solution for accessing content and applications that were previously inaccessible.

3. Manually change your IP address

In some situations, you might want to change your IP address without using external services or software. This can be achieved by manually changing your device’s IP address settings or by renewing your IP address through your network connection. 

Some ISPs may allow you to change your IP address upon request. This can be useful if you’re dealing with a network ban or IP-based restrictions.

If you’re particularly tech savvy, you could change your IP address on your laptop or PC by forcing your computer to request a new IP address from your router. This is done through the command line interface using commands like ipconfig /release followed by ipconfig /renew on Windows, or sudo dhclient -r followed by sudo dhclient on Linux and macOS. This method changes your local IP address provided by your router, but the resulting IP will continue to reflect your real location.

4. Change region settings on your device

Many devices and operating systems allow you to manually change your region in the settings. This can affect the content you see in app stores and some services. For example, changing your country in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store can give you access to region-specific apps and content.

5. Use an international cloud server

Using cloud services to deploy your own VPN or proxy can also change your virtual location. Services like Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure allow users to set up virtual servers in different regions around the world. By setting up your own VPN or proxy on one of these servers, you can control your virtual location more directly.

How to change VPN location on iOS and Android?

Using a VPN app is the easiest way to change your location. Many VPN apps, like ExpressVPN, allow you to connect to a virtual server with just one tap after you’ve signed up for an account and installed the app.

To change your VPN location in the ExpressVPN app on iOS or Android devices, tap the three dots next to the location (right under the large “on” button). You’ll be able to browse locations under the Recommended and All Locations tabs, or you can type in the location you’re looking for. Then just select the location and the VPN server will connect.

How do I know if my location has changed?

A quick and easy way to check if your virtual location has changed is to use an IP check website like,, and These sites should display your location and new IP address, like this:

IP Address

What is the best way to change your location?

The easiest way to change your virtual location is with a VPN. Here’s a comparison of the most common methods to see why VPN is the best choice.

ServiceProsConsBest for
VPNOffers strong encryption, enhances privacy and security, allows access to restricted content, supports a wide range of devices, and usually provides fast and stable connections. It’s also the easiest to use.Some VPN services may be blocked by websites, and they typically cost more.Users seeking a balance of privacy, security, and access to content across multiple devices with great ease of use.
Tor browserOffers a high level of anonymity, free to use, encrypts your traffic through multiple layers across its network.Can significantly slow down your browsing due to traffic being routed through several relays, not suitable for streaming or high-bandwidth activities, and some websites block Tor users. Difficult to use with mobile apps.Users prioritizing anonymity and privacy over speed while browsing.
Proxy serversCan change your IP address, useful for bypassing simple geo-restrictions, often free or low-cost options available.Generally does not encrypt traffic, varying levels of reliability and speed, might not support all types of internet traffic.Quick and temporary access to inaccessible content without the need for encryption.


How often does a VPN change the IP address?

A VPN changes your IP address each time you switch servers manually or when reconnecting after the connection has been disabled. While less common, some VPNs offer static IP addresses that remain the same.

Will I get a different IP address every time I connect to a VPN?

Yes, typically you will get a different IP address each time you connect to a VPN, especially if you select different server locations. If you connect to the same server location repeatedly, you might get assigned the same IP address. But note that whatever your IP address assigned by a VPN, it is being shared by hundreds or thousands of people at the same time. 

For a consistent IP address, some VPN services offer a dedicated or static IP option, which ensures the same IP address every time you connect. However, from a privacy and anonymity standpoint, using a static IP negates some of the benefits of using a VPN.

Is it illegal to change your location with a VPN?

Changing your location with a VPN is legal in nearly all countries. VPNs are widely used for enhancing online privacy, securing internet connections, and accessing content that might be restricted in certain geographic regions due to censorship. However, some countries have restricted the use of a VPN or banned them altogether, so it’s worth researching and considering the rules before traveling to a different country. 

And while VPNs themselves are legal to use in nearly all countries, using them to engage in illegal activities is, of course, illegal. VPNs can provide privacy, but they do not exempt users from obeying laws.


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